People’s Voice July 1-31, 2016
Volume 24 – Number 11   $1

CONTENTS

1) FREELAND CONFRONTS ANGER OVER TPP IN HER RIDING

2) SAVE PUBLIC EDUCATION - REJECT THE B.C. LIBERAL TWO-TIER SCHOOL AGENDA

3) LATIN AMERICA: CIVIL SOCIETY CAMPAIGNS AGAINST TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP

4) NO CANADIAN TROOPS IN THE BALTICS! - Editorial

5) PENSION BATTLE ENTERS NEXT ROUND - Editorial

6) CUBA: PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY IN A ONE-PARTY SYSTEM

7) AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL! - Pride 2016 Statement

8) A VICTORY FOR POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY - DEFEAT FOR EU-IMF-NATO AXIS

9) WHY THE MORNING STAR URGED A “LEAVE” VOTE

10) THE INFAMY OF DYING IN PRISON

11) HISTORIC LABOUR STRUGGLE ROCKS FRANCE

12) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

 


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

1) FREELAND CONFRONTS ANGER OVER TPP IN HER RIDING

By Drew Garvie, reprinted from http://rebelyouth-magazine.blogspot.ca/

            On June 16, Chrystia Freeland, the Liberal Minister of International Trade visited her own riding of University-Rosedale in downtown Toronto in order to “listen” to the public as part of her promised consultation tour on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The message Freeland heard was a clear and resounding “No to the TPP”.

            It was a close to capacity crowd with hundreds in attendance at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business. A large crowd gathered outside in a festival themed rally, complete with a 30 foot, red-eyed, inflatable horse, meant to represent the TPP as a Trojan horse.

            Inside, the Honourable Minister kicked off the meeting with an introduction talking vaguely about the importance of these consultations and with some painful pandering to University-Rosedale constituents. Jerry Dias, President of Unifor, opened the discussion focussing on the loss of jobs in the auto and manufacturing sector that will be a result of the TPP.

            Michael Geist, a Law Professor at the University of Ottawa, spoke about how the TPP will bolster copyright laws that will limit works in the public domain, attack net neutrality, restrict any possible future pharmacare program, and of course threaten sovereignty and democracy through the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms. ISDS means that corporations have increased rights to sue governments.

            The only proponent of the TPP on the panel was Daniel Schwanen, Vice President of Research at the C.D. Howe Institute, a public policy think-tank tied to Bay Street. Schwanen is a former CIBC economist, and even his review of the TPP was far from glowing. He said the increased per-person income for Canadians would be about the same as the Liberals’ latest “middle class tax cut”, so a few hundred dollars. What he did not specify is which class exactly will be the recipient of increased income under the TPP. When he asked Freeland to decide if we’re in or we’re out, there was a loud response of “OUT” from the audience.

            For the next 90 minutes there were questions and comments from the floor. The meeting went 45 minutes overtime and heard from just under 40 people. My tally sheet results were: 34 strongly against the TPP, 3 in favour, and 2 somewhere in the middle.

            Some speakers urged rejection because of the dangers the TPP posed in particular areas. A health care professional urged rejection because of the increased powers the monopoly pharmaceutical industry would have in driving up drug costs, which will mean the provinces may chose to forgo buying expensive drugs such as those used to treat hepatitis C, which affects hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

            Climate change activists demanded urgent action on curbing carbon emissions from Canada and asked how the TPP would affect the ability of government to pass meaningful legislation when it comes into conflict with foreign investor rights under the TPP.

            A representative of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries warned that an extension of copyright laws, adding an additional 20 years to the current 50 after an author’s death, will mean a reduction in publicly available literature, knowledge, art and culture.

            An Indigenous woman associated with the UofT’s law program directed a plea at Freeland not to sign the TPP if the government is serious about their pledge to build a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples. She placed the TPP in the context of the struggle of Indigenous peoples and their right to exist saying that “the TPP is an act of aggression against Indigenous peoples.” She noted that the right to free and informed consent to development affecting Indigenous communities comes into conflict with corporate rights under the TPP.

            A prevalent theme in the points raised from the floor was skepticism for the Liberals’ consultation process. It has been very unclear what the government is looking for, and what response it will take in order for them to reject the deal.

            In fact, the consultation process has been called a sham by many, including the Council of Canadians and the Communist Party of Canada, well in advance of this meeting. Many of the consultations have been invitation only with a small group of big business representatives. This meeting in University-Rosedale was something relatively new in that there was a lot of discussion allowed from the floor, and it was less of an obvious government PR presentation.

            But the question remains: is the government committed to consultations only in so far as they provide a veneer of democracy to their firm commitment to pro-corporate trade deals? Certainly many presenters felt that way and said so. A 93 year-old sister stood up and asked Freeland to clarify the process, “issue me a ballpark figure. How many roundtables will you need to scrap the TPP?"

            Another brother made the comment that, "in these consultations you’re made to feel like a serf pleading to the king." I would argue that the meeting had more of a peasant revolt vibe at times. Here are some memorable comments, all from different speakers:

            "I don't trust you. Is Trudeau just a pretty face and a marketing person? Big business runs the country and I'm tired of it!"

            "The TPP really stands for Treasonous Privatization Plot."

            "The solution to our Plutocrat Problem is not the TPP [Freeland wrote a book about plutocrats]. We need to take our democracy back from the greedy bastards who stole it. The only solution is to tell the plutocrats enough!"

            From a Unifor sister: "This is a free trade agreement. It's free for the corporations and free-fall for the Canadian working class."

            "If you pass the TPP, I'll leave the Liberal Party. I worked hard to get the corporate agenda of the Tories gone, and I hope it is."

“You do not have a mandate to commit treason!!!"

            These comments, and many more like these, prompted the most applause from the audience. They also prompted a comment in the wrap-up speeches from the ex-banker and C.D. Howe representative that discussions on trade agreements were a lightning rod for those who were disenchanted with the political and economic system more generally. This caused a lot of eye-rolling and a “nationalize the banks” shout from the audience. However, the more general comments talking about the TPP as part of the broader austerity agenda of privatization and the corporate drive to boost profits is exactly what the TPP is about.

            So what about the lonely three who spoke out in favour of the TPP? One was a representative of a food exporter association, one was an independent researcher on the TPP, and one was a representative of beef producers. So in short, all were most likely being paid to be there. Another sister pointed out that the TPP might be good for agribusiness, but that does not mean it is good for farmers, food safety and food sovereignty.

            After the overwhelming rejection of the TPP by the rabble in the audience, the tone switched back to polite policy discussion with short closing statements from each of the panelists and Freeland. Jerry Dias, President of Unifor, who again reiterated his union’s opposition to the TPP, tried to strike a more conciliatory tone than the many voices from the floor. He disagreed with the speaker from the floor who said she did not trust the Liberals. Dias said he “trusted the government to make the right decision” and pointed to the fact that these consultations would not have happened under the Harper Conservatives.             Dias’ willingness to work with the Liberals was foreshadowed in a bizarre exchange at the start of the meeting where he and Freeland both said that Dias should join “Team Canada”, a tri-partite negotiating team created by the Liberals to get better terms for corporate Canada in free trade negotiations.  

