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following articles are from the April 1-15, 2017, issue of People's
Statement by the Central
Executive Committee, Communist Party of
The Liberals’ second budget, delivered March 22, made the corporations happy, but left working people, youth and the unemployed looking for the beef promised during the 2015 federal election, and in last year’s budget.
For the corporations and the wealthy: no tax hikes, and no new taxes, and no
loopholes closed, leaving the government with no revenue to deliver on their
many promises. Pointing to the
Closing corporate tax loopholes would have generated an estimated $16 billion in revenue that could have been used to fund a new federal health accord, reduce tuition for students, fund social housing and public transit, and create jobs.
Raising the capital gains tax to 100% of the gain (realized and unrealized) could have been used to eliminate the bubble in housing prices across the country. It could have generated the funds needed to launch a system of universal, accessible, affordable, quality, public childcare in Canada, and enabled millions of women in the workforce to work full-time, to close the wage gap, and to also contribute and be eligible for full pensions and EI benefits. It would have put some real meaning into this much publicized gender-lensed budget that talks the talk, but is too weak to walk.
Introducing wealth and inheritance taxes, which most countries in
Raising the corporate tax rate – now the lowest in the industrialized world – would have provided the funds for massive job creation, putting the country to work, building affordable social housing for sale and for rent right across Canada, building secondary industry and manufacturing that’s environmentally sustainable and will help reduce greenhouse gases, developing an infrastructure program using corporate tax revenues to build publicly owned infrastructure, not the widely discredited public private partnerships that are privatization on public infrastructure and services on a massive basis.
It could have restored funding to the EI account, which previous Liberal governments raided for corporate tax cuts, and increased EI benefits to 90% of previous earnings for the duration of unemployment, and covered all the unemployed including part-time and precarious workers and first-time job seekers. Instead the government will water down EI benefits over an extended 18 month period for some parents.
Raising the corporate tax rate could have been partnered with the elimination of taxes on incomes under $40,000, or introduced a guaranteed annual income above the poverty line.
But the government’s refusal to raise corporate taxes, or even close the gaping loopholes through which the corporations and the rich daily drive their Porsches, has increased the federal deficit (and provincial and municipal deficits as well in the trickle-down) and extended austerity measures imposed on working people, youth and the unemployed indefinitely. The government’s refusal to take decisive action to create jobs, raise wages and living standards, strengthen social programs, and address climate change will deepen the crisis of living that millions of working people face daily in Canada, and will create more fertile ground for the Tories and the extreme right.
Instead the government chose to post notice that it intends to mirror
The biggest prize for big business is the establishment of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which is intended to facilitate and speed-up the privatization of federal public assets and services. Euphemistically described as the means to “unlock and recycle the value of our public assets”, the bank will invite private investors to fund – and jointly own – what is now publicly owned infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water filtration, public buildings and land, etc. The P3 ownership arrangements that the bank will underwrite will make billions in profits for the private corporate investors, and bilk the public out of billions in new and higher user fees, and in the loss of publicly owned infrastructure. It is mass privatization.
The government’s willingness to cater to the corporations’ demands in Canada,
and in the White House, over the needs of working people, is nowhere better
exposed than in the absence of equitable funding for Aboriginal education and
health and social services for children. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has
ordered the government three times to pay the $382 million owing for First
Nations child welfare. The $99 million in this budget is 30% of this legally
required funding for 165,000 indigenous children across
This government has lied about its willingness to change this horrendous policy towards indigenous people, just as they have lied about recognition of indigenous sovereignty while approving pipelines opposed by indigenous peoples, environmentalists, and a majority of working people. Like the 2016 budget, which promised $8.4 billion to address the crises in Aboriginal communities, the lion’s share of the funds will not be delivered before the next federal election – if ever. The government’s slow implementation of the Public Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Women and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, prove that this the case.
This corporate budget will cost lives of the most vulnerable, and result in a
further loss of Canadian sovereignty, jobs, and social security. It could have
been different, it should have been different.
