People’s Voice June 1-15, 2017
Volume 25 – Number 11   $1






5) B.C. VOTED FOR CHANGE! - Editorial






11) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker



PEOPLE'S VOICE      June 1-15, 2017 (pdf)


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(The following articles are from the June 1-15, 2017, 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.)



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 Victoria. The election was virtually a referendum on a government widely and correctly seen as being totally committed to the interests of global capital, the wealthy and the corporations. Every major media corporation operating in BC has given huge political donations to the Liberals, making a mockery of any pretense to “objectivity”. But while constant media attacks demonized the NDP, the Liberals were unable to shake their own well-deserved reputation as a party bought and paid for by big energy monopolies and developers. For the 59% of voters who cast their ballots for the NDP, the Greens and smaller parties, the key issue was the need to defeat the most pro-corporate government in recent history. Instead, the unfair “first-past-the-post” electoral system will likely allow the Liberals to remain in office, at least temporarily. That could change if the Premier and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver are not able to work out a deal on the two key demands raised by the Greens for support of any minority government: a ban on political party donations from corporations and unions; and introduction of a proportional representation system.


            The Communist Party of BC agrees that a total ban on corporate donations is urgently needed. This is the only jurisdiction in Canada which allows unlimited donations, from inside or outside the country, and the corporate sector has taken full advantage to pour millions of dollars into the Liberal coffers. We do not support a ban against union donations, since the labour movement is democratically controlled by its members, who have a basic right to counter the political and ideological domination of big capital. But on balance, the change advocated by the Greens would be a big improvement over what the New York Times calls the “wild west” of BC politics. We are also strong supporters of proportional representation, which should not be arbitrarily restricted by so-called “thresholds” of three or five percent to elect MLAs.


            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 British Columbia.


            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 Kamloops, an important working class centre in BC.


            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 Victoria, there are growing possibilities for a powerful and united province-wide people’s fightback to reverse the damage inflicted by the Liberals over the past sixteen years, and to win a much more favourable balance of political forces in the Legislature in the next election.

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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 – Ontario, Prairies, British Columbia and the Atlantic.


            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 Canada Director Paul Thorp thanking the Canadian Council for its resolution of the dispute on Wednesday morning. He emphasized that the ATU’s constitution was no one’s business but those of its members, and that ATU remained loyal to the CLC.


            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 Las Vegas. Downey was backed by part of CUPE, despite the fact that Clark-Walker was a CUPE activist before being elected CLC Vice-President on 2002. Clark-Walker was elected by 1900 to 1200 votes.


            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 Saskatchewan Government Employees Union member Barb Byers was retiring. That meant that Donald Lafleur from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers was potentially going to be knocked off the position to which he had been elected in 2014, by Larry Rousseau from the Public Service Alliance.


            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 U.S. Congress that he intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The agenda of the Trump administration will be to attack labour rights by facilitating right-to-work legislation, and cut wages for up to 50%.


            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.

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By Doug Allan


            In  the lead up to Ontario’s 2017 Budget, the government crowed  that they had heard the public and would improve funding for hospitals. However, based on government  announcements, they actually plan to lower the hospital funding increase this year. 


            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, Ontario announced that it would increase hospital funding $345 million - about a 2% increase. Subsequently, the government announced another $140.3 million for hospital funding in the Fall Economic Statement – bringing the total increase to $485 million. That is, of course, already quite close to the much ballyhooed hospital funding increase of $518 million for 2017/18.


            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 Ontario. Sunnybrook hospital will become the second hospital in the Greater Toronto Area - along with Princess Margaret hospital - to provide a full range of Complex Malignant Haematology, including stem cell transplants. Apparently a very small portion of this work goes outside of the country, but most of this work is done in Ontario hospitals.


            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 Ontario.”


            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 non-Ministry of Health programs (6.2%).


            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.

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            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 Canada to address this convention and he noted that Palestinian postal workers greeted former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper with signs saying “Save Canada Post”.


            Opponents to the resolution called it racist because it signaled out Israel and failed to mention the death of Israeli citizens by suicide bombers. What these delegates did not mention, is that the Palestinian liberation movement halted that practice in 20014; nor did they mention the fact that the ratio of Palestinians killed by Israeli bombs in its attack on Gaza was 1300 to 1 in 2008 and 130 to 1 in 2004.


            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 Middle East. He urged all delegates to support the resolution. A large majority did just that.


            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.

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People’s Voice Editorial


            Two weeks after the May 9 election in British Columbia, there is still no definitive outcome as this issue of PV goes to press. But the initial count of absentee ballots gives the NDP slight gains over its election night results. This would leave the Legislature without a working majority: the incumbent Liberals reduced to 43 seats, the NDP up to 41, and three Greens, up from one in the last election. Looking at the share of votes, the Liberals have 40.7%, with the NDP now at 40.0%, the Greens at 16.7%, and others at 2.5%.


