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following articles are from the June 1-15, 2017, issue of People's
Statement from the Communist Party of BC, on the outcome of the May 9 provincial election
As expected, the May 9 B.C. provincial election was a close race, resulting in what appears to be a minority government scenario, although the balance of forces in the Legislature could still change when up to 176,104 absentee ballots are counted starting May 22.
The Communist Party of BC views the initial results as a sharp rebuke for Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals, who lost their majority status, taking 43 seats (down from 49 in 2013), and dropping over three percent from their previous share of the popular vote, down to 40.8%. The NDP kept its share of the vote (39.8%), but increased from 34 seats up to 41 on election night. The Greens made serious gains, doubling their share of the vote to 16.7% and winning three seats, up from one. If these results hold, for the first time in Canadian history the Greens will hold the balance of power in a legislature.
Already there are conflicting interpretations of this tentative outcome. The campaign revealed widespread popular anger against the policies of the corrupt, arrogant and anti-people BC Liberals, who lost significant support in key ridings. The NDP platform was stronger in some respects than in 2013 campaign, for example by supporting the demands for a $15 minimum wage and a $10/day child care program. But the NDP policies overall failed to arouse enough enthusiasm among working people to gain large numbers of new and undecided voters. A firm commitment to reverse the damage to the BC labour code, a legacy from the Gordon Campbell years, might have tapped into the hundreds of thousands who did not bother to vote. The Greens, on the other hand, riding on their somewhat exaggerated image as environmentalists and “outsiders”, more than doubled their vote totals, up from 146,000 four years ago to 301,000 in this election.
Ultimately, this campaign revolved around the demand for political change in
The Communist Party of BC agrees that a total ban on corporate donations is
urgently needed. This is the only jurisdiction in
Being totally dependent on corporate money to drown out any serious public debates, the Liberals at first glance appear unlikely to agree to the Green party conditions. But if the two parties engage in serious negotiations, it would not be surprising if the Liberals offered “baby steps” towards such reforms, in order to hold on to office. That scenario raises the ugly threat of a Liberal-Green coalition based on limited measures to improve electoral democracy, without changing the fundamental anti-people and anti-environmental policies of Clark and former premier Gordon Campbell.
For our part, the Communist Party of BC calls upon the NDP and the Greens to
take a different approach, by respecting the powerful public sentiment for
change emerging in this campaign. We urge these parties to take the first
possible opportunity to defeat the Liberals in the Legislature and to form a
coalition government committed to reversing Gordon Campbell’s huge tax cuts for
the rich and the corporations, expanding democracy, taking action for a
sustainable environment and green jobs, and tackling the housing and poverty
crises impacting millions of British Columbians. Addressing the needs of
working people and reversing the damage done to labour relations in BC by
successive Liberal governments should be high on their list of priorities in
our opinion. This would mark an important step towards real change in
We also want to take this opportunity to thank the voters who supported our
candidates in the six ridings where Communists were on the ballot. Despite
ongoing efforts to limit electoral debates to the so-called “major parties,”
the Communist Party of BC was able to reach out to a record number of voters,
on the streets, at forums, and through a greatly increased social media
presence. We were pleased to be able to field candidates for the first time in
many years in
The warm response to our platform indicates that working people in British Columbia
are increasingly receptive to our call to put people’s needs ahead of corporate
greed, and to end the Liberal government’s attacks against social programs, the
environment, and democratic rights. Our candidates urged voters to defeat the
Liberals and to vote for fundamental change, and we are pleased to note that
the level of support for Communists at the ballot box was the highest in any BC
election in over thirty years. This is a good indication that whichever party
takes office in
PV Ontario Bureau
While three of the four table officers coming into the May 8-12 convention of the Canadian Labour Congress were re-elected, and a progressive activist from the Public Service Alliance received the most votes of any candidate, the question remains whether the Canadian labour movement will be in a position to respond to the challenges facing the working class in the age of Trump.
Off the convention floor there were many signs of potential for militancy for progressive change. U.S. Black liberation activist and former Vice-Presidential candidate Angela Davis ignited hundreds of delegates and social activists on the eve of the Convention at the Human Rights forum by calling for a labour movement that is less hierarchical and inclusive, and accepting the struggles of women and black activists and the fight for $15 as the core of the success. She emphasized that movements can defeat the powerful, and that Marxism was still relevant to the struggle because we are still facing capitalism.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers organized a panel calling for a Solidarity coalition, with representatives from the Halifax Labour Council, the London Labour Council, the Secretary-Treasurer of the BC Government Employees Union and the outgoing Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students citing successes in organizing in their communities.