            The labour movement should be concerned that the leader of the largest private sector union in the country is confused about the nature of the Liberal government and free trade, to such an extent that he thinks his role is by their side in negotiating corporate trade agreements. Politely rejecting a bad deal, and pledging to work on a better one, is a losing strategy.

            One of the last speakers from the floor put forward a winning strategy: learn from the workers of France who built a mass struggle on the streets to oppose the pro-corporate laws and politicians.

            Freeland concluded the meeting with a few patronizing remarks, warning the audience not to “drown out minority voices” and making sure meetings are not “just an echo chamber.” She said she was taking heat from the press and the Conservatives about having too much consultation, but that this experience had reinforced “the importance of listening to Canadians.” Freeland shied away from making a final push for the TPP, but did say that she was very proud of the CETA deal, which had been partially renegotiated after the Liberal government was formed. This is keeping with an emerging government narrative that, “the TPP is the fault of the Conservatives, but we have to go through with it”.

            Throughout the meeting a handful of people raised the point of view that the TPP is dead on arrival. Trump is against it. Clinton, originally for it, is against it. So why is Canada still pursuing it if it will not survive after the US election? Presumably the Liberal government knows what most should: that you cannot trust promises made during a US Presidential campaign.

            The TPP is designed to isolate China and is the economic accompaniment to the US military’s “Pivot to Asia”, the build up of military forces in the region. The TPP has been described as “as important as an aircraft carrier” by the US Defense Secretary. As the global capitalist economy continues to wobble, we can assume that the drive to control resources and cheap labour, to crush working class resistance and isolate potential rivals, will continue. It is for this reason that the TPP and other agreements, like the TTIP and CETA, will continue to be pushed by big business, Washington and Ottawa. It is also why those of us who want fair and balanced trade which protects good jobs, unions and help raise living standards need to step up the fight against the TPP.

            The more people learn about it, the more opposition grows, and we have defeated free trade deals like the FTAA and the MAI in recent history. This event was a good start and it certainly showed that we do not have to put misplaced trust in Freeland, Trudeau, Trump or Clinton to do the right thing. We can defeat the TPP!

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2) SAVE PUBLIC EDUCATION - REJECT THE B.C. LIBERAL TWO-TIER SCHOOL AGENDA

Statement from the Communist Party-BC, June 27, 2016

            With less than a year before the May 2017 election in British Columbia, anger and resistance are growing over Premier Christy Clark’s anti-public education agenda. The Communist Party of BC will run candidates in several ridings across across the province, campaigning against the Liberal government’s huge injections of taxpayer dollars to private schools, at the expense of crowded and understaffed public schools. It is no exaggeration to state that the Premier’s intent is to create a two-tier school system, one category of elite schools for the rich, and a second class for the poor and working class people. This agenda began to take shape during Clark’s first term as Education Minister under Gordon Campbell, and it must be decisively defeated before it inflicts enormous damage on yet another generation of students.

            Under the BC Liberals since 2001, the percentage of British Columbia students attending private schools has more than doubled, and provincial funding of these schools has skyrocketed. At the same time, an estimated 250 public schools have been closed due mainly to underfunding, creating enormous hardship for residents of many communities. The government has forced school boards and communities to devote vast amounts of time and energy to the school closure processes, rather than focussing on ways to improve educational outcomes for students.

            Despite the government’s claims that public education is well-funded, the annual amount per student spent by the BC government is a shocking $1000 below the Canadian average, and spending on public education has fallen from about 20% of the provincial budget, to just 15%. The Liberals’ first term in office included the illegal tearing-up of collective bargaining agreements for teachers and health care workers, with the aim of weakening labour resistance to right-wing austerity policies. This attack was accompanied by huge tax breaks for the wealthy and the corporations, taking over $2 billion annually out of provincial revenues. Their “create a crisis” strategy helped set the stage for repeated cuts to education, health care, social programs, and people on disability and social assistance.

            Teachers, education workers, students and parents fought back courageously against the impact of this corporate agenda on public schools. Progressive school trustees, in Vancouver and elsewhere, worked hard to help mount a broad and sustained fightback, and to minimize the impact of funding cuts on schools in low-income neighbourhoods, and on students those with special needs, Aboriginal students, ESL and immigrant students, LGBTQ+ students, etc.

            Unfortunately, while the NDP opposition has criticized the government, it did not mobilize its supporters to build these grassroots struggles, or to demand full restoration of education funding. Putting its narrow electoral ambitions first, the NDP tried to appear “reasonable,” and failed to challenge the underlying rationale for the Liberal austerity drive - the Fraser Institute lie that transferring billions of dollars from the working class to the rich and the corporations will somehow “improve the economy”.

            Now, the government’s education strategy has become fully apparent, as more and more British Columbians put the pieces together. The Premier’s claim to appear “fiscally responsible” by imposing an arbitrary “95% capacity” rule for larger urban school districts, forcing Boards to close schools in order to receive seismic upgrading funds, has been widely condemned as a threat to students, teachers and staff who would suffer the consequences of a massive earthquake. The so-called “family friendly Premier” is in reality a cynical hostage taker, willing to risk thousands of human lives for the sake of protecting tax breaks for the wealthiest citizens and corporations. Faced with a growing public revolt, the Premier engaged in a last-minute PR stunt, offering funds to keep a handful of schools in (mainly) Liberal ridings open, a move which further angered trustees, parents, teachers and students, since it came too late in the 2016-17 budget process to make any real difference.

            This political fiasco has led to a closer examination of the real state of education funding in British Columbia. New revelations have exposed the fact that parents of students in private and religious schools get thousands of dollars in tax breaks to offset enrolment fees which often range from $20,000 to $35,000. For example, Revenue Canada grants over $3600 in annual child-care deductions against the tuition cost of each student at private schools until the age of 16. Wealthy families can also establish a family trust, used to pay a child up to $18,000 in dividend income tax free, which will pay most of their private school tuition. For those without such trusts, tuition at religious schools is almost entirely tax deductible. And of course, the BC government kicks in tens of millions of dollars, providing grants over $3,000 in direct subsidies for every private school student. In short, while the impression is given that those who send their children to private schools are “paying their own way,” most tuition costs are actually paid by the general public, including working class families whose neighbourhood schools are being closed to help give tax breaks to the rich!

            As the truth about this massive scam comes to light, demands are rising across British Columbia to reverse the government’s deliberate moves to destroy the public school system by encouraging the expansion of private schools.

            The Communist Party of BC demands:

- return $2 billion annually to provincial revenues by reversing the Liberal tax breaks for the rich and the corporations;

- end every form of public financial support for private and religious schools;

- restore the billions of dollars in education cuts under the BC Liberals to the public school system;

- work closely with the BCTF, BCCPAC, and other partners in the public education system to make immediate and substantial improvements in teaching and learning conditions, especially for the most vulnerable students, families and communities.

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3) LATIN AMERICA: CIVIL SOCIETY CAMPAIGNS AGAINST TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP

Mexico City, June 20 (IPS/Emilio Godoy)

            Civil society organisations from Chile, Mexico and Peru are pressing their legislatures and those of other countries not to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

            The agreement, signed in New Zealand on Feb. 4, is now pending parliamentary approval in the 12 countries of the bloc, in a process led by Malaysia. Chile, Mexico and Peru are the three Latin American partners.

