Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 CUPE Convention in Saskatoon

By Edwin Dewaal
29 February 2012

Paul Moist
The National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Paul Moist says it's going to be a busy bargaining year for their members.

"I think we have 154 collective agreements in Saskatchewan, 108 of them are open, or they are coming open some time in 2012, including about half the membership in Saskatchewan. Our goal in every round of bargaining in Saskatchewan is to get a collective agreement."

Moist was attending CUPE Saskatchewan's 47th annual convention being held in Saskatoon over the next couple of days. He says health care is the biggest public policy issue in Saskatchewan and recent polls suggest to them that people in Saskatchewan want more public health care services, not private ones.

President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, Larry Hubich was at the conference, and says he is willing to sit down with the government to develop a new Essential Services Act, but he won't do it on bended knee.

"When one party or the other is at a distinct disadvantage, then you don't develop good public policy, and you don't achieve good, sound agreements. It's important for us to defend our rights, but it's also important for us to engage on a level playing field, as equals with the government."

The Essential Services Act was deemed unconstitutional by the courts about 3 weeks ago, and the province has been given a year to draft new legislation. If the legislation is not drafted by then, there won't be an Essential Services Act. Hubich says not having an Essential Services Act wouldn't be a problem, pointing to Nova Scotia who doesn't have essential services legislation.

Hogtown, Manitoba

An investigation into one factory's radical impact on labour and the environment in a prairie town

The Dominion
February 29, 2012

Manitoba guest workers
Maple Leaf's pork processing plant in Brandon, Manitoba, is the largest in the country. While it has brought jobs, serious concerns have been raised about whether it's at the cost of good wages and a healthy environment. 

The meatpacking industry once provided thousands of Canadian workers with a decent living wage. Thanks in part to globalization the industry now employs far fewer people at wages that have essentially been frozen since the mid-1980s. These days, many meatpacking employees are temporary foreign workers who must sign restrictive contracts with their employer for a chance at attaining Canadian citizenship.

Rethinking the Politics of Labour

Edited by Stephanie Ross, Larry Savage
Fernwood Books 

  • Paperback Price: $29.95 CAD
  • Publication Date: Apr 2012
Though the Canadian labour movement’s postwar political, economic and social achievements may have seemed like irrevocable contributions to human progress, they have proven to be anything but. Since the mid-1970s, labour’s political influence and capacity to defend, let alone extend, these gains has been seriously undermined by the strategies of both capitalist interests and the neoliberal state.

Electoral de-alignment and the decline of class-based voting, bursts of unsustained extra-parliamentary militancy and a general lack of influence on state ac- tors and policy outcomes all signal that the labour movement is in crisis. Despite much experimentation in an attempt to regain political clout, labour continues to experience deep frustration and stagnation. As such, the labour movement’s future political capacities are in question, and the need for critical appraisal is urgent. Understanding how and why workers were able to exert collective power in the postwar era, how they lost it and how they might re-establish it is the central concern of Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada.

With essays from established and emerging scholars from a wide range of disci- plines, this collection assesses the past, present and uncertain future of labour politics in Canada. Bringing together the traditional electoral-based aspects of la- bour politics with analyses of the newer and rediscovered forms of working-class organization and social movement-influenced strategies, which have become increasingly important in the Canadian labour movement, this book seeks to take stock of these new forms of labour politics, understand their emergence and assess their impact on the future of labour in Canada.

”This book brings together a wide range of contributions about labour and poli- tics in Canada, some of them unprecedented. It is much needed: there is nothing like it available and the issues it deals with are becoming ever more important.”
— David Camfield, Labour Studies, University of Manitoba Labour in Canada Series


Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada: An Introduction (Stephanie Ross & Larry Savage) • Part I: Contextualizing Labour and Working-Class Politics • Canadian Labour and the Crisis of Solidarity (Donald Swartz & Rosemary Warskett) • Business Unionism and Social Unionism in Theory and Practice (Stephanie Ross) • Part II: The Challenge of Electoral Politics • The New Democratic Party in the Era of Neoliberalism (Bryan Evans) • Québec Labour: Days of Glory or the Same Old Story? (Peter Graefe) • Organized Labour and the Politics of Strategic Voting (Larry Savage) • Labour and the Politics of Voting System Reform in Canada (Dennis Pilon) • Part III: The Prospects of Extra-Parliamentary Activism • Unions, Gender Equity and Neoconservative Politics (Amanda Coles & Charlotte Yates) • Social Unionism, Partnership and Conflict: Union Engagement with Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (Suzanne Mills & Tyler McCreary) • Canadian Labour and the Environment: Addressing the Value-Action Gap (Dennis Soron) • Community Unionism and the Canadian Labour Movement (Simon Black) • Anti-Poverty Work: Unions, Poor Workers and Collective Action in Canada (Kendra Coulter) • Organizing Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada (Aziz Choudry & Mark Thomas) • Labour, Courts and the Erosion of Workers’ Rights in Canada (Charles Smith) • Bibliography


STEPHANIE ROSS is an assistant professor and coordinator of the Work and Labour Studies Program in the Department of Social Science at York University.

LARRY SAVAGE is an associate professor of political science and labour studies at Brock University.

Canada’s Defrocked Prince of Peace

By Kim Petersen
Dissident Voice
February 29th, 2012

Lester Pearson enjoys iconic status in Canada as a former prime minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and particular acclaim as the father of peacekeeping. The Nobel Prize site notes “his diplomatic sensitivity, his political acumen, and his personal popularity.”1 The myth of Pearson is so ingrained that most Canadians have bought into it.

