People’s Voice December 1-31, 2016
Volume 24 – Number 19   $1

CONTENTS

1) CANADA ELECTIONS ACT CHANGES FALL FAR SHORT

2) COMANDANTE FIDEL: COMBATANT TO THE END

3) CANADIAN COMMUNISTS SALUTE THE MEMORY OF FIDEL CASTRO

4) UNITE AGAINST BIG OIL - Editorial

5) THE HATE CAMPAIGN AGAINST JUSTIN TRUDEAU - Editorial

6) WEALTH GAP STILL WIDENING, SAYS REPORT

7) CHILD POVERTY IN BC: FACTS AND FIGURES

8) WOUNDED KNEE III IN THE MAKING?

9) PRESIDENT OBAMA, REMEMBER LEONARD PELTIER

10) TRUMP WAS NOT A “PEACE CANDIDATE”

11) APPEAL OF THE 18TH INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF COMMUNIST AND WORKERS’ PARTIES

12) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

13) A TAPE THAT FURTHER REVEALED A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY

PRINTER FRIENDLY ARTICLES

PEOPLE'S VOICE      December 1-31, 2016 (pdf)


 

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(The following articles are from the December 1-31, 2016, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

 

1) CANADA ELECTIONS ACT CHANGES FALL FAR SHORT

By Liz Rowley, Leader of the Communist Party of Canada

             The federal government’s announcement that it will enact seven of the 132 recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer to amend the Canada Elections Act, was well received by Canadians, though most are unaware of the 125 recommendations left to gather dust.

            The amendments in Bill C33 are all aimed to improve access to voting, and to increase the voter turnout among young people. The changes include restoration of the Voter Information Card as one of two pieces of identification required before voters are given a receive a ballot; and restoration of vouching to allow people without two pieces of ID to be vouched for by someone who knows them, and will swear to it.

            The Bill restores the Chief Electoral Officer’s ability to encourage voting with public education and information programs, both of which had been stripped by the Tories’ Unfair Elections Act. The CEO also has new powers to ‘clean-up’ the National Register of Electors, and  to create a register of 16 and 17 year olds who will turn 18 before the next general election, to encourage them to vote, and to add them to the voters list automatically on their 18th birthday.

            The Bill will also extend voting rights to Canadians living abroad by eliminating the current the five year limit.

            It will give the Commissioner of Elections Canada the same independence as the Chief Electoral Officer, to report directly to Parliament, and to be answerable to Parliament. The Tories had put the Commissioner, who polices the Elections Act,  under the thumb of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions,  making prosecution of electoral wrong-doing weaker, less transparent, and more subject to political influence.

            These are all useful ways to expand access to voting, though the Communist Party and others have long campaigned to restore door-to-door enumeration, which remains the best way to extend the franchise to all electors.

            But what’s not in the Bill is just as important, starting with the very sensible proposal that political parties should be required to show proof of the expenditures they claim, and for which the Tories, Liberals, NDP, BQ and Greens are reimbursed annually at the rate of 50%; or $33 million of public money, last year alone. Apparently this measure didn’t make the government’s top 7 or even top 10 list.

            Here’s another couple that didn’t make the list: the requirement that robo-call lists, including names and phone numbers, be compiled, maintained and filed with the CRTC indefinitely; that the Commissioner of Elections Canada be given the power to lay a charge, and to seek judicial authorization to compel testimony. Didn’t make the grade, it seems.

            Or how about these very positive CEO recommendations: that free-time broadcasting during elections be equally divided among all registered parties, and include not just the networks, but all radio, television and media, and that candidates no longer be required to submit 100 signatures of voters to be nominated. Or how about the proposal to make proof of identity “satisfactory” instead of “documentary”, which would have removed another barrier introduced by the Tories’ voter suppression Bills. Or how about the CEO’s interesting proposal to change voting day to a weekend, instead of a week day – like they do Down Under.

            Here’s an important proposal from the Communist Party: legislate big cuts to election spending limits, and increase real political debate by requiring media to include all parties in debates and discussions. If they can put twelve chairs on the stage for the Tory leadership candidates, they can do it for electing MPs to Parliament.

            The biggest omission, the one that the PM promised to make his Number One amendment, was to end the first-past-the-post voting system, and to replace it with democratic electoral reform. In public consultations this summer and fall, the public backed an electoral system called Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP).

            Just days after the release of Bill C-33, the Minister for Democratic Reform announced that its proposals for electoral reform were on hold, because the public consultations focused almost exclusively on MMP and the status quo. The government doesn’t want MMP, which would not give the Liberals another huge majority.

            The informed public knows that the alternative to first-past-the-post is MMP,  not the Single Transferable Vote (STV) or any of the other rubbish the Liberals and Tories have tried to pass off as a democratic alternative. And so, the promise of “democratic electoral reform or bust!” has been cut down to size. Size 7, it seems, fits all. And look no further - it’s all there in Bill C-33.

            The left and progressive forces need to get busy, and not just because of the Liberals’ broken promise. Just look south to see what the attack on jobs and democracy has wrought. Or look at Toronto, where former Mayor Rob Ford’s far-right brother Doug has just announced his bid for Mayor, on a platform opposed to road tolls and “government elites” in Canada’s biggest city.

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2) COMANDANTE FIDEL: COMBATANT TO THE END

By Dr. Helen Yaffe, the author of Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, and a specialist on Cuban and Latin American economic history. This article is from the TeleSUR website.

            Fidel’s genius was his ability to meet the need for tactical steps, responding to the day’s urgencies, without losing sight of the strategic direction.

            It could have been the armed struggle, terrorism, assassination or the serious illness which, at his own admission, nearly killed him in 2006; but in the end Fidel Castro lived through it all to die in peace.

