People’s Voice November 1-15, 2016
Volume 24 – Number 17   $1

CONTENTS

1) ONTARIO: “BASIC” INCOME OR “BASEMENT” INCOME?

2) COMMUNIST LEADERSHIP SLAMS TRUDEAU’S BROKEN PROMISES

3) MUSKRAT FALLS: DISSENT AND RESISTANCE BUILDING

4) PINKWASHING AT HALIFAX PRIDE AGM

5) ALL OUT ON NOV. 2: BUILD THE STUDENT STRUGGLE FOR FREE POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION

6) HIGH STAKES IN U.S. ELECTION - Editorial

7) FIRST CETA, THEN TPP.... - Editorial

8) SHORTCHANGED: MAKE WORK PAID, EQUAL AND VALUED FOR WOMEN

9) ACT NOW TO SILENCE THE DRUMS OF WAR OVER SYRIA

10) U.S. LABOUR ACTIVISTS AT WORLD TRADE UNION CONGRESS

11) SUPPORT THE PEACE ACCORD IN COLOMBIA

12) SIGNS OF POLITICAL INBREEDING IN THE UNITED STATES

13) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

14) TUDEH: 75 YEARS FOR IRAN’S FIGHTING WORKING CLASS PARTY

 

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(The following articles are from the November 1-15, 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) ONTARIO: “BASIC” INCOME OR “BASEMENT” INCOME?

PV Ontario Bureau

            As in other parts of Canada, the working class in Ontario is experiencing a deep wage and employment crisis, which threatens the living standards of millions of people in the province. But it also sees the ruling class filling its bank accounts. The provincial government’s Universal Basic Income plan –  dressed up as a progressive social reform – is actually a vehicle to legislatively entrench this situation.

            For the past two decades, the official poverty rate in Ontario has remained in the 10-13% range. This means that, at a minimum, over 1 million people live below the poverty line each year in the province.

            Furthermore, welfare rates continue to drop further beneath the poverty line. Currently, this “poverty gap” for 160,000 single adults on social assistance is 60% - they receive only $8500 per year, $12,300 below the poverty line in Ontario. Tens of thousands cannot afford to properly feed themselves or retain their housing, leading to more hunger and homelessness.

            The Ontario Association of Food Banks reported that 360,000 people used a food bank each day in 2015, with a 35% increase in the number of seniors and a total of 10,000 more food bank visits over the previous year. Conditions in northern and rural areas are worse, as people are spread over large areas, many in isolated communities.

            Data from Statistics Canada shows that, while official unemployment in Ontario dropped to 6.4% in July 2016, the employment rate – the percentage of the working class who are actually working – fell to only 60.4% and continues to drop. This means that one third of the working class has simply given up on finding work, and their figures do not count toward official unemployment. Put another way, while the government counts 480,000 Ontarians as officially unemployed, the real number of working age people in Ontario who are not working is actually 4.5 million.

            Among youth, employment figures are even worse. According to StatsCan, the official unemployment among young workers was 13% in June 2016, over 360,000 people. The employment rate, however, was only 55% which means nearly 2 million Ontario youth are actually without work. Of those who are working, only half have full-time jobs.

            Northern Ontario is in a particularly deep crisis, with a 27% drop in employment in major industries in the region – mining, forestry, fishing, quarrying, oil and gas.

            On the wage side, a 2015 study by the Broadbent Institute showed that real wages had tumbled in Ontario between 2006 and 2012, with some communities averaging devastating losses – for example, the real wage in Windsor plummeted by nearly 14%. Research by the Workers Action Centre shows that low-wage and precarious - part-time, contract, or own-account self-employed – makes up 41% of work in Ontario, and is growing. Workers in precarious employment now comprise the largest segment of the province’s working class.

            The minimum wage in Ontario languishes at $11.25 per hour and is legislated to not increase beyond inflation, ensuring a permanent underpaid base that will continue to move further below the livable income level.

            Among low-wage workers, women make up a disproportionate number, nearly 60% in 2012. This is partly the result of sexist hiring and promotion practices, which deny women equal job opportunities and confine women workers to low-paid, part-time jobs. A contributing factor to this confinement is the lack of affordable child care and inadequate family leave policies, combined with a disproportionate share of household work. The gender wage gap saw women in Ontario paid an average of 29.4% less than men in annual earnings in 2016. The pay gap is widest for women who face systemic discrimination because they are racialized, recent immigrants, or Aboriginal.

            Against this comprehensive backdrop – one of structural unemployment, institutionalized poverty, and systemic racist and sexist oppression – the Kathleen Wynne government is promoting Basic Income as the means to alleviate poverty. The government describes the scheme as a top-up to existing programs to lift people out of poverty, but its intentions are all about cost savings and reduction of programs. When it was introduced in the February 2016 budget, the government clearly stated its goal was to "test whether a basic income would provide a more efficient way of delivering income support, strengthen the attachment to the labour force, and achieve savings in other areas, such as health care and housing supports."

            The Liberals have appointed prominent Conservative strategist Hugh Segal to develop a Basic Income pilot project. This plan will be framed in the interests of capital, to eliminate and replace other social assistance programs and lock thousands of people even more tightly into a life of severe poverty.

            A Tory-planned basic income project for a pro-corporate Liberal government is being met with suspicion. As the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty noted, “the right favours a form of Basic Income because it represents a floor and the one they want to put in place is in the basement.”

            According to Ontario Communist Party leader Dave McKee, “Basic Income does nothing to address issues of unemployment,  precarious employment, housing, rent controls, low wages, soaring tuition rates, lack of pensions and benefits, or any of the ongoing and interconnected problems that produce and maintain poverty. We need to shift away from the whole notion of “minimums” and demand our basic rights – through full employment and livable wages, housing provided as a public utility for all who need it, free tuition, rent rollbacks. Never mind talking about “basic income” – we need guaranteed livable incomes for everyone.”

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2) COMMUNIST LEADERSHIP SLAMS TRUDEAU’S BROKEN PROMISES

Special to PV

            Only a few months have gone by since the 38th Central Convention of the Communist Party of Canada, but the pace of political developments keeps speeding up. That was the starting point, when the CPC’s new Central Committee met over the Oct. 15-16 weekend in Toronto.

            The CC meeting featured two distinct but related sides: a wide-ranging examination of recent global politics, and a review of the priorities adopted last May by convention delegates.