Noam Chomsky, however, considers Pearson a “major criminal, really extreme.”2 Chomsky wrote the foreword to Yves Engler’s latest book: Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping — The Truth May Hurt.

Engler presents Pearson’s words and record, but an image other than that of an altruistic world statesman emerges. He deconstructs the myth of Pearsonian peacekeeping. Engler holds, “There is, in fact, a strong case to be made that he should be posthumously charged with abetting war crimes.”

Venezuela: Opposition’s little man 'the candidate of imperialism'

By Owen Richards
Venezuela: Translating the Revolution
Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Henrique Capriles Radonski
The International Consulting Services poll revealed that if the presidential elections were held tomorrow in Venezuela, 58.2% would vote for Hugo Chavez.

“The confrontation here isn’t between Chavez and this little man, it’s the bourgeoisie against the people, the empire against the country”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on February 16.

Chavez was referring to his newly-nominated presidential opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski. He was pointing to the class battle that lies behind the looming presidential elections scheduled for October 7.

Radonski, a 39-year-old lawyer and governor of Miranda state, won the endorsement of the right-wing Democratic Unity Forum (MUD) bloc on February 12. He won with 62% of 1.8 million votes in a primary process marked by allegations of irregularities.
The MUD used the National Electoral Commission (CNE) to run its primaries despite for years claiming the CNE is a fraudulent, corrupt tool of the Chavez government. The MUD's publicised participation figures were revealed to be mathematically improbable.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leading questions: Thoughts on the NDP leadership race

Canadian Dimension Editorial
February 28th 2012

As the NDP chooses a new leader , more than a decade after Seattle, a new era of global protest has dawned, from the Arab spring to anti-austerity protests in Europe, and the global Occupy movement, which has put the issue of growing economic inequality squarely on the table. Years of recession and financial crisis have discredited neoliberalism’s promise of increasing prosperity. Liberal democratic political systems are paralyzed, where they are not accelerating the very policies that precipitated the crises. The spectre of climate change looms ever more ominously. Yet as the planetary crises have deepened and protest has erupted, social democratic politics have grown steadily more shallow and short-sighted, and ever more detached from social struggles, mounting at best a rearguard defense of an already weakened welfare state against ruling powers that grow more authoritarian, retrograde and militarist by the day.

The NDP is no exception here, and so far, none of the leadership candidates have said anything to suggest that this will change. Jack Layton professionalized the party and pulled it to the right as electoral successes were seen by many to vindicate his approach. Coherent political vision was replaced with poll-tested micro-targeting, milquetoast language about “working families” and the “middle class” along with populist anti-tax campaigns, the promotion of cap-and-trade and soft environmental regulations – policies which do nothing to address the burgeoning social inequalities and ecological catastrophes facing this country.

Land rush: Speculators stake claim to Prairie farmland

Briarpatch magazine
February 28, 2012

Illustration: Robert Carter

A 21st-century land rush is sweeping the globe. Amid skyrocketing food prices, climate-related instability, and declining soil and water resources, wealthy investors have begun to size up the world’s farmland as both an investment opportunity and a hedge against food crises and political turbulence. Players in this global land grab include individual, institutional, and corporate investors, as well as governments. And although estimates vary widely, large-scale land deals have seen at least 71 million hectares change hands since 2000.
For many investors, farmland acquisition – either through purchase or lease – offers a chance to profit from rising agricultural commodity prices. Such investors take a direct hand in farm production, typically on large plantation-like operations, with an eye to profiting from high prices for food, fibre, and biofuel crops. Rising food prices have also encouraged governments of countries such as Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Egypt to lease huge tracts of land, mostly in Africa, as a means of securing food for their own populations. Producing food offshore allows capital-rich but land-poor countries to bypass volatile global food markets and guard against food riots and related political instability.

What English Canadians need to understand about Quebec, the NDP and Thomas Mulcair

By Pierre Beaudet
February 28, 2012

It is always amazing to observe the ignorance of the Canadian left when it comes to Quebec politics. The reasons for this, I believe, are similar to what blocked the English left over Ireland for decades, as well as the French left over their African empire. It is costly in the short term to oppose its "own" imperialism, because it is supported by a very wide popular colonial mentality. But in the long term, it is deadly.

In any case, here we have a NDP campaign that is going nowhere, unfortunately. More than that, the front-runner is now an ex-Liberal Minister who was known for his trade-union bashing and his love of free trade agreements, not to mention his "affair" with Israel (as it has been noted recently by rabble contributors [2]). Mulcair was also not only a staunch anti-nationalist, but he even fought hard against Bill 101 (to protect the French language). Even if people tend to forget things, not many people will give him any credibility when he says that he speaks "for Quebec."

Same fight, new foes

Fifty years after the birth of medicare, Canada’s health care system is again under threat

Taylor and Brown
July 1, 2012, will mark the 50th anniversary of the birth of medicare in Saskatchewan, the forerunner of Canada’s national medicare system. It was not an easy delivery. In the summer of 1962, Saskatchewan was beset by a doctors’ strike intent on preserving physician privileges and opposing public health care.
Fifty years later, Canada’s medicare system is again under threat. Harper’s Conservatives have unveiled a plan to scale back health-care funding, destroying medicare as we know it. The ideology of neoliberalism has taken root over the past two decades, and austerity and privatization remain capital’s preferred strategy. But there was a different alignment of political players and social movements 50 years ago when medicare was first fought for.