            The treaty will enter into effect two months after it has been ratified by all the signatories, or if six or more countries, which together represent at least 85 percent of the total GDP of the 12 partners, have ratified it within two years.

            "We are seeking a dialogue with like-minded parliamentary groups that defend national interests, and we provide them with information. We want to use the parliaments as hubs, and we also want dialogues with organisations from the United States, Canada and the Asian countries," Carlos Bedoya, a Peruvian activist with the Latin American Network on Debt, Development and Rights (LATINDADD), told IPS.

            Civil society groups in Peru created the "Our Rights Are Not Negotiable" coalition, to reject the most controversial parts of the agreement.

            With similar initiatives, "A Better Chile without TPP" and "A Better Mexico without TPP", non-governmental organisations and civil society figures are protesting the negative effects that the treaty would have on their societies.

            The activists complain that the intellectual property chapter of the agreement stipulates a minimum of five years of data protection for clinical trials for Mexico and Peru. In the case of biologics, the period is three years for Mexico and 10 years for Peru. In Chile, in both cases it will be five years of protection, in line with its other free trade agreements.

            These barriers delay cheaper, generic versions of drugs from entering the market for a longer period of time.

            Another aspect criticised by activists is that the member countries must submit disputes over investments to extraterritorial bodies, like the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

            The alliances against the TPP also criticise the provisions for Internet service providers to oversee content on the web in order to control the distribution of material that violates copyright laws.

            Latin American activists complain as well about the US demand that the partners reform domestic laws and regulations to bring them into line with the TPP, in a process separate from or parallel to ratification by the legislature. In addition, they protest that Washington was given the role of certifying that each partner has faithfully implemented the agreement.

            The TPP emerged from the expansion of an alliance signed in 2006 by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, within the framework of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. These countries were later joined by Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States and Vietnam. The economies in the bloc represent 40 percent of global GDP and 20 percent of world trade.

            The agreement encompasses areas like customs, textiles, investment, telecommunications, e-commerce, dispute settlement, and labour and environmental issues.

            The TPP "has negative effects on health and economic development. It won't benefit our countries. But there will be a lengthy debate, because it contains issues that generate conflict," Carlos Figueroa, a Chilean activist with his country's coalition against the treaty, which encompasses 99 organisations, prominent individuals and five parliamentarians, told IPS.

            Among its actions, the "A Better Chile without TPP" organises mass email campaigns to petition the government against the accord, promotes campaigns over the social networks, holds public demonstrations and is lobbying in parliament to block approval of the treaty.

            In Mexico, conservative President Enrique Pena Nieto has enough votes in the Senate, which is responsible for ratifying international accords, to approve the treaty, with the votes from the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, its ally the Green Party, and the opposition right-wing National Action Party.

            In Chile, socialist President Michelle Bachelet's centre-left alliance will be able to count on enough votes from the right to ratify the agreement.

            And in Peru, the party of President-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former World Bank economist and Wall Street banker in favour of free trade, has only a small number of seats in Congress. But a rival right-wing party, Fuerza Popular, which has a broad majority in the legislature, will approve the TPP, after the new government takes office in July and the new lawmakers are sworn in. But furthermore, in Peru, the content of any free trade agreement does not require legislative approval unless it goes beyond what was agreed in 2009 with the United States.

            Despite attempts by governments of the countries in the bloc to promote the positive impacts of the TPP, recent reports call the supposed benefits into question.

            "Global Economic Prospects; Potential Macroeconomic Implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership", a report published in January by the World Bank, projected that the treaty could boost the GDP of its members by 1.1 percent and their trade by 11 percent a year on average by 2030.

            In the case of Canada, Mexico and the United States, which have their own free trade agreement, NAFTA, since 1994, the benefit is just 0.6 percent of GDP.

            And for Mexico, the positive impact would be even more reduced, because the cuts in import duties give other members of the TPP greater access to the US market, the document says.

            Economists from Tufts University in the US state of Massachusetts had a more negative view of the trade deal, predicting "increasing inequality and job losses in all participating economies."

            "Trading Down: Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement", a study by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, estimates that the TPP would lead to employment loss in all member countries, with a total loss of 771,000 jobs, including 448,000 in the United States alone. In Mexico, 78,000 jobs would be lost, and in Chile and Peru, 14,000.

            The authors estimate that by 2025, Mexican exports will grow 6.2 percent and GDP one percent; Peru's exports will grow 7.1 percent and GDP 1.4 percent; and Chile's exports will grow 2.5 percent and GDP 0.9 percent.

            For its part, the US International Trade Commission stated May 18, in its report "Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: Likely Impact on the US Economy and on Specific Industry Sectors", that by 2032 the TPP would boost the US economy by an average of 0.01 percent a year and employment by 0.07 percent.

            Enrique Dussel, coordinator of the China/Mexico Studies Center at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, questions Mexico's involvement in the TPP without evaluating the consequences of further freeing up trade.

            "There has been a 20-year learning process to know what works and what doesn't," he told IPS. "TPP partners without free trade agreements represent one percent of trade with Mexico and one percent of investment. The question is what do I do with the remaining 99 percent, what focus do I give trade and investment."

            NGOs in Latin America are hoping the US election campaign will limit the debate on the TPP to Congress until the winner of the November elections takes office.

            "That gives us a little time to fight against ratification. It will be a long battle," said Bedoya.

            Dussel anticipated three possible scenarios. "In two years it goes into effect; there will be no TPP; or in the United States the new president will call for substantial changes."

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4) NO CANADIAN TROOPS IN THE BALTICS!

People’s Voice Editorial

            As NATO continues its 21st century version of the Cold War, the Trudeau government is being asked to help create a new NATO force in the Baltic region. Allegedly to “deter Russian aggression,” the real purpose of this force is to further encircle Russia, seen by the US and European imperialist powers as a potential rival.

            NATO’s relentless military push was on the agenda at a June 14 meeting in Brussels of alliance defence ministers, including Canada's Harjit Sajjan. The US, Britain and Germany immediately committed to the new force of up to 4,000 troops, based in Poland or Latvia. The Trudeau government is expected to announce a decision on the number of Canadian troops, and the type of equipment and vehicles involved, as soon as the NATO Summit taking place July 8-9 in Warsaw, before any debate in Parliament or consultation with the public.

            Two years ago, following Crimea’s vote to rejoin Russia, the Harper government committed Canada to a regular rotation of ground forces for exercises under NATO's Operation Reassurance banner. More recently, 200 Canadian troops took part in the ominously named “Exercise Anakonda”, alongside Polish, Turkish and U.S. forces near a base in Poland.

            The new proposal would include four battalions - one composed of Canadian troops - rotating through bases in eastern Europe and the Baltics, backed by NATO's highly mobile, 40,000-strong rapid reaction force. The justification for putting more NATO troops on Russia’s borders is said to be the “increasingly unpredictable Putin regime”, according to the CSIS spy agency.

            Yet there is nothing “unpredictable” about Russia’s intentions, considering that Hitler’s Nazis killed 25 million Soviet citizens, and that the economic and political isolation of the Soviet Union and then Russia has been a key priority of western imperialist powers for decades. That policy was behind the western-backed overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine in 2014. The participation of openly pro-Nazi forces in the Kiev regime can only be interpreted as a direct threat to Russia.