            A Political Report was introduced by Liz Rowley, who was elected leader in January 2016. The report stresses that the world is becoming increasingly dangerous because of the actions of U.S. imperialism, with the backing of the Trudeau Liberal government on key issues, such as close relations with the fascist government of the Ukraine, and sending 500 Canadian troops to Latvia as part of a new NATO battalion. In other regions, Canada supports the expanding war in Iraq and Syria, and the “made-in-the-USA” soft coups in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America.

            Syria has become a critical flashpoint, as Canada joins the U.S. and NATO in the push “to depose the elected government of Bashar al-Assad, in favour of a new government that is compliant to imperialism’s strategic and energy pipeline plans for the Middle East. This is being done just as the Syrian government has finally gained the offensive over the Islamic State and the foreign mercenaries who, supported by US imperialism, are responsible for the deaths of 400,000 Syrians, the mass migration of refugees to Europe, and the destruction of Syria itself.”

            Many U.S. officials, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, are clamouring to impose a “no fly zone” in Syria, similar to the tactic which led to the overthrow of the Kaddafi government in Libya. There are also rumblings of a U.S. “cyber war” against Russia, escalating tensions even further. A special resolution adopted by the CC calls for immediate action to “silence the drums of war over Syria” and to press for a return to negotiations seeking a political solution to the conflict.

            Unfortunately, despite the growing war danger, the Canadian Peace Alliance, formed in the early 1980s as a broad coalition of anti-war groups, has ceased to function in recent years, and the level of trade union involvement in peace issues has declined. The CC discussed plans to help strengthen peace forces across the country, in particular the Canadian Peace Congress, which has active local councils in a number of cities. The immediate priority is to mobilize larger numbers of people to speak out against the imperialist drive to topple the al-Assad government, and against the dangerous US-NATO-Canada strategy to encircle and isolate Russia.

            A number of other international issues were discussed by the CC, from the “regime change” tactics used by imperialism against progressive Latin American governments, to the Brexit vote in Britain, and the Nov. 8 election in the US, which will have huge global implications. The presidential campaign could shelve the current version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but since the TPP is heavily backed by U.S. corporate interests, it could be back on the table in 2017. The CC agreed to prioritize a pan-Canadian day of Communist actions against the TPP early in the new year, with details to be announced soon.

            All eyes are on the Clinton-Trump race, where the Democratic candidate appears to be pulling ahead. The CC expressed the “hope that the American people will defeat Trump and the dangerous and powerful forces backing his campaign,” since the Republican candidate “promises a return to the past, built on racism, sexism and homophobia.”

            But the election of Hillary Clinton would bring other dangers, since she has taken the most hawkish foreign policy positions. While condemning Trump’s brutal misogyny and immigrant-bashing at home, Clinton has consistently promoted U.S. imperialist strategies abroad, including corporate trade deals, and wars and occupations which have brought terrible hardships to millions of women and girls. The lack of a people’s alternative to the corporate-backed Democrats and Republicans continues to hamstring the ability of the working class to fight for progressive change, although the large primary votes for Bernie Sanders indicates that radical social and economic policies have wide appeal in the United States.

            Turning to Canada, the CC listed a string of broken Liberal election promises. These include the pledge to embrace the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by respecting aboriginal sovereignty. Instead of opposing pipelines, fracking, and other resource extraction projects, the Liberals have lobbied hard for the Keystone XL pipeline, indicated their strong support for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, Energy East, and Line 9 in Ontario and Quebec. They have just approved the Site C Dam on the Peace River, which will run through Treaty 8 lands which are environmentally sensitive and unique, as well as prime agricultural lands.

            The government is also taking heat for its flawed “consultations” on the future of Canada Post, Bill C-51, electoral reform, the TPP and CETA trade deals, and other issues. These exercises, the CC said, look more and more like stalling tactics, rather than real public consultations.

            More crucial in the long run, the economy is anything but ‘sunny’ for the working class, the unemployed and the youth. As the report states, unemployment is stuck at 7% with an estimated 2 million looking for work. Low wages and pensions make it difficult for non-unionized workers to retire, and precarious work now comprises more than 40% of the workforce. Negative economic indicators include weak growth rates, low commodity prices, a ballooning trade deficit despite the 76 cent dollar, and a looming possibility of another recession. While working people fall behind, the six big banks raked in $10.4 billion in profits in the second quarter of this year, and other corporations are also reporting record profits.     Turning to the fightback against government austerity policies and corporate attacks, the CC saluted the militant strike by workers at Montreal’s Old Port, and the successful struggle for a new collective agreement by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. On the downside, the recent Unifor agreement with General Motors gives up defined benefit pensions for new hires, and accepts a 3-tier wage and benefits package for 4,000 members in St. Catharines, Oshawa and Woodstock.

            “These two collective agreements illustrate two trends in the labour movement today,” says the political report. “On the one hand, collaboration with the employers to secure scraps from the table, and on the other hand, a militant struggle uniting the workers with their labour and social allies to defeat the employer. The first trend leaves the union divided and demoralized; the second generates unity and militancy on the shop floor, in bargaining, and in mass independent labour political action.”

            Other important struggles this fall include the ongoing “Fight for $15" minimum wage campaign, the Nov. 2 day of action against tuition hikes organized by the Canadian Federation of Students, the battle in British Columbia against cuts to public education, the Black Lives Movement against police killings and systemic racism, and the campaign to save universal public Medicare.

            In this situation, CUPW President Mike Palecek recently issued a call for a pan-Canadian Solidarity Coalition to labour and its social allies. The CC supported this important proposal, as “the kind of unity in struggle that’s urgently needed and that could turn labour’s struggle from defensive to offensive.”

            The meeting heard reports from across the country about rising numbers of new members and activity for the Communist Party and the Young Communist League, which reflects “growing disillusionment with capitalism by millions of young people and workers, many of whom are searching for real alternatives.” Upcoming issues of People’s Voice will feature coverage of this significant political trend.

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3) MUSKRAT FALLS: DISSENT AND RESISTANCE BUILDING

By Sean Burton, October 2016

            Newfoundland and Labrador is more politically activated than ever this year, launched by the widespread discontent with the Dwight Ball Liberal government's austerity budget in the spring. With a euphemistically-named "fiscal update" due at the end of October, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are rightly bracing themselves.

            The nature of this update and the Liberals’ future plans are as yet not clear. Premier Ball did present a rather vague "Way Forward" platform at an invite-only event in St. John's on October 11, while the island was reeling from the disastrous rains of Hurricane Matthew. Although some of the proposals are worth some merit, particularly doubling the province's agricultural output within the next decade, just how that and the other items will be accomplished was not specified in much detail. It can safely be assumed that the provincial government will rely on providing incentives for private development rather than taking matters directly into their hands. Ball spoke of boosting the construction sector; just imagine what a massive affordable housing program could do! That, alas, does not seem to be on the table.