            His death, at 90, on Nov. 25, 2016, has dominated news around the world. In Cuba, there will be several days of mourning, a procession through the island, and funeral on 4 December. Most Cubans on the island will mourn Fidel and pay their respects. Somewhere, rising up through their grief will be a sense of pride; that nature took el Comandante, and not the enemy. It must have been a source of comfort for Cuba’s Commander in Chief. He was a man that led the call to arms from the front: against Batista’s dictatorship, against US imperialism, against the “Batistiano” - the former Cuban elite who never ceased plotting their inglorious return to power, a group he labelled “worms” (gusanos). Right up to his scathing reflection about “brother Obama” following the U.S. president’s visit to Cuba early this year, Fidel never stopped fighting for the sovereign, independent and socialist Cuba he pledged to build.

            Trained as a lawyer and tested as a soldier, Fidel’s genius was his ability to meet the need for tactical steps, responding to the day’s urgencies, without losing sight of the strategic direction. Dismissing him as a “dictator” censors a rich history of debate, experimentation, and collective learning that has taken place in Cuba under Fidel’s guidance.

            In the 1950s, Fidel set out the Moncada Program, which committed to bring social welfare and land reform to the Cuban people, and confiscate the ill-gotten gains of the Cuban elite. This was his promise to the Cuban people, who came out in their masses to cheer Fidel on the long road to Havana in the first days of 1959. And in this, clearly, Fidel has been absolved by history.

            Also in those first years, one million Cubans left the island, most of them for the United States where they formed a pocket of violent opposition to Fidel and the Cuban Revolution. Who were they? They were the landowners, the businessmen, the politicians, who surpassed even previously shocking standards of graft and corruption. They fled the island, temporarily they thought. However, despite the financial, military, political and ideological support they received from successive U.S. administrations and state institutions, the Revolution could not be dislodged: not through mercenary invasions, sabotage, terrorism or biological warfare, not through the threat of nuclear war, not through regional and international isolation, not through the U.S. blockade, not through inducements, nor corruption, nor assassinations.

            It is these Cuban exiles, and their allies, who have dominated U.S. policy-making on Cuba – converting Cuba into a domestic political issue. They have established the paradigm for academic writing and commentary on Cuba, controlled the media narrative, and in general obstructed our ability to understand Cuba as a country, Fidel as a man, and socialism as an alternative development strategy. So none of us should be surprised that on his death, unlike Mandela, Fidel is not forgiven his “crimes,” but continues to be lambasted as a dictator, supposedly the oppressor of an entire nation.

            Elsewhere, however and well beyond the shores of Cuba, millions in the world will mourn a leader they claimed as their own. The leader of a revolution which defeated a U.S.-backed invasion, who stood up to U.S. imperialism, who sent doctors, educators and development workers to the poorest regions on the earth – almost as soon as they were trained up for free in Cuba.

            In the 1960s, Fidel railed against imperialism and colonialism in the United Nations, supported revolutionary movements in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere, and hosted the Tricontinental Conference to coordinate anti-imperialist forces internationally. From the 1970s Fidel sent the first of some 400,000 Cubans to defend Angola from the colonial aspirations of apartheid South African. In the 1980s Fidel condemned third world debt as unpayable. In the 1990s he denounced the devastating human costs of neoliberalism and warned the world about the ecological crisis which threatened humanity and the planet. In the 2000s he opened the doors of the Latin American School of Medicine (set up in 1999) to poor students from Africa, Asia and elsewhere, so that they too could study for free and return to serve their poor communities, and the Battle of Ideas he led showed what could be achieved in the field of culture and education.

            Cuba today, is incomparable with the Cuba of 1959; just consider the island’s achievements in health, medicine, biotechnology, culture, art, sport, and combatting discrimination of every kind. They have built a new and alternative system of democracy, without political parties, and political celebrities, in which politics is not a career, and principles are not invented by publicists responding to the latest polls. Yes, there have been mistakes and shameful episodes. But Fidel’s strongest serious critic was always himself, just listen to his interviews with Ignacio Ramonet and Oliver Stone.

            One thing we can assert is that Fidel stuck to his principles. A recent book by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh on the secret history of negotiations between Washington and Havana documents that almost as soon as diplomatic relations were broken, their respective governments pursued avenues to restore or improve them. What is also clear, however, is that at various moments in history Fidel rejected an offer to reduce hostilities, to lift the U.S .blockade for example, because they were pre-conditioned on abandoning some anti-imperialist (or in the case of Angola, anti-racist) internationalist cause: withdrawing troops from Southern Africa, stopping vociferous support for Puerto Rican independence, ending support for the Central America revolutionary movements, and cutting off ties to the Soviet Union. These were demands that Fidel would not countenance. Commitment to international anti-imperialism could not be traded. “Men make their own history,”observed Karl Marx, “but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

            Fidel has made history, and history has absolved him, even as, in his death, those ideological enemies continue to rage against his life.

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3) CANADIAN COMMUNISTS SALUTE THE MEMORY OF FIDEL CASTRO

The following message of condolences from the Communist Party of Canada was sent to His Excellency Mr. Julio Garmendia Pena, Ambassador, Embassy of Cuba in Canada

Dear Comrades:

            On behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada, I write to express our deepest sympathy and condolences to you, and through you to the Cuban people, the government, the Communist Party, and to the family, at the sad news of the death of Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz, the leader of the Cuban revolution for more than 50 years.

            Comrade Fidel’s life was devoted to the cause of the working people of Cuba, of Latin America and the world. He gave his entire life to the fight for national liberation and independence, for socialism, peace, equality, democracy, and social advance for all working people. That is why the CIA and assorted gusanos made more than 600 attempts on his life, and why the US blockade continues after 50 years.

            Under his leadership, Cuba became the first free territory in the Americas: a beacon of light for all those struggling against imperialism and fascist dictatorships in Latin America, and around the world. He fought for unity and solidarity of the working people everywhere, for the progressive forces and states struggling for peace, democracy, sovereignty, and socialism, against imperialism, war and aggression. 