“The government of Saskatchewan’s 2017 budget will make life more difficult for farmers and other rural residents while giving corporations and the extractive industries unnecessary tax breaks,” says Cam Goff, Hanley-area farmer and National Farmers Union 2nd Vice President. “With just over a million people in a province that is endowed with incredible wealth, there is no good reason to cut valuable public services and sell off crown corporations and crown lands to balance the books.”
Released on March 22, the 2017-18 budget shuts down
the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC), sells the Saskatchewan Grain Car
Corporation and the
As an NFU media release points out, “many farmers deal with small businesses in small communities that rely on STC to ship their orders to other small communities. Without STC, doing business will be more costly and time-consuming, to the extent that some of these businesses may not be able to survive.”
“STC provides an essential service between smaller centers. Without the bus,
shipping will become more expensive or even impossible. No doubt this will
weaken the economic fabric of rural
Ending STC will increase rural isolation, promote depopulation and undermine the rural economy. The NFU says the government should keep STC on the road.
The Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation (SGCC) is up for sale. Its mandate is to
enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of transporting and handling grain in
partnership with farmers and community groups and in cooperation with shippers
and railroads. While the government says the shortlines
will get first option to buy, it also says it will accept the offer that
returns the most value to
“SGCC provides service to farmers, and thus to the whole prairie economy, by
leasing out its 900 hopper cars and making sure they are well-maintained. Last
year it paid a $2 million dividend to
The budget also ends the
“The pastures program pays its own way -- farmers’ user-fees cover the cost of running the program. The pastures give more farmers a chance to raise cattle, and that helps them support their families and their communities,” says Goff. “Almost 600,000 acres of these pastures is protected for ecological reasons. Keeping it intact is an important way for us to help the climate as well.”
The government says it plans to consult with pasture patrons and Indigenous groups before selling the pastures.
But Goff responds, “Our concern is that the lands would be sold to the highest bidder, maybe farmland investment corporations, that only think about how much money they can make. We are asking the government to reconsider this decision, or at least allow the patron groups enough time to develop a workable proposal.”
The decision to cut provincial funding to the Regional Library system will also
“Libraries are important centers in rural communities. They are places where people can gather, connect with one another and with the wider world through the many resources libraries offer,” says Goff. “Impairing the library system will further isolate rural people and reduce our quality of life. The loss of STC compounded with library cuts will make it that much harder for young people to stay in rural communities to farm and raise their families.”
Many other aspects of the budget disadvantage farmers and rural communities, including the reduction of the diesel fuel tax rebate and the elimination of the farm fuel tax rebate on gasoline, and the 6% PST being added to the cost of agricultural insurance premiums.
“While all Saskatchewan residents are faced with resolving the financial mess, the government has not only let big business avoid taking its share of the burden, but has actually added to the corporate sector’s already excessive benefits,” concludes Goff.
The Central Committee of the Communist
Elected at the 38th Central Convention last spring, the Party's top leadership
body convenes in person twice a year to set policy and guide overall activity.
Given the outcome of the
The meeting began with a political report, presented by leader Liz Rowley on
behalf of the CPC's Central Executive Committee. The report calls the election
of Donald Trump and Republican majorities in Congress "the worst possible
electoral outcome for the
As the report notes, Hillary Clinton actually won three million more votes, but
the Electoral College system helped the most reactionary elements of the
The political report points to widespread dissatisfaction with the pro-corporate and pro-war policies of the Democrats. After the defeat of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, Trump focussed on winning over working class voters looking for immediate change from the status quo. But, the report stresses, his "coalition" included groups from the fascist right, sections of the police and military, and wealthy and powerful billionaires, bankers, and oilmen who financed his “outsider” campaign.
"The Trump coalition used Islamophobia, anti-Black racism and anti-Semitism, as well as misogyny to promote their demagogic candidate," notes the report, creating increased political and organizing space for emboldened far-right groups. After posing as a candidate who could reduce the danger of war, Trump is instead escalating arms spending and threatening military action against a number of countries.
The president is also moving to unilaterally strengthen
Instead of trying to win more favourable terms, the
A new economic strategy, it argues, should include a publicly owned and controlled Canadian transportation industry, and a massive program to build affordable social housing. "Instead of capitalist globalization, we fight for peace, jobs, sovereignty, equality, democracy, and for socialism," the report says.
