PEOPLE'S VOICE - Issue of September 1-15, 2023
The following articles are from the September 1-15, 2023 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper.
Solidarity with striking Metro workers
Communist Party calls for higher wages, rollbacks on prices and profits
PV Ontario Bureau
The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) has declared its full solidarity with Metro workers in the Greater Toronto Area who are on strike against precarious work and for livable wages., Along with other grocery monopolies, Metro is recording record profits by pushing down workers’ wages and price-gouging the public in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.
“Metro workers are taking a stand and we stand with them,” said CPC (Ontario) leader Drew Garvie. The Party has mobilized its members in the GTA to support picket lines.
The 3,700 members of Unifor 414 delivered a unanimous strike mandate at a vote in June. While the tentative agreement, which the union had recommended, included a number of improvements, workers rejected it because the gains were not enough after their wages had fallen so far behind.
Like everyone else, Metro workers know that the corporate grocery monopolies have been making record profits, more than enough to pay for livable wages. Unifor says that 70 percent of Metro’s workers are part-time and earning an average of $16.62 per hour. Full-timers earn an average of $22.60 per hour. Neither group of workers earns a living wage, which was estimated to be $23.15 in the GTA last year.
“Grocery workers risked their lives and health during the pandemic,” said Garvie. “Wages at Metro only increased by 3 percent between 2019 and 2022, while inflation ate up 9.4 percent during the same period.”
Last year, when official inflation averaged 6.8 percent and topped 8 percent in some months, Metro workers received no raise. But Metro CEO Eric La Flèche sure did – his total compensation increased by 6.8 percent (coincidentally the same as inflation) to $5.4 million. Second quarter reports showed a 10 percent increase in profits over last year, with grocery prices increasing by over 10 percent over the same period.
Five corporations – Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro, Costco and Walmart – control 75 percent of the whole country’s grocery market. As Garvie notes, “this unrestrained power of corporate monopolies is the principal driver of the deepening cost-of-living crisis. The Communist Party joins Metro workers on the picket lines, and is demanding higher wages and real action by governments to roll back prices on necessities such as food, fuel and rent.”
Solidarity from nurses’ union
In an important show of private and public sector unity, immediately after the Metro strike began on July 29, the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) issued a message of solidarity on behalf of its 68,000 members.
“Both grocery workers and healthcare workers showed up every day of the pandemic to meet the needs of Ontarians, at great risk to our own health and safety,” said ONA President Erin Ariss. “Grocery workers deserve their fair share of record profits, and nurses and healthcare professionals stand with them against corporate greed.”
Like grocery workers, nurses and healthcare workers in Ontario and across the country are facing declining real wages, increased precarity and eroded job quality. The ONA statement said that the union “is echoing the call for respectful compensation for grocery workers, many of whom are struggling to afford food, rent and other necessities, even as their employer’s profits soar.”
ONA is encouraging its members and the public to join picket lines and show solidarity with grocery workers.
With the province on fire, BC’s NDP government must change course now!
Yet again this summer, wildfires are ravaging Canada, dramatic new proof of climate change directly related to human economic activity – carbon emissions in particular. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health, and there is a narrowing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future. Risks and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming, and “deep, rapid and sustained mitigation and accelerated implementation of adaptation actions in this decade would reduce projected losses and damages for humans and ecosystems.”
But instead of comprehensive action on this crisis, BC’s NDP government continues to support new fossil fuel infrastructure, while claiming it can still meet its emissions targets. While announcing plans to reduce emissions from the fossil fuel sector, the government approved the Cedar LNG plant, in contradiction to the International Energy Agency’s statement that “the global journey to net zero by 2050 includes no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects,” and despite the warning by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that “investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”
Just weeks before he was sworn in as premier, David Eby stated that “we cannot continue to expand fossil fuel infrastructure and hit our climate goals.” On the same day that Eby announced a plan to reduce climate pollution from LNG facilities, he simultaneously approved the Cedar LNG project. The Cedar plant will benefit from many incentives offered to the industry by the provincial government, including eliminating the LNG income tax, a lower price for BC Hydro electricity, exemption of the provincial sales tax on construction materials and a rebate on new carbon taxes.
Just as shameful, the NDP is using Cedar LNG plant partnership with the Haisla Nation as an opportunity to disguise the fact that they are creating new fossil fuel projects. Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip called this expansion of the LNG industry and associated fracking a frightening step.
The federal government has a long history of similar contradictions between rhetoric and actions. In June 2018, Parliament passed a resolution declaring a climate emergency, and the next day approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX), which ships bitumen from the Alberta tar sands for export to Asia. The federal government purchased TMX for $7.4 billion, a price tag which is now up to $30.9 billion.
British Columbians are subsidizing LNG carbon emissions, and Canadians own a pipeline that will never make a profit. Billions of dollars are transferred from ordinary Canadians to wealthy oil companies, while expanding fossil fuel production that results in climate chaos. The Communist Party’s BC Committee calls on the working class, Indigenous peoples and all concerned residents of this province to demand an immediate reversal of these dangerous, immoral, pro-corporate fossil fuel extraction policies – halt these projects and take real action to make reduction of carbon emissions our true priority.
BC Committee CPC
Public housing is the solution!
The housing crisis has deteriorated so much that virtually every politician, every political party, every think tank and every media outlet is compelled to discuss it and offer their solution. But with very few exceptions, they all come up with plans which treat the symptoms instead of the cause.
At best, such approaches will fail. At worst, they will exacerbate the problem and cause even more people to fall into ruin – massive debt, poverty or homelessness. The housing crisis cannot be tackled through symptoms – it must be confronted at its root cause, which is the strategy of successive governments to transfer housing provision to the private sector.
Privatization of housing has proven to be an absolute disaster.
Housing advocates estimate that just before the pandemic there were between 235,000 and 300,000 people in Canada who experienced homelessness at any given time. Without question, that number has increased since the pandemic and related economic crisis.
Government data indicates that one out of ten households in Canada lived in unaffordable, unsuitable or inadequate housing in 2021 – that is over 1.5 million households, representing nearly 3.8 million people. Of those, the overwhelming majority (77 percent) struggled primarily with affordability, spending more than 30 percent of before-tax household income on housing.
The situation is bad, and it is getting worse.
What is needed is a massive public housing program, rooted in the idea that housing is a human and right and should be treated as a public utility. Such a program would build and provide housing on an as-needed basis and according to the principle of universality. Homes would be accessible, with rents geared to people’s incomes rather than some percentage of an ever-increasing market average.
Such a program cannot be seen as a temporary fix – it has to be a sustained public program like healthcare and education. Furthermore, it needs to be linked to sweeping legislative changes which reduce and regulate housing costs – rent rollbacks and rent control with teeth, so that nobody is compelled to spend more than 20 percent of household income on housing. The goal must be to take the profit out of housing – that is the only way to make it (and keep it) affordable.
Of course, in a capitalist society, most politicians are not very eager to divert billions of dollars from lucrative ventures like, say, military industries or oil pipelines, to sustained programs which meet people’s need. Nor are they keen to reduce profit (and there is an awful lot of profit in housing!)
In fact, there is so much profit in housing that governments have come to rely on it to displace proper pension programs. Why guarantee people a livable income in retirement when you can just dazzle them with calculations of how much equity they have in their home? Why provide affordable housing when you can just offer a smorgasbord of home ownership savings schemes that will tie them to a huge and highly profitable mortgage? It’s a vicious and callous cycle that is very effective for shifting wealth from working people to banks and housing monopolies.