            He fought tenaciously for the creation of a new international economic order in which exploitation, oppression, and war were abolished and nations, states and peoples were free to develop on the basis of their sovereignty, self-determination and independence. Cuba’s internationalist assistance to the peoples of Angola, South Africa, Chile, Grenada, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and many other countries over more than five decades is the implementation of this vision.

            Just prior to the overthrow of the Soviet Union and the socialist system of states, Fidel famously said that while Cuba did not seek out the responsibility to uphold the banner of socialism internationally, it would take on that responsibility if need be. It was a warning that became a reality within a very short time. While imperialism crowed that the end of history – meaning the victory of capitalism over socialism – had arrived, it was Cuba under the leadership of Fidel that upheld the banner of socialism, of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism, on behalf of working people.

            Comrade Fidel Castro and the struggle of the Cuban people to build socialism just 90 miles from the most powerful imperialist power on earth, lives on in the hearts and minds of billions of people, because the objectives of a classless society, a society built on the foundations of peace, democracy, environmental security and socialism, continue to be the inspiration for millions of people struggling for fundamental social change in their own countries, struggling to build a better future for themselves and their children.   

            The passing of Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz is a milestone in the international Communist movement, a significant marker in the transition from capitalism to socialism globally. Canadian Communists will gain new energy in the work to build new and stronger ties between Canada and Cuba, and to defeat those reactionary forces opposed to peace and progress in the Americas, to socialism in the world, and to the sovereignty, equality and Independence of all nations and states.

            Viva Fidel! Hasta la victoria siempre!

            Comradely, Elizabeth Rowley, Leader, Communist Party of Canada

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4) UNITE AGAINST BIG OIL

People’s Voice Editorial

             November was a tough month for climate justice activists. Data from NASA projects that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, yet Donald Trump claims that global warming is a “Chinese hoax,” and appears prepared to end the limited U.S. progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Here in Canada, Justin Trudeau was elected on a pledge that only communities can give permission for major resource extraction projects, and a promise to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now he has approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion (and the Enbridge Line 3 project) despite opposition from communities and First Nations.

            It’s true that PM Trudeau also rejected the dangerous Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, which would have meant huge tanker shipments of diluted tar sands bitumen along the entire west coast. But much of the debate in the corporate media is framed around the false choice: “which pipelines should be approved?” This misses the fundamental problem.

            The real issue is how to sharply cut world-wide greenhouse gas emissions, as soon as possible. Instead, the pipelines just approved will add to global warming, pose a direct threat to the health and safety of communities, and violate the rights of First Nations. We urge full support for the movements against these projects, including the historic struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline by indigenous peoples and their allies at Standing Rock.

            Canada’s current policy is to dig the tar sands out of the earth for export as raw materials to benefit the Big Oil profiteers. Instead, we need an energy policy based on processing fossil fuels domestically, as part of an economy based on democratic public ownership, planned to create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the lives of working people.

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5) THE HATE CAMPAIGN AGAINST JUSTIN TRUDEAU

People’s Voice Editorial

            The death of Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz, the leader of the Cuban Revolution, has sparked a world-wide outpouring of solidarity with the Cuban people. As part of this remarkable phenomenon, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent his condolences, noting that Fidel was a “legendary revolutionary and orator,” who made significant improvements in the education and health care systems of Cuba. The PM also noted that his father, the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was proud to call Fidel Castro a personal friend. In 1976, Pierre Trudeau was the first NATO leader to visit socialist Cuba, and Fidel attended Trudeau’s funeral. These facts reflect the historic record that every Canadian government since 1959, Liberal or Conservative, has rejected Yankee imperialist demands to join in the barbaric blockade to isolate and starve the Cuban people into submission - a human rights violation of massive proportions.

            Yet for expressing his sorrow, Justin Trudeau is the target of a vitriolic wave of hatred emanating from far right elements, U.S. and Canadian politicians, and even many liberal or social democratic activists. Their demands to label Fidel Castro a “dictator” fly in the face of reality, that the Revolution brought real, popular democracy to the island for the first time, after decades of brutal military rule and fake elections under US tutelage.

            The anti-Trudeau campaign also ignores the fact that in both Canada and the United States, the capitalist ruling class uses the legitimacy of elections to impose a form of dictatorship on the working class, Indigenous peoples, Black Americans, and other racialized and oppressed communities, none of whom have any meaningful input into fundamental economic and political decision-making.

            The real goal of this hate campaign is to force the Liberal government to drop any limited expression of independent Canadian foreign policy. We commend Justin Trudeau for his message of condolences, and we urge readers to resist the hatemongers.

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6) WEALTH GAP STILL WIDENING, SAYS REPORT

            As global crises of climate change, forced migration and conflict continue to heat up, battering the planet’s most vulnerable, the age-old story remains true: the world’s rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting poorer, and the trend is only expected to continue, according to a new report released on Nov. 22.

            The Global Wealth Report 2016 from the Credit Suisse Research Institute finds that wealth inequality is on the rise, with the bottom poorest half of the world’s adults in control of less wealth than the top 1 percent. Meanwhile, the richest 10 percent of the world enjoyed a boost from the 2008 financial crisis and now own a whopping 89 percent of all assets.

            Vast wealth inequality is a familiar story, but the levels of economic disparity in 2016 remain shocking.

            “This huge gap between rich and poor is undermining economies, destabilizing societies and holding back the fight against poverty,” said Oxfam’s head of inequality policy, Max Lawson. The report also details how wealth distribution affects different regions, with concentrations of lower income people in India and Africa. The wealthiest 10 percent of adults are mostly in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific.

            Data shows that China is home to both 9 percent of the world’s wealthiest top 1 percent (a higher percentage than France, Germany, Italy or the United Kingdom) and over 10 percent of the poorest tenth of the population. Meanwhile, in Latin America, adults are fairly evenly spread across the wealth spectrum.