But in the immediate term, "the job of the labour and people’s movements is to make sure that the drive towards fascism is derailed before it gathers any more steam."
The conditions that make this drive to the far right possible today include the deep economic crisis that has gripped the capitalist world, the growth of permanent mass unemployment, widespread anger at bourgeois politicians and governments, and deliberate efforts to stoke racial and religious prejudices against refugees and migrants.
Several fascist movements are growing in Canada, including "La Meute" in Quebec, with a military leadership and a claimed membership of 43,000; the so-called "Coalition of Concerned Canadian Citizens," which has called two country-wide days of action to promote hatred of Muslims; and the fascist “Your Ward News” publication in Toronto, which glorifies Nazism and targets Communists, Jews, immigrants, LGBTQ, women, and minorities. These racist, xenophobic, misogynist and fascist forces, the report says, are "the shock troops of the most violent and reactionary sections of capital".
The only real option for fundamental reform, the report stresses, is based on
systemic and revolutionary change. The Communist Party calls for a People’s
Coalition, with a platform to create good jobs and full employment; raise
wages, pensions and living standards; and strengthen the social safety net.
"These are the policies that can take
From there, it looks at a wide range of struggles against reactionary governments and corporate interests. The Trudeau Liberals, it points out, have broken promises to indigenous peoples, dropped the PM's pledge for electoral reform, and failed to achieve a new health accord to strengthen universal Medicare. These factors "will all have a significant impact on the next election slated for 2019."
For that campaign, the Tories are positioning themselves on the far right of the Liberals, and the Bloc Quebecois has tied itself to the rising right-wing movements. Meanwhile, "unless the left-wing of the party is able to change the direction, the NDP is unlikely to pose a serious challenge to either the Liberals or the Tories in the next election. In the interim, the NDP’s support for NAFTA renegotiations, for NATO and NORAD, and for balanced budgets will not endear it to Canadians, nor help to mount the fight needed to defeat the corporate agenda, and secure the policies Canadians voted for in the 2015 election campaign. "
However, the report does note important developments in the fightback against right-wing forces, such as the huge Women’s March demonstrations in cities across Canada on the day after Trump's inauguration: "It was a remarkable demonstration of the unity, militancy, and power of women in action," indicating better conditions for mass action to defend and expand women’s equality rights.
Other positive signs include the outpouring of solidarity with Muslims in the
wake of murders by a white supremacist in
But the attacks on the working class, on racialized and indigenous people, on women and immigrants, and on organized labour, says the report, "can’t be rolled back by the lobbying that has been the main, and perhaps the only tool in the CLC’s arsenal for the past several years."
With the Canadian Labour Congress convention taking place this May in Toronto, the Congress will "need to unite and mobilize the 3.3 million workers it represents to take on the employers and their governments in the streets, on the shop floor and in the workplace, in bargaining and on the picket lines, in the Legislatures and on their front steps, in the media, and in every way to stop them and to beat them back this vicious and deadly assault. "
To help move the fightback in such a militant and united direction, the report says, requires a much stronger Communist Party and Young Communist League. Provincial leaders of the Party and other CC members spoke about the increased level of recruitment to both organizations, as more and more people turn to the ideas of socialism.
The next issue of People's Voice will feature excerpts from the CC political report, which will also be posted online at the website of the Communist Party, www.communist-party.ca.
For the third time in just one year, investigators with the Quebec Ministry of Labour have caught strikebreakers brought in by a company
involved in a labour dispute. The United Steelworkers
is now calling on the
Three scabs were found at Samuel & Fils, a metal processing company where about a hundred workers launched a strike earlier this year, to protest a collective agreement clause that would disadvantage new workers.
“This confirms our suspicions. We saw trucks coming and going, day after day, so it was obvious that the company wasn’t operating using only its managers,” explained the president of USW Local Union 9441, Alain Paiement.
The USW will pursue the process at the judicial level.