Many politicians have no interest in solving the housing crisis – for them, it is a wonderful situation that keeps the rich rich and the rest of us precarious and dependent. Many other politicians would like to solve the problem, but they can’t see past the logic of capitalism and divorce themselves from fidelity to private ownership and profit.
The policies which these politicians usually present to us are typically designed to tinker with the worst excesses of the crisis – either assisting a tiny fraction of the people living in the most dreadful conditions, or helping a larger number of middle income people whose suddenly declining standard of living is making them reconsider their voting patterns. Either way, the privatization of housing continues, as does the housing crisis.
Some examples of this are the recent enthusiasm for “inclusionary zoning” policies, which give private developers billions in freebies (land, tax deductions, waived development fees) in exchange for building a small number of housing units that are priced a bit below the market (which is a constantly upward-moving target) for a limited amount of time. When these policies were introduced in Ontario by the Kathleen Wynne government, many housing advocates cheered publicly. Such is the depth of the crisis and the lack of political leadership.
A massive public housing program has the potential to unite tenants and homeowners (assuming that the housing provided could include some units for sale), as well as public and private sector workers and unions (since building, maintaining, upgrading and administrating housing across the entire country will create a lot of jobs in different sectors). Furthermore, it quickly dovetails with other public infrastructure and programs like transit and transportation, hospitals and healthcare, public schools and post-secondary education.
With the state assuming a lead role in building and providing housing – on a rent-geared-to-income basis – average prices will begin to come down, providing relief and stability to renters and homeowners whose housing costs are already far too high. A democratically operated public program can help ensure that housing is fully accessible and environmentally sensitive, both when it is built and through upgrades.
What begins as an effort to resolve an immediate crisis quickly cascades into an endeavour that has enormous social and economic benefits.
Yet, at the end of the day, housing policy remains a class issue. Confronting the crisis means confronting and struggling against the vested interests which want to maintain the power and wealth they derive from the private provision of shelter and the crisis it creates.
That means that the working class – through the labour movement with its allies – needs to unite in an escalating campaign for a public housing program in Canada. Only with the masses of the people fighting can we win such a program and ensure that it truly benefits the majority.
Capitalism makes wildfires more destructive
Summer in the western provinces of Canada is now synonymous with wildfire. As the climate crisis continues, the people of British Columbia and Alberta are now forced to reckon with Ottawa’s inaction on climate and on the rights of Indigenous peoples during the prolonged fire season. Before the summer of 2023 had even officially begun, Vancouver was enveloped by a stream of smoke emanating from the Chehalis Lake fire to the east of the city. Consuming an 800-hectare area north of the lake, the Chehalis Lake Fire now serves as a harbinger of what the predicted heat waves of the summer may have in store.
In contrast to the bleak outlook for the summer, wildfire has not always been associated with disaster. Ecologically, fire plays an important role by destroying dead plants and clearing areas for new life to sprout. Fire also assists in seeding nutrients like potassium, calcium and magnesium into the ground by burning leaf litter and debris which would not otherwise be bioavailable. Fires occurring in healthy habitats do not burn as long or as hot, which allows subsurface seeds and roots to flourish after the fire has consumed decaying leaf litter as its primary fuel and gone out. Indigenous peoples of North America have long recognized the importance of fire, and many cultural traditions are based around triggering controlled fires to clear brush and improve the fertility of soil to aid in crop yields. Fire in the Indigenous context is not disastrous but is an element of the natural cycle of the forest ecosystem.
The historical and ongoing genocide of the Indigenous peoples of North America cannot be excised from the story of destructive wildfire. As the expansion of colonialism waged war on Indigenous sovereignty, the ability for Indigenous peoples to maintain cultural practices similarly declined. Fire in the context of the prevailing profit-centered system now finds much more vulnerable flora in monocultures which have become prevalent both in agricultural areas as well as in second-growth forests. In contradictory attempts to maintain economic growth while mitigating the dire effect on the environment, Canada’s carbon offset programs incentivize corporations to plant trees to “offset” their pollution. The trees planted under these schemes are pinnacles of so-called capitalist efficiency – they are densely packed clusters of single species which are extremely vulnerable to fire but are cheap to plant and fulfil legal requirements. Their vulnerability stands in contrast to highly resistant, biologically diverse natural forests whose variety of flora resists uncontrollable spread of fire and dampens its severity substantially.
The combined factors of the suppression of Indigenous cultural practices and promotion of monocultural forestry contributes to a situation where a single spark spells devastation for entire regions. If the federal and provincial governments were serious about protecting communities from the direct danger of fire and the health risks associated with smoke, Indigenous communities would be returned the authority to remove corporate interests from their land and manage the resources traditionally which contributed to healthy, sustainable ecosystems which dominated prior to colonization. Instead, the government of Canada continues to allow the rampant abuse of Indigenous land and offers half-measures which, while looking good from a public relations perspective, actively contribute to the worsening conditions during the fire season. The consequences of the Canadian state’s resistance to Indigenous sovereignty should be remembered each time acrid smoke burns our eyes and fills our lungs.
Labour shortage or reserve army of labour?
For months, the ruling class media apparatus in Canada has claimed that there is a critical shortage of labour. Last year, we were told that there were over one million job postings across Canada. However, a new Statistics Canada analysis proves that the headlines about a labour shortage are a myth. Jim Stanford, an economist and the director of the Centre for Future Work, explained that the report demonstrates that the status quo is not hurting the bosses, but rather benefiting them:
“If you were really short of labour, and you couldn’t find someone to do that minimum wage job at a McDonald’s restaurant, then why aren’t they either increasing the wage or trying to replace the work with machinery? Neither are happening, which suggests to me that employers in general are quite happy with the current state of affairs, no matter how much they complain about labour being in short supply.”
The truth is that the ruling class monopolies and their spokespeople are trying to demonize the working class and pacify other segments of society that share a common enemy, big business, with the working class.
As Marx and Engels correctly outlined, the bourgeoisie wants a surplus of desperate workers who are underemployed or unemployed to drive down wages to no more than subsistence – a reserve army of labour:
“The main purpose of the bourgeois in relation to the workers, is of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible in relation to the demand for it… [the bourgeois has] the opportunity to watch the destruction of the proletariat by starvation as calmly as any other natural event without bestiring himself, and on the other hand to regard the misery of the proletariat as its own fault and to punish it.”
The ruling class in Canada wants to grow the number of unemployed people in order to lower wages. The lackeys of big business tell us that increasing the number of unemployed people will curb rising inflation, but the reality is wages are not the source of inflation. In Canada, corporate profits grew three times faster than wages between 2019 and 2022, and average real wages, accounting for inflation, were down over 5 percent in the same timeframe. As a share of GDP, after-tax corporate profits in Canada during 2022 equaled 17.4 percent of GDP – higher than any previous year in history. Compare that to the average corporate profits as a percent of GDP from 1960 through 2020, which was under 10 percent of GDP.
Canada has a larger share of the population with a college or university credential than any other country in the G7. However, there were only 113,000 vacant positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher in the fourth quarter of 2022, with over 227,000 people who held a bachelor’s degree or higher unemployed and seeking work during the same period.
Employment rose by 41,000 jobs in April, but the gains were made exclusively in part-time work. These 41,000 jobs represent a 0.2 percent increase in official employment, while there was also a 0.3 increase in population at the same time.
