Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Canada’s Courageous … cough, cough … Warriors

By Yves Engler 
Dissident Voice
July 28th, 2012

Six and half years into Harper’s Conservative government Canada has become so militaristic that the head of the armed forces can demand a new war and few bat an eye.

Two weeks ago the Chief of the Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk told the Canadian Press “We have some men and women who have had two, three and four tours and what they’re telling me is ‘Sir, we’ve got that bumper sticker. Can we go somewhere else now?’” The General added that “you also have the young sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who have just finished basic training and they want to go somewhere and in their minds it was going to be Afghanistan. So if not Afghanistan, where’s it going to be? They all want to serve.”

Can a global village raise a child?

By Jim Harding 
No Nukes
July 29, 2012

You've likely heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child’. You’ve also likely heard “We live in a global village”. The first saying suggests it takes a lot of neighbours as well as extended family to provide positive support for a child to grow up healthy. The second saying comes from Canada’s own Marshall McLuhan, and refers to how the electronic media, primarily TV, connects us emotionally to what’s happening on the other side of the planet.

Both are true in their own way, and it’s revealing to try to figure out why it is so difficult to make them fit. But it’s being attempted; some city neighbourhoods have even renamed themselves as villages, such as Regina’s “Cathedral Village”. 

Feminists in Cuba: Is It Time to Take Steps Together?

By Yasmin S. Portales Machado 
Havana Times
July 30, 2012

HAVANA TIMES — On Tuesday, July 24, a group of Cuban feminists gathered at the Jose Marti International Journalism Institute and ended up discussing the possibility of coordinating their efforts to form a national political organization. In addition, they talked about what should be on the Cuba’s agenda with respect to their concerns. Did they achieve this?

The invitation couldn’t have been more innocent. It was just another one of the many intellectual debates (usually) organized by, for and about women intellectuals. The message read: “We would like to invite you to a discussion about “Feminism in Cuba Today: Rethinking Theory and Practice.” This was to involve the participation of Georgina Alfonso, Teresa Diaz Canals, Danae Dieguez and Isabel Moya, among others, as guests. The forum was to be moderated by Dr. Alina Perez.

The gathering also mentioned that this initiative had the support of the Women’s News Service for Latin American and the Caribbean (SEMlac), Spain’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs in Cuba and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID), but this wasn’t the most outstanding feature of the meeting.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A working class hero

Tories take aim at “lifeblood” of unions

Unions decry plan as attack

By Grace Macaluso
The Windsor Star 
July 27, 2012 

CAW Local 200 president Chris Taylor at one of the most important sites in the labour movement, Riverside Drive East and Drouillard Road Thursday July 26, 2012. In 1945, Ford workers and UAW members and supporters formed a blockade at Ford of Canada during a labour dispute. The resolution lead to the Rand Formula. Photograph by: Nick Brancaccio , The Windsor Star

On the morning of Sept. 12, 1945, 10,000 hourly employees at Ford Motor Co.’s sprawling plant at the corner of Drouillard Road and Riverside Drive walked off the job after 18 months of contract talks between the United Auto Workers and the carmaker broke off.

The historic dispute would span 99 days and revolutionize Canada’s labour laws by spawning the Rand formula - the “lifeblood” of unions.
Fast forward to 2012, and the formula, which entrenched the closed union shop, requiring all workers to pay union dues, would be dismantled under labour law changes proposed by the Ontario Conservatives.

The Day the Wheat Board Died

By Gavin Fridell 
E-Bulletin No. 671
July 27, 2012

On August 1, 2012, the Conservative government will bring an end to a major Canadian institution and one of the world's largest, longest-standing, and most successful “state trading enterprises.” After 70 years as the state-mandated monopoly seller of most Western Canadian wheat, the Canadian Wheat Board will officially become “voluntary,” meaning the death of anything resembling what it has been.

The board has been widely praised and defended by many grain farmers and progressive supporters, as well as relentlessly attacked, even despised, by others. In the end, those opposed to the Board, although highly vocal and backed by powerful corporate interests, would appear to be in the minority. This minority, however, has won the day. The Canadian Conservative government of Stephen Harper legislated the end of the board in December 2011 without holding a vote among prairie grain farmers even though it is required by the Canadian Wheat Board Act. Despite a recent Wheat Board plebiscite in which the majority of farmers voted in favour of maintaining the Board's status, and despite a Federal court ruling at the end of 2011 that determined the government's actions were illegal, the Conservatives have continued unabated in their moves to dismantle the Board, with Harper arguing that when western farmers voted Conservative in the last election (which the majority did) they voted for “marketing freedom.”[1]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Class War in the Dystopian Present

More than a movie review

By Michael Romandel and Megan Kinch 
July 25, 2012

This review only contains mild spoilers as it focuses on the political aspects of The Dark Knight Rises rather than plot per se.

TORONTO—The Dark Night Rises is a portrayal of a workers’ revolution from the perspective of the bourgeoisie. It is a profoundly authoritarian movie which includes severe criticisms of revolutionaries, but also liberal democracy, bourgeois charity, and the apathetic, ultimately offering a hopeless political vision that only the status quo is tenable and that one should look to one's own personal happiness.

Our first thought on leaving the theatre was, "What kind of society could produce a big-budget movie with such a completely hopeless message about the future of humanity and the inability of ‘the people’ to govern themselves?" Neither of us were able to remember a major motion picture made in our lifetimes that was as openly counter-revolutionary and reactionary as this one, though the politics of this movie are built up in the two earlier films of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy and simply culminate here.

Potential U.S.-style labour law changes could lead to instability in Saskatchewan workplaces


“Many of the changes suggested for consideration by the consultation paper are either directly antagonistic towards unions and workers’ rights and freedoms, or reflect a lack of knowledge about the democratic character of unions as organizations." Paul Champ, human rights lawyer and CFLR board member. Download CFLR report here.

Ottawa (25 July 2012) – If the Saskatchewan government adopts U.S.-style legislation that has already been found to violate international law, it could lead to labour relations instability and conflict at a time when all parties should be working together to maintain the province’s unprecedented economic growth, according to a national labour relations research body.

The Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR) has expressed concern over the current review of provincial labour statutes by the Saskatchewan government. In a submission responding to government's Consultation Paper on the Renewal of Labour Legislation in Saskatchewan, the CFLR warns about “the risk that sweeping legislative changes may have for labour relations stability in the province.”

Remembering Sask Oil: It Can Be Done!

By John W. Warnock
July 26, 2012

This past week it was revealed that one of China’s state-owned oil corporations has made a bid to take over Nexen, one of the remaining four large oil corporations operating in this country that are deemed to be Canadian owned and controlled. Nexen is based in Calgary, but it is known that around 65% of its stock ownership is foreign. In recent years there has been a steady disappearance of major Canadian corporations as they are being swallowed up by larger transnational corporations. This is very noticeable in Saskatchewan.

Erin Weir, and economist with the Steelworkers, has reminded us that the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Corporation (Sask Oil), once a Crown corporation, was privatized beginning with Grant Devine’s Conservative government, became Wascana Energy, and then was taken over by Occidental Oil corporation, which then became Nexen. So much of Nexen’s land holdings and oil and gas wells in Saskatchewan will now end up as Chinese assets. How did this happen? Are Canadians incapable of running their own economy? Do all of the profits from the extraction of our non-renewable resources have to flow out of the country? Does anyone care any longer?

The Birth of Medicare: From Saskatchewan’s breakthrough to Canada‑wide coverage

By Lorne Brown and Doug Taylor
July 3rd 2012

The Saskatchewan Doctor’s Strike. Photo courtesy Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists. 

Medicare was born in Saskatchewan on July 1, 1962. It would be the first government-controlled, universal, comprehensive single-payer medical insurance plan in North America. It was a difficult birth. The North American medical establishment and the entire insurance industry were determined to stop Medicare in its tracks. They feared it would become popular and spread, and they were right. Within 10 years all of Canada was covered by a medical insurance system based on the Saskatchewan plan, and no serious politician would openly oppose it.

The same interests that tried to prevent Medicare and are continually trying to destroy it in Canada have mostly succeeded in stopping similar progress in the United States. After more than half a century of struggle, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the private insurance industry still control the US medical system despite minor steps forward like Medicaid for the very poor and Medicare for the elderly. The latest plan passed by Congress and endorsed by the private insurance industry amounts to public subsidies for the insurance industry.

Commentators have often wondered why the campaign for state medicine succeeded in Canada and failed in the United States. The battle for Medicare occurred in the 1960s when our political culture was moving to the left. Medicare’s first breakthrough.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why do most Saskatchewan people oppose fracking

By Jim Harding
No Nukes
July 21, 2012

A recent Environics poll found that most Canadians (62%) support a moratorium on the use of “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing as a way to extract natural gas. Support for such a moratorium was higher (64%) in this province. Why is the opposition to fracking growing so quickly here and elsewhere?


Hydraulic fracturing involves the pumping of vast amounts of water, up 7 million gallons, with sand laced with huge amounts of toxic chemicals, into shale rock containing natural gas. This is pumped under very high pressure, as high as 9,000 pounds per square inch to create fractures. The gas is then extracted through the fracking well.

Industry has steadfastly resisted public health pressure to release information on the toxic chemicals used in their fracking. Calling this a “trade secret”, they appear indifferent to the implications for environmental health. This is a classic example of the planet-wide battle between corporate “property rights” and the quest for sustainability and protection of the commons.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Political Legacy of Andy Griffith

Why North Carolina is a Swing State

July 10, 2012

Some thoughts on the political legacy of Andy Griffith. Griffith, who was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, on June 1, 1926, died on July 3 at the age of 86 in the town of Manteo.

“Funerals are for the living,” my mother is quick to say, but Griffith barely had one. They buried him so fast – he passed away around 7 a.m. and was lowered into the ground on Roanoke Island at about 11:30 a.m. – that it didn't give many of the living adequate chance to reflect on the loss.

I posted Griffith’s obit to my social network page and a 30-ish West Coast black fellow surprised me by responding, “You liked that redneck cracker?” A few days later a 50-something Jewish guy from New York astonished me more by saying that he’d never heard of Griffith, nor seen The Andy Griffith Show, which ran from 1960-1968 and has been on television almost every single day for 52 years, or Matlock, with Griffith playing a defense attorney, which ran from 1986 to 1992.

Read more HERE.

Humanity First!: What the CCF Government has done in Saskatchewan (1945)

Regina: C.C.F. (Saskatchewan Section), [1945]. 

Bloodless coup places Riders in power

JULY 19, 2012

In what is being called the “Glorious Touchdown,” the Saskatchewan Roughriders declared Saturday that they now run the province.

The bloodless coup took place shortly before 2 p.m. on July 14. A green-clad and beaming Pat Fiacco, flanked by Roughrider’s chairman Roger Brandvold, made the announcement to a mixture of muted resignation and fanatical applause.Brandishing the Memorandum of Understanding, Fiacco declared that a new era was upon both Regina and Saskatchewan.

Grand Quarterback Brad Wall, flanked by a Roughrider guard, waved the new provincial flag from a balcony of the legislature, giving a new meaning to the term "Rider Nation."

Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru, An Illustrated History

By Matthew Behrens
Pambazuka News
2012-07-18, Issue 594

A review of Ali Kazimi’s new book (Douglas & McIntyre, 2012; $39.95)

As Parliament passes sweeping, repressive immigration legislation, Toronto filmmaker Ali Kazimi's timely book, Undesirables, is a welcome and necessary contribution that should be required reading not only for Jason Kenney and his cohorts, but also those good-hearted folks who claim the new law violates Canada's mythic "humanitarian traditions."