“As soon as possible, our lawyers will file an application with the court for a ruling an order to be issued. If the company really wants to restart its plant, it will have to return to the table to negotiate seriously. We’ve had enough of this employer’s shenanigans and hiring of strikebreakers in violation of the Labour Code,” said Staff Representative Silvy Vaudry.
Fines are not initially imposed on companies that bring in scabs - only after
“It’s a ridiculously low amount,”said Donald Noël, Steelworkers Area Coordinator for the North/North-West region. “These companies calculate the fines into their operating costs and laugh all the way to the bank heaven. The legislation should be stronger, and should provide for fines to be applied from the moment the violation begins. These fines should be high enough to act as a deterrent against such behaviour by companies,”
During a labour dispute in
Just recently, investigators discovered that strikebreakers were also being used by CEZinc in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, where workers have been on strike since February 12. The same scenario played out earlier last winter, during the Steelworkers’ labour dispute at Ciment Lafarge in Saint-Constant.
By Paul Bentley
The corporate media has left many questions unanswered about recent news that Mykhailo Chomiak, the grandfather of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, was editor of the Krakivski Visti, referred to as a Nazi “collaborationist newspaper” by the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.
The most important question is, how did Khomiak gain admission to the
According to David Matas, senior legal counsel for B’nai Brith, “Chomiak died in 1984. He has been dead for more than 30 years. The Deschenes and Government files on him, if there are any, should be made public”.
A second set of questions are raised by Freeland’s association to this figure, with whose right-wing Ukrainian nationalist dreams she openly identifies: “That dream persisted into the next generation, and in some cases the generation after that”, as she wrote in May 2015.
Of most concern to leftists is her activist anti-communism. For example,
on January 28, 2015 Freeland was the only Liberal MP to join with Conservative
MPs, including Jason Kenney, in a ceremony celebrating a gift from the
In her book entitled Plutocrats, moreover, she offers a shocking defense of “global capitalism”. Not only is it strange that she chose this term for her title, given its history as code word for “Jew” in the speeches of Hitler and Goebbels, but statements like the following in the book are a warning signal to all leftists about her agenda:
Freeland’s stance goes a long way to explain her anti-communism and her collaboration with the global capitalist elite as an editor for the Globe and Mail and the Financial Times.
Ukrainian nationalism is in no small part a reaction to the difficult early period in Soviet history marked by Civil War and the Holodomor (though the causes of the latter event are still debated by historians). However, her grandfather’s education and white-collar career suggest that her family’s nationalist aspirations were of a different order than that of the peasants in the field.
In her previous post as Minister of Trade, Freeland’s success in pushing through the EU-Canada free trade deal (CETA), which protects investor rights at the expense of those of labour and the environment, was a major victory for her capitalist agenda.
Now as Minister of Foreign Affairs, she has turned her attention to a major military
build-up in the
They say the apple does not fall far from the tree.
People’s Voice Editorial
Twenty-two years ago, People's Voice printed a series on the staggering profits
How things change in just a generation! Today, six billion sounds like pocket
change for the big banks, in
The latest news on banking profits in
No kidding. Show us a single group of workers whose earning power jumped seven-fold over the past two decades, and we'll eat this newspaper. But when the richest corporations in the country announce record profits year after year, well, that's just "positive news."
People’s Voice Editorial
The threat posed by hate groups across
As Coalition organizers said, the main lesson is that the anti-racism movements
must become much larger and better organized. According to the Southern
By Nino Pagliccia
In a recent article titled “The
In the context of a meeting of delegates of the international Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity in Caracas, August refers to one of the speakers, the Venezuelan deputy at the National Assembly, Hector Rodríguez, who is the leader of the minority pro-Chavismo group, a fact that puts him effectively on the opposition - at least in a conventional sense.