A panel at the end of the convention looked at unconventional methods of community organizing such as the Workers’ Acton Centre, the Chicago Teachers Strike, and the efforts of the Toronto Labour Council to organize within ethnic enclaves.
There were some positive developments arising from Convention decisions that
can provide opportunities for militant action within the labour movement. There
will be four labour council representatives on the Canadian Council from the
different regions of the country –
An emergency resolution started by rank-and-file delegates supporting the Palestinian Prisoners’ Dignity Strike for their civil and political strike made the floor and was supported overwhelmingly by the delegates.
But political and structural issues within the Convention structure and the labour movement remain obstacles in developing a united militant democratic movement to challenge the threat of the neo-fascist business agenda of the Trump Administration and the neo-liberal policies of the Trudeau Liberal government and provinces across the country.
The major union divide behind the scenes at the convention was the rancor over the dispute between Unifor and the Amalgamated Transit Union, concerning the attempt by former ATU Local 113 President Bob Kinnear to appeal to the Canadian Labour Congress to have the local representing Toronto Transit Commission workers to became a direct affiliate to the CLC while it sought a new home. Once it became known that Kinnear had approached Unifor for legal advice, Unifor National President Jerry Dias went public in supporting the right of the local to become part of a Canadian union.
ATU put the local under trusteeship and started charges of raiding against Unifor. An interim report by Barry Thorsteinson, CLC investigator/mediator, criticized both the International ATU for putting the local under trusteeship, and Unifor for being in breach of the rules against raiding. But when Kinnear withdrew the application because he did not have support from the local membership, no further action by the CLC was needed.
Unifor sought to have the constitution of the International ATU declared in
violation of the Constitution of the CLC. While apparently fireworks occurred
at the Canadian Council meetings held during the convention, the issue was
decided at that level and never hit the floor. The only reference was a
statement by ATU
Lawsuits were dropped and a committee was established to review Article 4 of the CLC Constitution which deals with disputes. One concern may be that it will be made more difficult for a local of an international union, or a Canadian section of an international union which genuinely wants to become part of a Canadian union, to be able to do so.
The issue also played a major role in the votes for Secretary-Treasurer and
Executive Vice-Presidents. Marie Clark-Walker was challenged for the
Secretary-Treasurer position by Ferne Downey from ACTRA, who had announced her
candidacy at the United Steelworker convention in
NUPGE nominated Sharon Skidmore from the BC Government Employees Union for
Executive Vice-President, so that it would retain a representative on the top
four positions, given that former
As it turned out, the faction led by Unifor brought in more buses of delegates than the Steelworkers on the day of the election. Rousseau had 2900 votes, while Lafleur got 1700 votes to Sikdmore’s 1400. Once the vote results were announced, the bussed-in Steelworker delegates poured off the convention floor, and no doubt the Unifor delegates did the same.
The convention agenda left little chance for rank-and-file delegates to participate. Policy papers on a green economy, organizing, good jobs, and equity had good preambles, but the action items were watered down. 250 resolutions were amalgamated into 17 composite resolutions. Controversial resolutions, such as one to support the boycott, divestment and sanction campaign against Israel, or one calling for action up to and including a general strike against Bill C-27 (bringing targeted pension plans to replace defined benefit pensions) were referred to the Canada Council rather than being debated on the floor.
The agenda was full of videos and guest speakers, and panels of experts on different issues, leaving usually only 1-2 hours per days to debate the resolutions. Delegates known as “mike muffins” were designated to hold place for the leaders of affiliates to speak on the issues of the day. On Thursday, a frustrated union member demanded that a resolution opposing Islamophobia be brought to the floor for debate, but was told that the convention had to attend to the order of the day, a tribute to outgoing Secretary-Treasurer Barb Byers. Once that was completed the Convention adjourned and no further deliberative business occurred.
Where does that leave the labour movement as its faces the upcoming challenges? While the more progressive candidates were elected, what chances do they have to bring rival unions together on a fightback campaign?