In fact, despite the constant cries from the ruling class media about labour shortages and record unemployment, official labour force participation is still more than 2 points below the January 2008 mark, before the burden of the economic crisis was placed on the working class. And in 2021, the proportion of employed workers in Canada who held more than one job was close to 2.5 times the rate recorded in 1976.
Food banks in Canada would not be seeing the record number of people going through their doors at the same time as grocery stores post record profits for their shareholders, if these grocery monopolies replaced part-time minimum wage positions with full-time jobs that have a livable wage and real benefits.
We need public monopolies on social services, both to create new full-time jobs and to increase the social wage: education, healthcare, childcare, transportation, culture, recreation and more. We need to issue the battle cry: no more defense against privatizations, now is the time for socialization!
We must also be in the struggles for reforms such as increased wages, shorter workday and work week with no loss in compensation, card-check certification for labour unions, and anti-scab laws.
Right now, the best weapon against the assault of the ruling class on workers is the “One job should be enough!” campaign of the Communist Party of Canada. The campaign calls for mass action:
One job should be enough – not the multiple jobs and low wages that millions of workers are forced to stitch together just to get by today.
What’s needed is mass public pressure to force them to act. The labour and democratic movements, youth, women, seniors, farmers, the unemployed, municipalities, and many others must unite around a mass campaign to roll back and freeze prices and rents. It’s in our common interests to do it.
With a minority federal government, a mass campaign that brings people into the streets in rallies and protests demanding price rollbacks has the leverage needed to compel government action. A cross-Canada coalition of organizations, with labour at its core, could be organized and move into action before more working people lose their homes, their jobs and their futures to corporate profits and greed.
Young people in particular cannot remain dormant in the face of the looming recession.
Urgent action is needed to build a working-class movement capable of winning reforms and ultimately class power.
CLC and CSN conventions beg question: What's on the horizon for labour?
May was an important month for the labour movement in Canada and Quebec. From May 8 to 12, some 2,500 delegates gathered in Montreal for the Canadian Labour Congress convention. The CLC is the country's largest labour central, with which the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ – Quebec Federation of Labour) is affiliated. A week later, the Confédération des syndicatsnationaux (CSN – Confederation of National Trade Unions), which is not affiliated to the CLC, held its convention.
Despite a few differences in form, there were notable similarities between the two events, starting with a bias on the leaderships’ part to clearly favoursocial dialogue with management and government, instead of intensifying and energizing the working-class struggle.
On the CLC side, calls from the outgoing leadership to "kick ass for the working class" facilitated their re-election by the convention. Yet they also once again insisted, in vain, on trying to force through constitutional amendments that would have further centralized power in the hands of the largest affiliated unions. This point is not insignificant, since the 2021 election of Bea Bruskesupposedly marked a break from the previous CLC leadership, which was known for eating out of the Liberal Party's hand. It's no coincidence that the plan of (in)actionavoided calls for organizing, mobilizingand fighting, but spoke instead of "lobbying" and "demanding."
As for the CSN, the outgoing president (who was re-elected along with the entire executive) reported without batting an eyelidthat, thanks to the CSN, there is a “middle class” in Quebec.
At both conventions, the idea was to create the atmosphere of a corporate trade fair, far removed from militancy. The exhibition halls rolled out the red carpet for private insurance companies, while minimizing the participation of unions and other militant labour groups. The agendaswere crafted around presentations, panelsand hive discussions, purposely limiting the time available for debate among delegates on the floor. The only semblance of political action was a sloganistic treatment of societal issues and “green co-management.”
Workers’ militancy and determination is the basis for a strong movement
And yet, in the months leading up to these two gatherings, workers had demonstrated their militancy and determination. Labour disputes have multiplied and intensified, particularly around socio-economic issues, in a context of employers looking to make working people bear the burden of the COVID-related economic crisis. (Notably, neither convention includedmuch analysis or critique of the government's and employers' management of the COVID crisis.)
Certainly, there was no shortage of delegates’ calls to intensify the struggle. But these were not concretely echoed in the resolutions and action plans. The main obstacle is not a lack of fighting spirit among workers, nor is it "bureaucratism" that some allege is inherent in the organized labour movement. It’s also incorrect and unhelpful to take a “rank-and-filist” approach which pretends that the real struggle is between labour’s grassroots and the leadership. (If this were true, we wouldn’t see an over-representation of union leaders over “ordinary” members at May Day rallies and other demonstrations.)
The real problem is one which transcends the question of leaders and grassroots activists: the real problem is the lack of mass labourpolitical action that is independent of capitalist political parties, including social democratic ones. Yet both conventions rolled out the red carpet for political leaders – the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh at the CLC and Québec solidaire’sFrançoise David at the CSN. In both cases, the goal is to erect a firewall between unions and politics, and to establish a form of subcontracting between the two.
But the organized working class cannot do without a mass political vehicle based on labour’s socio-economic demands. This key idea lies at the heart of the proposal for a federated party of labour.
Today, in the face of coordinated employer attacks which are encouraged by increasingly reactionary governments, the political question cannot be reduced to simple "opposition" to right-wing politicians. Such an approach amounts to waiting for the next election and subcontracting the political question to “friendly” political parties whileseeking the best concessions through "social dialogue."
Instead, the labour movement needs to stimulate class struggle and shift the balance of power in favour of the entire working class, not just unionized workers. Winning such a shift is not possible without the labour movement's role as a catalyst, but nor is it possible without a series of political demands that reflect workers’ socio-economic condition.
“Leftist” anti-unionism serves the bosses
In this context, anti-unionism is not an option. This includes calls from sectarian and splinter groups for apathy towards unions because they are “too bourgeois,” or “bureaucratized,” or because they are "colonial structures.” Such appeals objectively serve the bosses, who are hoping for a disorganized, timid, trusting working class.
Workers need to strengthen and energize the labour movement, which includes debating key working-class issues – including political issues – in labour forums. The union movement is a fortress that working people built and organized – we must not allow it to be pulled down.
Plaque pays tribute to Darshan Singh Sangha, pioneering communist labour organizer
Colonized by Britain in the 1800s, the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island is part of the unceded ancestral territories of the Cowichan Tribes First Nations. Today the area is also famous for wineries, scenery, organic food production – and for its rich vein of working-class history.
That side of the region received a welcome recognition on August 15, with the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to a towering labour hero, Darshan Singh Sangha, one of the prominent builders of the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) during the union's militant founding period in the 1940s.
Darshan's role in the IWA's origins was mostly ignored for decades after the union's radical leadership was defeated by right-wing forces in a bitter internal struggle during the late 1940s.
But in recent years his record has been rediscovered by younger generations of activists and researchers. Using bound volumes of the Pacific Tribune as one key resource, the BC Labour Heritage Centre published Union Zindabad! South Asian Canadian Labour History in British Columbia, a book which includes important sections on Darshan's organizing work.
Before his return to India at the age of 30 in 1947, Darshan had helped organize an industry which resisted unions for decades. His contributions to the struggle for socialism continued for almost forty years back in his Punjab homeland, before he was assassinated by Khalistani separatists in 1986.
The plaque unveiling took place at the historic Kaatza Station Museum in Lake Cowichan, a community built by generations of forestry and sawmill workers. Even the local newspaper featured a front-page article promoting the ceremony, including references to Darshan's political outlook.
Much of his organizing took place in this area during the years 1940-45, signing up hundreds of sawmill workers at a time when most skilled jobs were held by whites, while workers of South Asian or Chinese origins did manual labour work for much lower wage rates. The efforts by Darshan and other IWA organizers (including the famous Roy Mah) culminated in a historic strike in the spring of 1946 which won union recognition, the 8-hour working day, big pay increases, equality in wage rates and much more.
