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RebELLES Young Feminist Gathering

"Over 350 young feminists from across Canada and Quebec assembled at the University of Winnipeg over the 2011 May long weekend for the second Pan-Canadian Young Feminist Gathering." Read a report by two organizers here.

A Canadian Boat to Gaza

Three Nobel Peace Prize winners declare their support for the Canadian Boat to Gaza

http://www.tahrir.ca/en/content/three-nobel-peace-prize-winners-declare-their-support-canadian-boat-gaza

The Freedom Flotilla of last year was the first to break through the media blackout in a big way.  Freedom Flotilla II is already in the news, including an attack in the National Post.  Kevin Neish, who was with the previous flotilla and will be on this one, is scheduled to be interviewed Wednesday, June 15th on Canada AM (CTV).

 

A Cuban looks at Spain

"At the beginning of this decade, there appeared in my non-touristic neighborhood a couple of soiled, long-haired guys from Catalonia without a coin in their pockets but with a lot of glimmer in their eyes." Read the rest of the article at http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=44873

First Nations Under Surveillance

Russel Diabo and Shiri Pasternak writing on a very important subject: "Internal documents from Indian Affairs and the RCMP show that shortly after forming government in January of 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had the federal government tighten up on gathering and sharing intelligence on First Nations to anticipate and manage potential First Nation unrest across Canada."

Read the rest of the article here

Dispossessing Palestinians, a talk by Ilan Pappe

To understand current events in Israel/Palestine and the reality on the ground underneath the so-called "peace process," it's essential to understand how the Israeli state was founded in 1948 by dispossessing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. There's no better guide to this history than Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, author of books including A History of Modern Palestine and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, so check out this radio broadcast on Against the Grain of a recent talk by Pappe.

Radio Interview on Looming CUPW Strike


A radio interview with New Socialist webzine contributor Cindy McCallum Miller, picking up on some of the points made in her article, can be heard here.

 

Peruvian Protests Prevail

By Ashley Holly McEachern

Its 5 a.m. and we are stranded at the bus station in Puno, Peru. Tourists and locals alike scurry about trying to hustle their way into Bolivia. The border between Bolivia and Peru has been closed for fourteen days and counting. One stranded traveller recounts his experience trying to cross the border, where security guards fought off the hundreds of people trying to break their way through the now barbed-wired border. Local people attempt to climb over the barricades. The sound of stones thrashing against the pavement provides a suitable background noise as one of the protest leaders excites the crowd and condemns the mine. "He was so emotional he had tears in his eyes" one lingering tourist tells me.

This is the scene of yet another Latin American protest against a Canadian mining project, but this time it is happening in South Americas´ top gold producing country. "It was chaos – there were massive crowds of people," says a traveler who waited for hours while the protestors emerged on both the Bolivian and the Peruvian sides of the border. He describes an atmosphere far too familiar to those of us who have witnessed conflicts over mining elsewhere. Canada’s ugly past with the Peruvian people condemning Canadian mining projects was softened in 2008, when the Peru Canada Mineral Resources Reform Project was initiated. Judging by today’s protests, there is much work to be done on mining reform in Peru, both for international and national companies.

A local tells me more. ¨The mine that is being disputed is located near Lake by Bear Creek Corporation¨. Bear Creek is a Vancouver Based Company that is indeed perpetuating Canada´s bad reputation abroad. The local continues to explain that the protestors are fighting for environmental and social rights that mining projects so often disrespect. They are fighting against the long history whereby mining companies bask in wealth and profit while local communities see no benefits. They remind me of a popular Honduran slogan ¨No to mining, Yes to life¨. They are standing up against a major company in the name of protecting the environment, the rivers and the lands that they sow. However, at the same time, the mining association of Peru bellows the importance of the mining sector for Peru’s economy, and one local explains "I am for formal (internationally regulated) mines, but not informal (typically local and unregulated) mines. ¨ this divergence of opinions is not uncommon in the mining sector. But it is not just mining protests that are penetrating Peru these days, with an upcoming election and a condemnation of hydroelectric mines as well, the country is painted with protests.

Upon my own arrival in Puno the following Saturday, the frustration and chaos continues. It is now Monday and I have accepted my fate that the border remains an impassable scene of resistance. I detour for the town of Puno, only to be greeted by twenty riot police facing off with a growing crowd of fifty or more, yelling "open the door, let us in" at the regional government office. This particularly beautiful juxtaposition between middle class fancy-suited Peruvian bureaucrats and the working class folk is standing up against the corruption surfacing in the current election.