We learn from August the “conventional“ opposition is
based simply on the smaller number of representatives, who nevertheless remain
loyal (are not opposed) to the capitalist system’s ideology (Republicans and
Democrats in the
August writes, “the Bolivarian Revolution … is based in words and deeds on
This ideological opposition is different from the numeric or size-based
opposition. The former is a deeper and more meaningful opposition, and should
not be penalized by the
Venezuela’s ideological opposition to the Empire must have been at the forefront of Luis Almagro’s mind, the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), when he singled out Venezuela in his accusatory, aggressive and damning report on March 14, 2017. www.oas.org/documents/spa/press/Informe-VZ-Spanish-signed-final.pdf
Totally outside his mandate as secretary general, Almagro
lays out serious accusations against the government of Nicolas Maduro, that do not have any support aside from his
compromised words. After
This is the same Almagro who did not suggest a suspension for Brazil when in 2016 its then vice-president Michel Temer and his associates ousted legitimately elected President Dilma Rousseff in a so-called parliamentary coup, to implement rightwing neoliberal policies in line with the requirements of the U.S.
But Almagro’s words cannot be trusted, precisely because he is not in opposition to the ideology of the empire. His words are compromised by his adherence to the neoliberal dogma that the Bolivarian Revolution has rejected.
In an immediate public reply through the ministry of external affairs the
Venezuelan government stated its "deepest repudiation to the illegitimate
and illicit pretense report on
The Latin American community in the hemisphere has reacted solidly in support
Canada, an OAS member since 1990, has not issued its position at the time of this writing. The Canadian based group Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front, representing organizations and activists with Latin American roots, has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “to call for the institutional respect for the process and principles of the OAS Charter when they are trampled upon by the Secretary General.”
It is particularly poignant and not coincidental that the Almagro report is released on the heels of two important statements issued earlier in March, but totally opposite in nature. One is from the 14th Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Trade Treaty of the Peoples (ALBA-TCP) www.humanidadenred.org.ve/?p=7289 and a second is from the 15th meeting of the Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social movements in Defense of Humanity. www.humanidadenred.org.ve/?p=7246
The ALBA-TCP document states that “the main attack is against the Bolivarian
Revolution”, and asks to cancel “the arbitrary
Ultimately, the exclusion of
Cora Lewis, BuzzFeed News
Tens of thousands of members of a powerful
“We understand that there’s risk involved in that,” Huerta told BuzzFeed News, “but we’re willing to take that risk in order to be able to move forward in this moment, while the most marginalized are in the crosshairs of this administration.”
Since Donald Trump’s election, there has been no shortage of wildcat strikes by groups disproportionately affected by his administration’s policies. But this time around, organized labor is driving the effort. According to a coalition of groups leading the strike, more than 300,000 food chain workers and 40,000 unionized service workers have said they will walk off the job so far.
Huerta’s union chapter represents tens of thousands of workers, including janitors, security officers and airport staff, while the Food Chain Workers Alliance, which represents workers throughout the food industry, says hundreds of thousands of its non-unionized members have committed to striking.
Best known for its creative and militant organizing, Huerta’s SEIU United
Service Workers West local was one of the forces behind the successful campaign
to unionize janitors in the 1990’s, which many see as the model for today’s
wave of fast-food organizing. The Food Chain Workers
“We are a workforce made up mostly of immigrants, women, African Americans, and indigenous people,” wrote the alliance in a statement announcing the strike, provided to BuzzFeed News. “Without workers, who does Trump think will harvest the crops, craft the food, transport it to market, stock the shelves, cook in kitchens, and serve the meals?”
Speaking by phone from
“There are workers in this area that voted for Donald Trump,” Fuentes said, citing abortion as the decisive issue for many. “But what they are seeing is not what they were expecting to happen with this administration. They’re seeing freedom of religion under threat, immigration under threat, and they’ve expressed regret for voting for him.”
Fuentes said he has never seen workers express a desire to go on strike in his ten years of organizing, but on May Day, the majority of workers at the local Smithfield meat processing plant have pledged not to go into work, shutting down operations. They also plan to keep their children home from school and not to shop, he said.
America’s last major general strike was the first such Day Without Immigrants, in 2006, in which more than a million workers struck.
“That was the largest national rising in many, many decades,” said Daniel Gross, founder and executive director of Brandworkers, which organizes food manufacturing workers. “For those of us who were fortunate enough to be involved, we’ll tell you, it was a strike. That 2006 momentum has not yet been duplicated on May 1 to date.”