As the speakers noted, Darshan fought for unity of all workers in the industry and for the right to vote for Indo-Canadian and Chinese immigrants, which had been removed by racist provincial and federal politicians in the early 1900s. Less was said about Darshan's commitment to anti-fascism, to Indian independence and other anti-imperialist campaigns, and to the ideals of peace and socialism.
The reality is that Darshan's decision to join the Communist Party soon after his arrival in Vancouver was the key to his entire life of working-class struggles. It was the Communist Party's Nigel Morgan who set Darshan on the path of becoming an IWA activist, and during a return trip to British Columbia in 1960, his time was spent with his old party comrades. His commitment never faltered. Darshan was a popular Communist Party of India member of the Punjab state assembly in his later years, and this was a key reason for his martyrdom.
Speakers told a crowd of about 150 people some highlights of his truly remarkable life. And yet only one – NDP MLA Bruce Ralston – mentioned Darshan's communist politics and his collaboration with Communist Party leaders like Nigel Morgan and IWA President Harold Pritchett, whose grandson Dave was at the unveiling.
Most of the participants were trade unionists, former woodworkers, area residents, family members and comrades of Darshan. After the unveiling, many stayed for refreshments or to tour the IWA archives at the Museum. Copies were sold of the book Darshan, a 2004 collection of articles edited by Harjit Daudharia, a long-time communist activist in the South Asian community.
People's Voice readers travelling around southern Vancouver Island should visit the Museum, to view the plaque and learn more about one of the most remarkable labour activists in Canadian history.
Shutdown of digital media platforms highlights need for nationalization
With their collective grip over an astounding 70 percent of internet traffic,Meta (Facebook and Instagram) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai wield an unparalleled level of influence and control over communications and information. These two billionaires recently took their power to new heights by audaciously shutting down all access to Canadian news sources across all platforms which they control.
This brazen display of power is in direct response to Canadian legislation aimed at protecting domestic news sources. Bill C-18, The Online News Act, was passed in June and requires digital companies to compensate Canadian media organizations if they want to their news content on their platforms.
The objectives of the much-debated Bill C-18enjoys overwhelming support from working people in Canada, with 75 percent wanting to ensure that eligible news outlets follow journalistic standards and ethics, and a similar proportion wanting to ensure that local news is protected and given the resources to continue to operate.
However, this large public backing only served to provoke Zuckerbergand Pichaiinto a defiant and ruthless course of action. By severing all connections to Canadian news content through their platforms, they have dealt a harsh blow to working people in Canada, showing no regard for their right to access vital information.
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google – platforms that millions of people in Canada rely on for news consumption – have now blocked all Canadian news publishers. This draconian measure forces over a third of the Canadian population to search for alternative news sources, a task that can be both arduous and risky, as unsuspecting people are left more vulnerable to the overwhelming sway of right-wing influences which often dominate these platforms.
What is most alarming is the sheer arrogance exhibited by Zuckerberg and Pichai. Their actions starkly illustrate the attitude of corporate supremacy which dominates the free-market (capitalist) system. With no qualms about disregarding international laws, they believe they are above any form of accountability. This flagrant disregard for Canadian sovereignty raises grave concerns not only about the power of private capital, but also about the susceptibility of Canadian news to manipulation and foreign control.
In this digital age with two billionaires owning so much of the information landscape, we must ask who truly owns and controls political conversations. How can people in Canada be informed about their own conditions if they are denied access to their own sources? Such a troubling scenario calls for a decisive and cohesive reaction. Working people in Canada must demand that the government assert more robust regulatory authority over foreign entities capable of exerting such immense influence over the Canadian people. The time has come to safeguard our information sovereignty and ensure that Canadians can access reliable and trustworthy information about their own conditions.
Problem is not just foreign influence
But democratic and sovereign control over information is not just about limiting foreign influence and control. We also need to confront the immense power of corporate media in Canada. The Canadian Media Concentration Research Project concludes that the top six media companies in Canada – Bell, Telus, Rogers, Shaw, Quebecor and the CBC – accounted for just under 70 percent of network media revenue in 2021. The project determined that the situation in the mobile media sector is even worse – Rogers, Telus and Bell accountedfor over 89 percent of the sector’s revenue and over 86 percent of subscribers in 2021.
Even without the impact of foreign media corporations, this shocking level of concentration by “Canadian” corporations distorts virtually all aspects of information, from content to access to transparency and accountability.
The best way to do confront corporate media power in the immediate term is through nationalization – public ownership and democratic control and operation. This includes print, television and radio media, but also digital platforms like those (currently) owned by Zuckerberg and Pichai.
Quebec peace movement prepares mobilizes for October actions
MQP rallying for peace, against nuclear weapons and for Canada's exit from NATO
The geopolitical situation has dramatically worsened over the past few years.Never before have we been so close to a global, nuclearized conflict between great powers. But far from advocating peace, Canada is actively participating in geopolitical tensions, whether in the China Sea, in its confrontations with Russia or across Latin America, putting the interests of Western imperialist monopolies first.
The Mouvementquébécois pour la paix(MQP) points out clearly that the primary source of these tensions is NATO and the imperialist actions of its member states. The omnipresent war propaganda, however, would have people in Quebec and throughout Canada believe that the enemy lies elsewhere, be it China, Russia or any other foreign force.
While the bosses and merchants of war make huge profits and as arms sales, which fuel deadly imperialist conflicts, reach record levels, working people in Quebec are facing a social, economic and health crisis. Social services are deteriorating, rents are rising, and wages are lagging far behind galloping inflation. What's more, the provincial and federal governments have launched an offensive against working people, with the aim of destroying the social and economic gains we still have – through privatizing public services, unreasonably high interest rates, attacking tenant rights and, of course, reforms which underminelabour rights.
Progressive forces urgently need to organize against imperialist wars, as well as in response to the social war waged by the bosses and the government. We need to invest in wages, social services and housing, not in armaments and war. Working people’s interests are clear: peace and solidarity between peoples. It's high time we made them heard.
To that end, MQP is organizing a major demonstration for peace, against NATO and against all-out military spending, on Sunday, October 8 at Place du Canada in Montreal. All progressive forces – from trade unions to international solidarity groups, from community groups to the student movement – are invited to participate.
Canada out of NATO! No to nuclear weapons! Yes to peace!
Taking a big picture perspective on the war in Sudan
Part one of a two-part commentary on the crisis in Sudan
One of the important backdrops to the crisis in Sudan is the way that capital accumulation occurred in the country, which differs from other scenarios of capitalist development.
In the mid-19th century, Karl Marx described as “primitive capital accumulation”the brutal processes which separated working people from their means of subsistence, concentrated wealth in the hands of landlords and capitalists, and subjected landless people to being proletarianized by working in urban factories.
In Sudan, the ongoing bloody violence reflects a parasitic and brutal accumulation process in a post-slavery and post-colonial context.Public resources have been literally looted: land was grabbed by local, regional and international kleptocrats;industries and factories were confiscated by military, militia and security forces that were mainly controlled by the fanatical ruling Muslim Brotherhood; hospitals and health services, as well as public schools and universities were liquidated; development projects, railways, navy, airlines and highways have all have been privatized and stolen.
These measures were implemented and justified through a fanatical and barbaric application of Islamic Sharia law which involved brutal oppression: cutting the hands and necks of the poor and powerless; firing workers, teachers, engineers and medical doctors; and detaining and executing activists.