The 2012 Academy Awards

By David Walsh 

28 February 2012
At the 84th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles, the nearly silent French film, The Artist, and Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of a children’s book, each won five awards. The Iron Lady, the misguidedly sympathetic biography of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was the only other film to earn multiple awards.
The Separation
The Artist won as best picture, and its director (Michel Hazanivicius) and leading actor (Jean Dujardin) took home major prizes for their efforts. Meryl Streep won her third best actress award for her performance as Thatcher, and Octavia Spencer (The Help) and 82-year-old Christopher Plummer (Beginners) received the awards for best supporting actress and actor, respectively.
Most of the films that won top prizes are slight, or worse. The Artist is a clever but simplistic reworking of a theme, the dilemma produced by the transition from silent to talking pictures, that has been much better developed in other films. Hugo is another confused and disappointing effort from Scorsese. The Help reduces the drama of the civil rights era in the South to very small change.

Monday, February 27, 2012

India: millions set to strike

February 24, 2012

India's biggest display of working class strength for years is due on the 28th of February when 100 million workers take strike action. Sam Beaton analyses this volatile situation.

On February 28th over 100 million Indian workers are set to participate in a one-day general strike across the subcontinent – a move branded as one of the largest shows of industrial strength in the world. The twenty-four hour walkout has the backing of India’s main trade unions from across the political spectrum, who in a rare move have united for a national tour in support of the action, and numbers are likely to surpass that of the anti-privatisation strike in 2010; which at that point was the largest worker action taken since the country’s independence in 1947. Action on the 28th will likely affect crucial areas of the nation’s economy, including public sector banks, an aviation sector currently in crisis, mining, and the closure of ports and docks.

They Fought For Labor - Now Interned! (1941)

Socialist History Project

This pamphlet is undated, Norman Penner, in Canadian Communism, says it was published in April 1941, which is consistent with internal evidence.This pamphlet has been published by the Committee for the Release of Labor Prisoners, Post Office Box 385, Winnipeg, Man.

"Their efforts will be written into the pages of our history"


By Mrs. Dorise W. Nielsen, M.P.

During the years of depression, the resourcefulness, the energy, the political awakening of Canadian women was something of which I was immensely proud.

Now in this time of crisis, my faith and belief in our Canadian women has been both confirmed and strengthened.

The women, wives of men interned under Sec. 21 of the Defence of Canada Regulations, who visited Ottawa, have demonstrated their belief in democracy. More than that, they have used our democratic machinery to state their case.

It was not an easy thing for some of them to leave home, where in some cases, they were left alone to care for the family. There were difficulties of many kinds, but the fact that these women did appear before the Parliamentary Committee, did obtain an interview with the Minister of Justice, and are now publishing this pamphlet, is a certain indication of their belief in democracy, and their desire to strengthen it in Canada.

In this I feel sure they will win the respect, consideration and unbiased support of all Canadians.

Their efforts will give courage to all of us, and their fight on behalf of democracy and freedom will be written into the pages of our history

Read more HERE.

Also read Official Repression of Communism in WW2 

Tommy Sheridan and the myth of Scotland’s compassionate society

By Gerry Hassan
Our Kingdom
27th February 2012

In a revised extract from his introduction to a new biography of Tommy Sheridan, Gerry Hassan exposes the weaknesses of Scotland’s belief in its solid left-wing culture and raises questions for independence and the future.

The rise and fall of Tommy Sheridan and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is a gripping morality tale, worthy of fiction, which reflects not just on the central actors and the wider array of participants, but on modern Scotland; the power and limits of personality politics; the role of charisma, belief and hubris; the inherent weakness in hyper-left politics; and not least on the role of a certain kind of Scottish man.

Gregor Gall has told this byzantine tale in great detail and with a forensic ability to treat it as fairly as possible, given the many agendas and sense of hurt and betrayal that so many people feel. It can be read as a story of a narrow part of the left which some think was always going to self-destruct. It can also be read as an indictment of the depth and health of the Scottish body politic and asks vital questions about us and the future of Scotland and its politics.

The rise of Sheridan and the SSP has to be seen in the context of Scottish politics and culture. The SSP emerged as Militant in the 1980s with a very public role in the struggle against the poll tax. However it made a bigger national impact when New Labour under Blair and Brown bestrode the centre ground. In Scotland, an unsure Lab-Lib coalition held power during the first eight years of the Scottish Parliament, nervous about the shadow of New Labour or breaking free from its influence.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Defection to Liberals highlights NDP dilemma

By Barry Weisleder
Socialist Action
February 26, 2012

 Lise St-Denis
While NDP officials go to great pains to prevent leftists from becoming NDP candidates at election time, they'd do better to spend more time screening the right wingers in their ranks.

A case in point is Lise St-Denis, who was elected NDP MP in the Quebec riding of St-Maurice-Champlain and who crossed the line to join the federal Liberals on January 10. She was one of 58 NDP rookies to win a seat in Quebec last May 2.

Why the sudden decision to bolt, after St-Denis spent a decade volunteering for the party?

Looking in the Mirror: A Reflection on Racism

Click image above to enlarge

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The truth about Greece

By Míkis Theodorákis
Voltaire Network
Febraury 12, 2012

Composer and resistance icon Mikis Theodorakis lambastes the joint strategy devised by Greek politicians and financial institutions with the objective of pillaging the country. He explains how Greece was gradually put under IMF tutelage by Dominique Strauss-Khan and former Prime Minister Papandreou. While the Western media point the finger at Syria, Russia and China, a financial government has taken over the reins of power in Greece and in Europe.