            Although the protests against the budget have died down, concerned individuals and organizations have continued various actions. Pressure spiked again in recent weeks over the Muskrat Falls hydro project. Concerns over both the cost and environmental impact of the project have a part of the overall dissent building in the province for a while. But with the flooding of the reservoir now imminent, Labradorians have stepped up measures to slow down Nalcor's operations and get the provincial government to stop and reevaluate the manner in which the project is being carried out.

            Labrador's indigenous Inuit and Innu are at the forefront of this struggle. Billy Gauthier, an Inuk sculptor, began a hunger strike on October 14. Gauthier stated that he was willing to give up his life in defence of the land that his sustained his family for generations. His hunger strike has since been joined by a few other people. Dozens of people from around Labrador have participated in protests to block access at the Muskrat Falls site. Nine people were arrested by the RCMP on Oct. 17 for defying a court order to vacate the site. Nalcor has been forced to cancel work shifts and has in fact chartered helicopters to fly workers over the barricade of protesters. In addition to the government of Nunatsiavut, the protests are also backed by the communities of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Cartwright.

            Out of touch and out of control, the provincial government has attempted to take some action. Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady and Environment Minister Perry Trimper held a press conference on Oct. 19, appearing to give in to demands by ordering Nalcor to conduct further studies on clearing vegetation from the reservoir to diminish methylmercury poisoning. Despite this statement, the ministers also said that the partial flooding of the reservoir will continue as planned. In the words of one solidarity organization, nothing has changed, and it is vital that the dissent continue so that the provincial government does not subvert the movement. The treatment of indigenous land and people in Labrador, highlighted most poignantly by the arrests at Muskrat Falls, also reveals the hollowness of the Trudeau Liberals’ promise of reconciliation. The events at Muskrat Falls are an opportunity to take real action in the name of justice for Inuit and aboriginal peoples in Canada. We shall soon see what the result will be.

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4) PINKWASHING AT HALIFAX PRIDE AGM

By Melaney White

            The annual general meeting of Halifax Pride on October 5 ended in what has been described as a coup. A group called Queer Arabs of Halifax had proposed a resolution which would “identify and remove pinkwashing content” from Pride festivities in reference to a Tel Aviv tourism booth that has been present at Halifax Pride for the past four years. Pinkwashing is a term referring to corporations or governments participating in Pride events as a way to downplay their own questionable practices when it comes to human rights while appealing to LGBTQ2SI consumers in advertisements or promotions. An example of pinkwashing is Justin Trudeau’s jubilant participation in Toronto Pride this year, despite his signing off on the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, a country which violently oppresses people in the LGBTQ2SI community.

       A group called “Size Doesn’t Matter” has had a booth at Halifax Pride promoting Tel Aviv, Israel as a friendly travel destination for members of the LGBTQ2SI community. Queer Arabs of Halifax has been outspoken in their discomfort regarding such a booth at Pride events indicating that its presence makes Arab members of the community feel excluded as it undermines the safety of the space for them. Size Doesn’t Matter contends that they are not funded by the Israeli government whatsoever however those who are familiar with the Israel-Palestine conflict can appreciate why the presence of an Israeli tourism booth would be problematic at an event meant to reclaim power for oppressed groups.

       In response to the resolution set forth by QAH, the Atlantic Jewish Council brought about 200 of their members to the Pride AGM, offering a shuttle service, food and child care so as many of their members as possible could attend. To the Atlantic Jewish Council, the QAH resolution was “anti-Semitic” although other members of the Jewish community were in favour of the resolution.

       A local advocacy group called the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project submitted a petition of 503 names in support of the QAH motion. Ardath Whynacht of NSRAP said that supporters of the QAH motion have been “receiving abuse” from the Jewish Defense League, a group which has been described as “extremist.”

       The meeting soon spiralled out of control. Because the rules of the Pride committee allow any member of the public to attend and register to vote at the AGM, 200 supporters of the AJC were able to vote down the QAH motion while booing, interrupting and aggressively telling members of the LGBTQ2SI community as well as people of colour and women to “shut up.” The Atlantic Jewish Council effectively silenced the voices of the LBGTQ2SI community at their own event through aggression. Ardath Whynacht noted that “we were outvoted by straight, cisgender members of a religious organization who deliberately attended to block our motions.”

       By the end of the meeting, many had left in protest. Those remaining, largely AJC members, elected one of their own members to the Pride board.

            The Halifax Club and Red Lobster Club of the Communist Party of Canada participated in their first Halifax Pride parade this year. However unless there is a significant upheaval regarding the decisions made at the AGM, the Clubs will be boycotting the Halifax Pride events next year in favour of the Rad Pride events, created for those disenfranchised by the bureaucracy of Halifax Pride.

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5) ALL OUT ON NOV. 2: BUILD THE STUDENT STRUGGLE FOR FREE POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION

Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, October 15-16, 2016

            This November 2nd, students across Canada are taking part in a Day of Action demanding free, accessible, public post secondary education from coast-to-coast. The Communist Party of Canada stands in full solidarity in this important student struggle.

            Since 1990, the average undergraduate tuition fees across Canada have quadrupled. Governments across the country, led by Conservatives, Liberals, the NDP and the Parti Quebecois have all had a hand in implementing big business’ plan for university and college education: privatization through the expansion of user fees and corporate control over research and curriculum. Public funding accounts for less than 49 percent of university and college operating budgets, compared to 77 percent just 20 years ago.

            For students the attack on post-secondary education has resulted in astronomical student debt levels and it has contributed greatly to the increase in poverty and precariousness of young people. An education system which relies on debt means that working class students, who are disproportionately racialized have to pay more for their education in the long-term because of larger debts and interest payments. The same is true for women students who face a steep gendered pay gap upon graduation. The Federal government continues to deny Indigenous peoples their treaty rights to free post-secondary education because of a funding cap that was in place for 20 years. In 2016 there were 10,000 Indigenous students on the waiting list to access The Post-secondary Student Support Program which was created to help Indigenous Nations fund students’ education. International students are often paying triple the fees for the same education and are being used as cash cows to fund post-secondary institutions.

            After almost three decades of skyrocketing tuition fees, raising the demand of free education has never been so important. Education without user-fees is a necessary precondition for an accessible system where the right to education can be realized. The student movement’s demand for free education should not be confused with the “free tuition” grants announced this year by the governments of New Brunswick and Ontario. These are merely restructured grants that have been promised to low-income students. It is unclear who will receive them and most importantly they can act as a smoke screen to increase tuition fees and student debt across the board.