The Komagata Maru was a shipload of South Asian immigrants forced to dock a half mile off the B.C. coast for two months in 1914 as a battle to determine whether they could land played out in the media, the courts, on the docks and in a variety of communities. Denied access to counsel, blockaded from receiving food and water, demonized in the press, and eventually forced to leave when a Canadian court ruled that race could be a grounds for excluding newcomers, their struggle was a signature moment reflecting an ingrained xenophobia that undergirds contemporary Canadian policies.

Gov't ignoring ILO provisions in consultation

JULY 20, 2012

Does the Saskatchewan government respect international labour law?

If its ongoing labour legislation reform is any indication, the answer is no.

A half dozen proposals in the labour consultation paper the Saskatchewan Party government unveiled in May would definitely contravene International Labour Organization statutes.

In a move that could affect a large number of non-unionized workers, the consultation paper asks: "What limitations should there be on hours of work, if any?" Yet, any move to lengthen Saskatchewan's work week would contravene the spirit, if not the letter, of the 1957 ILO Convention that concerns the reduction of work hours to 40 hours a week.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital

By Michael Heinrich
Monthly Review Press
Purchase HERE.

The global economic crisis and recession that began in 2008 had at least one unexpected outcome: a surge in sales of Karl Marx’sCapital. Although mainstream economists and commentators once dismissed Marx’s work as outmoded and flawed, some are begrudgingly acknowledging an analysis that sees capitalism as inherently unstable. And of course, there are those, like Michael Heinrich, who have seen the value of Marx all along, and are in a unique position to explain the intricacies of Marx’s thought.

Heinrich’s modern interpretation of Capital is now available to English-speaking readers for the first time. It has gone through nine editions in Germany, is the standard work for Marxist study groups, and is used widely in German universities. The author systematically covers all three volumes of Capital and explains all the basic aspects of Marx’s critique of capitalism in a way that is clear and concise. He provides background information on the intellectual and political milieu in which Marx worked, and looks at crucial issues beyond the scope of Capital, such as class struggle, the relationship between capital and the state, accusations of historical determinism, and Marx’s understanding of communism. Uniquely, Heinrich emphasizes the monetary character of Marx’s work, in addition to the traditional emphasis on the labor theory of value, thus highlighting the relevance of Capital to the age of financial explosions and implosions.

Labour Losing to Capital

By Andrew Jackson 
Progressive Economics Forum
July 19th, 2012

The just-released OECD Employment Outlook – full text not available on line – has an interesting chapter on the sharp decline of labour’s share of national income in virtually all OECD countries over the past 30 years, and especially the last twenty years.

The median labour share in the OECD fell from 66.1% in the early 1990s to 61.7% in the late 200s, and fell from 65.3% to 60.3% in the case of Canada, 1990 to 2009, marking a very significant shift of income from labour to capital. As the chapter notes in passing, this has serious macro-economic and equity implications.

The chapter makes the important point that the labour share has fallen even more significantly if one looks at the labour share excluding the share of the top 1% which has risen sharply even as the total labour share has fallen. For Canada, they calculate that the labour share fell by 3.1 percentage points of national income between 1990 and 2000, but by 6.0 percentage points if one excludes the top 1%.

Privatizing the last of the prairie commons

Trevor Herriot's Grass Notes
July 19, 2012

There was a time in this fair land, only five generations back from these days of high-priced real estate, when the prairie was not a commodity. The place where you pitched your lodge on a given day did not belong to you any more than it belonged to the grasshoppers or the buffalo. No one creature or species could claim to own the land because everyone knew it was a gift, as the air, the river, and the sun were gifts also.

Such gifts shared by everyone have been called “the commons”.

“A set of assets that have two characteristics: they are all gifts, and they are all shared.” [Peter Barnes]

Commons by nature are inclusive, not exclusive. To exclude, you need fences, boundaries. Which is why the process of giving public lands to favoured private citizens in 18th and 19th century Britain was called “the enclosures.” Lands that had formerly rested in the public trust were placed by the Crown into the private hands, driving subsistence peasants, pastoralists, hunters and other traditional peoples as well as wild animals from the commons.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

21st Century Socialism: Making a State for Revolution

By Lee Artz
Triple C

Objectively speaking, movements, classes, and media must challenge power to be revolutionary. One cannot govern from below. There can be no grass roots social transformation without replacing existing power.  History has shown from Ghandi and Mandela to Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Lula in Brazil, neither the working class nor its charismatic representatives can secure any lasting accommodation with their patriotic capitalists. Negotiating better terms for the exploited while leaving the social relations of capital intact is not revolutionary, nor even defensible as pragmatic today. If freedom, democracy, and social justice are expected, there is no “third way” as Hugo Chavez and Venezuela realized after the media coup of April 2002.

In the 21st Century, it’s either global capitalism, with more human suffering and environmental collapse or it’s socialism with the working class and its allies building a democratic society of international solidarity. Venezuela provides a positive prime instance of this claim. In Venezuela, revolutionaries are changing society by taking power. This essay highlights the features and contradictions in this historic process, turning to media practices in particular to illustrate the dialectic of state and revolution. This contribution recognizes the need for revisiting and contextualizing the Marxist theory of the state, the role of the working class, and the relationship between culture and socioeconomic relations under capitalist globalization of the 21st century.

Read more HERE.

Paving the Way for a U.S.-Canada Economic and Security Perimeter

By Dana Gabriel
Be Your Own Leader
July 18, 2012

Over the past several months, the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan has taken significant steps forward. This includes efforts to modernize and expand infrastructure at key land ports. In a move that went largely unnoticed, both countries also recently agreed on a statement of privacy principles that will guide information sharing across the border. Meanwhile, a separate joint initiative has been announced which addresses energy and environmental issues.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue (CED) in 2009 to promote new ways to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change. The CED Action Plan II released last month, outlines the next phase of activities both countries will undertake. This includes continued work on carbon capture and storage, as well as integrating the electricity grid. In a press statement, Canada’s Minister of the Environment Peter Kent explained that the CED, “strengthens our efforts to collaborate on innovative clean energy solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” He also commented on how "It is our hope that the transformation of our economies and our joint work will identify clean energy solutions that will contribute to making sustainable energy a reality for all." Whether real or exaggerated, environmental issues are also advancing North American integration. If you look at some of the words being used and the goals being pushed, they are tied to Agenda 21. Under the guise of protecting the environment, many solutions being offered are in the form of more taxes and control over our lives.