            The report comes as global wealth inequality is increasingly in the spotlight with economic factors like debt crises in countries like Greece and Spain, recessions in countries such as Brazil, and a global slump in commodity prices putting pressure on economies and showing cracks in the system as the most vulnerable suffer most. The issue increasingly finds its way into political rhetoric, but concrete solutions remain evasive.

            “Political concerns about inequality are not being translated into the action needed to give hope and opportunities to the millions who have been left behind,” Lawson continued. “Governments must act now by cracking down on tax dodging, increasing investment in public services and boosting the income of the lowest paid.”

            Some of the world’s poorest are increasingly found in high income countries. The bottom 20 percent of adults, currently sitting around 1 billion people, own no more than US$248, while the poorest half of the world, about 2.4 billion adults, own less than US$2,222. The majority of these group are concentrated in Africa and India, followed by the Asia-Pacific region, together making up 70 percent of the poorest half of the world. The remaining 30 percent of spread out across China, Europe, Latin America and North America.

            The report predicts that the number of millionaires in the world will hit a record high of 45.1 million in the next five years, while the number of billionaires will increase by 945 for a total of 3,000 around the world.

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7) CHILD POVERTY IN BC: FACTS AND FIGURES

PV Vancouver Bureau

            On Nov. 24, the child and youth advocacy group First Call BC released its annual Child Poverty Report Card, showing that 19.8 percent of children here live in poverty. Child poverty in BC has seen ups and downs over the years, but is now the same as 20 years ago. The report card uses Statistics Canada’s low-income measure (LIM) from 2014, since Canada does not have an official poverty line.

            In 2014, a total of 163,000 B.C. children lived in poverty, including 50 per cent of those living with single parents, and high numbers of foster children aging out of care, children of recent immigrants, Indigenous children, children in visible-minority families and children with a disability.

            “We want to shine a light on the over-represented groups,” said Adrienne Montani, First Call’s coordinator. The group advocates a poverty reduction plan (BC is the only province without one), with goals to reach by set dates, including measures such as higher minimum-wage and social assistance rates, a $10/day child care plan, living wages, more supports for post-secondary education, and increased time and pay for maternity and parental care.

            For years B.C. had the highest child-poverty rate in Canada, but today Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have higher rates. Quebec (15.1 per cent) and Alberta (15.5) have the lowest rates in the country. The national rate is 18.5 per cent.

             Montani says the provincial shift reflects how statistics are calculated, rather than a sudden improvement for British Columbia. Previously, the data did not include people living on reserves, which is a major factor for Saskatchewan and Manitoba. More recent statistics also include a larger set of data from the Maritime provinces.

            Other information from the report:

* In 2016, 33,300 B.C. children relied on food banks

* B.C. has the highest ratio of income inequality among all provinces when comparing the richest 10 per cent with the poorest 10 per cent.

* About half of former foster children will go on income assistance after turning 19 and losing access to government supports. This “aging out” policy triggers up to $268 million in additional costs related to homelessness, hospitalization, and mental health issues. The report says providing youth with consistent financial support until age 25 would be far less expensive.

* 40 per cent of B.C.’s homeless youth have been in government care.

* The child poverty rate in British Columbia is four per cent higher than the overall poverty rate in the province.

* By area, the highest child poverty rates in B.C. include  Duncan at 31 per cent, and Port Alberni and Prince Rupert, both at 30 per cent. The lowest rates are Fort St. John (12 per cent), Squamish (15 per cent) and Victoria (16 per cent).

* Over half of poor children in B.C. live in Metro Vancouver, which has a 19.3 child poverty rate overall. The Guildford, Newton and Whalley areas of Surrey have the most children living in poverty while northeast Vancouver has the highest percentage.

* Children in single family households have a much higher chance of living in poverty than children in couple families – 50 per cent compared to 12 per cent. Eight out of 10 of those families are female-led.

            (The full report can be accessed online at firstcallbc.org.)

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8) WOUNDED KNEE III IN THE MAKING?

By Dave Lindorff, Information Clearing House (slightly abridged)

             The struggle at Standing Rock, North Dakota, between the Sioux people and their supporters and the oil corporations and banks trying to run a dangerous pipeline for filthy Bakkan crude oil through their sacred lands and underneath the Missouri River was cranked up to a new level of violence as National Guard troops and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, bolstered by volunteers from various other police departments conducted an all-night attack on Nov. 20, using maximum violence, including flash-bang concussion grenades, rubber bullets, mace, tear gas and three water cannons – this at a time the temperature on the prairie had fallen to a low of 5 degrees Celsius.

            The casualties of this one-sided battle against peaceful protesters on a bridge were enormous, with some 300 of the estimated 400 protesting water protectors, both native people and non-native supporters, injured, 26 of them seriously. There was evidence that police were aiming rubber bullets at protesters’ heads and groins to inflict maximum pain and damage, with eight of the injured hospitalised, including a 13-year-old girl shot in the face, whose eye was reportedly damaged.

            The gravest injuries were a tribal elder who suffered a cardiac arrest, and Sophia Wolansky, a 21-year-old New York City resident. She was hit in the arm by a flash-bang grenade thrown at her by a Morton County Sheriff’s deputy, which blew up on impact, blowing away the flesh and muscle and some of the nerves the length of her forearm and some bone of the elbow joint. She has been evacuated to a hospital in Minneapolis where physicians and nurses are fighting to save her arm and hand from an amputation.

            The latest attack, which has been rightly condemned by UN human rights observers as an atrocity, harks back to the simultaneous country-wide crushing of the Occupy movement occupations in cities across the US during early November, 2011, when local police aided in some cases by armed federal parks police, assaulted occupiers with maximum violence, almost always at night, barring the media from witnessing their deliberate and coordinated over-the-top violence.

            In that case, an aggressive campaign of legal discovery by the Partnership for Civil Justice using the Freedom of Information Act resulted in the unearthing of documents from both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI proving there had been a concerted campaign by those federal agencies to coordinate the crushing of the Occupy Movement.