Mikis Theodorakis , Athens University
There is an international conspiracy whose target is the complete destruction of my country. They began in 1975 aiming at Modern Greek civilization, continued with the distortion of our modern history and our national identity and they are now trying to eliminate us biologically as well through unemployment, hunger and impoverishment. If Greek people don’t rise as one in order to prevent them, the danger of Greece becoming extinct is evident. I place it within the next ten years. There will be nothing left of us but the memory of our civilization and our battles for freedom.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to change the world?

By Esther Vivas
Pambazuka News
2012-02-22, Issue 571

‘It is necessary to formulate alternative policy options which have their centre of gravity in social struggles, antagonistic to today’s ruling class.’

How do we change the world? This is the question asked by thousands of people intent on changing things, the question that is often repeated in alternative social gatherings — a question that the French philosopher Daniel Bensaïd said has no answer: ‘Make no mistake, no one knows how to change the world.’ We do not have an instruction manual but we do have some hints on how to do it and some working hypotheses.

Fighting in the streets and in social movements is the first premise, as there will not be spontaneous changes from above. Those in power today will not give up their privileges without this. Any process of change will depend on the consciousness of those below and the fight to take back our rights in the street, defying the powers that be. This is what history shows.

But it is also necessary to build political alternatives that go beyond social mobilization, since we cannot just be a lobby of those who rule. It is necessary to formulate alternative policy options which have their centre of gravity in social struggles, antagonistic to today’s ruling class. We are well aware that the system cannot be changed from within the institutions but rather from the street, but we cannot give up spaces that also belong to us.

Tommy Douglas medals on display in Regina April 21-22

News Release
February 23, 2012

The medals awarded to Tommy Douglas, the former Premier of Saskatchewan, will be on display in Regina.

Shirley Douglas, the daughter of Tommy Douglas, will lend her father’s medals to the Regina Coin Club so they can be displayed at their show on April 21-22.

George Manz, president of the Regina Coin Club, welcomed the news, calling the event a “once in a lifetime opportunity to view these priceless medals.”

The 19-piece set of medals, awards, military insignia, photographs and letters include a1937 Coronation medal engraved to Tommy Douglas when he was a Member of Parliament for Weyburn, a 1953 Coronation medal engraved while he was Premier of Saskatchewan, a 1937 Coronation medal engraved to his wife Irma Douglas, as well as the military medals from the Boer War and the World War I awarded to Tommy’s father, Thomas Douglas Senior.

In addition, the Protocol Office of the Ministry of Executive Council of the Province of Saskatchewan will lend the Order of Canada and Order of Saskatchewan medals that were awarded to Tommy Douglas so they can be seen at the coin show. This will be the first time that all of the medals awarded to Tommy Douglas will be displayed in one place.

To most Canadians, Tommy Douglas is considered the Father of Medicare. So strong are the feelings Canadians have for the founder of Medicare that in 2004, Canadians voted overwhelmingly for Tommy Douglas as “The Greatest Canadian That Ever Lived” in a contest conducted by the CBC.

The Douglas collection will be on display at the Regina Coin Club spring show, April 21-22. The show takes place at the Wilfred Orr Centre (formerly known as Western Christian College) located at 4400-4th Avenue near the corner of Lewvan Drive. The show is in the gymnasium with the doors opening at 10:00 am on both days.

The Tommy Douglas medals will not be the only items that collectors can expect to see at the show. Coin and stamp dealers from across Canada will have plenty of coins and stamps for sale at the show.

For more information, contact George Manz at (306) 352-2337. website:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

NDP Leadership Race: Unions Wield Less Power But Still Influential

Canadian Press
February 22, 2012

OTTAWA - Trade unions remain a force to contend with in the NDP leadership contest, even though they've been stripped of their financial clout and voting heft.

They provide candidates with access to their thousands of members and lend them considerable organizational muscle.

They also bring moral suasion to bear on party members who still cherish the NDP's traditional ties to trade unions, which were founding partners in the party 51 years ago.

Hence, endorsements from unions, or from individual labour leaders, are coveted by leadership hopefuls.

Cooperatives and Socialism in Cuba

Cuba's Socialist Renewal
September 26, 2012

Cooperatives and Socialism: A Cuban Perspective is a new Cuban book published in Spanish earlier this year. This important and timely compilation is edited by Camila Piñeiro Harnecker. Avid readers of my blog will recall that I translated and posted a commentary by Camila, titled "Cuba Needs Changes", back in January. Camila lives in Cuba and has a degree in sustainable development from the University of Berkeley, California. She is a professor at the Centre for Studies on the Cuban Economy at Havana University, and her works have been published both in Cuba and outside the island.

Camila hopes her book may be published in English soon. In the meantime, she has kindly agreed to allow me to translate and publish this extract (about a third) from her preface to Cooperatives and Socialism with permission from a prospective publisher. I hope that sharing this extract with readers of my blog will make you want to read the whole book. If it does become available in English I'll post the details here. If you read Spanish you can download the 420 page book as a PDF here.

At the end of the text you'll find the footnotes, translated from the Spanish, followed by the table of contents.

Cooperatives and Socialism: A Cuban Perspective

Preface (extract)

By Camila Piñeiro Harnecker
Translation: Marce Cameron

This book arises from the urgent need for us to make a modest contribution to the healthy “birth” of the new Cuban cooperativism and its subsequent spread. Given that cooperatives are foreshadowed as one of the organisational forms of labour in the non-state sector in the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Sixth Cuban Communist Party Congress, the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Centre approached me to compile this book. The Centre has made an outstanding contribution to popular education aimed at nurturing and strengthening the emancipatory ethical values, critical thinking, political skills and organisational abilities indispensable for the conscious and effective participation of social subjects. The Centre considers it timely and necessary to support efforts to raise awareness about a type of self-managed economic entity whose principles, basic characteristics and potentialities are unknown in Cuba. There is every indication that such self-managed entities could play a significant role in our new economic model.