Peru is days away from a presidential election on June 5, and the Peruvian people are getting rowdy. The two contenders include a former coup and army officer, Ollanta Humala, who, for many, mirrors the socialist nature of Hugo Chavez, and Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Alberto Fujimori. Alberto was the former President of Peru and is currently serving a twenty-five year prison sentence for bribery and death orders for Maoist rebels in the 1990s. Though both candidates proclaim that they will raise taxes for mining companies, speculation remains. A local restaurateur in Puno tells me ¨they are all corrupted¨, echoing the local media stories that Keikos main reason for running is to give pardon to her father.

Between protests against the electoral corruption, closed borders and highway blockades of over 10,000 people against mining and hydroelectric dam projects, indeed, Peru is being penetrated by protests. This is an interesting country to watch in the days to come, and since there seems to be no way out, we will all be watching.

Ashley McEachern is an energetic and critical freelance writer from Canada. Having completed a Masters in International Development with a specialization in Latin American politics, Ashley now focuses her energies on freelance writing projects throughout the Americas, having published with THIS magazine, the Tyee, CBC, rabble.ca and the NPSIA Paterson Review. She is currently reporting from Lima, Peru before heading to Colombia to follow the World Barista Championships.

Posters and leaflets in support of postal workers

A postal strike could begin on June 2, so download, printout and distribute English or French posters and leaflets from this useful site: http://supportpostalworkers.wordpress.com/

The Worst Outcome of G20 Policing

Check out this thoughtful blog post about the political impact of police repression at the G20 protests in Toronto last June, in the context of the austerity agenda of Harper and co: "While I think the G20 debacle may have stiffened the resolve of a radical few, it also was successful... in creating additional barriers that will make it harder for many people who are not already active but who are going to bear the brunt of the coming attacks from finding ways to give their individual impulse to resist a collective and confrontational expression."

Honduras: "Impunity Reigns"

"You can drive by and shoot a teacher, an indigenous activist or a trade unionist, and nothing – nothing — will happen to you." Read Dana Frank's brief article "Ousted president’s return to Honduras doesn’t mean repression is over" for a better view of the situation than what you'll read in the corporate media (and even from some on the left).

Spain: "People are angry -- they won't take it any longer."

Since May 15, disgust with Spain's two major political parties and the austerity agenda that they're both committed to has fueled a remarkable mass movement that continues to grow after the May 22 municipal elections. People continue to camp out in central squares in cities across Spain. This article gives a good overview of how the global economic crisis hit Spain and led to this movement. Also check out this blog post from Barcelona and this article by three Spanish socialists.

The Case of Hassan Diab

Hassan Diab is a Canadian facing unjust extradition proceedings – which could see him forcibly removed to France - based on deeply flawed “evidence”. He has always maintained his innocence and condemns all ethnically and religiously motivated violence. Canada’s unfair Extradition Law allows Canadians to be shipped to foreign countries based on flimsy, unreliable evidence not accepted in domestic Canadian trials.

In Hassan's case, Canadian Extradition Law has:

Allowed deeply flawed handwriting analysis as evidence, despite the Canadian judge finding it "very problematic, very confusing, and with conclusions that are suspect".

Allowed the authorities to proceed despite the fact that Hassan's physical description and his finger and palm prints do not match those of the suspect.

Allowed the case to go forward despite numerous serious contradictions and misrepresentations, and despite reliance on secret intelligence in the Record of the Case.

We all have a stake in supporting Hassan in his pursuit of justice. Canada’s shockingly low standard for extraditing its citizens is a threat to the principles of fairness and fundamental justice, and could be used against any of us.
 

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW:

Visit Hassan's support group website: http://www.justiceforhassandiab.org/

Please consider signing this petition to renew Hassan's bail and help spread this far and wide! http://bit.ly/jvcJ66

Learn more about Hassan's case - here is a good primer article: http://bit.ly/k9a08d and another by his partner Rania Tfaily: http://bit.ly/irEdMw

Watch a short video clip on a recent event for Hassan held in Toronto, featuring his partner Rania Tfaily: http://bit.ly/iZHOJN

Finally, if you are on Twitter please help spread the word about Hassan's case by contacting local and federal level government officials, as well as mainstream media journalists to cover his case - don't forget to use this hashtag, created by one of the NS webzine's editors: #JusticeForHassan

The Demise of Pattern Agreements in Canada's Auto Industry

By Bruce Allen

More than 15 years of concessions bargaining by the CAW in the Canadian auto industry driven by employer demands for contract concessions in exchange for investments in Canadian auto operations has led to a completely unacknowledged and unnoticed watershed development. That development is the effective demise of pattern or industry-wide agreements in auto in this country and their replacement with different collective agreements negotiated with each employer. The significance of this development in terms of the history of industrial unionism and of the labour movement in the Canadian state cannot be understated. Its implications are so far reaching that it is not possible to fully consider them in a short presentation.