            We urge Canadians to speak out against NATO’s new Baltic military force. This geo-political game can only increase military tensions and create new dangers for peace in Europe - and the world.

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5) PENSION BATTLE ENTERS NEXT ROUND

People’s Voice Editorial

             The federal government’s decision to proceed with expanding the Canada Pension Plan is a positive step, achieved mainly through the determined efforts of the labour movement over many years. But this is far from the final episode of a critical struggle for working people’s rights.

            For one thing, as CUPE points out, while some business and financial sector figures who  opposed expanding the CPP now support the need to grow the public, not-for-profit, pension system, they also want to keep any expansion of the CPP extremely narrow and limited. These forces include many Chambers of Commerce, financial industry lobby groups, and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, who argue that a “modest” CPP expansion should only apply to some middle-income workers, and not to low-income workers at all. They also want to compel higher-income earners to rely only upon for-profit private pensions.

            These “carve-outs” would make it more complicated and costly to operate the CPP. Even worse, this approach would encourage employers to game the system by offering only lower-wage, lower-hours jobs, and to split full-time jobs into precarious part-time positions.

            In other words, labour and its allies cannot sit back and celebrate this victory. A stronger fight against the retirement profiteers is needed, to stop the carve-outs, and to demand a much higher CPP for low-income people, so that all Canadian seniors can retire with dignity and a liveable income.

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6) CUBA: PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY IN A ONE-PARTY SYSTEM

By Nino Pagliccia, June 2016

            Canadian author Arnold August wrote a thorough comparative investigation of the practice of democracy in the US, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador in his book, “Cuba And Its Neighbours - Democracy in Motion”. The main message he gives is that people’s participation in politics and society is an essential element of democracy but it is not part of the US-centric understanding of democracy. August writes, “Democracy as practised in the US is largely non-participatory, static and fixed in time. Cuba, by contrast, is a laboratory where the process of democratization is continually in motion, an ongoing experiment to create new ways for people to participate. ”[1]

            During the initial years after 1959, plebiscites would take place in Cuba based on mass gatherings across the country displaying popular will on decisions being made by the revolutionary government. After the consolidation and transformation of the new society more formal consultation with the people has been a tradition (or rather, a political right) throughout the long history of the Revolution.

            Since the adoption of Cuban constitution by referendum on 15 February 1976, which was approved by 97.7% of voters, Cubans have had many opportunities of providing popular input on major decisions.

            We are just witnessing this kind of participatory democracy in Cuba in a major referendum that is taking place about the country’s future as a revolutionary society. The Cuban newspaper Granma reports that two documents are being submitted to a process of popular consultation across Cuban society. The documents are, “Draft Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model”, and the “National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030”.[2][3]

            Let’s remember how Cuba got to this point.

            In 2010 Cuba’s leadership conceived updating its economic and social model to modernize its economy based on objective conditions resulting mostly from external factors such as the unrelenting US blockade on the island. The plan was laid out in 291 Economic and Social Policy Guidelines (Lineamientos) that were in turn submitted to popular analysis and discussion.[4]

            Over a three-month period (December 2010 through February 2011) Cubans debated the Guidelines in 163,079 meetings with 8,913,838 participants. Some 3,019,471 comments were made, which were grouped in 781,644 areas of opinion. All were analyzed in detail, and as a result, 94 guidelines (32%) were maintained as proposed; 197 were modified or incorporated into others (68%); and 36 new guidelines were added. The resulting 311 were first discussed at the provincial level, and later in Congress sessions by delegates and invited experts. Eighty-six guidelines were modified at that time (28%) and two new ones approved. Thus the definitive 313 Economic and Social Policy Guidelines were written, as a genuine expression of people’s will, reaffirmed with acceptance by the 6th Party Congress of 2011.[5]

            This document constituted the guiding plan for the Cuban government during the following five years until the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in April 16-19, 2016 when an evaluation of progress in the updating of the country’s socio-economic model occurred.

             The 7th Party Congress of this year discussed six important documents:

1. The evaluation of the national economy’s performance during the five year period, 2011-2015

2. The progress in the implementation of guidelines

3. The updating of the guidelines for 2016-2021

4. The conceptualization of Cuba’s socio-economic model of socialist development

5. The Economic Development Program through 2030, and

6. The evaluation of the implementation status of the First National Conference’s objectives of 2012.[6]

            Documents 4 and 5 are both focussed on the vision of the country that Cubans want, and constitute an expression of the nation’s economic and social strategy based on what had been discussed and submitted for consultation to all Party members and the people.

            During the 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, it was agreed that documents 4 and 5 “be submitted to a process of democratic discussions by members of the Party and Young Communist League, representatives of mass organizations and broad sectors of Cuban society.”[2] This is what will be taking place in the next six months in Cuba in a process initiated by the Party of the nation, a single party, but with a deeply democratic character, in order to crystallize a participatory project.

            There is no doubt that participation is fully open to all Cubans who are willing to give their opinion. The invitation is based on a broad notion of a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable society. No one is excluded. Even opposition to the word “socialist” does not justify self-exclusion.

            It has been noted that the documents to be analyzed are complex. That may be the case but their grasp is not beyond that of a population that is well educated and generally experienced in this type of socio-political analyses and debates from a young age.

            The expected outcome of this mass participation is improved documents that will be proposed to the Central Committee next December and then voted on and implemented by the National Assembly of People’s Power.

            Democracy in a one-party system is always possible when there is honest political will. Democracy is independent of the number of parties in a country. The US may have two parties, but they hardly represent different options.

            In a more extreme example, there is the recent case of Brazil where alliances of some of the 29 parties, that have at least one seat in the Chamber of Deputies,[7] orchestrated a parliamentary coup against legitimate president Dilma Rousseff. Political alliances are made between parties without popular consultation with their own voters. Is it a democracy?

            In my long-time observation of Cuba I am a witness to an open society that has a strong willingness to strengthen its self-determination in all processes of its decision-making process even at the risk of making errors that may need to be corrected later. It is through this course of action that the Cuban Revolution has made recognized social advances where no one is left to their own fate, unprotected. Cubans have never claimed to have a perfect society, only a perfectible society that needs constant vigilance to retain its ability to design its own destiny. This is hardly a non-democratic desire.

 [1] http://www.democracycuba.com

[2] http://en.granma.cu/cuba/2016-06-15/debate-on-cubas-future-underway

[3] www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Cubans-Begin-Country-Wide-Debate-on-Prosperous-Socialism-20160615-0017.html

[4] www.granma.cu/file/pdf/PCC/6congreso/Resolución-Sobre-los-Lineamientos-de-la-Pol%C3%ADtica-Económica-y-Social-del-Partido-y-la-Revolución.pdf

[5] http://en.granma.cu/cuba/2016-03-28/party-congress-less-than-a-month-away

[6] http://www.granma.cu/granmad/secciones/1ra-conferencia-pcc/objetivos.html

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Brazil

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7) AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!