            The Communist Party of Canada fights for truly free education with no tuition fees for domestic and international students along with living stipends to cover the costs of living expenses. The CPC demands student debt amnesty and a full rollback of the corporatization of our post-secondary institutions. Canada needs a Post-Secondary Education Act, similar to the Canada Health Act, and a large increase in federal transfer payments for post-secondary education in order to ensure accessible, quality and democratic education from coast-to-coast.

            The Day of Action, initiated by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), is the first cross-Canada action called in the last four years. It is an important step towards re-mobilizing the student movement across the country. The CFS, English Canada’s only independent student federation, has adopted a defensive position after many attacks from right-wing students backed by the Liberal and Conservative parties and university administrations across the country designed to divide and weaken the student movement. Only a mass struggle against the corporate attack on post-secondary can build unity and put the student movement in a position to win the goal of free and accessible post-secondary education.  The Communist Party of Canada will be on the streets with students and their allies in labour fighting for the right to education. All out November 2nd!

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6) HIGH STAKES IN U.S. ELECTION

People’s Voice Editorial

                        Every U.S. presidential election has huge impacts, but this year’s campaign is particularly significant. On the positive side, the Democratic primary votes for Bernie Sanders showed a deep wellspring of support for progressive and even radical change. Along with the many grassroots struggles against corporate domination across the U.S. today, this gives new hope that a powerful resistance movement can be built in the belly of the imperialist beast.

                        The downside of this campaign, however, is truly ominous. The worst possible outcome – the election of Donald Trump – appears unlikely, but still not impossible. This would bring to power a movement backed by the most violent, militarist, reactionary, anti-working class elements of the U.S. ruling class. A Trump presidency would accelerate the ultra-right drive to turn the clock back to the era of white supremacy, male patriarchy, and Biblical literalism, and Blacks, women, Native Americans and other minorities were treated as less than fully human.

                        To be blunt, in the U.S. context, this is a recipe for modern day fascism. The simplistic argument that ”every capitalist party is the same” casually writes off every reform and advance won through bitter struggles over the course of two centuries:  the abolition of chattel slavery, the right to organize trade unions, Roe v. Wade, and much, much more.

                        This is not to argue that Hillary Clinton is a progressive alternative. Clinton has been pushed to adopt elements of the Sanders platform, and she would not appoint racist, misogynist thugs to the Supreme Court. But she remains a proponent of neoliberal austerity, and a hawkish advocate of militarism and interventions to overthrow governments which dare to challenge Yankee domination. Trump must be defeated, by the largest margin possible. But this election proves again that creating a true people’s alternative to the parties of big business remains a crucial task for the U.S. working class and its allies - and the sooner the better, for the sake of the entire world.

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7) FIRST CETA, THEN TPP...

People’s Voice Editorial

                        We’ve all seen this horror movie before. The monster has been slain, the survivors gather to count their losses (or if this is the sci-fi flick Alien, a weary Ellen Ripley climbs back into her stasis capsule). And suddenly… the monster (or its evil offspring) is back to inflict more mayhem. Why? Because it’s just not enough to slay the monster once. We need a strategy to win a monster-free city, or planet, or Nostromo.

                        Okay, enough with the hokey analogies. But there are parallels between the horror genre and capitalist globalization. After years of secretive talks, the Comprehensive Economic  and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada has now been defeated by an uprising of the Wallonian peasants… er, parliament. Like the Brexit vote, this outcome is a victory against the drive by big capital to wipe out national sovereignty and prevent any challenge to corporate domination over the global economy. The collapse of CETA (barring any last-minute revival of the deal) gives fresh impetus to the struggle to block the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which cannot take effect unless all 12 signatory countries give legislative approval by early 2018. That includes Canada, where the federal Liberals seem nervous about bringing the TPP to a vote, and the U.S., where popular anger has forced Hillary Clinton to back away from the deal.

                        If only that could be the final chapter. But as long as imperialist hegemony continues, new “corporate rights” deals will keep coming. The ultimate response by the working class, indigenous peoples, and their allies must be broad unity around a people’s alternative to block the power of big capital and open the way towards a socialist future. The victory over CETA should become the first step in this radical new direction.

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8) SHORTCHANGED: MAKE WORK PAID, EQUAL AND VALUED FOR WOMEN

                        A new report from Oxfam Canada says that addressing the unequal economics of women’s work is essential to closing the gap in earnings and opportunities between women and men, and between rich and poor.

                        Available at www.oxfam.ca, the report says, “the global economy is not working for women. Gender inequality affects the jobs women have access to, the money they earn, and the way society values their work. Women who find employment are too often rewarded, not with independence and empowerment, but with poverty wages, unequal pay and  insecure jobs. Even in the poorest communities, where poverty wages are a reality for men and women alike, women  perform a disproportionate share of the crucial, yet unpaid and undervalued, work of caring for children, the sick and the aging..

                        “Women living in poverty are subsidizing the global economy with labour that is either free or cheap, a fact that helps explain why economic growth does not necessarily reduce inequality... Addressing the unequal economics of women’s work is essential to closing the gap in earnings and opportunities between women and men, and between rich and poor.

                        “Women across the world now enjoy higher levels of education and increased access to the workforce, yet their efforts to build a better life continue to be hampered by the unequal  distribution of unpaid work, gender barriers to many fields of work, the undervaluing of jobs held  predominantly by women, and the often unspoken social norms that offer men higher wages and  rates of promotion..

                        “In developing countries, the combined impact of these factors, along with lower levels of  education, often traps women in precarious jobs without formal protections. For example, in Mali over 89% of women are in informal employment, compared to 74 percent of men.

                        “In Canada, the pay equity gap is a reality across all sectors, compounded by other forms  of  discrimination. For Aboriginal women, the gap actually increases the more educated they are. All Aboriginal women employed full-time earn 26 percent less than non-Aboriginal men, but Aboriginal women with a university degree earn 33 percent less.”

                        Oxfam points out that 82% of Canadian women hold paid jobs and women now make up  close to half the workforce. Yet women are paid less than men in 469 of the 500 occupations monitored by Statistics Canada. Women usually make up a larger proportion of those working part-time, not out of choice, but because family care responsibilities fall to them. Women are three times as likely as men to work part-time.