Donald Trump has just given 90 days-notice to the
The labour movement under Bob White fought against the passage of NAFTA in 1993, because it saw the treaty as a continental corporate constitution to undermine Canadian sovereignty. Trump’s negotiators will attack labour rights and Medicare, and will challenge what little environmental protections the Trudeau Liberal government might want to implement.
What is needed is a labour movement of the type that Angela Davis called for on the eve of the Convention. A resurgent Action Caucus can work with the activists envisaged by CUPW’s solidarity coalition. Activists can push the leaders of the affiliates who control the CLC Canadian Council to adopt a political agenda which puts the workers and the people ahead of the corporations who benefit from the free trade agreements like NAFTA or the Trans Pacific Partnership, which the Trudeau government wants to resurrect.
Such an agenda can include: a massive social housing program to deal with the housing crisis in Canada; a higher minimum wage across the country; investment in value-added manufacturing rather than shipping our natural resources to other countries to use for their economies; expanded social services to include a national pharmacare program.
Rather than lawsuits over jurisdictions of existing unions, the labour movement should be concentrating on organizing the numerous workers stuck in precarious employment. It should ally with social movements such as ACORN, Fight for $15 and Fairness, Black Lives Matter and Idle No More.
The task for progressive trade unionists is enormous but necessary. The time to organize is now.
By Doug Allan
In the lead up to
They state they will increase hospital funding $518 million, a 3% increase. But, on closer inspection, the funding increase announced for last year was significantly higher.
In the 2016 Budget,
But it looks very much like the actual hospital funding increase in 2016/17 was higher than $485 million – higher in fact than the $518 million increase announced for 2017/18.
A little after announcing the $140.3 million hospital funding increase, the
province, in its 3rd quarter report, announced an investment of $95.4 million
to support additional capacity for stem cell transplants in
Now, in the new Budget, the government has raised their estimate of the in-year
health care spending increase from $348 million (in their 3rd quarter report)
to $483 million, i.e. another $135 million increase. The Budget describes the
$483 million health care in-year increase as “primarily due to additional
investments in hospitals to support the needs of patients and reduce wait
times, and funding to support additional stem cell transplants in
So, it is likely that at least half ($242 million) of that $483 million in-year increase went to hospitals. In total that would mean that hospitals got, at least, a $587 million increase last fiscal year ($345 M + $242 M = $587 M).
That would be $69 million more than the announced increase for 2017-18 – 13% more.
The announced hospital funding increase for this year (3.1%) is in fact exactly
half of the percentage increase announced for all other
This all suggests that more funding has got to be announced over the course of this fiscal year if they are going to keep crisis from the door - just like last year.
Premier Wynne told the media shortly before the Budget that she had heard the complaints about hospital funding "loudly and clearly", that she knew hospitals needed her support and that help would be coming.
On Budget day, however, we got an announcement of a smaller increase than the announced increases for last year and further confirmation that they plan to decrease hospital capital funding for new hospital beds and facilities.
Apparently, we will have to speak more loudly and clearly to be properly heard.
P.S.- the good news? Hospitals in low population growth communities around the province are beginning to report funding increases at around 2% of ministry funding for the hospital. This tends to confirm the suggestion in the Budget that all hospitals will get at least a 2% increase in ministry funding. That's good news - but this being confirmed so early in the fiscal year (which began only on April 1) is also very positive.
Thanks to the mobilization of rank and file delegates, an emergency resolution unanimously endorsed by the Canadian Council was overwhelmingly supported by delegates to the Canadian Labour Congress Convention.
It called on the Canadian government to pressure the Israeli government to stop violating international law and to respect the civil and political rights of 1,600 Palestinian prisoners who have been on a hunger strike since April 17.
Durham Labour Council delegate Denise Martins stated that Israel must reinstate the rights of Palestinian prisoners to have family visits, appropriate health care, the right to education in the prisons and the end to solitary confinement and “administrative detention”. As a daughter of political refugee parents, she spoke of the importance of the connection to one’s family members.