In the process, the means and inputs for agricultural production were no longer provided at fair subsidized prices but were hijacked by the underground “black” market. The impoverished rural population migrated to the big cities to work in the informal merchant sectors. Economic and political instability, insufficient means of production and civil wars have driven people away from their villages and displaced them locally or externally to Europe, the Middle East or elsewhere.
This Sudanese wasteland of parasitic accumulation is literally “primitive,” and it is the context in which the country’s two military kleptocrats are currently fighting over power,wealth and resources.
Local and external interests at play
Four months ofurban warfare in Sudan have affected over six million people in the capital city alone, and include the genocidal massacre committed in the city of El Geneina in Darfur on August 19. This war threatens the existence of a country which is important to the region,and the potential geopolitical impact, both regional and international, isserious.
External players – allying with local ruling circles, extremists, formal military and militia – have played a big role in creating this mess. Their interests have been short-mindedly pursued by a “fast-food” ideology that does not look at the long-term damage to sustainable and stable democracy, justice and peace and most likely the nation-state itself.
These local, regional and international players are stakeholders in land, water resources, mineral resources and livestock, through the well-documented practices of long-term land grabbing and resource smuggling. These forces and their local allies have been pushing for myopic interests,which count on and support the status quo – a deep state model of wealth and powersharing betweenthe extremist Muslim Brotherhood and generals in the militia and military forces. The power sharing model is use by the military generals, allying with civilian local elites, to form a pseudo socio-political base to legitimize and foster their bloody rule.
The generals recruit low-ranking soldiers mainly from the poor and marginalized areas, so the military structure has been based on class and ethnicization. Adding insult to injury, the Sudanese Armed Forces itself invented the militias as a counter insurgency mechanism to fight against armed liberation forces which were mainly from geographically and developmentally marginalized areas. This centre-periphery dynamic influences the class struggle and is reflected in the military-paramilitary relationship as well as administrative structuresinvolving corrupt tribal chiefs whose loyalty is guaranteed by bribes.
The army and its militia offspringhave been fully “mercenarized.” Bribery is rampant and national ethics and decency are absent among these gold diggers whose sole function is to brutally suppress peaceful civilian dissent.
On the other side of the struggle is a heritage of a strong working class made up of railway workers, agricultural workers and unions of professionals like teachers, medical doctors, lawyers, judges and engineers.
The working-class tradition also includes armed rebels mainly based in the South and later in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur, who did revolt against developmental marginalization (albeit with some racial-religious aspects). However, such movements have been sold out to the global and regional mercenary agenda, and their activities have moved away from revolutionary, anti-colonial and anti-monopoly visions and nationalist objectives.
Preserving the status quo will not resolve the crisis
The international and regional community have been trying toimpose an agenda and strategies on the local military players, betting that the status quo will survive and provide socio-political and economic stability.
These external stakeholders firmly believe that a soft-landing approach must be taken, through which the revolutionary civilians will be controlled and the power and wealth sharing scheme between civilian local elites and the military and militia will dominate.
Such a narrative completely ignores the fact that 83 percent of all public wealth has been confiscated by the military, militia and security generals, and that 70 percent of the annual budget has been taken by the generals. Alongside this power and wealth sharing, the Juba Peace Agreement will further damage and distort to the distribution of national wealth by adding more armed militias to take a bigger slice from an already unevenly dividedpie. This short-term and myopic approach by the international community indirectly created war between the looters.
The freedom fighters in the “Resistance Committees”, trade unions and some political parties, who have suffered for years from economic hardship and brutal torture, were left behind in the previous soft-landing approach and the current ceasefire and peace negotiations held by the US and Saudi Arabia. Their radical model of genuine democratic change has its own motto of “Freedom, Peace and Justice,” which embraces the social and transitional aspirations of the people who have been suffering from the civil war.
Genuine freedom and democracy fighters in Sudan need to take matters in their own hands. This way, they can pinpoint and highlight their demands of freedom, peaceandjustice, as well as the three No’s: No negotiation with, No partnership with and No legitimacy to the warlords and partisan generals of the armed forces. This way, being in charge, they will block the vicious cycle of coup d’états and civil wars.
The Sudanese phoenix will rise from the ashes, if it is supported by genuine human empathy and solidarity from democratic grassroots movements around the world.
Next issue: “Part two – Seven bottlenecks to overcome on the path to peace”
Sahel: Anti-imperialism and Pan-Africanism on the rise
On July 26, Niger’s presidential guard led by Brigadier General AbdourahmaneTchiani detained President Mohamed Bazoum in the country’s capital of Niamey. The coup d’état was immediately condemned by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and the European Union. Both France and the United States – which have military bases in Niger – said that they were watching the situation closely.
There is an undemocratic aspect to any coup, and it is fundamentally up to the people – not generals – to achieve social change. But for now, the coup in Niger enjoys significant public support with demonstrators celebrating in the streets of Niamey and burning French flags. A recent article in The Economist even polled Nigeriens’ support for the military junta at over 70 percent. This coup is also interesting in that it has had an immediate impact on France’s neocolonial regime in West Africa.
Understanding the situation in Niger requires some knowledge of France’s relationship with Africa’s Sahel region. The Sahel is a large belt running across the continent just south of the Sahara, which includes Niger and several other countries which were previously colonized by France. France maintains an economic hold on countries in West and Central Africa – a system of influence pejoratively referred to as Françafrique – through an economic institution which prevents its African members from determining their own monetary policy, among other economic levers of control that many view as a form of colonialism.
Fourteen former French colonies in Africa continue to use the CommunautéFinanciéreAfricaine (CFA) currency, which gives immense advantages to France. Fifty percent of the reserves of CFA countries must be held in the French Treasury, and France’s devaluations of the currency – as in 1994 – have catastrophic effects on the countries using it.
In Niger, this colonial relationship is on full display in the country’s uranium sector. The major uranium mining company SOMAIR is majority owned by France and is essentially pillaging the lucrative resource with little to nothing going to the Nigerien people. France mainly uses nuclear power, so uranium is an enormously important energy source. Of the nuclear power which keeps the lights on in French households and factories, at least 20 percent comes from the uranium extracted from Niger. In contrast, more than 80 percent of people in Niger have no access to electricity in their homes at all. Uranium from Niger is also used for France’s nuclear weapons arsenal, helping to maintain its imperial position.
As president, MahamedBazoum was very friendly with France and was seen by many as a mere puppet. The West African People’s Organization described him as “servile to the imperialist powers of NATO, particularly France, which for decades has plundered its uranium.” Under Bazoum’s regime, Niger has been a key ally for France, the US and western powers in general, who have set up military bases and deployed soldiers under the pretext of helping Niger fight terrorism.
Immediately following the coup that installed AbdourahmaneTchiani, the new government of Niger (National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland – CNSP) demanded that French military forces leave the country, marking an end to the military “cooperation” between the countries. It also blocked the French state news outlets France 24, and Radio France Internationale. This pivot away from France explains the frantic calls by French imperialists, and their neocolonial puppet organization ECOWAS, to “restore democracy.”
This coup should not come as a surprise, considering the wave of anti-French sentiment in the whole Sahel region, culminating in a number of anti-Western coups that have taken place near Niger. Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso have all had similar coups, with the latter two kicking French armed forces out of their countries.
Interestingly, the recent coups in this region have an explicit Pan-Africanist element to them, with Guinea’s coup junta stating: “The Republic of Guinea reaffirms with this communiqué its pan-Africanist vision by bringing its solidarity to the Nigerien population and inviting the new CNSP authorities to preserve unity and national cohesion.”