Five Reflections about 21st Century Socialism

By Marta Harnecker
June 18, 2012

The journal Science and Society devoted a special number in April 2012 [Volume 76, No. 2] to explore central topics in the current discussion about socialism. Marta Harnecker and five other Marxist authors from different countries were invited to participate in this reflection by the editors Al Campbell and David Laibman, who prepared a set of five questions. This paper written in July 2011 presents her contribution with some foot notes that does not appear in the journal. The following topics are explored: 1. Why speak of socialism today?; 2. Central features of socialist organization of production; 3. Incentives and the level of consciousness in the construction of socialism; 4. Socialism and the transition to socialism; and 5. The centrality of participatory planning in socialism.


1. Why talk about socialism at all if that word has carried and continues to carry such a heavy burden of negative connotations, after the collapse of socialism in the USSR and other Eastern European countries?

2. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union, Latin American and world leftist intellectuals were shocked. We knew better what we did not want in socialism than what we wanted. We rejected the lack of democracy, totalitarianism, state capitalism, bureaucratic central planning, collectivism that sought to standardize without respect for differences, productivism that emphasized the expansion of productive forces without taking into account the need to preserve nature, dogmatism, the attempt to impose atheism and persecution of believers, the need for a single party to lead the transition process.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Labour changes considered by Saskatchewan violate international labour law

July 17, 2012

If the Saskatchewan government implements labour law changes based on the direction set out in its Consultation Paper on the Renewal of Labour Legislation in Saskatchewan, the province will be in violation of international human rights standards.

This is according to a research study released today by the 340,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

“Saskatchewan working people could fall below the international standards set by the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) if the government acts on some of the changes suggested in the consultation paper," said James Clancy, NUPGE National President.

"This would be a setback for workers in the province and would embarrass Canada on the international human rights stage. Canada has a reputation for championing human rights, not restricting them," Clancy noted.

The study, Saskatchewan's Labour Law Review in relation to its compatibility with ILO Freedom of Association principles and jurisprudence, assessed the legislative direction under consideration by government in light of Canada's international law commitments.

Mosaic Profit Argues for Higher Royalties

By Erin Weir 

Today’s Mosaic quarterly report provides further evidence that the Government of Saskatchewan should improve its royalty and tax structure to collect a better return on the province’s non-renewable resources like potash.

Quarterly Comparison

Despite higher potash prices, Mosaic paid lower royalties and resource taxes to Saskatchewan last quarter than in the same quarter of last year. In the three months ended May 31, 2012, Mosaic paid $100 million in provincial resource charges from over a billion dollars ($1,037 million) of potash sales.

By comparison, in the three months ended May 31, 2011, the company paid $108 million from only $982 million of potash sales. In other words, Mosaic’s royalty and resource tax payments to Saskatchewan declined even as the value of potash sales increased.

Reductions in provincial royalties and taxes were supposed to provide incentives for increased production. However, Mosaic actually mined less potash last quarter than a year ago (1.9 million vs. 2.2 million tonnes). The increase in sales values simply reflected higher prices ($455 vs. $404 per tonne).

Annual Comparison

The annual figures confirm that provincial royalties and resource taxes amount to only one-tenth the value of potash sold. In the year ended May 31, 2012, Mosaic paid $328 million to Saskatchewan from $3.3 billion of potash sales. In the year ended May 31, 2011, it paid $294 million from $3.1 billion of potash sales.

The amount of potash mined changed little from one year to the next (7.4 million vs. 7.3 million tonnes). The higher sales value instead reflected stronger potash prices ($448 vs. $359 per tonne). Windfall gains from higher commodity prices should accrue to the people who own the resource rather than to the companies that extract it.

Explanatory Note

Mosaic reports “Canadian royalties” and “Canadian resource taxes.” Since its Canadian potash mines are in Saskatchewan, these amounts represent the provincial Crown royalty and Saskatchewan’s resource surcharge plus potash production tax. There is an interesting breakdown on the second-last slide of Mosaic’s PowerPoint presentation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Employee “Empowerment” and Corporate Culture

By Gwen Sharp
Sociological Images
July 16, 2012

Recently, reader Nicole D. was shopping at Home Depot and noticed a sign near the front that described ways employees are “empowered.” When we think of empowered employees, we might think of issues such as fair pay, decent benefits, access to full-time work, a way for employees to have input in the creation of workplace policies, or other factors that affect the work environment. But what struck Nicole was how being “empowered” was defined to align with corporate goals.

What are Home Depot employees empowered to do? To provide good customer service, basically — that is, to be “friendly and helpful to every customer,” to actually show customers what they’re looking for and “not point” to it, and to make sure Home Depot’s price-matching program is implemented:

Missing Occupy

July 16, 2012

Whatever happened to Occupy? The movement that rocked the U.S. in the fall of 2011 has faded to background noise. A recent “National Gathering” drew 500 participants, not an impressive number considering how many were roused to action all over the country just months earlier. The “general assembly,” the much-celebrated participatory democratic institution that was the movement’s trademark, seems to have fallen into disuse almost everywhere. And there is no alternative decision-making body emerging to take its place.

Close up, one can identify a number of struggles around the U.S. which Occupy groups have initiated or provided considerable support for. There is a rent strike in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and an occupation of a school in Oakland. Occupiers have supported the struggle of the Cruz family in Minneapolis and stood with a mobile home community that was to be displaced for fracking in Jersey Shore Pennsylvania. Occupiers have also joined the picket lines of Palermo’s Pizza workers in Milwaukee. There are plans to use the first year anniversary of OWS in September to launch a campaign around debt. I’m sure other examples could be identified. Yet the sum total of these struggles does not presently add up to an imposing movement.

