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Will Occupy Wall Street catch on in Canada?

Will the protests "change the political climate by making corporate greed and the corruption of democracy burning issues of our age"? Read an interview by Global News with David McNally here.



From occupations to ecosocialism

A good article by Dave Oswald Mitchell suggests that "the occupations springing up across North America, Spain, Greece and the Middle East are a genuine game changer" in which "hundreds of thousands are now in the streets and collectively reaching for the emergency brake" and links the global economic crisis with the ecological crisis. "To limit their demands to minor reforms that leave the extractive structures of vampire capitalism intact would be a terrible mistake." Read the article here.

Bleeding Orange

This piece was written by a member of CUPE Local 500 (City of Winnipeg workers).

 

I wrote this back in March of this year - Egypt and Madison, WI were in the news and City of Winnipeg workers were in strike prep.  It's sat for a while, but I thought it was time to post it - especially with given the tsunami of uncritical NDP boosterism currently underway in many of our locals.  Sure McFayden [leader of the Manitoba Tories who announced his resignation after they lost the election Oct. 4] would be a nightmare, but folks aren't exactly livin' the dream right now.  It's time to start talking to each other, instead of just taking cues from above.

*****

It’s March 9, 2011 and as I write this members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 (L500) have just finished a second day of signing up for picket duty. This is the first time in years that L500 has prepped for a strike. If members do walk, it will be for the first time since 1919.

So, it’s been awhile.

A lot happens in 92 years.  Great Depressions happen.  So does a war, or two, or three, or four.   Babies boom.  Courts and law-makers say you can’t have a general strike anymore.  The 60s happen and boomers rage – for a while anyway.  Indigenous peoples show up where Eastern Europeans once were.  Women show up too – standing up and speaking out.  Big hair and Dynasty make the scene.  Fridays are Filmon-ized.  And then a decade and more painted Orange.  Painted bright, so that you have to squint to see if there’s any value left there at all, any values at all.

It’s an unsettling time for working people, that’s, at least, easy to see.   From the massive attacks on workers’ rights in Wisconsin and other places around the U.S., to Rob Ford’s obsession with ending a “gravy train” in Toronto, to unions in Egypt breaking free and saying “No!” to so much more than just a regime.  It’s all happening.  It’s all in the mix.  But even though it’s there, it’s still just background.

We’re in Winnipeg.

And in the foreground here, for a local like L500, are elections – past, future, the fall-out, but mostly the forgetting.  A ball park mayor is clearly the enemy so let’s reach for our friends on Broadway, or Ottawa even – there’s a few there, after all – and their friends too.  Let’s help “elect our bosses.”  (Then let’s forget about what they promised, or what they didn’t.) “Let’s do this!”

Right.

And while we do this, let’s not do something else.  Let’s not really talk to our members unless we need them to bleed Orange for a month or two.  Let’s not welcome them at the door when they climb up those steely Union Centre stairs.  Let’s not entertain another point of view.

Maybe if we repeat ourselves Monday meeting after meeting, month on month, maybe if we say it a little slower, a little louder, with a drop of passion more, maybe they will get it.  They may be skilled craftspeople, deliberate technicians, accomplished researchers, community developers, office multi-taskers, but they don’t know what we know:

that the fear of four more years of ball park games ought to be enough.  That the thought of Blue on Broadway really ought to be enough -- to staff phone banks, get on the horn, give weeks of time and attention, dedicate themselves to something bigger than themselves.

While at the same time forgetting themselves.

What a trick.  What leadership – with followers invisible to themselves.  Forgetting their own power.  Or not even wondering where it went, or how things got this way.  Until maybe they start hearing the background noise.  Tune in to some footage.  “Wonder how far away is Madison, really?”  “Remember the last time we were in Toronto?”

But we’re in Winnipeg, and it’s 2011.

A Great Depression happened.  And a war, or two, or three, or four.   Babies boomed.  Courts and law-makers said we couldn’t have a general strike anymore.  The 60s happened and boomers raged – for a very little while.  Indigenous peoples showed up and stayed.  Women stayed too – still speaking out.  Big hair and Dynasty came and went and came again.  Fridays were Filmon-ized and now our members take furloughs.

And it’s been a decade and more painted Orange.  Bleeding still.  Maybe now beginning to stop.

Video by Air Canada flight attendants

As the Tory government uses an obscure provision of federal labour law to block a strike at Air Canada, check out this video made by rank and file flight attendants in support of the successful campaign to reject the last tentative agreement.

New Socialist Webzine now on Facebook -- and Praise for Occupy Wall Street

New Socialist Webzine is now on Facebook here -- please "like" us. And check out Paul Street's salute to Occupy Wall Street: "please give them major credit for picking the right target: neoliberal capitalism’s unelected dictatorship of money, which does in fact have the closest thing to what we can reasonably call its headquarters in New York City’s currently barricaded financial district." His article is here.