CUPW National President Mike Palecek said that the labour movement must have a
discussion on Palestinian rights, even if it is difficult. He condemned the
Liberal government for not allowing Palestinian labour leaders into
Opponents to the resolution called it racist because it signaled out
Unifor Human Rights Director Mohamad Alsadi, himself a refugee from Palestine,
rejected the argument that the resolution was anti-Semitic and made delegates
aware that the resolution of Palestinians’ right to self-determination is key
to peace in the
The text of the Resolution
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) will:
a) Call on the Canadian Government to pressure Israel to stop violating international law by illegally detaining Palestinians and depriving them of their basic human, civil and political rights; andb) Work with global union federations, affiliates and civil society organizations in Canada on campaigns in support of Palestinian prisoners.
BECAUSE more than 1600 Palestinian prisoners have been on a hunger strike since April 17, 2017; and
BECAUSE Key demand of the hunger strike include an end to the denial of family visits, the right to appropriate health care, the right to education in prison and an end to solitary confinement and “administrative detention”; and
BECAUSE The CLC supports the right of the Palestinian people to national self-determination and an end to the illegal occupation as the basis for a just peace in the region.
People’s Voice Editorial
Two weeks after the May 9 election in
This outcome represents a large majority vote for change. Despite the huge advantages of a $12 million war chest donated mainly by fossil fuel industry and real estate profiteers, and a corporate media which slavishly promotes Premier Christy Clark, the Liberals failed to win a new majority. The opposition parties have compatible views on some important issues and disagree on others, and a combined majority of seats and a far larger level of popular support.
As the Communist Party of BC stated, these parties should take the first
opportunity to defeat the
We agree; it’s time for change. End the Liberal era in
People’s Voice Editorial
Desperate to overthrow democracy and reverse the gains of the Bolivarian
As international participants at a recent one-day conference in Caracas were
told, the Bolivarian Revolution faces a serious crisis, the result of factors
such as economic difficulties related to low energy prices and the historic
under-development of other sectors, a widespread black market system, and
constant political and diplomatic pressures from US imperialism and its
Venezuelan allies. The Maduro government’s response includes the proposal to
convene a broad-based Constituent Assembly to discuss the country’s future. But
perhaps not surprisingly, this offer of an open and genuine dialogue has so far
been rejected by the big business sector, the MUD opposition coalition, and the
reactionary hierarchy of the powerful Catholic church. The Organization of
American States - headed by puppets of the White House - is also completely
opposed to any peaceful resolution of the crisis in
Latin America is at a crucial crossroads, as reactionary forces strive to reverse all the democratic and social gains of the past two decades. At this crucial moment, all friends of the Bolivarian Revolution need to step up our solidarity, by exposing the lies of the corporate media and defending Venezuela’s sovereign right to determine its own destiny, free from interference by Yankee imperialism.
The struggle to protect trans people in Canada from discrimination was in the headlines again during May, as the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee conducted hearings into Bill C-16, legislation to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. The Bill also amends the Criminal Code to extend legal protections against hate propaganda to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression.
The precursor to this legislation, Private Member's Bill C-279, eventually failed last year due to the complicated Parliamentary amendment process. Bill C-16 is a critical step in recognizing that trans rights are human rights, and has passed second reading in the Commons. Senators are currently hearing from trans people (including trans and gender creative kids and their families) who support the passing of the Bill.
But other interventions are also being made by Senators and some transphobic witnesses who are whipping up fear of "the other," and raising arguments that C-16 would threaten safety, gender equality, feminism, and free speech.
In response, on May 17 a number of prominent women’s anti-violence organizations released the following joint statement to the Senate, which must pass the Bill before it can be sent back to the Commons for third and final approval:
We are writing in support of Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, adding gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. We include the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centers, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, Ryerson University Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education, and Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre.
It is disconcerting that the hearings for C-16 only included one representative from sexual violence prevention and support services. Violence against women, sexual violence and gender based violence organizations are not a monolithic group. The testimony provided by a rape crisis centre/shelter at the C-16 hearing on May 10th does not represent or align with organizational practices of many of sexual violence and violence against women services. This testimony perpetuated harmful myths about trans and gender diverse people, including that trans women are not real women and that trans people are not subjected to gendered violence. Trans women are women, and trans, two-spirit and gender diverse people are, in fact, at heightened risk for sexual violence.