So what exactly am I talking about? How can I make such sweeping assertions? Consider the following. Since auto plants were first organized in this country at GM, Ford and Chrysler back in the middle of the last century pattern or industry-wide agreements have provided autoworkers with essentially the same wages and benefits. That is they did so until 2 years ago when a pattern ceased to exist. A pattern no longer exists because post-2008 concessions bargaining there are now very different benefit packages at GM, Ford and Chrysler. Specifically Health Care Trusts (HCTs) were negotiated at Chrysler and GM but not at Ford. Furthermore the HCT at GM is funded well enough to only secure the benefits of retired GM workers until 2024 while the HCT for retired Chrysler workers is funded well enough to secure their benefits until 2043. Stated otherwise the fund at GM will run out of money in 2024 leaving GM retirees with no benefits while Chrysler workers will maintain theirs until 2043 and Ford workers will retain their benefits indefinitely because no HCT was negotiated at Ford.

This is a real mess. It is also the direct result of concessions bargaining in which the corporations not the union have set and defined the collective bargaining agenda. This too is profoundly significant. It is profoundly significant because pattern or industry – wide agreements had comprised the centrepiece of collective bargaining strategy for the UAW and CAW in the North American auto industry and in doing so facilitated the historic gains achieved by autoworkers in the last half of the 20th Century. Absent pattern bargaining these gains never would have been achieved precisely because it enabled autoworkers to successively build upon and match each others collective bargaining achievements.

This is also profoundly significant insofar as pattern bargaining was instrumental to autoworkers at each company seeing their interests as being identical with those of autoworkers at the other companies, as opposed to their own employers, and as such it was ideologically very important. It was ideologically very important because it effectively facilitated and was conducive to class consciousness. Turn this around. If you have a situation where pattern bargaining and pattern agreements cease to exist it is directly conducive to the rapid erosion of class consciousness and conducive to autoworkers identifying with the interests of their employers rather than other autoworkers and long term that is a formula for eventually calling into question the very reason for the existence of the union.

I make this point because as I have said many, many times before if workers increasingly identify their interests with their employer's interests and the interests of the two become seen as essentially one and the same the very rationale for having a union is shattered. Stated otherwise the absence of pattern or industry wide agreements strengthens the hands of employers in the ideological battle for the hearts and minds of the workforce. Furthermore when a union loses that battle it becomes essentially powerless and incapable of functioning as an independent, class based organization with its own distinct agenda and one which is consequently at odds with the employer's agenda.

This is not abstract theory. This is increasingly a danger prevalent in auto today particularly given a CAW leadership petrified of doing anything the auto bosses disapprove of. They are petrified because they believe employer threats about putting no more investments in Canada unless they get their way and further weaken our collective agreements.

There is no doubt about this. Recent events clearly revealed how the top CAW leadership has completely subordinated itself to the agenda of the auto corporations to the point where the union's agenda and the auto bosses' agenda have essentially become one and the same even as auto employers push for far more contract concessions on top of those made in the wake of the 2008 economic crash. Indeed GM of Canada has told the CAW in no uncertain terms that unless Canadian labour costs are reduced to the point where they are lower than labour costs in U.S. auto plants where the UAW has made and continues to make huge concessions there will be no more investments in GM of Canada operations. In response the CAW leadership has made it clear that they will work with GM to realize those substantial reductions in labour costs necessitating major contract concessions particularly in 2012 auto negotiations.

All of this duly noted one thing becomes very clear with respect to developing a strategy for fighting back and reversing the backwards trajectory of the CAW in auto. Autoworkers must demand that one thing in particular be realized in 2012 collective bargaining in auto in Canada. That being the meaningful restoration of a pattern agreement in the Canadian auto industry as the principal means by which we can fight to regain all that we've lost and in the process put autoworkers back at the forefront of the labour movement by leading the way in realizing historic gains for the entire working class and meaningfully empowering ourselves in the process in order to win the larger battles that lie ahead in the face of Capital's ongoing offensive against Labour.