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9) ACT NOW TO SILENCE THE DRUMS OF WAR OVER SYRIA

Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, October 14-15, 2016

                        The devastating conflict in Syria which began in 2011 has now reached a new, extremely dangerous stage with the real possibility of direct military confrontation between the two leading nuclear powers, the U.S. (and NATO allies, including Canada) and the Russian Federation. In such a critical situation, it is vital for all progressive and peace-loving forces across Canada and around the world to speak out immediately to counter the deafening drums of war, and to demand that all states and governments act to bring about a negotiated political settlement to this conflict.

                        The war in Syria has already exacted a staggering toll in death and destruction, with over 400,000 deaths – more than half of which include innocent civilians caught in the crossfire – and millions driven into internal migration or foreign exile as refugees. Industry and national infrastructure have been destroyed on a massive scale, especially in the high combat zones of the country; economic losses estimated in the hundreds of billions; and unemployment and poverty for vast sections of the population.

                        The conflict in Syria has never been a ‘civil war’ between supporters and opponents of the Assad government in Damascus. Rather, from the outset it has been a proxy war, sponsored and financed by U.S./NATO imperialism and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Gulf States and Zionist Israel – with the aim of imposing regime change and the weakening and carving up of Syria, as imperialism had done earlier in Iraq and Libya.

                        Ruling circles in the U.S. and NATO countries have been completely duplicitous about their real intentions in Syria and the region as a whole. Their claims of combatting ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and wanting to protect the lives of innocent civilians, are belied by facts which have surfaced during the course of the conflict.

                        Ever since the besieged Syrian government asked for and received military assistance from the Russian Federation in September 2015, the balance of forces has shifted decidedly against the ISIS and Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist insurgency and their Western sponsors. Over the past year the Syrian Army, with the help of the Russians and other allies in the region, have done much more to combat the mercenary terrorist forces than the US-led ‘coalition’ offensive had done over the preceding 31/2 years, and now the ‘rebel forces’ are on the verge of defeat in the strategic city of Aleppo.

                        But instead of welcoming these setbacks to the terrorist forces, Washington and the NATO powers have launched a much more intense and vitriolic propaganda war against the Assad government and the Russian Federation, accusing them of ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ and once again invoking the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine as a pretext for direct military aggression against the Syrian government and its allies. These latest developments re-confirm that imperialism’s real objective continues to be the overthrow the Assad government, rather than to ‘fight terrorism’.

                        The bellicose rhetoric and propaganda offensive launched in recent weeks by U.S. and NATO leaders, uncritically parroted by the Western corporate media, has now reached a disturbingly high pitch. Plans being drafted by US/NATO military circles for direct attacks on Syrian and Russian forces; calls for the imposition of a “No Fly Zone” (as was used in Libya in 2011 to overthrow the Kaddafi government); and preparations to launch a direct cyber-attack on the Russian Federation – all of these could lead to a direct confrontation between the US/NATO and the Russian Federation, one which could quickly escalate into a world war, including the use of weapons of mass destruction.

                        There should be absolutely no underestimation of the urgent nature of the threat of global confrontation and war which have now emerged over the conflict in Syria. It is vital therefore that all anti-imperialist and progressive forces, the broad peace movement and all those dedicated to the cause of peace across Canada break the silence and mobilize to demand that the Canadian government act to defuse tensions by removing its own troops from Syria and the region, and working for a peaceful, negotiated way out the crisis, one which respects the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.

                        The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada calls on all of its Clubs and Committees, and all of its members, friends and supporters to build a broad ‘peace offensive’ as our highest priority at this critical juncture. The Communist Party also calls for full support to initiatives by the Canadian Peace Congress and other peace forces to address and counter this rising danger of war. The CPC also urges all democratic and progressive organizations and movements across the country – the trade union movement, Aboriginal peoples, youth and students, women’s and equality-seeking movements and others – to speak out now for peace, and to still the drums of war.

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10) U.S. LABOUR ACTIVISTS AT WORLD TRADE UNION CONGRESS

From the speech by Cherrene Horazuk, for the US delegation to the World Trade Union Congress in Durban, South Africa

                        On behalf of the US delegation, thank you to the WFTU for inviting us to observe this 17th congress. It is an honour to be among so many leaders and fighters for our class. Thank you also to COSATU and all of our South African hosts. Many people in the US of my generation became anti-imperialist activists during the struggle against apartheid, inspired by your liberation movement. Your struggle helped us to build our movement.

                        In the US, we are working to put our unions on a class-struggle orientation and to transform them into weapons for our fight. Not enough of our unions are willing to stand up and fight back against capitalist barbarity, but there are several shining examples that point the way forward. 

                        Nearly 5,000 nurses in Minnesota have been on strike for over a month against a corporation that made $1.3 billion last year but still demands concessions from its workers. The nurses bravely voted overwhelmingly on (October 3) to continue their strike indefinitely. 

                        Seven hundred and fifty dining service workers started a strike yesterday (Oct. 5) against Harvard University, the richest university in the world. Harvard has $35 billion in savings, has 47 Nobel prize winners, and educated the world's bourgeoisie, yet its workers live in poverty. But Harvard workers are rising up and saying no to concessions. They are rising up and demanding a guaranteed annual income that allows a dignified life. 

                        Twenty-eight thousand teachers in Chicago just voted to go on strike once again. They plan to start this strike on October 11 and are fighting back against concessions and to defend the services their students need. They are striking against Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a billionaire who was President Obama's Chief of Staff. The Chicago teachers have inspired teachers and students around the country to resist the corporate takeover of education. 

                        A small but growing number of unions are joining the struggle of the black liberation movement against police terror. In the last two years alone, more than 2,000 people have been killed by the police. Young black men are five times more likely to be killed than whites. Working class men like Philando Castile, a union brother from my city who was gunned down by police in June in front of his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter when he was pulled over for a broken taillight on his car. His murder was captured on video by his girlfriend and horrified the country. People are rising up against these racist atrocities and unions are finally joining in. 

                        Some unions are also joining the struggle of indigenous people against expansion of oil pipelines through their sacred lands of Standing Rock. The AFL-CIO has taken the backwards position of supporting the pipeline because it creates a few hundred jobs. But our best unions have the joined the struggle against the pipeline and in solidarity with native peoples. 

                        Our best union fighters have also joined the struggle for the release of political prisoners Oscar Lopez Rivera, Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal and others. 

                        I live near Chicago, the home of Haymarket, where the fight for the 8-hour day was born. In 1886, workers rose up to demand an 8-hour day and were brutally attacked by the police. The leaders were convicted and executed. Around the world, the working class honors these martyrs every May 1st - International Workers' Day. But not in the US, because conservative trade union leaders have buried the radical and communist history of our movement. However, May Day was reclaimed as a mass workers day in 2006 by immigrant workers, mainly from Mexico, and we now join the world in celebrating our heroes and struggles on May first. 