            It would appear that the repressive lessons learned by police agencies in 2011 are now being used as a kind of repression handbook by Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and his deputies against the protesting Sioux water protectors and their Anglo supporters.

            There is no indication that such vicious repression is working though. Even as the brutal assault on Nov. 20-21 sent dozens of people to area hospitals, more brave people continued to pour into Standing Rock to support the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux and the many representatives of some 300 US tribes around the country, and the representatives of indigenous peoples from around the world fighting this battle.

            The decision to run the so-called Dakota Access Pipeline through Sioux sacred lands, some of it formerly awarded to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe by US treaty, but later stolen from them, stands in stark contrast to an earlier decision to reroute it from a planned Missouri River crossing point near the North Dakota’s capital city of Bismarck. There, protests by the local (white, middle-class) public forced a rethink by the companies behind the pipeline, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. They decided to alter the planned route to run it through Indian territory instead.

            The Standing Rock Tribal Council called on President Obama to put a halt to this dangerous and obscene project, suggesting that as president he has the power to declare the crossing location a National Historic Site, thus protecting it from such defilement. The president, of course, could also look at the local Sheriff’s repressive and violent tactics against an Indian people, and simply federalise local National Guard troops, ordering them to force local police to stand down instead of following the Republican governor’s orders to participate in the repression as they are now doing under his trumped-up “state emergency” declaration.

            That the president hasn’t already acted to stop the attacks on peaceful protesters speaks volumes about Obama’s lack of courage and of principle and of his hypocrisy. In 2014, President Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux, and acknowledged their centuries of abuse by the US government. Now, however, that abuse has occurred on this president’s watch, and incredibly, despite the extent of the violence, he has done nothing to stop it.

            The militarised response to peaceful protest at Standing Rock should stand as a warning to all who would protest America’s slide into totalitarianism. What the government will do to Native Americans and their Anglo supporters today is what we can probably expect them to do to any of us who protest in this new Trumpian America.

            On the bright side, the growing violence against the Standing Rock Sioux and their implacable struggle to defend their sacred lands has mobilised some 1,000 or more American military veterans of America’s past imperialist wars to plan a “deployment” to stand in unarmed defence of the Sioux Nation against the military and police forces of the State of North Dakota and the Dakota Access Pipeline consortium and its private military contractors arrayed against them.

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9) PRESIDENT OBAMA, REMEMBER LEONARD PELTIER

By Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, Former Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations

 “To all those of us who are locked up here nothing is more important than to be remembered” - Leonard Peltier, Leavenworth Prison, September 1998

            While Barack Obama speaks without blushing about the virtues of the North American “democracy,” and lectures us on human rights, an innocent man languishes in his cell, totally isolated, awaiting only death, or for what the U.S. President alone can, but does not, do.

            Leonard Peltier, Anishinabe-Lakota, a leader of the American Indian Movement, AIM, writer and poet, has just completed forty years in prison, and is one of the political prisoners jailed for the longest time in the whole planet. When he was captured, in February 1979, he was a young man, struggling for the rights of the Native peoples, who had already known repression and jail from an early age. Now, almost blind and very ill, he endures a cruel and totally unjust captivity.

            Condemned without a single piece of evidence, in a process characterized by manipulation and illegality, he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, that he has been serving in maximum security prisons, subjected to particularly harsh conditions, with an inhumanity that considers neither his fragile health nor his advanced age.

            In the decade of the Seventies, last century, the repressive and racist nature of the Northamerican system unleashed its violence against those who opposed the Viet Nam war, and also against Blacks, Puerto Ricans and the Native nations that have been dispossessed of their lands and are confined in so-called “reservations”. In 1973, the occupation of Wounded Knee took place, in the same location where in 1890 the great confrontation between Native nations and White invaders occurred. In both confrontations, numerous "Indians" lost their lives, including children, women, and the elderly; and no one has faced justice for these crimes.

            The atrocity of Wounded Knee II and the growing presence of agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the FBI, and paramilitary groups created an atmosphere of terror in the area where recent discovery of uranium and other minerals had fed Anglo-Saxon greed.

            Solidarity spread to other sectors. Marlon Brando, 1973 Oscar winner for his memorable performance in The Godfather, turned the ceremony into a unique denunciation: in his place, he sent Apache actress Sacheen Littlefeather, as he protested the treatment of the Native people and the massacre at Wounded Knee. “It seemed absurd to me to attend the awards ceremony. It was grotesque to celebrate an industry that systematically has slandered and disfigured the Northamerican "Indians" for six decades”, Brando proclaimed.

            The Oglala Elders, besieged in the Pine Ridge reservation of South Dakota, asked the American Indian Movement, AIM, for protection. AIM sent several activists, Leonard Peltier among them. In June 1975, a strange incident occurred there, during which two FBI agents and a number of unarmed civilian Natives lost their lives. The names and number of the dead Natives have been consigned to obscurity.

            In any event, several facts were evident. The Native people were harassed in their own refuge, which they did not leave to attack anyone. Who penetrated the reservation, before the incident, were scores of heavily armed FBI agents, as were the armed paramilitaries at their service. If any Native had fired a weapon, something that has not been proven, it would have been a desperate act of self defense.

            The authorities only filed charges against Native people. Peltier sought refuge in Canada, where he was captured on February 6, 1976. Meanwhile, his comrades were freed for lack of evidence.

            The charges against Peltier were fabricated from beginning to end by the FBI. Revelations that followed the trial, obtained after long efforts by his defense attorneys through the Freedom of Information Act, prove the fraudulent character of the whole process: false testimonies obtained through blackmail and threats, presentation as “proof” of a weapon that was not there, which was never used by Peltier, and had absolutely no relationship to the incident.

            In a hearing before the Court of Appeals in 1978, one of the Prosecutors who acted against Peltier, had to admit it: “We do not really know who fired on the agents”. That tribunal, however, upheld the conviction.