 


Global Crisis, Global Resistance -- talk by David McNally

Watch a talk by David McNally given in Winnipeg on Sept. 24 here (60 minutes long).

 

 

The Politics (and Anti-Politics) of Occupy Wall Street

This blog post by a socialist activist in New York City is a good short look at the politics of the high-profile protests going on in NYC.

Occupations at Wall Street and elsewhere (updated)

"While the initiators of Occupy Wall Street haven't succeeded in their aim of turning lower Manhattan into a U.S. equivalent of Egypt's Tahrir Square, the action has provided a needed focal point for activists--both first-timers and veterans--who have been frustrated for years by the lack of sustained popular mobilization against the economic crisis and its devastating social consequences." Read a piece on the occupations in New York and a number of other US cities here.

British writer Laurie Penny's column on the Wall Street occupation is also worth reading here.

Strikes and Politics in Egypt

To get a sense of the situation in Egypt today, listen to this interview with Hossam El-Hamalaway here. Teachers and other workers, including those at the country's only private port, continue to strike

Palestinian Authority's bid for recognition at UN

As the PA leadership makes its bid for recognition as a state, Nassar Ibrahim writes that this move was born out of the crisis of the PA's approach and that "the failure of all the “peace initiatives” can be explained by the simple fact that they tried to jump over the fundamentals of Palestinian national rights and unity of the Palestinian people, aiming to build a peace under the Israeli occupation criteria." Read his article here.

Joseph Massad argues that "This entire brouhaha over the UN vote is ultimately about which of the two scenarios is better for Israeli interests. The Palestinian people and their interests are not even part of this equation." Read his article here.

Ten years after 9/11: Two articles

"This first decade of the 21st century has seen the United States enter into sharp social decline and a notable erosion of its seemingly invincible former imperial authority. The issues confronting U.S. capitalism arise from the deeper crisis of global capitalism. Yet some aspects of today’s stunning dysfunction of American bourgeois politics reflect aftershocks of September 11, 2001," argues the editorial in the latest issue of Against the Current.

What was the "War on Terror?" asks Richard Seymour in an article entitled "What was that all about?" He argues that "If the war on terror was a bid to advance US hegemony internationally, it could also be understood as an attempt to restructure relations of force domestically, tilting them in favour of business and a stronger coercive state. The same sequence was repeated in numerous advanced capitalist states."

 

9/11 conspiracy theories "a huge distraction"

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Alexander Cockburn's piece on what's wrong with conspiracy theories about the attacks is worth reading here.

Another Attempt by Israel to Whitewash Murder

The new Palmer/Uribe report contradicts "numerous other UN reports and resolutions, most recently that of the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission, on the issue of the legality of the Gaza siege." Read the Free Gaza Movement press release here.

See, read or listen to Norman Finkelstein and Huwaida Arraf discuss the report on Democracy Now.

 

"We need to go back to the ABCs of the Palestinian question"

As the Palestinian Authority moves to ask the UN to recognize it as the state of Palestine, Gaza resident Haidar Eid asks "is the Palestinian question about the establishment of a Bantustan on some of the territory within the 1967 borders and calling it an independent state?" Read the interview with him here.

Bolivia: Clash between indigenous people and Evo Morales government

The building of a highway through a protected park and indigenous land "is exposing the reality of Morales' commitment to capitalist development over--and at the expense of--indigenous peoples, social movements and the environment," reports Sarah Hines here.

Jack Layton's NDP

If you missed Murray Cooke's article from June, "Reflections on the NDP at 50", read it here.

Libya: The Threat of Imperialism's Role in the Overthrow of Gaddhafi

Seamus Milne's concise article on the dangerous regional significance of Western influence in the overthrow of the Gaddhafi regime should be read by anyone who, following the NDP's lead, has supported NATO's intervention. It's online here.

For a detailed look at NATO and Libya, read Gilbert Achcar's Aug 16 article.

Libya - interview with Gilbert Achcar

"Who Are the Libyan Rebels? This is the $1 Billion Dollar Question." Watch an interview with Gilbert Achcar here

 

Hope from when people take over: Bolivia, Mexico, Tunisia and Egypt

"In these times of crisis and calamity, where can we look for hope and encouragement?" In a talk, David McNally looks at grassroots experiments in radical democracy and truly participatory decision making. Listen to it on Against the Grain.

Algonquins of Barriere Lake Need Your Support!

"The community has been fighting for years to ensure Canada and Quebec honour the Trilateral Agreement, a landmark resource co-management agreement signed in 1991... Barriere Lake is being forced to take costly legal action to protect themselves against the actions of the Canadian government, and its proxy, an illegitimate band council that doesn’t represent the community. The band council was put in place last summer by INAC with only a dozen nominations; most community members boycotted the process, defending their customary government system."