The Disastrous Consequences of the Omnibus Crime Bill

By Paula Mallea 
February 22nd, 2012

Canada is one Senate vote away from becoming the most regressive Western democracy on criminal justice. That unenviable position has most recently been occupied by the United States. But even though some of the most conservative Republicans are now arguing against over-incarceration, Canada continues to pursue that objective.

Americans have recently recognized that incarcerating 2.3 million people does not reduce the crime rate. Consequently, state after state has rolled back mandatory minimum sentences, draconian penalties, harsh parole eligibility and so on. Canada, on the contrary, is implementing all of these, plus mean-minded pardon and international prisoner transfer provisions.

A variety of constituents, including some surprising ones, have pleaded with the Conservative government to rethink its tough-on-crime agenda. Correctional officials, police chiefs, medical associations, victims advocates, prison guards, former attorneys-general and justice ministers, lawyers and judges and criminologists, people who have spent their lives learning what works to reduce crime—all of these have warned against the consequences of Bill C-10.

Why "You're with us or against us" won't work in the Middle East...either

By Jim Harding
No Nukes
February 22, 2012

Israeli bombers are ready
Conflict that could escalate into warfare, especially nuclear warfare, threatens us all. Sabre-rattling is again occurring in the Middle East, where Israel already has nuclear weapons and there is the fear of Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia following suit. We can’t allow such a nuclear arms race and a new Cold War to happen. To help avert this, our beliefs about what’s happening need to constantly be re-evaluated; we need to resist the trap of thinking if “you’re not with someone you are against them”.

The Harper government is a strong backer of Israel’s practices. Israel is presented as the victim in a hostile Arab world which must be defended at all costs to preserve democracy and civilization. This view reflects an extremist ideological lens with an undertone of Christian fundamentalism that distorts the reality on the ground. In a similar way to how Harper’s government introduced legislation threatening internet privacy without a warrant, with a “you are either with us or with the child pornographers” view, his policy on Israel implies “you are either with Israel or the anti-Semites”.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Pity the Billionaire" recounts hijacking of public opinion

People's World
February 21 2012

Book Review: "Pity the Billionaire: The Hard Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right", By Thomas Frank, 2012, Metropolitan Books, hardcover, 240 pages, $25.00

Thomas Frank, ex-Wall Street Journalist turned liberal political savant, is currently the darling of the airwaves for NPR and Democracy Now fans. Just Google "Pity the Billionaire," his latest book, and scroll through the pages of reviews and interviews bubbling up since its publication in early January.

According to his version of the recent past, some three years ago the ruling class was facing angry busloads of inner-city residents shouting across manicured lawns in commuter-line gated enclaves. There was talk of "clawback" and criminal prosecutions. The sound of the tumbrels was in the streets and images of the guillotine kept them awake at night. Yet within months the right-wing populism of the middle-class had reared up in the guise of the tea party and, in 2010, gave Republican politicians the biggest electoral landslide in decades.

The received wisdom of the pundits was, at least briefly, he says, that the left would have a resurgence and that we were entering a progressive florescence like the 1930s. But in less than an interrupted heartbeat, the bourgeoisie was on the offensive again, screeching plaintively about "class war" and calling for economic social Darwinism with "let the failures fail."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Disarray of the left has spared the right its due

The Irish Times
February 21st, 2012

THERE MAY be an Irish political anorak with an interest in the recent presidential election in Finland, but there are surely not two of us. Yet that election was a vivid illustration of the great strangeness of contemporary European politics.

For the last 30 years, the Finnish president has been a social democrat. This time, the social democratic candidate, a former prime minister, got just 6.7 per cent of the vote. The conservative candidate won in a landslide, with 62 per cent.

As ever, there were specific local factors at work. But the Finnish election was also entirely consistent with a much larger pattern: the eclipse of the traditional mainstream European left. Or, to put it the other way around, the extraordinary dominance of the conservative right in the midst of a profound crisis of neo-liberal capitalism.

Egypt: No Break with Mubarakonomics

By Bisan Kassab 
February 20, 2012

Egypt’s former president has been ousted from office but his policies to protect the rich and corrupt, and many of the people who oversaw them, remain firmly in place.

Cairo – "Where has the bread gone?" That is the question in Egypt today. It was largely for bread that the multitudes who took to the streets on January 25 last year first chanted: "Bread, freedom, and social justice!" The people are still chanting, and the bread is still hard to secure.

This is largely due to the simple fact that one year after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak, nothing has changed on the economic front in Egypt.

The Paradox Of Russia’s Left

By Tom Balmforth
The Cutting Edge
February 20th 2012

Sergei Udaltsov
Marching in protest under a sea of red flags swirling in the frosty air at a recent demonstration, 31-year-old Yevgeny can't help but feel that a new generation of Russian socialists is on the rise. And he could be right -- if it weren’t for all the stumbling blocks. In the 1990s, Yevgeny supported the Communist Party but eventually became disillusioned with its colorless and charisma-challenged leader, Gennady Zyuganov, a fixture in Russian politics for decades. Zyuganov is making his fourth run for the presidency in March. Today, Yevgeny says his affinities lie more with the “Left Front,” a loose coalition of leftist groups that are not permitted to field candidates in Russia's tightly managed political system.