            The trial of Peltier was a farce of monumental proportions. It was convincingly proven by Robert Redford, in his documentary “Incident at Oglala: the Leonard Peltier Story” , produced in 1992, but so severely censured that few have ever seen it. The reasons are obvious. According to the May 22, 1992, Washington Post: “It is very difficult to see Incident at Oglala without concluding that Leonard Peltier is innocent… his trial was nothing but a farce cooked up by the Government. This direct and illuminating documentary shows the lengths to which the unscrupulous prosecutors and FBI were willing to go to punish this man”.

            Nelson Mandela, the European Parliament, and numerous personalities throughout the whole world have spoken out for the liberation of Leonard Peltier. The demand for his freedom has lasted more than four decades, so far, without results. Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General of the United States, said some time ago: “Until he is free, each new day is a new crime, each dawn is a new crime, each evening, a new crime against the dignity of the Native people and against the honor of the United States of Northamerica. Because as long as Leonard Peltier is in prison, we all are in prison”.

            When Peltier was arbitrarily incarcerated, Barack Obama was a teenager, and was not responsible for that injustice. But for the last eight years he has borne the responsibility, because as President of the United States he has done nothing to free him. President Obama knows that “Sí se puede” , but he prefers to be an accomplice of the crime.

            It would be greatly appreciated if as many people as possible were to forward this message to President Obama. It is now or never.

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10) TRUMP WAS NOT A “PEACE CANDIDATE”

The 2016 Assembly of the World Peace Council was held November 18-19 in São Luís, Brazil, hosted by the Brazilian Center for Solidarity of the Peoples and Struggle for Peace (CEBRAPAZ), on the theme “Strengthen the peoples' solidarity in the struggle for peace, against imperialism”. The following excerpt is from the presentation to the Assembly by Alfred L. Marder, President of the US Peace Council.

            We are meeting at a time of global turbulence: wars raging in a number of countries, hundreds of millions of people roaming the earth looking for homes and employment. Climate changes creating havoc and concern. We of the World Peace Council must use this occasion to make a meaningful contribution to the struggle for peace. WPC must issue a global call for unity of all peace forces.

            There is no room for sectarian or partisan considerations. A few days ago, the people of the United States elected a new president. In our opinion, this has created some confusion in the ranks of the global peace movement.

            They have interpreted remarks made during the campaign by President-elect Donald Trump that appeared to coincide with the demands of the progressive peace movement. Of course, we would welcome a policy that would cease support of imperialist US to those forces

trying to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria. Of course, we would welcome any move by the US to eliminate NATO, however, Trump only called for more financial contributions from NATO members. Of course, we would welcome President-elect Trump meeting with Vladimir Putin to remove NATO troops from Russian borders and to assist the Syrian government in establishing peace. However, these casual remarks cannot hide the reality that President elect Trump has called for an increased military budget already 57% of the total US budget, an increase in armed forces, an increase in naval forces, and continuation of the nuclear weapons program of the United States. He has called for the reestablishment of torture. He has spoken of Japan and South Korea establishing their independent nuclear weapons program. To those in the global peace movement who have ignored his positions in favor of these few casual remarks, we must say categorically, that President elect Donald Trump is not a peace candidate nor “good” for the peace movement.

            How was it possible for this sexist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, candidate to become the President of the United States. While he did not win the popular vote, missing only by 1 million votes, the arcane electoral system of the United States allowed him to win the states. This system came out of the early history of the United States when, in the founding, the slave owners were reluctant to leave the decision of electing a president in the hands of the people.

            Thus, it became possible to win the individual states ignoring the popular vote. Since 1970 the working class of the United States has seen a constantly unequal distribution of the wealth of the country. The reality is there has been a constant sinking of the living standards, wages not meeting the cost of living, the loss during the recent recession of millions of homes and with globalization the evaporation of jobs and opportunities. This continued under the leadership of both major parties and at the same time the one percent of our country who controls our nation has become unbelievably wealthy and powerful. US imperialism has engaged us in constant wars since World War II.

            At present, US is actively involved in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria. Sixty percent of its naval forces are in the Pacific. The US is pursuing new technologies for killing. And the US policies are once again haunting South America, supporting the right-wing oligarchs in their attempt to undo the progress that the working class and farmers of these countries have made over the past several years. The reality is that the US has been on a war economy ever since World War II and the major export of the US is finance and arms.

            Donald Trump reached out to the disaffection of the working class who voted for him despite the racism, the sexism, the Islamophobia, campaign rhetoric. While we do not deem the US working class as racist, nevertheless, we recognize fully the damage this has done to the unity of the working class.

            The US Peace Council is calling for the unity of all struggling forces for peace and justice in our country to unite against the capture of the political system by the most arrogant, anti-working class imperialists.

            We are proposing that the global peace movement including the WPC organize an international day of demonstrations and actions after January 20, Inauguration Day for President-elect Donald Trump, to demand an end to the aggression on Syria and removal of NATO troopson the borders of Russia.

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11) APPEAL OF THE 18TH INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF COMMUNIST AND WORKERS’ PARTIES

The following appeal was adopted by the 18th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, held on October 28-30, 2016 in Hanoi, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, under the theme “Capitalist crisis and imperialist offensive - Strategy and tactics of the Communist and Workers’ Parties in struggle for peace, workers’ and peoples’ rights, socialism”.