Opinions Divided on Climate Change and CCS in Saskatchewan

Canadian News Wire
July 16, 2012

Saskatchewan residents have strong but divided opinions about climate change and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, concludes a public opinion survey commissioned by IPAC-CO2 Research Inc. released today.

"Almost seven in ten (68%) residents are concerned about climate change," said Joe Ralko, Director of Communications for IPAC-CO2, who managed the survey.

"However, there is no consensus on how to address the problem. That could be because the survey discovered there is no agreement on what residents believe to be the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. What the people of Saskatchewan are saying is that whatever steps are taken to mitigate climate change must be effective."

Saskatchewan residents are clear on their trusted sources of information on climate change.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Struggle Blues

Woody Guthrie


Marxism, the 21st Century and Social Transformation

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Freedom Road Socialist Organization
June 28th, 2012
This article was originally published on the website: Philosophers for  change, philosophers.posterous.com.
A discussion of the future of socialism and social transformation must be grounded in two realities. The first reality is the broader economic, environmental and state-legitimacy crises in which humanity finds itself. In other words, the convergence of these three crises means that the necessity for a genuine Left capable of leading masses of people is more pressing than ever. It means that while one cannot sit back and wait for the supposed “final” crisis of capitalism to open up doors to freedom — since capitalism is largely defined by its continual crises — it is the case that the convergence of these three crises brings with it a level of urgency unlike any that most of us have experienced. Not only is there a need for a progressive, if not radical set of answers to these crises at the level of immediate reforms, but the deeper reality is that capitalism — as a system — is incapable of providing legitimate, sustainable answers to these crises, whether individually or collectively.

The second reality, and the central focus of this essay, is that any discussion of a progressive post-capitalist future must come to grips with the realization of the crisis of socialism in which every trend in the global Left has been encased. This has been a crisis at the levels of vision, strategy, state power and organization. It is a crisis that cannot be avoided by either a retreat to pre-Bolshevik Marxism or slipping into the abyss of post-modernism. The reality of the crisis of socialism can only be avoided at our own peril.
Read more HERE.

Myanmar is Open for Business

The Saskatchewan Potash Corporation rushed to sale potash in Myanmar (Burma) even while hundreds of political prisoners still languished in jails. This article provides some  background - NYC.

By Ko Tha Dja 
Burmese junta
July 14th, 2012

Wow! The cynicism and hypocrisy of U.S. foreign relations and policy has no limits. Against the wishes and will of Aung San Suu Kyi, and anyone remotely familiar with the social and economic conditions of Burma, it’s appalling that Obama has lifted investment sanctions against Burma. According to Arvind Ganesan, quoted in the Washington Post article by Karen Deyoung on July 12, “The U.S. government should have insisted that good governance and human rights reform be essential operating principles for new investments in Burma.” Excuse me, Mr. Ganesan, may I kindly ask where have you been for the past few years?

The U.S. government does its best business with brutal totalitarian military dictatorships – not with nations seeking real Democracy and social justice for all. If Aung San Suu Kyi never existed, do you believe for a minute that the United States would have waved a banner of principle for Democracy in Burma? After all, Chevron has been doing business here for years – during sanctions. Why is that? Oil.

Paraguay: Velvet Coup

By John Cherian  
July 14-27

The ouster of the Paraguayan President, Fernando Lugo, in a legislative coup in the third week of June came as a surprise. Neither the citizens of the country nor the governments of the region were prepared for such a scenario. President Lugo was all set to demit office next year after the completion of a constitutionally mandated five-year term. During a visit to New Delhi in May this year, he had told this correspondent that he had absolutely no plans of changing the country’s Constitution in order to seek a second term.

The event that triggered the present crisis in the landlocked Latin American country was a clash between landless peasants and the police in mid-June. Seventeen people – six police officers and 11 farmers – died in the incident.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Labour lawyers respond to Sask. government's "consultation" paper

July 13, 2012

The Saskatchewan committee of the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers (CALL) released a response to the Saskatchewan government's "Consultation Paper on the Renewal of Labour Legislation in Saskatchewan" on July 12, 2012.

CALL states in its response that "it is of the opinion that the process envisaged by the paper is anything but consultation" and offers its suggestions for a more meaningful process.

CALL Letter to Ministry of Labour Relations & Workplace Safety, July 12, 2012 (full document)

Truth and Reconciliation in Saskatchewan: Two articles

Gordon's School. Students being transported to St. Luke's Church -- Oct. 11, 1953.


By Jim Harding
No Nukes
July 13, 2012

I once team-taught with an anthropologist from New Zealand who told me that if a community got bigger than 200, people lost track of each other. Face to face contact declined and third-party rumour increased, he suggested. I was telling him how quickly I seemed to be forgotten when I moved from a rural area to a large Ontario city to teach. He responded that “it’s far more than being out of sight, out of mind…it’s more like you’re already dead and gone.”

This old friend is now dead and gone and I think of him regularly and fondly, so I’m not sure that what he said was the whole story; he was a bit of a loner-wanderer with a streak of cynicism. But I am still predisposed to living in a small community where face-to-face relationships are more likely.

Read more HERE.


Residential school survivors gathered in Saskatoon critical of federal government's actions

By Sandra Cuffe
The Dominion
July 13, 2012

SASKATOON—The thunderclouds had scattered by morning when the sounds of footsteps, engines and drumbeats converged in Saskatchewan last month. Thousands of Indigenous residential school survivors, their relatives and people from different walks of life gathered in Saskatoon, traveling from all four directions.

From June 21 to 24, laughter, tears, songs and stories were in the air at Prairieland Park, where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada held its fourth national event. Survivors who gave statements about their experiences and participants who witnessed the event reiterated the importance of documenting and understanding the truth of residential school history. But on the reconciliation of that history, consensus was not even on the horizon.

Read more HERE.


One of my favorite documentaries (1982). From a source in Germany apparently - NYC

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Radical Dissent of Helen Keller

Here's what they don't teach: When the blind-deaf visionary learned that poor people were more likely to be blind than others, she set off down a pacifist, socialist path that broke the boundaries of her time—and continues to challenge ours today.