The plans for May 1 this year, and the organizations pushing them, highlight the role of so-called alt-labor groups, which can move faster than their larger, richer and more powerful institutional peers. Jayaraman, from ROC United, said groups like hers have more flexibility to call for their members to stop work, while established unions feel a need to tread carefully.
Striking is “a legal term for them, and it isn’t for us,” she said. “It’s not part of collective bargaining agreements that our members can or cannot strike, so it’s not the same. Since it’s a legal situation in a contract [for unionized workers,] under the purview of the National Labor Relations Act, they’re definitely warier.”
That wariness means no national union has yet called on its workers to join a general strike, even though plenty of their ground-level leaders are actively involved in the upcoming protests.
“This is a strike from below, from the bottom of the economy,” Gross said of the May 1 action.
The same migrant and immigrant constituency that struck eleven years ago will mobilize this year, joined by the Black Lives Matter movement, native sovereignty rights groups, and organizations Voces de La Frontera and Movimiento Cosecha.
SEIU-USWW’s Huerta acknowledged that “there’s always been tension between institutions and movements.”
“Although we are part of an institution, we see ourselves as part of a movement,” he said. “The question is, ‘How do we use our institutional power to move the movement?’”
Since Trump’s election, a strike by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance has led to a consumer boycott of Uber; a one-day work-stoppage by New York City bodega owners rallied the city around its Yemeni business owners; February’s Day Without Immigrants shut down food service in urban centers; and the Women’s Strike this month closed schools and filled streets.
But Jayaraman dismissed the idea of ‘protest fatigue’ among her membership, which has turned out in high numbers for marches and strikes numerous times in recent months.
“If I see fatigue,” she said, “it’s among organizers who are trying to keep up with the workers.”
By W.T. Whitney
The Wayúu Indigenous people make up nearly half the
population of La Guajira department in
A report states that, “more than 4,770 children of this Indigenous community have died over eight years due to malnourishment and a lack of drinking water.”
The former Colombian vice-president warned that, “We are not going to negotiate
the development model of
The owners of El Cerrejón coal mine, nemesis of the Wayúu, must have been satisfied. They are: BHP Billiton (Australia), which, operating in 100 locations in 25 countries, extracts iron ore, oil, coal, and diamonds; Anglo-American (South Africa) which mines coal, iron ore, and copper in South Africa, Australia, and the Western Hemisphere; and Glencore (Switzerland), the tenth largest corporation in the world, producing 90 commodities. Profits of the three in 2016 were: US$3.2 billion (July through December), US$1.59 billion, and US$3.67 billion, respectively.
The Colombian government’s version of peace suits the
The stage was set for humanitarian disaster. In 2012, 87.7% of jobs in Guajira were in the informal sector, and 60% of workers received less than the legal minimum wage. Unemployment was 47%, and more than half the population lived in poverty; 25%, in extreme poverty.
Wayúu vulnerability contrasts with the immensity of El Cerrejón. It’s the world’s largest open pit coal mine; annually 32 million tons of coal are exported. The company owns a 93–mile long railway and a deep-water seaport.
Despite an arid climate, the Wayúu had been able to feed themselves. Water and land were available. Then mining and oil extraction expanded and farmers lost land. London activist Richard Solly reports that in 1960, “104,963 hectares of the department [were] suitable for agriculture; but in 2001 only 30,752 hectares were under cultivation and in 2008 much less.”
The coal mine has dominated the region since the 1980s. Cerrejón bulldozers began razing Wayúu villages in 2001. Some 30,000 acres of forest have been ravaged. Steps were taken to supply the mine with water, essential to its operations.
Beginning in 2010, the Cerrejón owners put dams
A report from 2016 says, “around 27 percent of children under five are suffering from malnutrition,” Another one that year states that, “more than 4,770 children of this Indigenous community have died over eight years due to malnourishment and a lack of drinking water.” In 2016, 36 mothers died of malnutrition.