Unite to Defend and Strengthen LGBTQ2SI Rights! - Pride 2016 Statement from the Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League

            The massacre in Orlando at the Pulse gay night club makes it clear that the struggle for the rights of LGBTQ2SI people is far from over. (NOTE: In this statement, the acronym “LGBTQ2SI” and the term “Queer” refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender variant, two-spirited, queer, questioning, intersex and others.)

            In the Queer community, a gay-bar is often the one place Queer folk feel safe and able to be ourselves. Pride marks the anniversary of a riot of resistance - Stonewall - defending gay-bars from police attacks. Pride marches and events have grown into global movement to assert human rights. Pride’s political significance cannot be forgotten.

            The Orlando shootings, the victims of which were mainly Latinx and Black members of the LGBTQ2SI community, must be seen within the context of the well-organized backlash by, in particular fundamentalist Christian, right wing groups against the gains made by the Queer movement. In the USA, reactionary laws are being passed to abolish the civil rights LGBTQ2SI people have won, and in particular attack trans rights.

            Presenting the Orlando massacre as another tragedy brought on by the problem of “Islamic extremism” ignores the fact that North America has a history of mass shootings and terrorist acts committed by those that grow up here in a racist, patriarchal, homophobic and transphobic culture that breeds these acts of extreme violence, which are most often committed by non-Muslims. The corporate media’s drive to use this homophobic hate crime to fuel the “War on Terror”, which has already cost between 1-2 million lives, also fails to seriously address the root causes of homophobia and transphobia here at home.

            Opposing homophobia and Islamophobia are part of the same struggle. Today, the economic crisis, the “ISIS threat”, and anti-communism are all invoked by the ruling class to justify their assault on workers’ rights and social equality. Among the most poisonous ideologies are homophobia and transphobia. Just like racism, sexism, and national chauvinism, these are intended to divide and undermine resistance to the corporate agenda of “trade deals,” raw materials extraction and exports, and militarism.

            Homophobia and transphobia seek to entrench the heterosexual, patriarchal family which is necessary for capitalism to police and maintain the gendered division of labour, and increase the rate of profits. The Communist Party of Canada rejects any argument which aims to restrict the legal definition of family to those based on male-female biological parental relationships.

            US and Canadian imperialism back the right wing forces that are intent on reversing the gains made by progressive governments in Latin America - often leaders in the global struggle for Queer Rights.

            Prime Minister Trudeau says he is feminist and pro-LGBTQ2SI yet his government, alongside the US, is destabilizing the Middle East, and secular Arab states such as Syria in particular, by supporting and arming reactionary and homophobic forces like the Saudi regime and some of the anti-government militias in Syria.

            The defeat of the Federal Conservatives last year, was a victory for the LGBTQ2SI movement, and may finally guarantee legal and human rights protection to trans and gender variant people across Canada – after a decade of Conservatives blocking such legislation.

            Bill C-16 would update the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include the terms 'gender identity' and 'gender expression." If passed, the legislation would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. It would also extend hate speech laws to include the two terms. Criminal laws would also be updated to make it a hate crime when someone is targeted because of their gender identity or gender expression, meaning judges would have to consider it as an aggravating factor in deciding what sentence to impose.

            There is still much work to be done on this front, as the reactionary Conservative dominated Senate could still block the legislation. With the recent passing of Quebec Solidaire's welcome bill on trans rights, and the promise of further legislation by the Couillard Liberals, Quebec has joined the other provinces and territories in English-speaking Canada which have passed some legal and human rights protections for trans people, which is long overdue.

            The new Federal Liberal government, despite its more progressive social agenda, continues with the corporate-driven “austerity” cuts, and the attacks on labour, civil and democratic rights such as the security state laws (Bill C-51), introduced by previous Liberal and Tory governments. The Liberals are a party of big business and are continuing policies (such as the Trans Pacific Partnership) that negatively impact LGBTQ2SI people, women, Aboriginal peoples, and racialized groups, and undercut equality gains. Provincial governments - almost without exception – also continuing to drive the austerity agenda. The most marginalized members of the LGBTQ2SI community, including trans, two-spirited, racialized queers and young people, are those hardest-hit by the social program cutbacks.

            We believe that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Adopting full legal and political protections for sexual orientation and gender expression, and gender identity, and respect for the bodily diversity of intersex people, is urgently needed to strengthen working class unity.

            This unity is a vital element of the broad labour, democratic and social movement to put people’s needs before corporate greed, austerity and war. Our LGBTQ2SI community must be a key player in a efforts to build a “People’s Coalition” of labour, Aboriginal peoples, youth and students, women, seniors, farmers, immigrant and racialized communities, environmentalists, peace activists and many other allies.

            Mass resistance in our communities and workplaces, in the streets and at the ballot box, can defeat the parties of big business and open the door to a “people not profits” government. The goal of the Communist Party is to win genuine people’s power in a socialist Canada, where our economy and resources will be socially owned and democratically controlled.

            This historic advance will make it possible to eradicate the interweaving forms of exploitation and oppression which threaten our world today. We urge you to join the Communist Party and the Young Communist League to achieve a liberated society in which, as Karl Marx said, “the freedom of each is the condition for the freedom of all.”

            The Communist Party and the Young Communist League demand:

· Strengthen and enforce hate crime legislation, no to all forms of transphobia, homophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia;

·Strengthen solidarity with trans people in North Carolina and elsewhere in North America against new transphobic legislation;

· Struggle to expand trans rights including the explicit protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in all Provincial and Territorial laws and human rights codes;

· Make “conversion therapy”, a pseudo-psychiatric or religious practice that tries to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, illegal in all provinces;

· Expand the rights of LGBTQ2SI youth: end the two-tiered age of consent laws for queer youth and protect Intersex minors from non-consensual surgery respecting bodily diversity;

· End the homophobic and unscientific blood ban for gay men donating blood;

· Increase social services and housing support to meet the needs of the 25-40% of homeless youth that identify as LGBTQ;

· End the Federal and Provincial governments’ drive towards austerity, and big business’ move towards precarious part-time employment, which disproportionately affect LGBTQ2SI peoples who are amongst the hardest hit by social program cutbacks.

· Stop imperialism’s support of reactionary forces around the world. No to the coup in Brazil and interventions in Venezuela. Withdraw

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8) A VICTORY FOR POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY - DEFEAT FOR EU-IMF-NATO AXIS

Statement from the Communist Party of Britain on the June 23 referendum which resulted in a 51.9% vote to leave the European Union.

            The referendum result represents a huge and potentially disorientating blow to the ruling capitalist class in Britain, its hired politicians and its imperialist allies in the EU, the USA, IMF and NATO.

            The people have spoken and popular sovereignty now demands that the Westminster Parliament accepts and implements their decision. The left must now redouble its efforts to turn this referendum result into a defeat for the whole EU-IMF-NATO axis.

            But it is clear that the Cameron-Osborne government has lost the confidence of the electorate and cannot be trusted with the responsibility of negotiating Britain's exit from the European Union. It should resign forthwith.

            The Communist Party also has no confidence that a Tory government led by other pro-big business, pro-imperialist and pro-neoliberal MPs such as Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Iain Duncan Smith would withstand the pressures from the City of London, big business, the US and NATO to prevent Britain's exit from the EU.

            If no alternative government can command a majority in the House of Commons, a General Election must therefore be called without delay.