                        For decades, a statue honoring the police stood on the Haymarket site. It was blown up several times and finally moved offsite. Now, a workers' monument stands on Haymarket Square. The trade union movement in Chicago cares for the monument. Each year, they invite one international union to place a plaque on the monument. This year, the invitation was given to the WFTU in recognition of the WFTU's role in leading the global working class movement...

                        Long live the WFTU! Long live the international working class! Down with US imperialism! Amanda!

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11) SUPPORT THE PEACE ACCORD IN COLOMBIA

Resolution adopted by the Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, October 14-15, 2016

                        The signing of the six point general peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the government of Colombia was an historic step towards ending the longest armed conflict in the American hemisphere. It was the conclusion of four years of exhaustive talks and negotiations facilitated by the Cuban government and assisted by a number of European participants.   

                        Opinion polls showed a convincing 70% of Colombians supported the peace process and intended to vote “Si” in the October 2nd referendum on the agreement. Millions of Colombians and international watchers were therefore shocked by the vote result.  The "No" won by a narrow margin, with 50.21 percent to 49.78 percent for the "Yes" vote. The difference was a half of a percentage point against the peace accord. The "No" had 6,431,376 votes to 6,377,482 votes for the "Yes," a difference of 53,894 votes.

                        While the plebiscite was largely non-binding, meaning that congressional lawmakers would have the last say on approving or rejecting the deal, the vote was meant to provide a broad democratic legitimacy for the deal.

                        The FARC-EP had consistently called for a constituent assembly instead of a plebiscite, arguing that an assembly would be much more representative and would guarantee the participation of the most marginalized and affected peoples in Colombia and would go beyond a simple yes or no vote.

                        The "No" vote was led by former president Alvaro Uribe and big landowners who have run the country with impunity for decades. The fear-mongering campaign launched by these forces, with the support of right-wing media, helped generate a climate of confusion that resulted in low voter turnout among supporters of the agreement. Uribe continues to enjoy popularity amongst the right wing and the extremes within Colombian society, and he spared no expense in spreading lies about the amnesty and land provisions of the accord. His links with paramilitaries also played a role in mobilizing votes against the deal.      

                        The “No” side also benefited from the very low voter turnout – only 13 million of the 35 million eligible voters, less than 40 percent, made it to the polls. Tens of thousands of exiled Colombians globally voted overwhelmingly for Peace so it was difficult to understand the internal low turnout. Many who stayed home assumed the deal approval was a foregone conclusion, and a hurricane on the Atlantic coast inhibited some voters from reaching polls.

                        Extensive negative media coverage about the FARC, combined with enormous resources spent by the elites within the country, helped bury the peace deal. “No” won because the right wing, led by Uribe, was able to turn a vote that was supposed to be on peace into a vote on the FARC. The geographic breakdown of the referendum indicates that “No” won in areas where Uribe and his political party have their support. Within the urban areas that are relatively untouched by war, the “No” side gained momentum and the majority voted against the agreement. Within the rural areas, which are greatly affected by military intervention and paramilitary activity, Colombians overwhelmingly voted for Peace. 

                        The FARC-EP has committed itself to use only words as weapons for peace. “The struggle for peace continues,” said Timoleon adding with optimism that “there was still hope.” He said he  "deeply deplored" the result as a deceiving campaign by the “No,” forces led by the "destructive powers planting the seeds of hatred and resentment among Colombia's people.” Timoleon concluded that “Whoever wishes peace in Colombia can rely on the FARC-EP. Peace shall win!” Santos confirmed Sunday following the results that the cease-fire remains in effect.

                        The Communist Party of Canada calls on the Canadian government to:

* Actively support the cease-fire.

* Reject the anti-democratic and anti-peace mobilizations of Alvaro Uribe and the wealthy landowners who led the “No” campaign.

* Encourage the Colombian government to enact the laws needed to accept the negotiated peace accord.

* Provide funds to assist with implementing the peace accord.

* Remove the FARC-EP from the list of so-called "terrorist organizations."

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12) SIGNS OF POLITICAL INBREEDING IN THE UNITED STATES

By Nino Pagliccia, October 14, 2016

                        The spectacle of the U.S. elections has never been so distressing. The presidential options do not look promising, and the rest of the world will feel the impact as the so-called superpower tries to impose its failing brand of democracy. The compliant media, in turn, is obsessed with every inane (or insane) story about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

                        Competing over  who will hit the moral bottom first, the two candidates continue to wrestle as they sink further down. Most of us have reached a saturation point about this reality show.

                        Why do U.S. politics lack the seriousness that is required as it impacts millions of people?

                        The fundamentally capitalist political ideologies of the Democratic and Republican parties offer little different or new to the public. The aims of the two parties have been essentially the same for decades. In foreign policy, U.S. expansionism and wars have continued under presidents of both parties, protecting imperialist corporate interests based on the doctrine of “American exceptionalism”.      

                        Domestically, there is mounting evidence of increasing poverty and wealth disparity, homelessness, racism, homophobia, mass murders, among other problems.

                        The two parties have been incapable or unwilling to solve those problems, which have gotten worse over time. During his visit to Cuba last March, Obama candidly said, “There are still enormous problems in our society.” He went on to list some of them: “economic inequality; the death penalty; racial discrimination; wars abroad”. He continued, “We do have too much money in American politics”, and “We do have challenges with racial bias in our communities, in our criminal justice system, in our society.”

                        He failed to mention perhaps the most crucial problem that affects U.S. society: the apathy and disengagement from the political process by the majority of the population. There is no substantial political conversation among Americans, except that of professional politicians and analysts who speak mostly among themselves. Engaging in elections every four years does not build the kind of awareness necessary to produce change.

                        Over time there has been a determined process by the establishment to remove every possible ideological divergence from that of the two traditional parties. Independent popular expressions such as the Occupy Movement or even a mainstream Bernie Sanders have never been allowed to flourish and materialize as real alternatives. Two of the four presidential candidates in the current election, Gary Johnson of the Libertarians and Jill Stein of the Green Party, have been mostly ignored by the status quo.

            As the corporate media focuses on personal character traits, electors are distracted from the real political issues. It can be said that the party primary process was more interesting, thanks mostly to the presence of the more critical Sanders.