Please visit http://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org/2011/08/barriere-lake-legal-defense-fund_22.html to read the entire statement from Barriere Lake Solidarity activists and donate online to the Legal Defense Fund.

Harper Signs Canada-Honduras Free Trade Deal, Backs Post-Coup Government

"Honduras is the latest target of an increasingly aggressive Canadian foreign policy for the Americas, guided by a very simple but frightening philosophy that places corporate profits and geostrategic interests well above human rights," writes Todd Gordon. Read his article here.

India: New Left Needed

"There is an urgent need for a realignment of forces within the Indian left. This needs to start with the rejection of the hegemony of the CPI (M) and the restoration of credibility among the masses, by re-establishing long-lost links with the peasantry, industrial workers and other dispossessed sections," writes Sumanta Banerjee. Read his article here.

Riots in the UK (updated)

Some left views from England:

Laurie Penny, "Panic on the Streets of London"

Socialist Resistance, "Con Dem Chickens Come Home to Roost"

Daniel Harvey, "don’t moralise, don’t judge, don’t take pictures – it’s time for the riot to get radical"

Richard Seymour, "A Crisis of Ideology and Political Leadership"

Some analysis from Alex Callinicos (originally on Facebook) here.

 

 

 

Two-Tier Healthcare for GM Workers

Two Tier Healthcare
By Bruce Allen

Well attended meetings of GM of Canada (GMC) retired workers were held in the first week of August to inform them about the proposed settlement between them and GM of Canada with regard to the future of retiree healthcare benefits. This settlement will put into place the Healthcare Trust (HCT) agreed to in the 2009 contract negotiations. The administrators of the HCT will administer and allocate these workers' healthcare benefits.

GMC retirees listened with concern as they were told that with the funding GM is providing to the HCT benefits would be cut to between 77% and 84% of the current level if the fund is to be sustained indefinitely. Failing that the fund will run out of money in the future meaning all healthcare benefits will end. At the time of this writing it remains to be seen which benefits will be cut and to what extent.

A principal justification for establishing the HCT is that it will sustain healthcare benefits in the event GM goes bankrupt. However the creation of the HCT makes it even more unlikely that will happen at any time in the future. GM of Canada President Kevin Williams made this rather obvious earlier this year when he stated that the HCT will reduce Canadian labour costs by over $16.00 an hour. This revelation also explains why GM has repeatedly told the CAW that any future investments in Canada are contingent upon the HCT being finalized. It also demonstrated once again how GM has successfully used its control over investment decisions to extract never ending contract concessions from an acquiescent CAW.

The immediate effects of the finalization of the HCT will not just be big new cuts in retiree healthcare benefits. The most significant effect will be the establishment of what amounts to two tier healthcare benefits at GM of Canada. Active workers will not experience the cuts that will come with the HCT meaning their healthcare benefits will remain as they are while retiree healthcare benefits get sharply reduced. This two tier arrangement is particularly devastating for retirees because they need their healthcare benefits more than active workers. It is also morally indefensible sinces GM retirees fought the contract battles that got the healthcare benefits GM workers enjoy.

The consequences do not end there. Retired GMC workers are about to be hit by these new cuts at the very same time as they are experiencing steadily declining real incomes owing to their loss of cost of living adjustments on their pensions and to the healthcare benefit concessions negotiated in 2008 and 2009. Increasing financial hardship will go hand in hand with the indignity of having healthcare benefits very inferior to those active workers get.

Nonetheless the finalization of the HCT is bad news for the continually shrinking active workforce at GMC. With the HCT they have even more reason to put off retirement for as long as they can because retirement will mean living with less than it did before. Consequently GM workers who ``retire`` will be even more inclined than they already are to get another job to compensate for their steadily declining retirement incomes.

One more thing must be understood. Two tier healthcare benefits at GMC marks yet another departure from having pattern agreements in the Canadian auto industry. There will not be two tier healthcare benefits at Chrysler of Canada because the Chrysler HCT is much better funded. Nor will there be two tier healthcare benefits at Ford of Canada because there is no HCT there. GM of Canada retirees are on their own in this regard. It will be up to them to mobilize around the 2012 contract negotiations to compel their leadership to negotiate gains sufficient to make up for the major losses they are about to experience.

August 6, 2011

Obama's cuts "still not enough" for Wall Street

The downgrading of US bonds by Standards's and Poor's credit rating agency signals a demand for even deeper cuts than those just agreed to by Congress and Obama. Richard Seymour puts this together with the austerity in Western Europe and concludes "we have an astonishing spectacle.  The political leadership of the dominant capitalist states is now trying to shred the public investment that has hitherto acted as a lifeline to their economies.  They are talking about savagely reducing labour costs, ostensibly to compete with China or India.  And they're being urged on by the banks and business federations despite their awareness of the tremendous peril involved.  This is actually going to undercut the conditions that led to their dominance in the first place." Read the rest of his article here.