            This makes it all the more important that the Labour Party leadership immediately pledges to respect and implement fully the referendum decision. Moreover, it should make clear its determination to negotiate exit terms and future treaties with the EU and other countries on the basis of new arrangements that put the interests of working people here and internationally before those of big business and the capitalist 'free market'.

            In any event, it will also be vital to counteract the upsurge of xenophobia and racism unleashed by leading forces on both sides of the referendum campaign.

            The unity and mobilisation of progressive and labour movement forces is essential in order to explain the benefits of immigration and counter the divisive and anti-working class appeal of UKIP and other right-wing and far-right parties.

            We now need to fight to ensure that a Britain outside 'Fortress Europe' uses its freedom to welcome people to work, study and live here from around the world and leads Europe in providing a safe haven for asylum seekers and refugees.

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9) WHY THE MORNING STAR URGED A “LEAVE” VOTE

This commentary from the Morning Star, published on June 22, explains why the world’s only English-language daily socialist newspaper backed a “Leave” vote in Britain’s June 23 referendum on European Union membership.

            Tomorrow we decide whether or not Britain should remain a member of the European Union.

            We decide in a referendum called by the right, the accidental result of David Cameron’s botched attempt to appease his own backbenchers with a proposal he thought he’d never have to carry out. And we decide after a campaign dominated by the right, with rival Tory visions of the future drowning out left perspectives in the mass media.

            That’s why the Morning Star sought a full and frank debate on this question from a socialist perspective, in which the leaders of the Labour Party and TUC, trade unionists and activists have all taken part.

            And now it’s decision time. When we were last asked this question in 1975, the Morning Star was the only national daily paper to campaign to Leave.

            The suspicions we had then, that the Common Market would increase the power of corporations and reduce that of our elected representatives, have been borne out by everything the European Union has done since.

            Its treaties taken together make, as Tony Benn once said, the “only constitution in the world committed to capitalism.” They place serious restrictions on public ownership, committing member states to open up public services to competition.

            A Labour government determined to take our railways and postal services back into public hands would soon run into trouble with the EU. To his credit, Jeremy Corbyn has indicated that this is a fight he would not shy away from. But it is undeniable that taking back what’s ours would be easier if we were not subject to the EU treaties, which can only be altered by unanimous agreement among all 28 member states.

            As well as being anti-socialist, the EU is undemocratic, in that its elected parliament is toothless, lacking even the formal power to initiate legislation; the orders are issued by the unelected Commission and the Central Bank.

            But worse, it is actively anti-democratic. It overrides democracy. Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said when the people of Greece voted for a government that would end austerity: “There can be no democratic choice against the EU treaties.”

            Greece’s government was humiliated and ministers elected specifically to carry out a left-wing programme were forced to implement the most extreme programme of privatisation and cuts anywhere on the continent.

            Those who argue that austerity is a choice being made at a national level should ask why it is then that governments ostensibly on the left in France and Italy are attacking workers’ rights and public spending just as viciously as governments of the right. Seemingly it doesn’t matter who we Europeans elect any more: austerity is what we get.

            Some imply that a dislike of the EU is a peculiarly British phenomenon. But the reality is that few of Europe’s citizens have ever been given a choice. When they have, they have usually rejected what’s on offer — only for the EU to impose it anyway.

            The French rejected the EU Constitution, so it was incorporated into the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish rejected that, and were told to vote again till they got the right answer. This is an organisation with contempt for the voters at its core.

            Most on the left agree that the EU’s treatment of Greece was outrageous. Many would agree that it is anti-socialist and unaccountable. But we should stay in and reform it, they argue.

            Unfortunately, no plausible strategy for doing so has been put forward. The EU is designed to resist reform: hence the requirement for unanimity among member states before any treaty is altered.

            Acts of mass popular resistance, such as the millions-strong cross-border petition against TTIP, are simply ruled out of order by the Commission.

            Even so, a large number of socialists and trade unionists are convinced that a vote to Remain is the lesser of two evils. Some say leaving would cost us skilled jobs, pointing to threats from major manufacturers that they might relocate if we withdraw from the EU.

            But those threats should be seen for what they are — blackmail by the bosses. When the super rich whinge that they will flee London if we make them pay their fair share of tax, we ignore them.

            Giant corporations support membership of the EU because big business benefits from it. But membership can hardly have been good for British manufacturing, which has been decimated over the last four decades.

            EU bans on state aid to industry actually hinder efforts to protect our productive economy. Italy has been taken to court by the EU for trying to assist its steel industry.

            Others say that we face a bonfire of our rights by the Tories if we leave the EU with them in charge.

            But we’re facing a bonfire of our rights now. Since 2010 the Tories have slapped the Gagging Act and the Trade Union Act on our labour movement, have introduced massive fees for accessing employment tribunals, have vowed to “kill off the health and safety culture for good.”

            The EU hasn’t lifted a finger.

            Remainers who say the NHS isn’t safe with Michael Gove or Boris Johnson are absolutely right. But the NHS isn’t safe with Cameron either, as the Health and Social Care Act showed. And it certainly isn’t safe with TTIP, the secretive treaty being negotiated by the EU with the United States.

            The third and gravest point made by socialists for Remain is that a Leave victory would fuel racism, anti-immigrant bigotry and far-right violence.

            An obsession with immigration by the right-wing leaders of the Leave campaign has given this some weight. But we should be careful. The far right is on the march across Europe, in France, Austria and Hungary.

            Falling wages, mass unemployment and battered public services are feeding the resentment that gives birth to fascism. And the EU’s commitment to endless austerity contributes to that.

            Nor is the EU’s record on racism good. A deal with Turkey widely condemned as illegal has allowed it to wash its hands of desperate refugees. In Ukraine it supported a fascist-backed coup against an elected government. When France decided to deport tens of thousands of Roma in 2009-10, the EU looked the other way.

            There is no evidence that a Remain vote would help defeat the far right. The struggle against racism and intolerance is one we will have to wage either way.

            Since the beginning of the neoliberal era in the 1980s, we have seen corporate power strengthened at the expense of democracy again and again. The “big bang” deregulated the banks, putting big finance beyond our control. Independence for the Bank of England removed our ability to set interest rates. Global trade treaties are giving private companies the right to enter new markets whatever the people think about that, and increasingly the right to sue governments if they don’t like their policies.

            The EU is part and parcel of all this. A vote to Leave today will not bring about socialism. But it would be a step towards restoring democratic control of our economy, and would remove an obstacle to progress.

            The Morning Star advises you to take that step.

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10) THE INFAMY OF DYING IN PRISON

Homage to the communist militant Francisco Luis Correa Gallego, by Liliany Obando

Translator’s note: Author Liliany Obando was a political prisoner in Colombia from 2008 until 2012 when she was released. She regained her political rights in January 2016 when the government dropped the charges remaining against her. A worldwide solidarity movement accompanied her in her ordeal. Liliany Obando in prison fought for the rights of her fellow prisoners, particularly women prisoners. In writings and interviews, she has honoured Nelson Mandela, reported on women in Colombian prisons and told about her own situation as a political prisoner. Political prisoners in Colombia now exceed 9,000. She has long been part of the fight for a new Colombia as seen in her documentary on farm worker struggles, made prior to her imprisonment.