                        This type of apparent democracy, centred on the persona of the candidates and their stunts, is not new, albeit more dramatic and theatrical this time. There is no real political ideology in the two parties, only ambitious personalities who can easily be targeted as individuals. This is now evident as some Republicans turn away from their contentious candidate. Without real platforms to offer, candidates turn against each other with accusations and trivial talk, which are broadcast as news items by the media.

            A two-party system that does not present distinct ideologies does not constitute a democracy. A democracy must be a living process that feeds on new ideas and challenges, with the full and continuous participation of the people who are actively involved for the benefit of all in society. This kind of democracy does not happen spontaneously but must be encouraged and built.

                        Without political variety, U.S. society is becoming diseased with political inbreeding. An internal economy deformed away from social spending and towards military spending, an irrational foreign policy of domination, and the insanity of a presidential campaign that does not even offer any realistic solutions, are the visible symptoms of an unhealthy and decaying society.

                        The “cure” can only be placed in the hands of Americans who must eagerly adopt other socially-oriented political options and vigorously force their national leaders to be receptive to ideological innovation.

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13) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

Neil Young's "Indian Givers"

Neil Young's new song and video, "Indian Givers", is a straightforward condemnation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the oil mega-project that is being resisted by the Standing Rock Sioux Association and allies from across the continent. The veteran rock star has long been a supporter of Indigenous land claims and a fighter against oil mega-projects, like the Tar Sands and Keystone XL. In the chorus Young declares: "There's a battle raging on the sacred land / Our brothers and sisters have to take a stand / Against us now for what we all been doing / On the sacred land there's a battle brewing". Elsewhere he sings: "Now it's been about 500 years / We keep taking what we gave away / Just like what we call Indian givers". The term "Indian giver" is a taunt against someone who wants a gift back. Young is referring to treaties that the U.S. government signed with Indigenous peoples. He reverses an old racist slur against native peoples that depicts them as deceitful and ungenerous. It is settler people ("us") who deserve the epithet. While his point is clear, it must be said that nothing was "given away" by the U.S. government. This was all originally Indigenous land.

Sing Out! Radio Magazine 

Readers who listen to podcasts should check out Sing Out! Radio Magazine, a weekly show hosted by musician-journalist Tom Druckenmiller. It's part of Sing Out!, the quarterly journal founded in 1950 by Pete Seeger and activist Irwin Sibler. The hour-long show is aired live on various stations in the USA, but Canadians can listen to the podcast. Recent themes include: "The National Museum of African-American History and Culture" (featuring music by artists represented in the museum that recently opened in Washington, DC); "Folk City" (a two-part series on the "folk revival" in New York in the early sixties); "Pioneering Women" (a two-part series on female folk musicians, from Maybelle Carter to Odetta); and "Solidarity Forever" (a Labour Day broadcast featuring artists from the Almanac Singers to David Rovics). In its mission statement Sing Out! declares that it seeks to "preserve and support the cultural diversity and heritage of all traditional and contemporary folk musics". Its definition of folk music is broad, including blues, bluegrass, contemporary singer-songwriters, and various "roots music" genres. Sing Out! Radio Magazine is available through the usual podcast services. For more info: www.singout.org.

Ani DiFranco's new single "Play God"

Folk-rock singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco has released a new single and video that  has been called "a battle cry for reproductive freedom". "Play God" was recorded in New Orleans with the help of local maestro Ivan Neville. The video, edited by Shervin Laïnez, features clips of DiFranco on tour plus clips of women's rights protests around the USA. " I pay my taxes like any man," she sings. "I feel that I've earned my right to choose. You don't get to play God, man. I do." DiFranco is a long-time advocate for women's rights. Introducing the song on her website she writes: "As a society, it is time to acknowledge that unless a woman is in control of her own reproduction, she is not free, and it is the responsibility of our American government to protect and ensure the freedom of all American citizens. It is time we get serious about addressing and achieving this great unfinished business of civil rights in America. The true emancipation and equality of women is dependent on it." For more info: www.righteousbabe.com.

Oscar Brand 1920-2016

Winnipeg-born folk musician and radio/TV host Oscar Brand died in Long Island, NY on Sept. 30th. He recorded more than 100 albums, and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006. In Canada, he's remembered as host of the 1960s TV show "Let's Sing Out", and as composer of the so-called alternate national anthem "This Land of Ours" (a.k.a. "Something to Sing About"). Beyond Canada, he's remembered as host of "Folksong Festival", a weekly radio show on New York's WNYC that ran uninterrupted from 1945 until a week before his death. Oscar Brand was a friend and associate of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and other members of the Weavers. Their appearances on "Folksong Festival", as well as those of artists like Leadbelly and Bob Dylan, exerted a profound influence on several generations of musicians and listeners. In the early 50's, Brand was targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for alleged communist connections, but he was never blacklisted, and he continued to feature blacklisted performers on his show. He did, however, also allow folksinger Burl Ives, who had "named names", to appear, arguing that he didn't think anyone should be blacklisted. For old "Folksong Festival" audio clips of Guthrie, The Weavers, and Bob Dylan, check out the Oscar Brand tributes at www.wnyc.com.

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14) TUDEH: 75 YEARS FOR IRAN’S FIGHTING WORKING CLASS PARTY

Morning Star interview with Navid Shomali, the international secretary of the Tudeh Party of Iran (TPI).

On October 2 the Tudeh Party of Iran (TPI) celebrated its 75th anniversary. During this period what would you describe as the main focus of TPI’s struggle in Iran?

                        The party of the Iranian working class was established by communist political prisoners freed from Reza Shah’s jails, and other national democratic personalities.

                        At the time, Iran was struggling with social underdevelopment, the widespread interference of colonial powers and the rule of internal reaction. The emergence of our party on Iran’s political stage was a great event that resulted in significant social, political and cultural developments in our country.

                        Within a short period of time, the party became a mass party, organising tens of thousands of workers, establishing trade unions, women’s democratic organisations, organising youth and students, as well as a mass peace movement across the country.

                        Clearly this created significant challenges for imperialism and internal reaction. They feared, and still fear, the ideological and political foundations of the party, and its ability to organise workers and oppressed people.

                        Our party sees itself as the party of the Iranian working class, which for the past 75 years has been struggling against imperialist intervention in Iran, for the democratic rights and freedom of our people and for socialism.

                        Even the political critics of our party admit that ideas such as “labour law”, workers’ rights to establish syndicates and trade unions, equal rights for women, women’s right to vote and participate in the socio-economic and political life of the country, as well as ideas such as free health and education and land reform in favour of the peasants, were first introduced into Iran by the Tudeh Party and that they transformed our society.