By Peter Dreier 
Yes magazine
Jul 12, 2012

Helen Keller“So long as I confine my activities to social service and the blind, they compliment me extravagantly, calling me 'arch priestess of the sightless,' 'wonder woman,' and a 'modern miracle.' But when it comes to a discussion of poverty, and I maintain that it is the result of wrong economics—that the industrial system under which we live is at the root of much of the physical deafness and blindness in the world—that is a different matter! It is laudable to give aid to the handicapped. Superficial charities make smooth the way of the prosperous; but to advocate that all human beings should have leisure and comfort, the decencies and refinements of life, is a Utopian dream, and one who seriously contemplates its realization indeed must be deaf, dumb, and blind.”
—Helen Keller (letter to Senator Robert La Follette, 1924)

The bronze statue of Helen Keller that sits in the U.S. Capitol shows the blind girl standing at a water pump. It depicts the moment in 1887 when her teacher, Anne Sullivan, spelled “W-A-T-E-R” into one of her 7-year-old pupil's hands while water streamed into the other. This was Keller’s awakening, when she made the connection between the word Sullivan spelled and the tangible substance splashing from the pump, whispering “wah-wah,”—her way of saying “water.” This scene, made famous in the play and film “The Miracle Worker,” has long defined Keller in the public mind as a symbol of courage in the face of overwhelming odds.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Going with the Flow: Neoliberalism and Cultural Policy in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

By M. Sharon Jeannotte
University of Ottawa
Canadian Journal of Communication Vol 35 (2010) 303-324

This article examines the impact that the neoliberal “tide” of the 1980s and 1990s has had on cultural policies in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It analyzes these developments in the context of the dominant political ideology that preceded neoliberalism in these provinces—social democracy. In Manitoba neoliberalism has been tempered by tensions between the centre and the hinterland, while in Saskatchewan it has been mitigated by tensions between the professional and community-based cultural organizations. Decisionmakers
have “gone with the neoliberal flow” in some respects, but have had to balance this with the traditional forces that have shaped cultural policy during the past 50 years.


One of the favourite nostrums of the neoliberal movement is that “a rising tide floats all boats”—in other words, that privatization, deregulation, lower taxation, lower inflation, free trade, and cuts to the Keynesian welfare state will yield economic benefits for everyone in a society. the ideological “tide” of neoliberalism that has swept over most of the developed world in the past two decades has had a profound impact on public policies, even if the effects of “trickle down” economics remain in dispute.1 Most jurisdictions have made significant changes to their administrative machinery to accommodate this ideological shift, including increased use of public/private partnerships, more support for measures intended to harness market forces, more contracting out of government services, and more emphasis on self-help instead of reliance on government services.

Read more HERE. (pdf)

Norman Bethune: Gravenhurst a mecca for Chinese tourists paying homage to Canadian hero

By Jennifer Pagliaro 
Toronto Sun
July 11, 2012

JENNIFER PAGLIARO/TORONTO STAR Parks Canada tour guide Kun Zhang demonstrates how visitors can pose with a cutout of a popular photo of legendary Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune. Zhang said parents who hope the picture will bring good luck for children they hope will become doctors too. 

GRAVENHURST, ONT.—Hongxia Guo enters the historic yellow-clapboard homestead as if she is simply coming home.

In the front hall, the 43-year-old native of China who now lives in Mississauga pays a small fee for each of the guests she’s ferried here, before being ushered into the parlour where legendary Canadian surgeon Dr. Norman Bethune spent the first three years of his life.

In the heart of cottage country, where Muskoka chairs adorn every dock, thousands of Chinese nationals are making a pilgrimage to the birthplace of a man who they call doctor, martyr, friend.

A delegation from China will join Canadian officials on Wednesday — declared Bethune Day — for the grand opening of a new visitor centre at the site of the Bethune Memorial House.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Renewal in Canadian Public Sector Unions: Neoliberalism and Union Praxis

Relations industrielles / Industrial Relations
Vol. 62, n° 2, 2007, p. 282-304.

Challenges from employers and governments and the limited success of public sector union responses suggest the need for renewal in Canadian public sector unions. This article engages with discussions of union renewal by way of theoretically conceptualizing the modes of union praxis relevant to Canadian unions. It then examines the nature of neoliberal public sector reform and assesses the experiences of Canadian public sector unions under neoliberalism. In this difficult context, unions that are able to make progress in the interconnected development of greater democracy and power will be more capable of channelling workers’ concerns into union activity.

 This, along with international and Canadian evidence, highlights the significance of the praxis of social movement unionism to union renewal in the public sector. Around the world, the public sector is undergoing extensive “reform” at the hands of governments and managers committed to neoliberal precepts. In Canada, public sector workers have experienced many difficulties since the mid-1970s. As Joseph Rose (2004) has argued, the current era of public sector collective bargaining is one in which employers are consolidating gains made in the 1990s and attempting to achieve new ones. In addition, the contemporary period is characterized by an uneven process of constructing what has been dubbed the “lean state,” whose implications for public sector workers include work intensification and the spread of precarious employment.

Although public sector unions have sometimes actively opposed neoliberal “reform,” they have often had little success. Neoliberal challenges and the limited success of union resistance to them suggest that union renewal is needed, and creates openings within public sector unions for renewal initiatives.

However, union renewal is not an unproblematic concept. There are contending visions of what it should entail. This article approaches the issue of union renewal by way of theoretically conceptualizing the modes of union praxis relevant to Canadian unions. On the basis of an analysis of public sector “reform” and an assessment of Canadian public sector union experiences under neoliberalism and their implications for the future of these unions and for their renewal, it concludes that the most promising direction for union renewal would be the development of the praxis of social movement unionism.