Actual deaths may exceed these numbers inasmuch as official record keepers are unaware of the deaths of many Wayúu infants. The Colombian pediatric society pointed out that, “an Indigenous child [in La Guajira] has a 24 times greater risk of dying than children elsewhere in the country.”
Tax income and royalties from coal mining aren’t enough to bankroll social spending in La Guajira. Formerly 85 percent of royalties from mineral extraction stayed in the local area; now “only 9.3 percent of the royalties come to the producing department.” Cerrejón benefits from a concession of no taxation until 2034. Royalties paid by Cerrejón barely exceed the value of government subsidies for the company.
Corrupt officials waylay money the national government sends to La Guajira to pay for schooling, health care, water, and food. El Cerrejón allegedly bribes officials. Two departmental governors have gone to prison recently, one for buying votes, the other for murder.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights insisted on “precautionary measures”; it made recommendations in late 2015 for dealing with malnutrition affecting babies and children and a year later did likewise on behalf of pregnant women and lactating mothers.
The national government recently announced it would be managing “health,
education, and drinkable water resources” in La Guajira for three years,
although President Juan Manuel Santos insists there’s no emergency.
A powerful company, one concludes, is laying waste to the very weak, with state collusion. The process is hardly new; rapacious individuals and commercial entities have long set forth from centres of wealth and power to plunder distant regions. Capitalist imperatives dominate, wealth and power are concentrated, and marginalised peoples don’t matter. These are the markers of imperialism.
Those in charge in
Lastly, to suppose a creative response from the
A “giant of Irish politics,” Martin McGuinness, died
on March 21 at the age of 66, several months after retiring due to illness.
Hundreds of people accompanied the coffin that was draped in the Irish flag as
it was carried through the Bogside area of
McGuinness’s long-time friend and political ally Gerry Adams said he was “a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the reunification of his country.”
Irish President Michael Higgins paid tribute to “his immense contribution to
the advancement of peace and reconciliation in
He was born James Martin Pacelli McGuinness
McGuinness joined the IRA after witnessing the
vicious treatment of Catholics protesting peacefully for civil rights in the
1960s. Rising quickly through the ranks, he was the IRA’s
Sinn Fein leader in the north Michelle O’Neill said McGuinness “was truly a giant of Irish politics and was known and respected across the world. He was an international statesman. He was a man that was recognised as a peacemaker and a man that touched the lives of so many people … his impact will be felt for many years to come.”
British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
praised his “immeasurable role in bringing about peace in
Trap: Or, How We learned to Stop Worrying and Love the
Great War, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift,
This book is a very interesting read: well-written, deeply researched, mostly well-organized, and definitely impassioned. Its central thesis is that the pervasive 'national myth' or 'folk memory' of Canada's supposed 'coming of age', (or perhaps even 'achieving real nationhood') at the 1917 victory on France's Vimy Ridge is actually a fabrication of much later vintage, cynically utilized by governments (particularly, that of Stephen Harper) to re-imagine and rebrand Canada as a militaristic 'Warrior Nation' (which is, in fact, the title and gist of these authors' previous collaboration, published in 2012).
The present book is somewhat short on information regarding the actual battle;
although it references many related events pre-1900, right up through 2015, it
does not really consider Vimy Ridge proper in any
detail until around its 200-page mark. It does talk about Second Ypres, current
history textbooks, Mackenzie King, Walter Allward
(the architect and sculptor of the Vimy Memorial),
Arthur Currie, the
The authors see the syndrome of 'Vimyism' (or what Pierre Berton called 'Vimy Fever') as a 'highly dubious, mythologized narrative' that leads to an unsettling, obsessive fascination with war. In their view, no war could ever truly be 'Great': they are all dismal, terrible, and brutalizing, to be avoided at any cost. Many people (including myself!) would agree. However, if your viewpoint is pacifist, you will probably write an unsympathetic brand of military history, somewhat as if a vegetarian were to write a book about meat. The Vimy Trap is really extended cultural analysis of a military event, rather than a more straightforward military history.
The authors minimize the importance of Vimy as a
battle, seeing it as neither a turning point, nor a strategic breakthrough.