But even if they were, he confesses he would be reluctant to vote for the Left Front's macho leader Sergei Udaltsov whose firebrand style of street protesting may have wounded his political credibility. "I just don’t know, I cannot say for sure. He just doesn't seem to be the kind of leader that I could go and vote for,” said Yevgeny, who did not want to give his last name.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The world’s biggest ever strike, India, 28th February 2012 
Jan 24 2012

On February 28th 2012 over 100,000,000 Indian workers will come out on strike. Workers from many unions and sectors are trying to gain improvements in areas such as, pay, pensions, and employment rights.

The strike has been called because workers have said 'enough is enough', after two years of the government refusing to negotiate with unions on any issue. Indian's are sick of the rich getting richer, record economic growth, whilst 400 million people have not got a pot to piss in.

On February 28th 2012, an estimated one hundred million Indian workers will all walk out of work for twenty four hours in what is likely to be the biggest strike in world history.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Drummond: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

By Erin Weir 
Progressive Economics Forum
February 15th, 2012

The Drummond Commission reported today.

The Good

While the McGuinty government prevented the Commission from considering tax rates, it proposes some sensible measures to raise revenue. Chapter 18, “Revenue Integrity,” recommends combating corporate tax avoidance and cracking down on the underground economy.

Businesses sometimes hire workers as “contractors” to avoid paying Ontario’s Employer Health Tax. Drummond advises the province to deem them as employees.

Two articles on South Africa: Small union challengers and prospects for the Democratic Left Front

The Mail and Guardian
Feb 17 2012

Who to trust - Obed Mashaba, a mine worker who was dimissed after strike action in North West, says ­individuals and not the union itself have gone out of their way to help the workers. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

The Commercial, Services and Allied Workers' Union (Cosawu), a small Western Cape-based union with fewer than 2 000 members, is slowly making its presence felt in the increasingly volatile platinum mining sector in North West.

When hundreds of former Murray & Roberts employees descended on Arbour Square in Johannesburg earlier this week for what they expected would be the start of a landmark Labour Court case against their former employer, they were stunned to learn that the Metal and Electrical Workers' Union of South Africa (Mewusa) -- which had offered to help them when they were dismissed after an abortive strike at the Aquarius Kroondal and Marikana mines in 2009 -- had thrown a spanner in the works.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Compelling Memoir of a Revolutionary Daughter

Review of Carmen Aguirre, Something Fierce (Vancouver: Douglas & Mcintyre, 2011)

J Kavanagh
New Socialist webzine
15 February 2012

Something Fierce recently won CBC's Canada Reads 2012 contest. It has been long-listed for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. It was also nominated for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. Here we offer an appreciation by J. Kavanagh.

If I had to limit myself to one word to describe Something Fierce, it would be "raw." Aguirre does not claim that this, her first book, flowed from her pen this way. She credits her editor with always challenging her to be more immediate, more direct. But the story could not have been written without Aguirre's clear recall of so much of her life and her willingness to relive painful experiences.

The story is engaging, if not always easy to read. But you will want to keep on reading because she illuminates an experience that most of us will never have first-hand. We see the world through the eyes of a child, then a teenage girl whose parents are involved in the dangerous struggle against the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Eventually we see her as a young adult, herself now committed to the revolutionary struggle.

NDP would sacrifice even medicare for Quebec votes

Thomas Walkom
Toronto Sun
February 14, 2012

When asked how she would react if the Quebec government decided to charge patients user fees every time they went to a doctor or hospital, Peggy Nash replied, "It’s a provincial decision so it’s the decision of Quebecers.”

Desperate to maintain seats in Quebec, New Democrats — like the Liberals and Conservatives before them — are going through a familiar round of ideological contortions.

Is the party of Tommy Douglas still a stout defender of national medicare? Absolutely yes when New Democrats are speaking to audiences outside Quebec.

But inside that province, as NDP leadership candidate and Toronto MP Peggy Nash made clear Sunday, matters are more complicated.

Farmers launch challenge to restore Wheat Board and seek $17billion in damages

Canadian Wheat Board Alliance

Winnipeg, February 15, 2012 - The Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) announced that the law firm of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP (SGM), working with FCWB counsel, Anders Bruun, has launched a court action in the Federal Court of Canada to restore the Canadian Wheat Board and recover damages farmers have suffered as a result of Ottawa’s tampering with western grain marketing. More information about the class action can be found at

The action places new and significant constitutional arguments in front of the courts. The plaintiffs are four grain farmers, Harold Bell of British Columbia (250) 785-8996 / 262-9278, Andrew Dennis of Manitoba (204) 476-6498, Nathan Macklin of Alberta (780) 957-2583 / 832-3190, and Ian McCreary of Saskatchewan (306) 567-2099 / 561-7838.

“The goals of this action are twofold” observed Steven Shrybman, one of the SGM legal team handling the litigation. “Our primary objective is to restore democratic farmer control of the Wheat Board and the right of producers to collectively market their grain. We are also seeking compensation from the government for damages it has caused to the interests of producers.”

NDP leadership candidates ducking biggest issue of our time

Canadian Dimension
February 14th 2012

Heading into the final weeks of the NDP leadership race, the candidates still have not debated the most important challenge facing society—the destructive force of modern-day capitalism.

How can a political party that calls itself “social democratic”, or even “progressive,” have a leadership campaign go on for several weeks without candidates—as far as I can determine—discussing the damaging force that capitalism has become?

At Davos last month, heads of think tanks and corporations called for the revamping of capitalism because of the destruction the system has wrought.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why pensions should remain a "hot topic"!