Bruce Allen is Vice-President of CAW Local 199.

Sexual Self-determination in Cuba

The first piece is an interview with Mariela Castro.  The other two are from an unofficial, but tolerated, website.

www.iire.org

http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=43614

http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=43714

Egypt's Youth Unite Against the Old Guard

An Al Jazeera piece on the ongoing Egyptian revolution by Paul Amar that is well worth the read:

"In the weeks since president Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign on February 11, the same coalition that led the uprising in Tahrir Square has frequently and vigorously taken action to continue the Egyptian revolution." Read the rest here.

What Does Layton's NDP Stand For?

"The ideological uncertainty of the NDP has heightened under Layton’s leadership," argues Thomas Walkom. Read the rest of his column on the ideology of the federal NDP here. It's not the same critique the editors of this site would write (for one thing, Walkom thinks the NDP used to be socialist -- we don't) and he doesn't look at how the party as an organization is affected by its relationship with unions, but it makes some good points about the NDP leadership's current version of pro-capitalist politics.

The Princess Craze

"There is a princess in all our heads. She must be destroyed. As the press continues to glut itself on the Cult of Kate Middleton, businesses are cashing in on young women's insatiable lust for princess paraphernalia: fake tiaras and fashion handbooks play into the collective fantasy that one day, if you are beautiful and good enough, you too can marry a prince." Read the rest of Laurie Penny's article here.

Fortunately, there are still lots of young feminist women challenging this kind of thing. Some will be heading to the 2nd Pan-Canadian Rebelles Feminist Gathering in Winnipeg, May 20-23.

PHOTOS: "May Day 2011" in Toronto

The Conservative Majority and the Left - A Few Notes to Begin the Discussion

1. Now that the Conservatives have won a majority of seats in the House of Commons, we will see just how right-wing they are. This is arguably the most right-wing party elected to federal office since the Tories under RB Bennett were in office (1930-1935), and the context of global slump makes it likely that they will pursue their agenda vigorously.They are fervently ideologically committed to expanding the profits and power of capital (in both its market and state forms) and gutting the public sector through cuts, privatization and the infusion of market forces into public services. They will continue to oppose any meaningful moves to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that drive climate change. They are committed to a racist immigration policy based on increasing the number of people admitted on temporary work visas and decreasing the number accepted as permanent residents, and an aggressive foreign policy for Canadian imperialism in alliance with the US. Their ranks include the most reactionary sexist and heterosexist elements in society, who will press for measures to their liking.

2. The Conservatives won a majority of seats not because they convinced a much larger number of people to support them, but because of how a small increase in support was translated through the peculiarities of the "first-past-the-post" version of capitalist democracy. The Tories won 37.7% of the popular vote in 2008 and 40% in 2011. There hasn't been a major swing to the right in the population, only in the way seats are distributed in the House of Commons.

3. The record-high 31% vote for the NDP (up from 17.5% in 2008) represents a major change in the voting choices among the very large numbers of people who support minor social reforms and defence of existing social programs within the framework of the neoliberal consensus that defines official politics (whose touchstone is "fiscal responsibility" and deficit elimination), above all in Quebec. It means something that so many people voted for the party seen as most on the left. But the NDP ran on its most moderate platform ever, with the goal of replacing the Liberals as the party perceived as the main and 100% respectable alternative to the Tories in administering Canadian capitalism -- not as a party that stands for a social democratic alternative to the business parties. So support for the NDP in 2011 means something different than support for the NDP did in, for example, the 1988 federal election (when the NDP won 20% of the vote, its previous high). Then, faced with pressure from people opposed to the Canada-US free trade deal to campaign only against the deal, NDP leader Ed Broadbent argued the Tories (pro-free trade) were the party of Wall Street and the Liberals (who at the time opposed the deal) were the party of Bay Street. Nothing like that was heard this time. Unfortunately, the NDP vote in 2011 doesn't represent a significant shift to the left in working people's views or any growth of radicalism in society.

4. Aggressive Tory moves to take advantage of their long-sought opportunity to implement their full agenda without restraint will likely meet with dismay and outrage. There may well be a deepening political polarization that creates opportunities to mobilize protest and resistance against Tory attacks. But the serious problems within the working-class movement will make it difficult to channel anger and dismay into militant resistance by the working class (unionized and non-unionized).