Barriers such as harassment in schools, discrimination in employment and
housing, as well as familial and peer rejection, create the economic and
institutional conditions for homelessness, gender-based discrimination and risk
of violence. In
As individuals and organizations committed to ending gender-based violence in
Bill C-16 will bolster efforts to ensure sexual violence support services are
available to all survivors of violence across
PV Ontario Bureau
One consequence of the change of leadership made at the 2014 Canadian Labour Congress convention was that the new CLC leadership felt confident enough to invite Angela Davis, a leading black liberation activist and former Vice-Presidential candidate for the Communist Party USA, to address the delegates and other social activists at the May 7 Human Rights forum on the eve of the 2017 Convention.
Interest was high as hundreds of delegates lined up to attend; only after they were seated were the public allowed into the hall. CLC Vice-President Marie Clarke-Walker welcomed social activists from Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance, the Migrants Workers Alliance and the Workers Action Centre, who were eager to hear what Angela would say about the state of the struggle for progressive change in the United States in wake of the election of Donald Trump as President.
Angela did not disappoint. She noted that we were meeting on unceded indigenous land, and that no struggle for social justice could exist without the indigenous struggle at its core.
She noted and thanked the support of the Canadian labour movement when she was a fugitive facing the death penalty from the American imperialist legal system, at a time when Richard Nixon was President, Ronald Reagan was Governor, and J. Edgar Hoover was head of the FBI. The international campaign which led to her freedom showed that a movement can defeat the most powerful people in the world.
She said the topic of her speech was how to revitalize the labour movement. “The labour movement must be at the centre of any radical programme. While the election of Trump with his racist, sexist and Islamophobic agenda represented a crisis for social justice, it also represented an opportunity for radical change”.
cited that fact that one day after Trump was sworn in as President, hundreds of
thousands of women filled the streets of
To revitalize the labour movement means we must challenge its hierarchy. We must bring into the movement jobs that have traditionally not been part of the movement, jobs that have traditionally been considered women’s work. Citing the analysis of Frederich Engels in Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, women’s work has historically been reproductive labour, i.e. in reproducing the working class. She said that without women’s work, no other labour is possible.
She cited the role of the women domestic workers in the forefront of working
class struggle in the
Angela said the feminism that will infuse the struggle for social justice is that of her mother, who was a domestic worker before going to high school and college. It is not the feminism of Hilary Clinton who wants to shatter the glass ceiling at the top, but the struggle for transformation from below.
Her life-long struggle for the abolition of prisons is informed by her Marxist
analysis. Prisons are both a form of institutionalized racism and a punitive
and restorative method of capitalist control of the proletariat. Of the 2.5
million prisoners in the
The election of Donald Trump was based on appeals to defend what have
traditionally been the jobs of white workers. His attacks on immigrants from
She said what is needed is a movement that involves all workers. It must be a struggle that is feminist, anti-racist and proletarian. Men must take on the anti-racist and anti-sexist fights, not adding to the already overburdened struggle of women for their liberation. It must be global in scope - she noted that most of the workers in the globalized maquiladoras are women.
She ended by saying that she knows that many in
Finally, it was quite refreshing to see hundreds of activists cheer and clap when she asked how many Marxists were present in the room. As she put it, “after all, there is no post-Marxism because we still have Capitalism”!
By Nino Pagliccia
Every time the Venezuelan “opposition” decides to make the government responsible for the disorder they cause, they invariably invoke the "constitutional order” being broken. The mainstream media obliges and repeats the same thing. Or the MSM says it first and the “opposition” obliges with more violent disorder.
The Canadian government, and more loudly the Conservative opposition in
Parliament, is doing exactly the same. They follow the incitement of an ad hoc
anti-Chavista “Venezuelan lobby” in
They invariably claim that the Venezuelan government breaks the constitution. But with some exceptions that the Maduro government has quickly rectified,  the Venezuelan constitution has been followed to the letter. Chavistas will never break what they consider one of Chavez’ most important legacies. They will respect it to the end. There will be room for improvement but the essence will remain.
The “opposition” started with a (failed) coup in 2002 - nothing constitutional about that. In fact, when the whole Bolivarian building was struck down immediately by the “golpistas”, we never heard cries of a broken constitutional order. In fact, the Venezuelan people (not the right-wing) actually took on the task of restoring the constitutional order by reinstating Chavez as the legitimate president.
Even when the far right opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD, in Spanish) gained a majority in the National Assembly in the 2015 elections, they did not stop there. They attempted to swear in three candidates who had committed electoral fraud, forcing a constitutional breakdown by doing so.