By Jim Harding
No Nukes
February 14, 2012

“Pensions” have been the hot topic on coffee-row ever since Harper announced his plan to cut Old-Age Security (OAS). I can’t remember as many people engaging me about my R-Town column as on this.

This is good for we’re going to need all the public participation we can muster to convince Harper to back-off. And it’s mandatory that our collective memory about this lasts until the 2015 election. Canadians needing OAS at that time will be much more vulnerable unless Harper is stopped in his tracks now.

Naomi Klein on the Greek Crisis

Συνέντευξη: Η Naomi Klein για την κυβέρνηση Παπαδήμου from ThePressProject on Vimeo.

The Nation-State Reborn

Social Europe Journal

One of our era’s foundational myths is that globalization has condemned the nation-state to irrelevance. The revolution in transport and communications, we hear, has vaporized borders and shrunk the world. New modes of governance, ranging from transnational networks of regulators to international civil-society organizations to multilateral institutions, are transcending and supplanting national lawmakers. Domestic policymakers, it is said, are largely powerless in the face of global markets.

The global financial crisis has shattered this myth. Who bailed out the banks, pumped in the liquidity, engaged in fiscal stimulus, and provided the safety nets for the unemployed to thwart an escalating catastrophe? Who is re-writing the rules on financial-market supervision and regulation to prevent another occurrence? Who gets the lion’s share of the blame for everything that goes wrong? The answer is always the same: national governments. The G-20, the International Monetary Fund, and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision have been largely sideshows.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Greece: From despair to resistance

By Panagiotis Sotiris I glr
Greek Left Review
February 13, 2012

On Sunday 12 February 2012 the people of Greece, in demonstrations and street fights all over the country expressed in a massive, collective and heroic way their anger against the terms of the new loan agreement dictated by the EU-ECB-IMF Troika. Workers, youths, students filled the streets with rage, defying the extreme aggression by police forces, setting another example of struggle and solidarity.

Greece is becoming the test site for an extreme case of neoliberal social engineering. The terms of the new bail-out package from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the so-called Troika, equal a carpet bombing of whatever is left of collective social rights and represent an extreme attempt to bring wage levels and workplace situation back to the 1960s.

Iran Escalation: All the Elements for War Are Coming Together

By Tom Burghardt
Dissident Voice
February 13th, 2012

With all the bluster of late in Western media that President Obama is assiduously working to “restrain” Israel from launching a preemptive attack on Iran, recent developments should put paid the lies of this dog-and-pony show.

Last Sunday during an interview with NBC News, the president made it clear that “all options” regarding plans for a joint U.S.-Israeli attack “are on the table.” Far from distancing his government from the strident rhetoric emanating from Tel Aviv, Obama added that the administration is working “in lockstep” with Israel to “prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Never mind that unlike Israel, which is estimated to possess upwards of 200 nuclear weapons, as a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Iran is perfectly within its rights under international law to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tainted Love

Greek Left's veterans Theodorakis and Glezos head up new resistance movement

Nicolas Mottas
February 10, 2012

While crisis-hit Greece faces a new round of neoliberal austerity madness, two legendary personalities call for civil disobedience.

While the negotiations between the Greek government, IMF and the EU over debt swap with private creditors continue, new anti-austerity resistance movements are being born. This time the initiative belongs to prominent personalities of the Greek left who yesterday declared the creation of the 'United Popular Democratic Resistance' -- E.LA.DA. in Greek, an acronym which literally means "Greece". The idea belongs to two legendary figures of the country's modern history: the internationally renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis and Manolis Glezos, a Second World War resistance hero. Speaking to an audience at Athens's Michael Cacoyannis Foundation, they both declared that the establishment of a nationwide resistance movement against the economic austerity and policies consstitutes a "national need", as long as Greece is passing through a "national tragedy".

An ‘excess of democracy’: what two generations of radicals can learn from each other

Hillary Wainwright
Red Pepper
February 2012

Hillary Wainwright
The philosophy and experience of 1960s/70s radical movements are in several ways complementary to the ideas of the direct action movements of today. Hilary Wainwright examines the possibility of forging a new kind of political economy by learning from the best of both.

The ability of the Occupy movement to create platforms outside our closed political system to force open a debate on inequality, the taboo at the heart of the financial crisis, is impressive. It is a new source of political creativity from which we all have much to learn.

At the same time, no veteran of the movements of the late 1960s and 1970s can help but be struck by similarities. There’s the same strong sense of power from below that comes from the dependence of the powerful on those they dominate or exploit. There’s the creative combination of personal and collective change, and the bringing together of resistance with experiments in creating alternatives here and now. There’s the spurning of hierarchies and the creation of organisations that are today described as ‘horizontal’ or ‘networked’ – and that now with the new techno tools for networking have both more potential and more ambiguity.

Global Justice and the Future of Hope

By Rajesh Makwana
Dissident Voice
February 11th, 2012

Would it be easier to create a sustainable global economy if the world more closely resembled the demographics and geography of Iceland — a volcanic island with a manageably small population and a unique abundance of renewable energy? This was among the many questions raised during a panel discussion at Tipping Point Film Fund’s UK premier of Future of Hope, often referred to as the Iceland documentary.