The coup governments of Mali and Burkina Faso have also issued statements: not only supporting the Niger coup but stating in no uncertain terms that any military intervention into Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Mali and Burkina Faso as well.
This comes after the new leader of Burkina Faso, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, expressed desire to create a joint federation with Mali and even called for the creation of a United States of Africa. Traoré turned heads at the Russia-Africa summit in July when he said:
“The problem [is] African heads of state who contribute nothing to these people who are fighting, but who sing the same song as the imperialists, calling us militias, calling us men who don’t respect human rights. Which human rights are we talking about? We take offense at this, it is shameful. We African heads of state must stop behaving like puppets who dance every time the imperialists pull the strings.”
Traoré’s Prime Minister, Marxist intellectual Apollinaire Joachim Kyélem de Tambèla, stated that “Burkina Faso cannot be developed outside the line drawn by Thomas Sankara,” referring to the legendary revolutionaryleader who was president ofBurkina Fasofrom 1983-87. In May, in a show of solidarity with anti-imperialist movements around the world, Tambèla visited revolutionary movements in Nicaragua and Venezuela, and reaffirmed support for Cuba.
The developments in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and now Niger have clearly terrified imperialists in Paris and Washington. Along with economic sanctions and constant calls for a “return to democracy,” their colonial institution ECOWAS has threatened military intervention to restore French puppet Bazoum to the presidency. Imperialist interventionists justify their actions in the name of democracy, but their real goal is to restore the flow of cheap uranium, gold, cotton and predatory IMF loan repayments.
While ECOWAS is openly discussing military intervention, as of press time no such action has been taken. One obstacle to outside military action is the support which some African countries have announced for the coup government in Niger. In addition to Burkino Faso and Mali, Algeria recently hinted that it would militarily defend Niger. This level of support greatly increases the odds of overcoming an ECOWAS intervention, which would essentially be a politically reactionary invasion with French and US backing.
Another barrier to an ECOWAS intervention is resistance from within the organization’s own countries. In street interviews with the African Stream news outlet, many Nigerians said that intervening in Niger would be the wrong choice, spending Nigerian resources and lives, and spreading the military thin when the country faces threat from Boko Haram. The Nigerian legislature refused to approve any military intrusion into Niger, hampering any potential ECOWAS effort.
Kwesi Pratt, General Secretary of the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG) said that “ECOWAS’ adventurism has already split the sub-region and could overnight escalate the political crisis in Niger to an existential crisis for the entire sub-region.” The SMG warned that a sub-regional war would destroy “millions of lives and hamper production of goods and services with severe ramifications for the entire continent … to provide African cannon-fodder to die in what is effectively just another US or French invasion of a struggling Third World country.”
While Benin’s government pledged support for a military intervention, the Communist Party of Benin formally cautioned the president “against participating in any aggression against the fraternal people of Niger and other peoples of the sub-region… The African peoples and those of our sub-region are engaged in a fight to the death against the imperialist powers, and in particular againstFrançafrique.”
It is important that Canada – a NATO country and ally of France – not become involved in an imperialist intervention in Niger or any of the Sahel countries. The labour and progressive movements here must clearly express solidarity with anti-imperialist struggles in Africa. For the peoples of Africa to benefit from economic prosperity and political democracy, they must first shake off the yoke of neocolonialism and imperialism.
Beware another world youth festival for Putin!
In 2016, the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) voted unanimously to hold the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) in Sochi, Russia in 2017. It was an opportunity to show support for the Russian Federation against US imperialism, while celebrating the centenary of the October Revolution.
Such a large-scale event – the most important anti-imperialist and youth gathering in the world – cannot be organized without state support. However, the number of states willing to organize such a gathering is becoming increasingly scarce. Since Russia was the only country in the running, and given the inconceivability of not celebrating the October Revolution, WFDY members rallied behind the proposal.
While some organizations boycotted the event outright, the Young Communist League of Canada decided to participate but to treat it differently from other years. Previous festivals had provided an organizing opportunity for young communists, as we worked hard to bring together as many young progressives as possible to form a pan-Canadian delegation. But for the Sochi festival we were more cautious and decided to invite only YCL members and close friends.
We did this because we foresaw a number of political problems, and we were right.
At the 1st International Preparatory Meeting in June 2016, it was clear that the approach of the Russian authorities was diametrically opposed to that of WFDY, which was supposed to be the only organization in charge of content. Where WFDY called for a political festival, the Russian Federation pushed for a completely depoliticized event. Fortunately, the latter proposal was overwhelmingly defeated.
Realizing that WFDY would stand firm, Russian authorities decided to violate the festival's preparatory procedures and no longer cooperate with the organization. Instead, they drew up their own program, circumvented national preparatory committees to invite delegatesdirectly, waited until the last minute before allowing WFDY to organize its activities, and even collected participant fees which should have gone to WFDY.
To add insult to injury, this supposedly anti-imperialist festival was subsidized by MasterCard and Russian corporations Rosneft Oil and Sberbank (whose boss was guest of honor). Even worse, Russian authorities accredited hundreds of Indian delegates from that country’s far-right ruling party while the hundreds mobilized by WFDY’s member organizations didn't even have accommodation.
Russia also accredited Israeli youth from Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, while hundreds of young Palestinian activists were present on site. Similarly, while the festival honoured the memory of the Polisario Front’s historic leader Mohamed Abdelaziz, delegates from Western Sahara had their visas refused in mid-flight and had to return to Tindouf.
So much for an anti-imperialist festival!
Added to this was the intimidation of some young communist organizations who had their print material seized, and the fact that the WFDY president had to fight to speak at the opening ceremony (and even then, his speech was cut off by Russian media).
The Sochi festival was certainly no World Festival of Youth and Students, despite the best efforts of WFDY and its member organizations who defied “official” rules to provide a political and anti-imperialist voice. In reality, there was not one, but several festivals, and WFDY was only one component.
Over the decades, some festivals have been better organized than others, and some have even had to be cancelled – for example, the Algiers festival did not take place because of a coup d'état in the summer of 1965. Others have had to deal with complex political realities. But none betrayed the spirit and hope of the movement. At least none before Sochi.
The Russian government spent at least 3.5 billion rubles to hijack WFYS and manipulate the festival into a demonstration of global youth support for the Russian Federation.
Now, Russia says it is organizing another world youth festival in Sochi next year. This announcement is not surprising, coming in the midst of NATO's war against Russia via the Ukraine. Clearly, the Russian government is looking for some validation from the world's youth.
But building this initiative on WFDY’s back is unacceptable.
It fosters an increasingly confusion view of imperialism, as if any opposition to the United States were a good thing. But imperialism is a global system based on the union of banking and industrial capital. It is not one country’s privileged position over another – it is the domination and predation of capitalism at its ultimate stage over all workers.
Participating in this confusion is a group called the "World Anti-imperialist Platform." This organization has no problem working with fascist groups in Spain who unite republicanism with Francoism, or Venezuela’s ruling PSUV party whose main concern is banning the country’s communist party rather than fighting pro-imperialist forces, or a deeply sectarianand divisive “Marxist-Leninist” group from Britain.
The real anti-imperialist organizations (not "platforms") are WFDY, the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF), the World Peace Council (WPC), the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties (IMCWP).
Anti-imperialist youth who are potentially interested in the Russian "festival" should be patient and await WFDY's official proposal for a World Festival of Youth and Students.