They assert that full-blown 'Vimyism' was largely a
political creation of the 1980s and 90s. They (correctly) point out that most
non-Canadian historians do not even acknowledge that there was such a battle,
it being seen as merely one phase of the larger
Despite the nay-saying here, I believe something big did happen at Vimy Ridge. In that war where battles usually meant gains or losses of only a few yards, to force the enemy into a two-mile retreat from a long-held, strategic promontory was, simply, a huge thing. And while the resultant sense of pride and developing nationalism may have found its fullest expression in later years, the fighting men certainly knew at the time that something momentous and formative was up.
McKay and Swift quote the words of soldier and journalist Greg Clark, who asserted “[I felt my] first full sense of nationhood [on Vimy Ridge]”, but they point out that he waited fifty years, till 1967, to say so. However, he did write to his father, on April 6, 1917, that he was about to 'take part in the greatest battle in Canadian history, and perhaps in the history of the world'.
Lt. Edward Sewell wrote in his diary, after the first day of conflict,
'Canadian soldiers this day did more to give
Even the New York Times weighed in, asserting that '[Vimy]
would be in
Now, it happens that military historian Tim Cook (Shock Troops, etc.) has quite recently brought out his own book on the same topic, Vimy - The Battle and the Legend (2017), containing a true wealth of detail on the conflict, and using a number of first-hand accounts. Cook wisely sums up - 'Vimy, like all legends, is a layered skein of stories, myths, wishful thinking, and conflicting narratives'. He cautions further that 'Canada is a country- like most- that places little stock in its history, teaching it badly, embracing it little, feeding it only episodically' (6). For the actual sequence of events of the battle, and a measured consideration of their later significance, this book is well worth consulting. And Pierre Berton's Vimy (1986) is still a compelling yarn. Ted Barris's more recent “Victory at Vimy” (2007) brings in a lot of new material, and Hayes et al., “Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment”, is a good collection of essays on some of the very contentious historical issues that Vimy Trap raises. And finally, it bears saying, one of the best features of McKay's and Swift's book is the excellent (and lengthy) bibliographical essay 'Reading Further', 24 pages of very helpful analysis.
The authors' chief point, that we should not allow politicians to co-opt the legends and imagery of the Great War to further their militaristic purposes, and to drain our national budget, is well-taken. But we should also not allow our modernism and/or cynicism to devalue the sacrifices that were made in that war, or minimize the extreme bravery that was demonstrated.
Tony Quarrington is a Toronto-area guitarist, songwriter, and amateur historian whose most recent project is the soon-to-be-released 'WAR STORIES', a CD of new original tunes about Canadians in the First World War. His song about Vimy is called 'The Day We Took the Ridge', a collaboration with veteran folkie James Gordon.
Bragg fires up folk music convention
British singer-songwriter Billy
Bragg delivered a rousing keynote address on February 16 to several thousand
folk musicians at the 29th annual Folk
(a.k.a. Residente), co-founder of the Puerto Rican
rap duo Calle 13, was at the SXSW music festival in
Rock On, Chuck Berry!
Chuck Berry, the major architect
of the mid-fifties cultural revolution that was rock & roll, died on March
18. He was 90. Given the co-optation of rock music in later years, and its
relative eclipse in the digital age, it may be difficult for younger
generations to appreciate
Ángel Parra: 1943-2017
and guitarist Ángel Parra died in Paris, France on
March 11. He was one of the leading exponents of Nueva Canción, the revolutionary Latin American song movement
that swept the world in the sixties and seventies. Ángel Parra was a member of a
family of Chilean musicians, poets, and visual artists that has left a profound
impact on Latin American culture. His mother was Violeta
Parra, a singer-songwriter, folklorist, and cultural organizer best known for
her famous anthem Gracias a la Vida.
His uncle is the renowned poet Nicanor Parra. His
sister Isabel is a prominent folk musician. Another sister, Catalina, is a
well-known visual artist. Ángel, possessor of an
unforgettable voice, was a passionate interpreter of contemporary revolutionary
songs. He was arrested and imprisoned shortly after the overthrow of the
socialist government of