Read more HERE. (pdf)

From Fukushima to Saskatchewan: Canada’s Uranium Trap

Socialist Solidarity
July 4, 2012

Disaster On March 11 2011, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the community of Fukushima in Japan. Over 19,000 died. This natural disaster also destroyed four of the six reactors at the Daiichi nuclear power plant, releasing large amounts of radioactive elements. This disaster has made the local area uninhabitable for decades – disrupting the lives of 80,000 evacuees. Only the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986 is larger.

But the Daiichi plant didn’t fail just because of a natural catastrophe. It also failed due to the self interest of Japan’s power elites. Upon investigation, it is clear that regulation was lax by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). The owner, TEPCO, ignored safety reports, falsified records, and called in political favors from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to avoid remediation. Lax regulation was also due to NISA’s conflict of interest - being a branch of the Trade Ministry, charged with promoting nuclear power.

All 50 reactors nationally had to be shut down and now there is a municipal campaign to prevent their reopening. A national petition has been signed by 7.5 million people to this effect. Yet the current government, the Democratic Party, has restarted two reactors in Ohi, western Japan while promising a more autonomous regulatory approach in the future.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Canadian Dimension: The Limits of Medicine in a Sick Society

Canadian Dimension magazine
July/August 2012
Volume 46, Issue 4

Medicare was born in conflict. The notorious Saskatchewan Doctors’ Strike aimed to abort it. That was 50 years ago. This issue of Dimension offers an historical perspective on that birth with an essay by Lorne Brown and Doug Taylor (who are preparing a book on the 50th anniversary of Medicare.) Ulli Diemer exposes “Ten Myths about Medicare,” and health economist Robert Chernomas discusses one of those myths in detail: the controversial sustainability question.

But this issue is about more than Medicare. It’s about the limits of medicine in an ailing and toxic society. Broadcaster and social commentator Jill Eisen writes about poverty and other social determinants of health. David R. Boyd, one of Canada’s leading experts in environmental law and policy, looks at the impact of environmental hazards on human health. Finally, Richard Barnet, himself a medical doctor, reflects on the radical views of Ivan Illich, who saw modern medicine as invading daily life in dangerous and disabling ways.

Click HERE.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Quite Early Morning

"Plagiarism is basic to all culture"

Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie

Don't you know it's darkest before the dawn
And it's this thought keeps me moving on
If we could heed these early warnings
The time is now quite early morning
If we could heed these early warnings
The time is now quite early morning

Some say that humankind won't long endure
But what makes them so doggone sure?
I know that you who hear my singing
Could make those freedom bells go ringing
I know that you who hear my singing
Could make those freedom bells go ringing

And so keep on while we live
Until we have no, no more to give
And when these fingers can strum no longer
Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger
And when these fingers can strum no longer
Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger

So though it's darkest before the dawn
These thoughts keep us moving on
Through all this world of joy and sorrow
We still can have singing tomorrows
Through all this world of joy and sorrow
We still can have singing tomorrows

Sask. potash producers facing U.S. anti-trust lawsuit

Global Saskatoon
Friday, June 29, 2012

A U.S. court has revived a lawsuit against some of the world’s largest potash mining companies.

The lawsuit names Saskatchewan producers: PotashCorp, Mosaic and Agrium, as well as four other international companies, accusing them of forming a “global cartel.”

U.S. purchasers of potash claim that the companies inflated prices of the crop-nutrient by internationally decreasing their output.

The plaintiffs say that prices rose 600 per cent from 2003 to 2008, even though American consumption of fertilizer remained steady.

"PotashCorp has both the policy and practice of adhering to any competition laws anywhere we do business, and that's certainly the case here as well, and these are claims that we will defend ourselves against vigorously when they do go before trial," said PotashCorp Senior Director Bill Johnson.

The lawsuit was resurrected by the seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing the decision from last September.

Game of Monopoly's Anti-Capitalist Origins

When "Go" used to say "Labor upon Mother Earth produces wages"

By Cecil Adams
March 18, 2011

I heard the original Monopoly game, before Parker Brothers took it over, was designed to teach people how broken capitalism is. Is that true? —Matt

Yes, it’s more or less true, although you have to ask: Who needs a game to understand how screwed up capitalism is when all you have to do is read the news? Be that as it may, I convened the Straight Dope staff to play several versions of proto-Monopoly. Their review: nothing like the socialists to make the capitalists look good.

The earliest recognizable version of what we know as Monopoly was patented by Lizzie Magie in 1903. The Landlord’s Game, as she called it, featured a board with the familiar circuit of increasingly pricey neighborhoods interspersed with railroads and utilities. At three of the corners were Go to Jail, Public Park (the ancestral version of Free Parking), and the Jail itself.

’Chávez is millions’ electoral campaign gets underway

Voltaire Network
8 July 2012

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela formally began his electoral campaign for the October 7 elections this past July 1, with a caravan that left Plaza Bolívar in Mariara, state of Carabobo, and covered 18 kilometers to Avenida Constitución in Maracay, capital of Aragua state, surrounded by people throughout its tour.

"After 200 years, we have recovered national independence and we can never again allow it to be lost," Chávez affirmed on his arrival in Aragua, the AVN TV network reported.

"Here in Venezuela what is also at stake in many ways is the future of humanity between capitalism or socialism," he affirmed.

"In the next 100 days, the next 100 years of the country is going to be decided… a revolution is not measured in one year or in a decade, it is measured by centuries. We can reach the point of making a genuine revolution, with independence and national power."

In relation to these last two aspects, both contained in his 2013-2019 government program, the Venezuelan leader stated that everything is at stake on October 7. "I ask God to continue giving the Venezuelan people more awareness, faith and cohesion so that we can attain the victory which will open the horizons to the next 100 years in Venezuela."

He called on supporters of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to fully utilize the coming 100 days and nights to reach the ceiling of 10 million votes, 10 million hearts and 10 million consciences.

In reference to the constant attacks to which he is subjected by the bourgeoisie, he maintained that they have not understood and will never understand that. "Chávez is no longer just me, Chávez is the people, Chávez is millions, Chávez is children, women (…), Chávez is not me, Chávez is the people undefeated."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Labour review threatens workers' rights

By Dave Coles
The Leader-Post 
Dave Coles, CEP
July 7, 2012

Fifty years ago, Saskatchewan changed Canadian history. Pushed by labour, farmer and community groups, on July 1, 1962, the provincial government introduced the first universal health coverage program in North America.