            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 Clark government, reverse the huge Liberal tax cuts for the rich and the corporations, expand democracy, take action for a sustainable environment and green jobs, and tackle the housing and poverty crises impacting millions of British Columbians. This approach is shared by a coalition of civil society groups which is calling on the Greens and NDP to agree to work together, including Leadnow, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the BC Health Coalition,, Force of Nature, One Cowichan, and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC.


            We agree; it’s time for change. End the Liberal era in Victoria, and put the interests of working people and the environment ahead of unchecked corporate greed!

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People’s Voice Editorial


            Desperate to overthrow democracy and reverse the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuela’s opposition groups are increasing resorting to open violence. An estimated sixty people have died during demonstrations and protests since early April. Although only a handful were killed by state security forces who face constant attacks, the international media has relentlessly portrayed a false picture of a “brutal” government targetting innocent protesters - the opposite of the truth. In one of the latest developments, opposition protesters torched the house in Barinas where Hugo Chavez spent his teenage years, destroyed five statues of the late President, and blocked roads into the city.


            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 Venezuela.


             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.

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PV Commentary


            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 Ontario alone, 20 percent of trans people experience physical or sexual assault due to their identity, and 34 percent are subjected to verbal threats or harassment.


            As individuals and organizations committed to ending gender-based violence in Canada, we wish to see a concerted effort to support all survivors — including trans, two-spirit and gender diverse people. Contrary to the suggestion that this bill will threaten “female born” women only spaces, such as rape crisis centers or shelters, we assert that C-16 will enable a necessary shift in service provision, removing some of the barriers trans, two-spirit and gender diverse people face when accessing supports. In Ontario, there are sexual assault centres and shelters beginning this work by developing trans-inclusion policies and providing training for staff to ensure trans and gender diverse survivors have necessary access to their services.


            Bill C-16 will bolster efforts to ensure sexual violence support services are available to all survivors of violence across Canada. This bill affirms the importance of equity and safety for trans, two-spirit and gender diverse people, sending a clear message that they will be heard and supported. We call on the Senate to take leadership on this issue by supporting C-16 to demonstrate your commitment to equity for all Canadians.

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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”.


            Davis cited that fact that one day after Trump was sworn in as President, hundreds of thousands of women filled the streets of Washington denouncing his election. Black women, queer women and immigrant women were in the leadership of this historic moment, demanding recognition of their struggle. She noted that the most important labour struggle in the USA at the moment, the Fight For $15 as a minimum wage, is led by Black women at Walmart and McDonalds.


            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 United States and in France. In 1881, the Working Women’s Society organized a strike in the U.S. South for a uniform wage and respect from their employers. Black domestic workers working in white homes joined that strike. Women workers led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, which sparked the civil rights struggle and the leadership of Martin Luther King. That historical struggle continues to this day. The National Domestic Worker Alliance formed in 2000 had activists who became leaders in Black Lives Matter following the murder of Michael Brown by a while police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2015.


            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 US, 200,000 are women. She noted that the first women’s prisons in the 1870s tried to reform women to become skilled in domestic labour, in the model of a bourgeois wife.


            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 Mexico and Latin America and his attack on Muslims are the basis of racist and fascist appeals to divide the working class.


            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 Canada hope that the Trump administration lasts only one term. She assured the audience that many in the US hope it ends sooner than that. She saluted the support she has witnessed from the Canadian labour movement.


            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”!

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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 Canada that naturally feeds MPs with false and biased information.


            They invariably claim that the Venezuelan government breaks the constitution. But with some exceptions that the Maduro government has quickly rectified, [1] 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 protesters in Venezuela, but none as violent as the current one. It is not a coincidence that it follows the release of the infamous report by Luis Almagro of the OAS, and the instigator the United States, calling for the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter against Venezuela.


            The National Assembly controlled by the MUD coalition immediately accepted Almagro’s report, saying that “the Inter-American Democratic Charter carried more legal weight than Venezuela’s 1999 Bolivarian Constitution, and called for the legislation to be applied against Venezuela due to an alleged “breakdown of the democratic order”.” [2]


            This blatant call for foreign intervention encouraged social disorder in Venezuela and endorsed the violent behaviour of the “opposition”.


            Recently, at an international meeting with intellectuals in Caracas, President Maduro stated: “In 18 years Venezuela has had 20 elections and none have been recognized by the right-wing and imperialism… they [the protesters] have no interest in elections.” [3]


            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 Venezuela establishes that if a civilian commits a military crime, such as aggression against military personnel or property, he/she can be submitted to military jurisdiction and not to an ordinary court. There are provisions for the accused to appeal a military prosecution. [4] Some appeals have already been won by the accused.


            That is the constitutional order, like it or not. It is no one else’s business outside Venezuelans to question that. The OAS, the US and Canadian governments should stay out of it, especially when they are not properly informed or are misinformed. Otherwise it constitutes a dangerous interference into the internal affairs of Venezuela.