5. The NDP leadership is thoroughly imbued with parliamentary cretinism, to use an old socialist term, so we can expect to see NDP MPs criticize what the Conservatives are doing but not do anything to mobilize people in the streets or in their workplaces to try to stop Tory attacks. Major strikes against public sector cuts or large-scale protest will probably be treated by federal NDP leaders the same way their provincial counterparts treated the Days of Action in Ontario (1995-1999) and politicized public sector strikes and the handful of "Days of Defiance" in BC (2002-2005): behind-the-scenes opposition to them happening, with NDP loyalists at the top of the union officialdom engaging in outright sabotage.

6. For everyone who wholeheartedly opposes neoliberalism, the main challenge will be to reach out to people who are repulsed by what the Tories are doing and argue that action is needed now to try to block attacks. It will also be crucial to argue for no cuts (rather than smaller cuts) and against racist and anti-immigrant measures that will have some support among some people who oppose other Tory moves. Waiting til 2015 to vote the Tories out of office is a recipe for demoralization and defeat. We need to start mobilizing resolute opposition in the streets, in workplaces, on campuses -- not rely on the NDP in the House of Commons with their "leave it to us" stance.

7. To fight the Tories, we need a left that sees collective action in struggle as essential and doesn't reduce politics to elections. That left -- the radical left -- is currently at a historic low point in the Canadian state. If there is a new wave of protest, it may create new opportunities for the growth of the radical left (this isn't guaranteed, as the experience of anti-cuts protests in Ontario and BC show). To take advantage of such opportunities, radicals will need to find ways to overcome our fragmentation, marginalization and political divisions.

 

And They Call This a Recovery?

David McNally looks at the world economic situation -- which, among other things, will have a powerful influence on the reelected Conservative federal government in Ottawa -- and argues that "we are in the midst of a much more complex period – one of deep recessions, shallow upturns, high unemployment, government debt crises, renewed recessions, and an ongoing era of austerity – which I have characterized as a global slump." Read the rest of the article here.

The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

Three video clips from Democracy Now on the assassination of Bin Laden:

Jeremy Scahill

Alan Nairn

Tariq Ali

Plus Robert Fisk's article from the Independent

Solidarity with Jaggi Singh

Montreal activist Jaggi Singh has pleaded guilty to counseling to commit mischief -- the charge leveled against him for words spoken at a press conference during protests against the G20 in Toronto in June 2010! -- and is facing 6 months in prison. See details including videos of his comments and letters of solidarity here.

Free Ahmad Qatamesh! Prominent Palestinia​n writer arrested by Israel

A message from Omar Barghouti, PACBI...

Dear all,

Please find attached information about Israel's ruthless arrest of Dr. Ahmad Qatamesh, a prominent and highly respected Palestinian writer, academic and human rights advocate.

A large Israeli force arrested him in the early hours of Thursday, April 21, after taking his wife, Suha Barghouti, and their 22-year-old daughter hostage (along with two other female relatives).

The Israeli occupation authorities are holding him in Ofer detention center, without charge. They told him they will issue an "administrative detention" order against him, clearly indicating that they have arrested him for his writings and political views. Human rights organizations have squarely condemned administrative detention as an affront to justice, as the detainee is not formally charged and is not given a chance to defend him/herself or even access to the charges list.

Please distribute this to your human rights and activists networks, urging everyone to do their best to pressure Israel to release him and all other Palestinian prisoners of conscience.

Kind regards,

Omar

The Federal Election: A Left View from Quebec

This is an April 12 statement from a majority of the editors of the Quebecois online magazine Presse-Toi a Gauche! translated by Deborah Simmons. The original text is here.

To Defeat the Right, the Left Must Organize

The almost certain possibility that the Conservative Party will return to power will certainly have tragic consequences for the popular classes in Canada and Québec. The announcement by Stephen Harper that a balanced budget will be achieved a year earlier than previously projected does not bode well for the survival of public services and social programs. Already the federal grant to the Fédération des Femmes du Québec (Québec Women's Federation) has been cut, about 40% of its total budget.

So how to turn the tide? Let us first look at data of the last five federal elections, from 1997 to 2008:

One Step Closer to a Postal Strike

With almost 95% of a record turnout of workers voting to authorize a strike, members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers are making it clear that they are determined to resist the unprecedented concessions being demanded by Canada Post management. The union will be in a legal position for a pan-Canadian strike on May 24. The CUPW media release can be read here.

The difficult question facing CUPW members now is how to conduct a strike that has a shot at winning in the face of an employer backed by a federal government that will very likely be willing to use back to work legislation against the union, at a time when working-class solidarity has been much eroded.