The move was opposed by much of the business community and doctors withdrew their services for 23 days in a failed bid to force the government to back down. Four years later, the federal government took the "Saskatchewan health model" to the rest of the country, recognizing the importance of providing this social protection to all Canadians.

Five decades later, many Canadians judge medicare to be the single most important program that makes this country better than the U.S. and tens of millions of Americans wish they had their own "Saskatchewan model".

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Fraser Institute's Global Petroleum Survey

By John W. Warnock 
04 July 2012

Near the end of June 2012 the Fraser Institute released their latest survey of the oil and gas industry. They reported that 623 managers and executives from 529 oil and gas companies had ranked Manitoba and Saskatchewan near the top of 147 political jurisdictions as good places to invest. In contrast, New Brunswick and Quebec were given fairly low ratings.

A great deal of the reporting was of no surprise and the results were not that controversial. For example, the political turmoil, international wars, and civil wars naturally led corporation representatives to warn about investing in much of Africa and the Middle East. There was also the issue of government corruption, well known in many of the countries surveyed. But these were not the important issues.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Woody Guthrie at 100: Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg, Will Kaufman Honor the "Dust Bowl Troubadour"

Democracy Now!
July 4, 2012

Commemorations are being held across the country this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the country’s greatest songwriters, Woody Guthrie. Born on July 14, 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma, Guthrie wrote hundreds of folk songs, including "This Land Is Your Land," "Pastures of Plenty," "Pretty Boy Floyd," "Do Re Mi" and "The Ranger’s Command." While Guthrie is best remembered as a musician, he also had a deeply political side. At the height of McCarthyism, Guthrie spoke out for labor and civil rights and against fascism. In this one-hour special, you will hear interviews and music from folk singer Pete Seeger, the British musician Billy Bragg, and the historian Will Kaufman, author of the new book, "Woody Guthrie, American Radical."

"Woody’s original songs, the songs that he wrote back in the 1930s ... with these images of people losing their houses to the banks, of gamblers on the stock markets making millions, when ordinary working people can’t afford to make ends meet, and of people dying for want of proper free healthcare, you know, this song could have been written anytime in the last five years, really, in the United States of America," says Bragg, who has long been inspired by Guthrie.

Canada Boosts Police Power in Mexico

Ottawa's role in the permanent war against the people of Mexico  

By Dawn Paley 
The Dominion
July 4, 2012 

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico: Demonstrators damage part of the US border fence

CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO—The music is loud and the bar is well stocked. I sit timidly with a can of beer, eyes on the entrance. This was a happening nightclub before Juarez was transformed into a war zone. My companion, Julian Cardona, who used to shoot photos for the society pages of a local newspaper, describes what it used to be like here: Hummers triple-parked on the sidewalk, hundred-dollar tips, well-dressed Texans waiting behind velvet ropes to get in. Not anymore. The night I visited, the place was near empty, waitresses busy with their iPhones, a wandering cigarette vendor calling out to make a sale. 

It was Cardona's idea to go to the nightclub; he said it would help me understand the city better. His career has taken an unexpected turn because of the violence: these days, instead of shooting for the society pages, he shoots crime scenes in one of the world’s most violent cities.

Brad Wall: Moving Saskatchewan backward

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Campaign launched to prevent Saskatchewan government from erasing labour laws

July 3, 2012

Every Saskatchewan worker stands to lose in government overhaul of labour legislation. Have your voice heard. Write to the Minister today

A new campaign has been launched to educate and mobilize workers and the public about the changes to labour laws the Saskatchewan government is trying to introduce.

The Saskatchewan Way, launched as part of a member-to-member education campaign by the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE) shines a light on the negative impact the labour law changes will have on families and communities across the province.

The union is taking on this campaign because the government's consultation plan is so broad and dense it has made it difficult for people to understand the full effect of the changes. To ensure the changes are as transparent as possible, the SGEU/NUPGE has officially requested the Premier release the exact draft legislation so workers and the public can review it.

The Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Don Morgan has already said the language is prepared but they have yet to reveal it.

What has been determined already is that the legislation will heavily favour employers and will hurt all working people, not just unionized workers. Many of the rights and protections which have been hard won over decades may be erased overnight.

"Fundamental, longstanding rights that all workers enjoy are at risk," says SGEU President Bob Bymoen. "Annual vacation, the 40-hour work week, rest breaks, public statutory holidays, job protection for new parents and workers with disabilities -- all of these are up for grabs. Every employee in this province is affected by the planned overhaul of our labour legislation."

This legislation also goes after democratically elected work organizations by making it more difficult for trade unions to do the job of standing up for working people. The Saskachewan Party knows that losing any organized labour strength in the workplace will allow employers to run roughshod over all worker rights.

It is essential that concerned workers and members of the public make their voices heard over this legislation.

Write to the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety before July 31, 2012 to stop any changes that undermine or erode existing rights and protections for working people.

More information:

The Saskatchewan Way website: http://www.thesaskatchewanway.ca/

No meaningful consultation planned as Saskatchewan government moves to re-write labour laws

Monday, July 2, 2012

On the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of the Ontario Waffle

JUNE 25, 2012

This past weekend, June 24, marked the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of the Waffle from the NDP.

The Waffle, (actually the Movement for an Independent Socialist Canada), for those who do not know it, was a grouping of socialists, nationalists, feminists and activists that was formed in 1969 within the NDP. It was, broadly speaking, led by James Laxer* and Mel Watkins.

The Waffle was ahead of its time in many respects. In one instance, spearheaded by Krista Maeots*, the Waffle was the first group to propose the notion of gender equity within the governing structures of the NDP. Even though it was only proposed in a limited form, it was opposed and voted down by the party hierarchy, including the eventual Lewis leadership.

Sunday, July 1, 2012