There have been other acts of violence in 2004 and 2014 by right-wing
The National Assembly controlled by the MUD coalition immediately accepted Almagro’s
report, saying that “the Inter-American Democratic Charter carried more legal
This blatant call for foreign intervention encouraged social disorder in
Recently, at an international meeting with intellectuals in
Every action of violence by the “opposition” is not a “peaceful protest”; it is a threat to the constitutional order that forces the government to a strong reaction to quell the violence. Those actions are directly responsible for the death of more than 40 Venezuelans, protesters as well as government supporters, including soldiers of the Bolivarian National Police.
Many protesters were imprisoned for breaking the law and some are expected to appear in a military court. The reaction has been immediate: why are civilians being prosecuted in a military court, implying yet another unconstitutional action by the government.
In fact, the reality is totally within the Venezuelan constitution. Specifically, Article 261, which explains that the scope of jurisdiction, organization and modalities of operation of the military criminal jurisdiction, is governed by the justice system and in accordance with the provisions of the Organic Code of Military Justice.
The Constitution of
That is the constitutional order, like it or not. It is no one else’s business
outside Venezuelans to question that. The OAS, the
In an open letter, the Communist Party of Venezuela warns, “These acts have been accompanied by a national and international propaganda war which looks to sow confusion and instigate confrontation between nations, creating a state of chaos and violence which only favours a bloody resolution of the political crisis, be it through a coup or a direct intervention by North American imperialism and the international institutions at its beck and call.” 
If the real opposition in
That should also be the goal of those who support the opposition if they really
 The March 29 decision of the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (Supreme Court) to temporarily revoke the powers of the Venezuelan National Assembly in response to the Assembly’s seating of three opposition legislators accused of fraud. The TSJ mostly reversed its decision on April 1.
By Zoltan Zigedy, mltoday.com, April 27, 2017
Exactly ten years ago this past April 7, I posted an article on Marxism-Leninism Today entitled Tabloid Political Economy: The Coming Depression. It was my first and only attempt at economic prognostication, always a challenging and risky venture.
The "Tabloid" in the article's title was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the headline in the April, 2007 issue of a now defunct supermarket tabloid, Weekly World News. Featured between Virgin Mary Slaps Boy and Jews Invented Pizzoh was the shrill admonition: Surviving the Next Great Depression! It's Coming This Summer!
It didn't come in the summer of 2007.
In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average continued to climb seemingly with no limit, reaching a new peak in the fall of 2007. The pundits continued to extol the virtues of unbridled capitalism.
While the folks at WWN built their case on scant evidence ("Skyrocketing gas prices, escalating war, crashing housing prices, calamitous weather and freefalling stock prices..."), there were many other good reasons to take their prediction seriously, reasons which I offered in my article. Unfortunately, the print edition did not survive to see the collapse that rocked the foundations of the global capitalist economy the following year.
Nonetheless, the zany supermarket tabloid proved to be far more prescient than the Nobel laureates, academics, and popular pundits who postured as learned economists yet never saw the collapse coming.
Ten Years On
The global economy never fully recovered from the crash of 2008. Instead, it has stumbled along from one setback to another, with economic growth only marginally topping population growth. When both the enormous loss of wealth from the crash and the obscenely unequal distribution of the wealth recovered since the crash are configured, it is fair to say that the vast majority of the world's population have seen little or no recovery. In fact, the casualties from the crash continue to pile up.
For three months in a row, since January, durable goods orders (excluding volatile transportation orders) have dropped. Industrial production fell 0.1% in January and was unchanged in February. Factory output dropped 0.4% in March from February and was only up 0.8% from a year earlier.
Bank loan growth has slowed. Retail sales slowed by 0.3% in February and 0.2% in March. Inflation, as a measure of consumer demand, dropped 0.3% in March. Retail stores are closing in unprecedented numbers and retail employment growth has slowed.
Sales of new cars—the principal driver of consumption growth since the crash— has fallen for three straight months. Auto dealers are now offering buyer incentives that are greater than the labour costs of production (labour costs are less than $2500 per car, on average). Incentives account for 10.5% of average sticker price ($31, 435). Yet the average car sits for over 70 days on the lot.
Used car prices were down 8% in February, another sign of declining demand. And auto loan defaults are on the rise.