Labour and the growing danger of war
An urgent message for peace action now
International tensions are growing daily. Military budgets and war preparations are surging. Crippling economic sanctions are proliferating, and Cold War rhetoric fills the airwaves and news feeds. The largest nuclear weapon states seem to be on a collision course.
Regardless of political persuasion, any rational person can see how dangerous the situation is becoming. The signs are everywhere, and they are unmistakable. Right-wing populist politicians and the fat cats in the defense industry who stand to profit from swelling arms spending are driving the world to the edge, even at the risk of dragging humanity into a nuclear inferno. If there ever was a time for peace action and to push back against the militarists and warmongers, it is surely now.
What does all this have to do with the labour movement and the problems facing working people today? The answer is simple: EVERYTHING!
At different points throughout history, the Canadian and Quebec labour movements have opposed Canada’s involvement in NATO. NATO originated in the Cold War and now, with the threat of nuclear war growing by the day and with NATO becoming more reckless, the labour movement needs to stand against NATO once again. It has always been the working class which has fought the hardest against war and devastation, and for international solidarity, because it is working people that have been the most impacted by war and destruction. In a nuclear world, those stakes have multiplied a thousand-fold.
Every cent spent on war preparations are funds – and our tax dollars – that don’t go into improving people’s lives – for healthcare, housing, childcare, raising wages and benefits, and fighting the scourge of climate change. And, as we all know, investments in the armaments industry create far fewer jobs than in virtually any other sector of the economy. And then, of course, there is the cost of a nuclear war. No price tag is as high as that.
That is why the organized labour movement has a tradition of taking a firm stance against war, aggression and increased military spending. That’s precisely what is needed today. Washington and the NATO brass in Brussels are now demanding even more spending on the war machine. We need to answer with one united voice: “Their wars, our deaths! Not in our name!”
The din of pro-war propaganda is staggering and non-stop. It aims to scare people and silence any questioning or opposition to their sabre-rattling. But if labour and its partners and allies in the people’s movements speak out, it could make a big impact. Mass demonstrations against this aggressive alliance and its proxy war in Ukraine are growing in many NATO countries. And more and more countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are rejecting Washington’s new Cold War on China.
Canada could and should be a voice of peace, not an advocate of US and NATO wars and aggression. That’s why the Canadian Peace Congress and Mouvementquébécois pour la paix are anxious to work closely with the CLC, federations of labour, affiliates, labour councils and locals to help win a new independent policy based on peace and disarmament. In that sense, we also fight for Canada’s withdrawal from NATO and a new foreign policy of peace and disarmament.
Canadian Peace Congress
Mouvementquébécois pour la paix
General wage increases to counter inflation and debt
For many workers, this summer was marked by anxiety and financial insecurity. Inflation remains rampant, particularly for basic necessities such as food and housing, despite the Bank of Canada raising its key interest rate to 5 percent. Bank governor Tiff Macklemsays the rate is likely to remain high as long as inflation remains unchecked.
Gone are the days of travel and out are the pleasures of lounging in the sun, to be replaced by financial restraint (at best) or a second part-time job to make ends meet.
Grocery magnates and their shareholders may be seeing their profits grow at an unbridled rate, but overall real wages in Canada are falling by around 3 percent. For example, food prices rose by 21 percent in Quebec between June 2021 and 2023, but the average wage rose by a mere 10.5 percent. Metro's earnings per share are expected to reach 23.8 percent, while Loblaws' is expected to reach 37 percent. In concrete figures, the increase in these corporations’ market values amounts to $3.58 billion and $14.4 billion respectively.
Wage loss and workers’ impoverishment through debt and unemployment or inflation? Such is the dilemma of the ruling class, which seeks to make working people pay the costs of capitalism’s own crisis.
If the real aim were to put an end to inflation, governments would be raising wages, not interest rates. Whether we're talking about labour shortages or inflation, the reality is that this crisis is all about capitalist profits.
Wages don’t fuel inflation. In Canada, the richest 20 percent consume 70 percent of what is produced. In other words, 80 percent of the population (working people) consume only 30 percent of what they produce. It is capitalist profits that fuel inflation, whereas wages stimulate production. So, isn't it contradictory to hear talk of "labour shortages" when the avowed aim of monetary policies is to generate unemployment?
Price controls or wage increases?
Of course, price controls are a key weapon for containing inflation. But the government isn’t applying them because the ruling class refuses to get out of the crisis through work and prosperity for all.Instead, it chooses the path of destruction, blame and war for the majority, with prosperity for the minority.
So, expecting the ruling class to control prices is a pipedream unlesswe engage in a power struggle. The question is how to achieve this.
All progressive and democratic forces can and must mobilize around these socio-economic issues, which transcend all else. The fact remains, though, that the bourgeoisie only ever uses force to respond to these kinds of challenges.
While price controls and wage increases are complementary, it's the latter that's more important. Fighting to raise wages is different from the struggle for price controls, in that it corresponds to a struggle by the working class against its exploiters, in all areas of society. This kind of struggle starts in the workplace and facilitates workers’ politicization on the basis oftheir socio-economic demands.
Fighting to raise wages relates directly to the struggle between capital and labour. But more importantly, such a struggle builds working-class unity and confidence. It is increasingly difficult to defend “social dialogue” in the face of repeated snubs from employers and the state, including through the use of back-to-work legislation.
The basis for progress lies in the confrontation between capital and labour: strengthening one inevitably means weakening the other. This confrontation is rooted in the ongoing grassroots power struggle based in the workplace.
Working people are bombarded by capitalist ideology from bourgeois economists and “experts.” But they only need to keep sight of one reality – there are two classes, one productive, the other parasitic and exploitative. That's all there is to it.
Defend and expand anti-racism programs
Racism – and specifically white supremacy – is deeply institutionalized in capitalist society. In fact, while bigotry and “otherness” have existed for millenia, the whole notion of “race” – that skin colour corresponds to a hierarchy of human evolution – is a pseudo-scientific view that emerged in the context of capitalist development. It was specifically used to justify the mass brutality, theft and genocide that was unleashed on the peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Since racism is so ingrained in capitalism and such a key element in the system’s maintenance and reproduction, it is something that has to be constantly tackled from all sides.
For the same reason, though, efforts to confront and challenge racism are often met with vitriol and violence.
Currently, public school programs which are designed to identify racist and discriminatory behaviours and structures, and to educate both students and education workers about how to confront and change them, are coming under sustained attack by right-wing forces. They refer to anti-racism education (often referred to as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs) as “race-baiting” and even accuse the programs of spreading racism.
And they will use any incident as a pretext for carrying out their attack.
A recent example is from Toronto, where the tragic death by suicide in July of a former school principal is being opportunistically exploited by people who want to cut anti-racism work from the public school system. The former principal’s lawyer claims that his death was the result of abusive treatment he received at mandatory anti-racism workshop for Toronto District School Board educators, held in 2021. Specifically, the lawyer says that the workshop facilitator, a Black woman, called the man a “white supremacist” after he questioned one of her statements about the level of racism in Canada.
Immediately, right-wing politicians and pundits launched a wave of condemnation against the workshop, the facilitator and the entire notion of anti-racism education. The Conservative provincial government postured that it would be reviewing the program and funding. Distressed by the circumstances surrounding the tragic death, many other people piled on and announced their support for the government’s position. Even more people seemed simply too confused to say anything.
Except, there’s one huge problem – the workshop facilitator never called the man a white supremacist. Whether conjecture or an outright lie, that story was made up by the lawyer.