            I’ve always thought that there’s nothing sadder and more outrageous than to die alone and sick in a prison. That’s why I couldn’t hold back tears when, as I was reading an article on the subject of prisons, I learned that my friend and comrade Francisco Luis Correa Gallego had died this past May 10 from an illness he acquired in prison and that was inadequately treated, just as are many such cases.

            Francisco was one of thousands of political prisoners who maintain their principles and revolutionary morale with stoicism. Like them, he was waiting with great anticipation to have his freedom restored through a Law of Amnesty and Pardon that has to be one result of the current peace process between the Santos government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

            After his detention some four years ago, he was transferred from one prison establishment to another. He was in the Garzón prison in Huila, Rivera prison in Neiva, Cunduy in Florencia, and the Modelo prison in Bogotá, which was the last of them. He was 69 years old this year, so they had him in the prison yard for the elderly there. That prison is well known for the nightmarish things that happen inside: disappearances, assassinations, and dismemberments by paramilitaries involving more than one hundred people, visitors and prisoners alike, for more than a decade.

            As happens with many others who are deprived of their freedom, the time after Francisco’s capture went by without any direct contact with members of his nuclear family who lived far away, in Caquetá. This was because of the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute’s (INPEC) reliance on improvisation and the methods used for penitentiary–type punishment. Understandably, he was so glad when he received an occasional solidarity visit.

            I remember that at one of those visits, this one with a group of young student volunteers with the Solidarity Committee for Political Prisoners, Francisco introduced himself at the right time with a generous smile and warmth of a comrade and went into a rich historical recounting of the people’s revolutionary struggles in our country. He tried to establish the precise moment when he first began to be part of all this. Perhaps his histories were a bit unfocused for the younger generations, but as happens with grandparents’ stories, they never fail to captivate their listeners.

            He joined the revolutionary struggle way back and would never renounce it until the end of his days. He was brought into the ranks of the Colombian Communist Party in the region of the lower Orteguaza River in the governing municipality of Milán, Caquetá. There he ran up against that wild outburst of state terror unleashed in the era of Turbay Ayala. Recognised as a hardened, disciplined militant, he soaked up the experience of communists who, displaced, arrived there from Tolima and Huila.

            Committed to peace in his time, he supported the negotiating process underway at La Uribe, which ended up incubating the Patriotic Union political movement (UP). And he was a municipal council member for the Patriotic Union in the first years of its existence. He was telling with emotion how in the process of recruiting for the rising UP, he travelled the byways and through the little towns of Caquetá along with Iván Márquez, who today is a negotiator [in the peace process] with the FARC in Havana, and who then might have been assigned by that insurgent organisation to be doing legal politics.

            In 1988 he was promoted to fill a post for the UP in the first people’s mayoral office in the municipality of La Montañita in Caquetá, along with Omar Alfonso Cómbita, another revolutionary and former political prisoner. The latter describes Francisco as a “responsible comrade and a militant with great mystique … who was always severely critical if things weren’t going well”. And he also said about him that, “he never doubted the force of struggle for democratization of the country, for a political solution, and for achieving the broadest popular unity in order to gain power.”

            Of peasant origin, Francisco was always worrying about strengthening his ideological, political, and cultural formation through persistent reading, a concern that continued in prison also.

            In the region where he grew up, Francisco did survive the paramilitaries who tried to make him pay for his communist militancy. But he didn’t succeed in overcoming the bars the state imposes on those who dare challenge its power.

            Prison is a place for testing revolutionary character, and Francisco was up to meeting that challenge. In a pair of letters, one he wrote me that I save with special love and another directed to a political audience, he openly expresses his deep pride on being a communist.

            [Referring to UP and Communist Party members who were assassinated, he writes:] “I cannot forget the comrades: Manuel Cepeda Vargas, José Antequera, Jaime Pardo Leal, Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, and Henry Millán Gonzáles. They are the ones who made me into a disciple of political revolution and who linked me up with being part of that army exploited by capitalism.”

            He also gave vent to his iron convictions, demonstrating that even from prison he felt “the urge to keep on struggling for construction of a new society without excluding anybody.”

            From the first time that I visited Francisco in the Modelo prison I wanted to recognise his fortitude, his mystique, his example, and I thought I would write an article about him and his struggle. It’s better to offer our comrades in struggle the homage and recognition they deserve while they are alive. Nevertheless, given the harshness of conditions taken on by militants in our country, we very often run into eventualities like this, ominous ones.

            Francisco was not expecting me. I was there ready with my packet. It contained the book “Fidel and Religion”, the “Political Constitution”, and the latest editions of Voz - and the highlighter you asked to me bring you at our next encounter. The one after that would be when I gave you an embrace of welcome to freedom, after the amnesty. This wouldn’t happen now and you can’t imagine how much it hurts.

            Francisco, now it’s raining in my heart because of your absence. I can only render you tribute by joining myself to your dreams, gathering up your flags and your revolutionary commitment. You left us your commitment expressed in your own handwriting:

            “Comrades: I call upon all of you who are on the outside and those of us who are [in prison,] deprived of freedom, to keep on fighting to build the Colombia that we want, in peace and with social justice.”

            For always, dear Francisco! You are now one of the indispensable ones!

            (May 29, 2016. Source: www.pacocol.org. Translated by WT Whitney Jr.)

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11) HISTORIC LABOUR STRUGGLE ROCKS FRANCE

PV Vancouver Bureau, with files from the Morning Star and other sources

            One of the biggest labour struggles carried out in decades by French workers continued through June, as the country hosted the Euro 2016 soccer tournament. Mass strikes and protests erupted in May against the “El Khomri law,” shutting down key sections of the economy. Named for the Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri, the law allows management to slash overtime pay, extend working hours, and fire employees with less restrictions. The Socialist party government argues that the attacks on labour rights and conditions are required by the European Union, highlighting a key reason for working class opposition to the EU in many countries.

            The movement began several months ago, with mass occupations of the Place de la République in Paris and other city squares throughout France to protest the so-called “labour reforms.”

            As the month of June began, CGT union federation CGT leader Philippe Martinez warned the government to withdraw its notorious legislation, and striking workers crippled the French railway network. Over half the country’s regional train services were cancelled as well as 40 per cent of journeys on the high-speed TGV network.

            Three of the four unions representing staff working for the SNCF national rail authority called open-ended walkouts. The rail strikes were accompanied by walkouts in other sectors including oil refineries, leaving an estimated 20 per cent of French service stations dry. Aviation workers announced plans to walk out, putting more pressure on the government.

            Prime Minister Manuel Valls and the labour minister called on the CGT to propose a solution. But Martinez said that negotiating a compromise was dependent on the withdrawal of the law, which Valls forced through parliament without a vote by invoking a constitutional mechanism reserved for emergencies.

            “There are articles which pose problems and that’s why we must remove the law and renegotiate,” Martinez said. He fingered the law’s article two as the “backbone” of the legislation and demanded its removal.

            Considered to be “the philosophy of the Act” and therefore indispensable, Article 2 establishes the primacy of company-level bargaining as opposed to sectoral and nationally negotiated agreements.