            Having discussed the world situation and the growing challenges faced by humanity, nations, workers and peoples of many countries, particularly the worsening socio-economic and environmental crises, the increasing insecurity and instability in many parts of the world, caused by capitalism, deepened capitalist crisis, imperialist interventions. interference and machinations, fostering the emergence of so-called ‘ISIS’ and other extremist criminal forces, as well as refugee crises;

- Stressing that socialism is the only real alternative to the on-going economic, social and ecological crises, to capitalist exploitation and barbarity;

- Saluting the struggles of the people and workers in all parts of the world against capitalism and imperialist offensive, for labour, social and democratic rights, gender equality, national independence and sovereignty, peace and socialism;

- Emphasizing the historical significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia in the context of its forthcoming 100 anniversary in 2017;

- Being encouraged by the achievements and experiences of the struggle of and cooperation among communist and workers’ parties in the previous years;

            Calls upon Communist and Workers Parties to develop common and convergent actionsalong the following axis:

- Intensifying theoretical and practical works and exchanges on building socialism in the 21st Century;

- Working together towards the joint commemoration of 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution to highlight its historical significance in paving the way for a new period in human history, the contribution of socialism to advance the struggle of workers and peoples for their emancipation, and the need to strengthen the struggle for peace, social progresses and socialism; organizing diverse related activities;

- Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the publication of "Das Capital" by Karl Marx;

- Promoting exchange of strategies, tactics and experiences to strengthen the fight against all forms of capitalist ideological and political imposition and offensive, to strengthen communists and workers parties and to enhance mobilisation of the working people and wider masses, particularly youth, students and women, in the anti-imperialist struggles, for labour, social, trade union and democratic rights, and socialism;

- Strengthening activities to defend democratic freedoms and rights, against anti-communism and all forms of discrimination, to express solidarity with communists in Ukraine and other countries who face persecution and bans on their activity; organizing, preferably in the week of 5-11 May 2017, activities against fascism and neo-nazism on the occasion of the anniversary of the Victory over Nazi-fascism (9/5/1945);

- Broadening the anti-imperialist front to enhance the struggle for peace, against imperialist occupation, interventions and interference into internal affairs of other countries, against NATO and its expansion, against nuclear weapons, militarization and foreign military bases, for the peaceful and just settlement of all conflicts based on the principles of International Law;

- Intensifying activities to demand the ending of the US blockade against Cuba, to support the right of Palestinian people to a free, sovereign and independent state and to express solidarity with all peoples in Asia, Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Europe who face imperialist occupation, intervention, interference and blockade.

            Finally, the participating Communist and Workers Parties thank the Communist Party and people of Vietnam for the hospitality and confirmed their unwavering longstanding support to and solidarity with Vietnamese people in building and defending the socialist country.

            (Fifty-seven parties took part in the Hanoi meeting, including: Algerian Democratic and Socialist Party; Communist Party of Argentina; Party of Labour of Austria; Communist Party of Australia; Workers Party of Bangladesh; Communist Party of Belarus; Workers' Party of Belgium; Brazilian Communist Party; Communist Party of Brazil; Communist Party of Britain; Communist Party of Canada; Communist Party of  Chile; Communist Party of China; Communist Party of Cuba; AKEL (Cyprus); Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia; Communist Party in Denmark; Communist Party of Denmark; Communist Party of Ecuador;

French Communist Party; Communist Party of Finland; German Communist Party; Communist Party of Greece; People's Progressive Party of Guyana; Hungarian Workers' Party; Communist Party of India; Communist Party of India (Marxist); Tudeh Party of Iran; Iraqi Communist Party; Communist Party of Ireland; Workers Party of Ireland; Communist  Party of Israel; Jordanian Communist Party; Workers' Party of Korea; Lao People's Revolutionary Party; Lebanese Communist Party; Communist Party of Nepal  (CPN-UML); Communist Party of Norway; Communist Party of  Pakistan; Palestinian Communist Party; Palestinian Peoples Party; Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1930); Portuguese Communist Party; Communist Party of Russian Federation (KPRF); Russian Communist Workers' Party; Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU); New Communist Party of Yugoslavia; South African Communist Party; Communist Party of  Spain; Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain; Communist Party of Sri Lanka; Communist Party of Sweden; Communist Party, Turkey; Communist Party of Ukraine;

Communist Party USA; Communist Party of Venezuela; Communist Party of Vietnam.)

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12) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

On Dylan's Nobel Prize

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "for having created new poetic expressions in the American song tradition." It's hard to argue with this. If you're going to allow a songwriter to join the likes of Neruda, Tagore, and Morrison, Bob Dylan is the obvious first choice. More than anyone, he introduced modern poetry into pop music and shaped what was to follow. The Nobel Prize, announced on October 13th, came at a time when the already-debased language of corporate media had reached a new low with the Trump-Clinton election spectacle. The subsequent outpouring of interest in Dylan (and Leonard Cohen, who died on November 7th) is a reminder of our need for meaningful language. Poetry has fulfilled this function since ancient times. Dylan, followed by Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and others, reclaimed the ancient relationship between poetry and music, and thereby claimed a place in public culture that once was dominated by print poets. Dylan's early sixties anti-war and civil rights anthems (which he still performs) stood out during that time for their narrative and musical power. When he startled the folk music scene by going electric in 1965, he recast his lyrical style too, but songs like "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Desolation Row" continued to have radical connotations. Since the sixties, he has occasionally released political or overtly socially-critical "protest songs". The best of these, like "Hurricane" (1975) and "Blind Willie McTell" (1983), stretched the artistic limits of the genre. Of course, Bob Dylan is a contradictory figure. While he's an effective painter of the relationship between individual and social corruption, it's fair to say - and he probably wouldn't deny it - that he too is tainted. Accepting money from Chrysler, for example, to be filmed driving a gas-guzzling Cadillac across the American landscape for a Super Bowl TV ad, is unconscionable. While he's supported good causes over his career, Dylan has been indifferent to others. A case in point is his refusal (like Cohen) to honour the Palestinian call for a boycott of the state of Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. One can always hope that he'll join the movement, but now that he's been canonized as a "national treasure" the danger for Bob Dylan is that he will cease to be a shape-shifting trickster. His achievement, though, is undeniable.