Since the Nordic country experienced the systemic failure of its entire banking sector in 2008, a number of Iceland’s senior banking executives have been arrested, sacked or sued. Grass roots organisations, including the Ministry of Ideas that was featured in the film, have since hosted a National Assembly of unprecedented scale. The government-backed Assembly was designed to focus specifically on the nation’s next steps; to agree on a set of collective values and to establish a clear vision for how to rebuild their economy from the ashes of the old. While the film did not focus on the Assembly itself, progressives would not be surprised by its outcome: participants emphasised the importance of robust public services, establishing an environmentally responsible and sustainable economy, and ensuring equality and transparency in the country’s future renaissance.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Italy’s radical left press, once thriving, is in danger of extinction

Revolting Europe
February 10, 2012

‘Monti is succeeding where Berlusconi failed’ read a headline line in yesterday’s radical il manifesto newspaper. The depressing news announced by the communist title was that liquidators were coming in. The state subsidy that supports the non-profit making press had been cut so much by Italy’s current and previous prime ministers that the newspaper could no longer pay its bills. The options now are closure, or sale, unless a huge financial black hole can be filled soon.

The calamity that has befallen il manifesto comes hot on the heels of the demise on January 1 of Liberazione, the newspaper of the Communist Refoundation Party. In a country that once had the largest marxist party in Western Europe, is it the end of the communist daily press?

To be sure, il manifesto, a minnow compared to capitalist media giants owned by the Berlusconi, Agnelli and De Benedetti family groups, has always had a struggle to survive in its 40-year history as an independent radical voice for millions of communists, progressives and trade unionists.

Empire and Trade

By Mel Watkins
Progressive Economics Forun
February 10th, 2012

Empires vary: of conquest, of settlement, of trade; contiguous and maritime. Empires abound: a long list, longer even than many books on empire admit to.

Wikipedia lists over 200 empires from the Akkadian Empire of Sargon the Great in the 24th century BCE to today’s American Empire. In terms of territory the largest are the Achaemenid, the Han and the Roman in ancient times, the Mongol and the Yuan Dynasty in medieval times, and the British, the Russian, the Spanish, the Qing and the French in modern times.

Round up the above with the Incan and the Aztec from the Americas, the Mauryan in India, the Zulu in sub-Saharan Africa. It is evident that empire is a world-wide phenomenon, thriving in diverse cultures over the millenia. The nation-state is no more than a late arrival.

Yet economists still have difficulty with the word “imperialism,” and insist that trade is based on comparative advantage among independent countries. The real world is one riddled with asymmetries of power – that being inherent to empire- where politcal economy, precisely because of its explicit recognition of power, trumps orthodox ecoomics with its a-political methodology.

In fact, the rationale for empire is typically to monopolize trade. “Trade theory,” built on Ricardo’s two-country model – which pervades introductory economics textbooks – misleads students, and their professors, and needs to be rethought. Ricardo’s two countries, England and Portugal, were. as we all know, both imperial centres. Yet orthodox economics deems that irrelevant.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Christopher's Movie Matinée: haphazard adventures in Flower Power cinema

National Film Board of Canada

In 1968, in Yorkville (Toronto), the NFB provided a group of hippies with cameras, film and a few NFB film crew members so they could make a film illustrating their lives and their world. The result is a frustrating yet strikingly beautiful testimony to a protest era not unlike our own.

Read more HERE.

Cuba Embargo’s Golden Anniversary

Fernando Ravsberg
Havana Times
February 8, 2012

Johana Tablada, the deputy director of the North American Division of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, granted us an interview to discuss the US economic embargo against Cuba, which has just marked its 50th year of remaining in place under ten US presidents.

Q: One of the arguments given by the proponents of the embargo is that it’s an excuse used by the Cuban government to explain all of its own mistakes.

A: If it’s an excuse then why not lift the blockade? Why not remove it and let life tell us where the truth lies? They’re not lifting it because it’s a way of putting pressure on us, a way of persecuting us. Then they step back and say, “Look how badly things are going there.” That’s how it’s been for 50 years now.

30,000 Drones To Fill American Skies By The End Of The Decade
February 8, 2011

Congress passed a bill this week paving the way for unmanned drones to ply American skies.

The bill requires the FAA to rush a plan to get as many drones in the air as possible within nine months.

How many drones are we talking?

Shaun Waterman at The Washington Times reports the agency predicts that 30,000 drones could fill U.S. skies by the end of the decade.

Naturally, many are concerned that surveillance by police and federal government agencies will skyrocket in response.

From The Washington Times:

“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities,” said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists...

The bill calls for numerous test ranges to be operated in conjunction with NASA and the Department of Defense, use of drones in the Arctic, guidance system improvements, and an assessment of the “catastrophic failure of the unmanned aircraft that would endanger other aircraft in the national airspace system.”

This new bill follows up the Army's January directive to use drone fleets in the U.S. for training missions and "domestic operations."

And both of these initiatives are mandated in the NDAA (section 1097) that calls for six drone test ranges to be operational within six months of that bills signing December 31.

The commercial drone market would be worth hundreds of millions more if the bill passes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book launch of a history of Alberta's working people, February 24

Project 2012
Alberta Federation of Labour
February 07, 2012

Thirty-three years after the publication of the first book on the history of Alberta labour, Athabasca University Press is releasing a major work that tells the story of Alberta's working people, their trade unions and organizations, and the struggles they went through as they built this Province and its communities.

Trade union leaders and activists and the general public are invited to the launch of Working People in Alberta: A History on Friday, February 24th at 3:00 PM in the Main Hall of the Ironworkers Building, 10512 - 122 Street in Edmonton.

Published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Alberta Federation of Labour, this new book provides a much-needed update to Alberta Labour: A Heritage Untold, written by Warren Caragata in 1979. Working People in Alberta contains over 300 lavishly-illustrated pages, and was produced by members of the Alberta Labour History Institute (ALHI) as part of Project 2012, a 5-year partnership with the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) to produce educational and historical materials in preparation for the AFL's Centennial in 2012.