            On June 2, some 120,000 homes in western France were hit by a blackout during strikes at 16 of the country’s 19 nuclear power plants. CGT members voted for a one-day walkout at the power stations, which generate most of France’s electricity. Nuclear plants are required to maintain a minimal level of production during strikes for security reasons.

            But workers in Brittany cut the electricity supply from a power station in Saint-Malo-de-Guersac, prompting the blackouts for much of the day.

            Meanwhile, striking rail workers blocked tracks at the Gare de Lyon station in eastern Paris ahead of a protest march through the capital. Around half of all long-distance services were cancelled and some Paris public transport workers also walked out in solidarity.

            The struggle continued over the following days, against the backdrop of final preparations for the Euro 2016 tournament. Transport Minister Alain Vidalies vowed to use scab labour after rail workers threatened to walk out on the line serving the Stade de France in St Denis outside Paris, where France played Romania in the June 9 opening match.

            On the same day, Air France pilots called a four-day strike, just as an estimated two million fans were set to arrive in the country. In Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo brought in 80 privately operated garbage and crews to clear up piles of stinking rubbish which had accumulated during a 12-day refuse collectors’ strike in the capital.

            Sports Minister Thierry Braillard complained that disrupting the tournament was “just not normal.” But train driver Berenger Cernon, secretary of the CGT union federation’s branch at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, was defiant, saying: “We did not decide that the Euros will take place on this date. There is a social movement going on now. The reorganisation [of labour] continues, the labour law continues.”

            President Francois Hollande said he would take “all necessary measures” to make sure the tournament goes smoothly. “Public services will be provided,” he vowed. “The whole of Europe will be watching.”

            “Let us be clear, the government has no intention of withdrawing this law, or of unravelling it,” added El Khomri.

            While the tournament went ahead, thousands of demonstrators rallied in the streets of Paris on June 14, mobilized by seven trade unions and student organisations. Rail workers and taxi drivers were on strike, and 20 per cent of Air France flights were cancelled when pilots walked out in a separate dispute. At the Eiffel Tower, an electronic board read: “Monument closed — national strike.”

            But by that date, the Socialist Party government had bypassed parliament to pass the law by decree, sending it for debate in the senate.

            On June 17, CGT general secretary Martinez met with El Khomri over the anti-worker bill. Martinez called the half-hour meeting a “constructive exchange” but said that neither side had shifted their position significantly.

            He added that two demonstrations set for June 23 and 28 — when senators will vote on the legislation — would not be cancelled unless six crucial pieces of the bill were rewritten or removed before sending it back to parliament.

            A few days later, the government had to back down on plans to ban the June 23 march. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he had personally ordered the ban, but then decided to allow the protest after an emergency meeting with unions where a compromise was reached on where the rally could be held.

            Hours earlier, Paris’s police chief had said he had “no choice but to ban the demonstration” for supposed safety reasons after the unions refused to stage the protest in the Place de la Bastille, wanting instead to march through the streets. Under the deal the march instead followed a one-mile loop around the foot of the square.

            This would have been the first ban on a union demonstration in France since 1962. Karine Berger, a Socialist MP who has criticised the government’s policies, tweeted: “We’re back to what French democracy should be like.”

            Fellow Socialist backbencher Christian Paul had earlier said Prime Minister Valls was making “a historical mistake” with the ban, highlighting rifts within the ruling party a year ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections.

 

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12) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

Bristol Bay fight focuses on Canada

Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay (MUPBB) is seeking to engage Canadian musicians in its fight to protect Alaska's environment. While many of its members are from Canada, MUPBB needs more Canadian musicians to get involved because Canada is the home of Northern Dynasty Minerals, the company behind the proposed Pebble Mine project. Approximately 50% of all wild fish caught in North America come from Bristol Bay, including most of the world’s sockeye salmon, which spawn in the headwaters of the many rivers that drain into the Bay. Bristol Bay is home to several thousand Native Alaskan families who depend on its waters, and its adjacent rivers and forests, to survive. Northern Dynasty wants to build what would be the world’s largest open-pit mine next to the headwaters of the rivers where the salmon spawn. No open-pit mine in the world has ever operated without causing serious, and usually permanent, environmental destruction to the surrounding area and beyond. MUPBB Co-Founder Si Kahn, the prominent American folksinger and activist, will hold meetings with musicians and environmental activists in Vancouver July 19-21, and attend the Islands Folk Festival in Duncan, BC, July 22-25. He'll also be attending the annual Folk Music Ontario conference in Ottawa, October 20-23. If you'd like to meet with Si on any of these dates to talk about MUPBB, please e-mail him at sikahn36@gmail.com or visit www.musiciansunited.info.

Victor Jara trial in Miami

The trial of the former Chilean military officer accused of murdering folk singer and activist Victor Jara began in Miami on June 13th. Former lieutenant Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez is charged with torturing and murdering Jara, a communist artist who had campaigned for, and defended, the socialist Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende. Jara and thousands of other Chileans were rounded up and tortured in Santiago's soccer stadium immediately after the coup of September 11, 1973. His tortured body, riddled with 44 bullet wounds, was dumped outside the stadium which is now named in his honour. The U.S.-backed coup launched a 17-year reign of terror by a military regime led by fascist General Augusto Pinochet. The California-based Center for Justice and Accountability launched the civil suit against Barrientos in 2013. While seven of his accomplices already face trial in Chile, Barrientos is thought to be Jara's actual torturer, and the person who fired the first, and fatal, shot into his head. The defendant enjoys dual U.S.-Chilean citizenship, which continues to protect him from the Chilean government's extradition request. Jara's 88 year-old widow, Joan, gave testimony at the first day's session. The trial is expected to last until the end of June. For updates visit www.telesurtv.net/english.


David Rovics' "Orlando"

American indie singer-songwriter David Rovics responded to the June 12th massacre at Orlando's Pulse gay bar with a characteristically incisive and compassionate song (see lyrics below). David's recording of "Orlando" can be heard, along with details about his summer gigs in Ontario, at www.davidrovics.com/songbook.orlando.

Who killed all those people in Orlando / Why did he do it, was it Islamic State?

Was it YouTube videos, the way they disseminate / Was it radical imams preaching the jihad?

Saying go commit murder in the name of God?

Who killed all those people in Orlando / Why did he do it, what made him buy a gun?

Was it hard to be an Afghan after 9-1-1 / Or was it as a child, did he hear the politician

Who said 500,000 dead kids was still the right decision?

Who killed all those people in Orlando / Why did he do it, did the Air Force play a part

When they bombed the wedding party, is that what froze his heart?

Was it a lack of mental health care that made things go wrong

Or was there no way left to make him feel that he belonged?

Who killed all those people in Orlando / Why did he do it, did he wish he hadn't been

Born into the world, in his own gay skin / Did he loath himself, is that how it all began?

And just who had taught him it was wrong to love another man?

Who killed all those people in Orlando / Why did he do it, was it the NRA

Who made it easy for him to express himself this way

Another legally purchased weapon that fired automatic rounds

Leading to the scene with 50 bodies on the ground?

Who killed all those people in Orlando / Why did he do it, perhaps its only him to blame

He's just acting on free will, an individual shame

Maybe he grew up in a vacuum and carried out a senseless act

Maybe we're wrong to try to question or to ascertain the facts about

Who killed all those people in Orlando.

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