Maria Schneider vs the Data Lords

One of the outstanding figures in jazz over the past two decades has been arranger-composer and big band leader Maria Schneider. The Minnesota musician has won five Grammy awards and is a perennial poll winner. Schneider is an independent artist who shuns online streamers like YouTube and Spotify. Instead, she's opted for alternative models of recording and distribution. All of her releases have been with the pioneering crowdfunding company ArtistShare. Her latest project, a yet-to-be-released album tentatively called "Data Lords", reflects her preoccupation with corporate exploitation of musicians. These days, Schneider is confronting a world where huge corporations reap billions of dollars from the online mining of personal information. She accuses Google, and its subsidiary, YouTube, of fostering a "culture of piracy", which makes it impossible for musicians to sell their recordings at anywhere near their true value. These corporations, she says, dangle musical works like "bright shiny objects" in order to bring eyeballs to their websites and smart-phone apps. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) granted them immunity from prosecution for copyright violation. So while the public gets used to getting music for free, they make big money selling user data to marketers, and musicians get peanuts. Maria Schneider’s testimony at the House Judiciary Committee on U.S. copyright law, including "YouTube: Pushers of Piracy", can be found on her website: www.mariaschneider.com.

Orit Shimoni on the job

Kudos to labour magazine Our Times www.ourtimes.ca for publishing an article by a jobbing musician in its "Working For a Living" series. The current issue features an account of a typical small engagement by Montreal Indy singer-songwriter Orit Shimoni, who describes her gig, as she meets the chef and server, fusses with chairs and microphones, and experiments with techniques to woo chatting customers. After the show, she converses with friends and feels grateful that's she's got a ride to the place where she's crashing for the night. Reflecting on her life as a performer, with its hopes and realities, she concludes, stoically, that she's been fed, has made new connections, has made people smile, and earned enough money to last until the next gig. Shimoni, a former teacher, has been a full-time touring solo singer-songwriter for eight years. She sings of love, war, and social injustice in a rich, deep voice. Her lyrics reveal a penchant for the bleak, laced with compassion and humour. Check out her music, videos and fascinating blog at www.oritshimoni.com.

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13) A TAPE THAT FURTHER REVEALED A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY

By Behzad Navid

            Last summer was the 28th anniversary of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran. Within less than two months, thousands of political prisoners and true fighters for freedom, and social justice were executed by the criminal theocratic regime. The massacre, on the direct orders of Khomeini, has been one of the most shocking political crimes in the contemporary history of Iran, and a clear indication of the nature and the practice of the authoritarian ruling regime in the Islamic Republic. 

            The publication for the first time of an audio recording from nearly three decades ago in Iran has brought more clarity, and information about the darkest period in the Islamic Republic. This summer, ayatollah Montazeri’s official website, run by his family and followers, published an audio file from a meeting he held in 1988 with senior judges and judiciary officials of the “death commission courts” who ordered the mass executions  of political prisoners in trials lasting less than five minutes.

            In this audio clip, ayatollah Montazeri told his audience, “In my view, the biggest crime in the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed at your hands, and they’ll write your names as criminals in the history. But what’s important for me is Islam’s and the revolution’s reputation and the future of our country as well as the person of Mr. Khomeini and how history will judge.”

            “I don’t want Mr. Khomeini to be judged and called a bloodthirsty, cruel and brazen figure 50 years from now,” he said. He also tells his audience that he believes the authorities had a plan to execute political prisoners for a few years, and found a good excuse in the wake of the July 1988 incursion by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran.

            Ayatollah Montazeri says he felt compelled to speak out because otherwise he would not have an answer on the “judgment day”. “I haven’t been able to sleep and every night it occupies my mind for two to three hours … what do you have to tell to the families?” 

            Later in the recording, ayatollah Montazeri insinuates that the number of people executed since the revolution outnumbered those put to death by the deposed Shah. When an official seeks his consent for the last group of around 200 people to be executed, he is heard saying fiercely: “I don’t give permission at all. I am opposed even to a single person being executed.”

            The file is important evidence that documents the voice of those carrying out a massacre of prisoners and captives without due process or trials. It is important because those involved with the executions are still in power. Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the Intelligence Ministry’s representative in Evin Prison, is currently the Justice Minister in Rouhani’s cabinet. Deputy Prosecutor General Ebrahim Raeesi is now head of Astan Qods Razavi, a religious and industrial conglomerate in Mashhad, and has been mentioned in establishment circles as a possible successor to current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.  

            The regime immediately reacted against this publication. The Intelligence Ministry directly contacted Ahmad Montazeri, the son of ayatollah Montazeri, to ask him to remove the audio from the website. After a few days, because of the vast effect of this publication amongst all different groups, Ahmad Montazeri was summoned, and interrogated. He was eventually charged with acting against national security interests, and was tried on October 19 for publishing this audio clip.

            There were different reactions towards this audio clip amongst different groups. Those who were in that meeting, and were members of the "death commission," defended their actions, and called Ayatollah Montazeri  “naive”. Unfortunately most of the reformist leaders were silent. Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Khomeini, defended his father and Khomeini for what they have done. Tajzadeh, one of the prominent leaders of the reformists, asked forgiveness from the executed prisoners’ families, and indirectly condemned the massacre. The Tudeh Party of Iran thanked Ahmad Montazeri for his bravery. 

            Only one senior Iranian official dared to speak out at the time: Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was in line to lead the country after Khomeini, then supreme leader and the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution.

            Montazeri wrote a number of letters to Khomeini condemning the executions, and the grand ayatollah soon fell out of favour. He was later placed under house arrest and faced huge restrictions until his death in December 2009.

            The emergence of the audio file has revived calls for an inquiry into the executions. Over the past 28 years, survivors and families of the victims, and all progressive organizations have demanded all the information about the horrible conditions in the jails in those bloodied days in which the prisoners were forced to recant or get executed, and also asking for proper prosecution of all Islamic Republic officials who were involved or knew about this massacre.

            In Canada, like every year, progressive groups celebrated the glorious memory of the brave struggles of the fallen heroes of the nation, and saluted the families of all the martyrs of the National Catastrophe of 1988.

 

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