            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.” [5]


            If the real opposition in Venezuela was concerned about constitutional order, it would join the National Constituent Assembly in the process of being formed and give its input on how to have a better constitution for the country that they would not be inclined to break. The constitutional lawyer, Hermann Escarrá, reiterated that "this Assembly is not intended to replace the Constitution of 1999, but rather it is to open spaces and expand it for its improvement ... no one is excluded, we are all included." [6]


            That should also be the goal of those who support the opposition if they really care about Venezuela and a peaceful process.


[1] 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.











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By Zoltan Zigedy,, 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.


            The US economy is neither healthy nor without serious symptoms. Despite the market euphoria that surprisingly accompanied the Trump election, the Atlanta Federal Reserve has lowered its growth expectations for the first quarter to 0.5% from an earlier forecast of 3%. Other projections have similarly dropped.


            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.


            The US trade gap— the difference between imports and exports— reached a 5-year high in February.


            In stark human terms, the US economy is failing working people. Between January 2016 and January 2017, average hourly earnings slipped 0.1% and the hours of the average workweek dropped 0.3%. This calculates to a 0.4% loss in real average earnings for those twelve months.


            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.


            US capitalists have enjoyed a decade of low labour costs, no pressure to invest retained earnings, and high profits (corporate after-tax profits dipped in 2015, but came back smartly in 2016). By securing labour power at low costs, they have foregone the purchase of labour-saving instruments and achieved modest growth by expanding employment.


            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?

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11) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker


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 giants Canada Packers, Burns, and Swift (re-branded as Gainers in 1980 by Edmonton financial mogul Peter Pocklington). The video ballad form is brilliantly realized by the collaborating artists. The vintage images, interviews, and live performances are perfectly synchronized, as the narrative moves back and forth between everyday life and collective struggle with humour, pathos, and anger. Kudos to Maria Dunn - an accomplished songwriter and performer - and to her supporting musicians, violinist Shannon Johnson and saxophonist and low-whistle player Jeremiah McDade. For more info: and


Canadians protest TSO Israel Tour


The Toronto Symphony Orchestra launched its first-ever tour of Israel with a May 3rd "Arabian Nights Pre-Tour Concert" at Toronto's Roy Thompson Hall. The send-off for the tour, which included several concerts in Europe, followed a winter fund-raising campaign that ignored the protests and petitions of Palestinian solidarity organizations like the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) and the Canadian BDS Coalition. The TSO's tour included concerts at Sherover Hall, Jerusalem on May 11 and the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv on May 13. In its statement, the CAIA charged the TSO with "lending its prestige and reputation to legitimize a state which is responsible for ongoing human rights abuses". Those abuses include holding two million people under siege in Gaza for the past ten years, flouting both international law and official Canadian policy by moving half a million Israeli citizens into illegal settlements in the occupied territories, and systematic destruction of Palestinian homes and olive groves. The unprecedented TSO tour will be reciprocated with a performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Toronto on October 28, 2017. Read the full CAIA statement at


Nunca Más Mujer


Last November, twelve Chilean women songwriters and musicians gathered at a retreat centre near the capital city of Santiago for a weekend workshop to harness the power of song as a tool in the struggle to end violence against women. The gathering was convened by the Popular Education for Health Foundation (EPES), an organization that was founded during the era of the military dictatorship (1973-90) to help working-class women organize for better living conditions. Leading the workshop was Holly Near, the American singer, feminist, and peace activist. Near's 1978 song "Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida" ('There's a Woman Missing') helped ignite international condemnation of the Pinochet regime's forced disappearances and systematic human rights violations. Near and EPES have been collaborating for more than a decade. The workshop's agenda included an EPES presentation about violence against women, Near's reflections on effective political uses of song, as well as individual and group composition. 'Nunca Más Mujer' ('Never Again, Woman') is a captivating  song that was composed by the workshop participants. It was released in April, accompanied by a nation-wide promotional and educational campaign. Check it out on YouTube.


Summer Folk Festival Roundup


Sumer Is Icumen In" as the medieval English round song says. For many music lovers this means it's time to go to a folk festival, pitch a tent, hang out with friends and family, and enjoy some laid-back music. Here are some of the best-known Canadian folk festivals, with their dates, plus a sampling of performers (most of whom have been mentioned at some time in this column). Starting things off is the Festival folk de Montréal, where you can catch Sarah Harmer and James Keelaghan (June 14-18). The Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, NS celebrates Canada Day weekend with Garnet Rogers and Dave Gunning (June 30-July 2). The Winnipeg Folk Festival has some big names, including Feist and Bruce Cockburn (July 6-9).  You can see folksinger/activist Si Kahn and nu-calypso/reggae band Kobo Town at the Mariposa Folk Festival, just north of Toronto (July 7-9). On the West Coast, the Vancouver Folk Festival showcases Billy Bragg and Rhiannon Giddens (July 13-16). The Calgary Folk Festival has Coeur de Pirate and Tanya Tagaq (July 27-30). On the East Coast you can catch Amelia Curran and David Francey at the Lunenberg Folk Harbour Festival (August 10-13). The Edmonton Folk Festival features Martin & Eliza Carthy and Mary Chapin Carpenter (August 10-13). Happy summer days and nights! For more info:


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