In stark human terms, the
With reduced earnings, more and more workers are drawing on their retirement savings: 20% of 401(k)s have been reduced through self-loans.
Not surprisingly, household debt in 2016 grew the most in a decade. Unlike in the lead-up to the crash, mortgage debt is growing modestly, still below the explosive growth rate of that time. Instead, the growth in debt is in credit cards, auto loans, and student loans. Auto loan debt has reached $1.2 trillion, while student debt has risen to $1.3 trillion.
Student debt is particularly crippling. There are 42 million outstanding loans. The average student loan debt jumped from $26,300 in 2013 to $30,650 in 2016. Defaults went from 3.6 million in 2015 to 4.2 million in 2016.
And senior citizens are saddled with growing debt as well. In 1998, 30% of people 65 and older were in debt. In 2012, the percentage of seniors in debt reached 43.3. Growing debt comes in the wake of the collapse of net worth since 2005, when it topped $300,000 among those 55 to 64. By 2013, average net worth within that group dropped to $168,900 (even below the net worth of $175,300 reached in 1989).
Talking heads and media "experts" hail the job market. But they seldom delve deeply into its performance. Put simply, capitalists are hiring additional workers, rather than purchasing labour-saving equipment, because labour is cheap and flexible. The failure of organized labour to defend or advance labour's relative position has served as a disincentive for capitalist investment in new technologies and equipment. They see no need to do so, when labour power can be used on demand, with no restrictions, and at low costs.
That trend is clearly reflected in the most recent period's historically poor growth in productivity, among the lowest periods of productivity growth since the Second World War. Contrary to the widespread hawking of the idea that most workers are in danger of being replaced by robots, corporations are showing little interest in the introduction of new or old technologies. They are spending very little on equipment. While the technology may be there, capitalists have shown little need for it, given low labour costs.
As Shawn Sprague shows in a recent BLS paper, since 2009 the growth of aggregate hours-worked has grown more quickly than the growth of non-farm business output. This fact demonstrates that US capitalists feel little pressure to "save" labour while restoring profits during the so-called "recovery." Rather than having existing workers work more hours, they are hiring more workers at low wages and contingently. Profits rebounded nicely because the working class had been slammed by the downturn, rendering the employment costs so low that there was no need to invest in labour-saving equipment.
This harsh truth has been ignored by economists and labour leaders alike because it shows the complete bankruptcy of class collaboration as an approach to social justice for workers.
Today, capital is profoundly afraid that, with reduced unemployment, competition for labour power will drive up the costs of labour and erode profits. The Trump tax change package, favourable to corporations and the repatriation of profits, is one ruling class response to this anticipated problem.
Despite the return of an overheated housing market with escalating prices (lagging new construction is fueling demand), no systemic accumulation crisis comparable to that of 2007-2008 appears on the immediate horizon. Instead, the post-collapse era of stagnation and deteriorating living standards continues for the working class.
As the shrinking income and mounting debt of working people erodes aggregate consumption, the possibility of a business cycle contraction grows more and more likely. The long, tepid expansion transferred nearly all its gains to the wealthy few, leaving little but debt or asset cannibalization for the majority. With declining retail sales, especially auto sales, and the growing weight of personal debt, the likelihood of further consumption growth is in doubt.
A business cycle contraction will only further weaken the position of working people, setting them up for a further dose of sacrifice and pain.
Isn't it time to get off the capitalist roller coaster?
Packingtown scores at Hogtown Mayworks
Toronto's 32nd Mayworks Festival of Working People and the
Arts concluded on an artistic high note on May 7th with a performance of the
video ballad Packingtown, a
multi-media people's history of the struggles of Edmonton meatpacking workers
from 1908, through the epic 1986 Gainers strike, and beyond, to the demise of
the industry in the 1990s. The 60-minute performance piece weaves together live
music, written and performed by Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Maria Dunn,
with video footage, archival photos, and interviews by Ground Zero Productions
videographer Don Bouzek and historian-curator Catherine C. Cole. Packingtown refers to the site of
what was North America's second-largest stockyard, and the home of meatpacking
Canadians protest TSO Israel Tour
Nunca Más Mujer
Last November, twelve Chilean women songwriters and
musicians gathered at a retreat centre near the capital city of
Summer Folk Festival Roundup