We know this because the Toronto Star’s Social & Racial Justice Columnist, Shree Paradkar, got a copy of the recording of the workshop and wrote about what was actually said and not said.
But the truth, as they say, is the first casualty of war, so Paradkar’s article – and the views and insights of many, many Black parents, students and educators – has been pretty much swept aside by the right-wing feeding frenzy. (It didn’t help that the Star inexplicably printed Paradkar’s fact-based article as an “opinion piece.”)
One of the many unfortunate results of this manufactured uproar is that, across Toronto, thousands of Black students and teachers are heading back to school without knowing whether anti-racism programs will still be intact. Will the school system protect them from racism, or will it facilitate racist bullying, harassment and violence?
While it doesn’t always wear a white hood, the ideology of white supremacy is woven into the fabric of capitalist society including in Canada. Confronting it, challenging it and defeating it will take a long struggle. Part of that struggle involves wrestling with our own behaviours and biases, forcing ourselves to recognize the discriminatory structures around us, and listening to the experiences and insights of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.
Our schools need anti-racism programs. Our society needs anti-racism programs. And we need to defend and expand those programs, against all the lies that the right-wing opportunistically throws at them.
Pages from our past…
Call “war” on housing crisis
Emergency body set up by citizens
Daily Tribune Vol 1 No 140 ~ October 10, 1947
Fast-spreading evictions, low-standard upkeep of emergency housing units, overcrowding and the absence of homes last night combined to set the stage for a Toronto-wide “Citizens Emergency Housing Council.”
Sparked by the diminutive but fiery Mrs. Dorothy Marchment, mother of five-month-old twins living in an attic room, a meeting of 40 citizens at the King Edward School declared “war” on the housing crisis.
Represented at the first attempt to organize a city-wide popular attack on housing were delegates from Long Branch, General Engineering in Scarboro, Stanley Barracks, the Hospital for Sick Children site, and others.
Committee of 17
A temporary committee of 17 householders was nominated under the chairmanship of Mrs. Marchment. Intention of the group is to instruct areas facing housing problems to organize independently and pool their efforts within a community-wide council.
Outline program suggested for the new council is aimed at stopping evictions; provision of more emergency accommodation and the proper upkeep of same; the construction of 2,000 more veteran homes; and 2,000 homes for citizens facing intolerable housing conditions.
Mrs. Marchment, forced to put one of her children in a foster home because of lack of sufficient accommodation, spoke of the housing crisis as “an invisible war.” During World War II nothing was physically impossible, she said. She wanted to know why solving the housing question had proved “impossible.”
“As long as we’re going to live in these crowded conditions,” she warned, “we’re going to have crime and juvenile delinquency.”
Mrs. Rose Musselman of Stanley Barracks drew attention to a newspaper story saying that it would cost the city “over $15,000” to move a University Ave. monument. In spite of this the city “can’t find a few dollars” to find people homes, said Mrs. Musselman.
Guest speakers at the meeting were ex-controller Stewart Smith, former Alderman Mrs. May Birchard and Mrs. Edna Ryerson, Ward 5 school trustee.
“Like back in the army”
A Long Branch veteran told the audience that moving into barracks there a couple of months ago was “like being back in the army again.” He revealed that some 10 buildings were still without heating facilities.
One emergency dweller said she was paying $30 a month “for one room with a partition through it not up to the ceiling.”
Representatives from General Engineering said organizations “working for the soldier” during the war had “dropped the soldier” now. “We’ve got to do something ourselves,” he said.
Notes: Published in 1947, this article describes the housing crisis which working people in Canada faced just two years after World War II. Several delegates to the Citizens Emergency Housing Council meeting came from emergency temporary housing facilities – these included former military barracks (Long Branch and Stanley), the former General Engineering munitions plant in Scarborough, and encampments on the land on which the Hospital for Sick Children was slated to be built. Paying $30 for emergency housing in 1947 would be similar to paying $500-600 in 2023, for a single space separated from others by a partial partition.
Rescuing working-class politics from liberal mystification
Mahdi Amel: Arab Marxism and National Liberation – Selected Writings
Introduced and edited by Hicham Safieddine
Translated by Angela Giordani
Leftword Books, 2022
Review by Stéphane Doucet
Mahdi Amel is a towering figure of Arab Marxism, and yet, until now almost none of his major work has been translated into English. This collection begins the task of bringing his work to some level of familiarity for English-speaking audiences. Amel was a leading theoretician of the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) and was assassinated in 1987 at the age of 51, in the last years of the Lebanese Civil War.
The collection is modest in scope, with only 150 pages of Amel’s own writing, two-thirds of which is the entirety of his 1968 text “Colonialism and Underdevelopment.” The remaining third consists of short excerpts from several of his many works.
It rather disappointing that very little is made of Amel’s contributions to the LCP in the many introductions and forewords to the text. One can only speculate at this omission, but it feels incomplete for an intellectual’s theoretical home and main place of intervention to be sidelined through the editorial process.
The choice of “Colonialism and Underdevelopment” as the central piece of the collection probably makes sense when, as is the case of this edition, the readership is based primarily in India and neighbouring states. The text, which starts out the section of Amel’s writings, puts on full display his originality and command of Marxism and dialectical reasoning. That said, for an audience in Canada, it may be a bit niche and not as rich in its applications as the other, unfortunately much shorter excerpts in the book. Its length and density lend itself mostly to specialists of Marxist analysis, for better or worse.
The most important contributions in this collection, according to this reader, are those which demystify the political meaning of religion, cultural heritage and Orientalism. In fact, Amel was an early, and probably one of the first critics of Edward Said’s well-known work Orientalism, specifically as it relates to Marxism and the question of class struggle. The excerpt in this collection is only 17 pages long, but it’s enough to give you a sense of the political urgency with which Amel treats the question.
“Said’s interpretation (of Marx) begins with a grave distortion (...) of the entire edifice of Marxist thought.” Here, as he does throughout the texts dealing with culture and religion, Amel insists on a materialist understanding of history, based on class struggle. This runs directly counter to the claims of Said and others for whom history and society are best understood through text, ideas and beliefs. In doing so, Amel continually tries to rescue thought from bourgeois mystification, be it Western or Arab.
The chapter titled “The Islamized Bourgeois Trend” includes an excerpt from his book A Critique of Everyday Thought, published posthumously in 1988. Amel uses contemporary and historical debates around the progressive or reactionary character of Islam to reiterate Marx’s famous formulation that “the ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.” Historical materialism dictates this. As Amel writes: “Just as Islam’s temporalization is inescapable, so is its occupation of a position in the class struggle, where its class character is determined.”
So, with “political Islam” as it was constituted by the ruling elites of the time, what we have is in fact the outright weaponization of religious and cultural identity by the latter, who wish to impose this as the hegemonic Arab political center.
On the whole, it is possible to discern some particular trends in what Amel is explaining in his work on religion, Arab identity, national liberation, Orientalism and so on: that Marxism and dialectical materialism help us understand what the forces of colonial and post-colonial bourgeois society seek to obfuscate and weaponize to maintain its rule. Sectarianism is such a force in Lebanon today as a tool of both the local bourgeoisie and the colonial powers, united in their purpose to perpetuate class domination.
In Canada, religious sectarianism isn’t so much a question, though undoubtedly Amel would have similar critiques of communitarianism, ghettoization, cultural relativism, identity politics and postmodernism which make people retreat from universalism, the very basis of his scientific socialism. Amel understood this so well, and this work was so dangerous to the elites that he was murdered. He deserves to be read, debated and popularized as a giant of Marxist ideological struggle.