                        It is no accident that our party has been subjected to numerous attempts to suppress and destroy it, in which thousands of our members have been exiled, imprisoned and killed. During the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran, the overwhelming majority of our party’s Politburo, Central Committee and hundreds of party cadres, members and supporters were killed by Khomeini’s regime.

What is your party’s assessment of President Rouhani’s government, which is widely considered to be the architect of successful negotiations with the UN Security Council in settling the nuclear dispute and ending of the sanctions? Have the Iranian people seen any improvements?

                        Firstly, it is important to note that the foreign policy of Iran’s theocratic regime under the direction and leadership of Ali Khamenei during the past two decades has been nothing but disastrous, resulting in dangerous tensions within the region and devastating economic sanctions imposed by imperialism, which broke the back of the country’s economy and made life unbearably hard for millions of Iranians.

                        While Rouhani’s government can claim responsibility for the successful conclusion of these negotiations [to lift sanctions], the reality is that the Iranian regime started its secret negotiations with the US more than two years before Rouhani was elected as president, at the time of the Ahmadinejad government.

                        Despite the almost daily political skirmishes played out in front of the world media, to strengthen the negotiation team’s hand, the hard fact, as recently stated by the head of the negotiating team, is that the agreement with the West was closely orchestrated and directed by Iran’s leader and it was with his full approval that the agreement was signed.

                        Our party welcomed the negotiations as the only way of resolving the disputes with the US and Europe concerning Iran’s nuclear policy and of reaching a comprehensive agreement that protects the national interests of Iran. But we also warned against the other aspects of the negotiations which aimed at integrating Iran into the US plan for the “New Middle East”.

                        Despite the ending of the sanctions, Iran’s economic situation has not improved. This is due to the neo-liberal policies of the regime. Even according to official statistics the economy is stagnant, Iran’s national industry is declining fast, millions of people are living below the regime’s defined poverty line, over 3,000,000 people are out of work, and there is rampant corruption and growing inflation.

In June the Morning Star reported the case of the hunger strike of trade unionist Ja’far Azimzadeh. What is the state of human rights, especially with respect to political and trade union activities?

                        The successful worldwide campaign to save Azimzadeh highlighted the plight of the Iranian working class. Savage suppression of trade union rights, which over the past six months has included public lashing of protesting workers as well as the arrest and torture of trade union activists, is part and parcel of the regime’s response to a growing protest movement.

                        The establishment of trade unions, just salaries, wage rises that keep pace with the rate of inflation, receipt of timely payment (there are cases where workers have not had any salaries paid to them for the past year) and protection against zero-hours contracts are among the workers’ immediate demands.

            In recent weeks the government has announced its intention to “reform” the labour law to “help” businesses and economic development.

                        Of course the aim of the so called reforms is the removal of basic protections for workers’ rights, which was achieved following the 1979 revolution. Our party believes that this will be a huge battleground for the working-class movement and that only through organised and co-ordinated struggle we can defeat the regime’s plans.

How would you describe the present power structure within the Islamic Republic of Iran? The Western mainstream media has portrayed the recent parliamentary elections in February 2016 as an important landmark victory by reformist forces allied to Rouhani. Can the reformists change the nature of the regime’s power structure?

                        We have a theocratic regime, which is known as the “Regime of the Supreme Religious Leader” (regime of Velayat Fagieh).

                        This is a religious dictatorship serving the interests of the big mercantile and bureaucratic bourgeoisie in Iran. While the power structure includes a “government” led by the president, a parliament and the judiciary, the reality is that all these are directly or indirectly controlled by the Supreme Religious Leader, being answerable only to him.

                        In fact the head of the judiciary – which forms an important part of the security and suppressive apparatus in Iran – is appointed directly by Khamenei. Also important to note is that during the past two decades we have seen a significant rise in the profile and power of the “revolutionary guards” – the Basij – and other paramilitary and security structures in Iran. It is no exaggeration to say that a significant part of our country’s economy is now controlled by the revolutionary guards’ leadership who report to Khamenei and are appointed by him. Also of significance is the fact that the leaders of the revolutionary guard are openly involved in determining the regime’s strategic policies.

                        Everything, from relationships with various countries and organising widespread vote-rigging in elections to the savage suppression of people’s protest (for example following the 2009 presidential elections in which millions of votes were rigged to appoint Ahmadinejad as the president for the second time) are part of the growing and very dangerous role of the revolutionary guard and its leadership in Iran. According to various documents released over the past couple of years, while ordinary people suffered tremendously, the revolutionary guards’ leaders have benefited to the tune of billions of dollars from US-imposed economic sanctions.

The political developments in Iran are closely related and reflect the events in the Middle East. What is the TPI’s assessment of the developments in Syria and the current impasse in reaching a negotiated solution to that conflict?

                        It is clear that the policy-makers in key global capitalist institutions have tried to shift the burden of the systemic crisis of capitalism onto the shoulders of workers and the poor.

                        Neo-liberal policies dominate Europe and North America. Inequality has become more institutionalised in the capitalist countries. Dictatorial states are employing every tactic to crush people’s resistance.

                        The Middle East is the focus of carefully orchestrated attempts by US-led world imperialism to consolidate its hegemony and to ensure unrivalled control of the flow of oil, the ability to freely plunder the region’s resources and to exploit its markets.

                        Right-wing and reactionary forces in the Middle East – backed by the US and EU – are working to ensure that no substantial challenge ever upsets the US “New Middle East plan.”

                        They have been able to dictate the course of events in the region by engineering crises, wars and conflicts. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are burning. Libya has been reduced to a place where tribes vie for power and Islamic terror rules.

                        The reality is that the emergence and growth of “Islamic terrorism” has been mainly due to the disastrous policies of the US, its European allies and its regional accomplices such as Saudi Arabia and their financial and military support for various extremist forces, including the mercenaries of Al-Qaida and ISIS. Obviously, the continuance of the hegemonic and warmongering policies of the imperialist states in the Middle East and North Africa during the past three decades – particularly the aggressive invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the fuelling of the civil war in Syria – has caused bloodshed and devastation, affecting millions of ordinary people in these countries and creating a refugee crisis, particularly in Europe, not seen since the end of the second world war.

                        The situation in Syria is a human catastrophe of unimaginable proportion that is continuing mainly due to the desires of Western powers to remove the government of Assad.

                        The forces currently backed by the US, Britain and the EU are of the same fundamentalist and terroristic ilk as ISIS and whose aims are the establishment of a medieval, religious dictatorship in Syria.

                        The fact that the Western media and governments are presenting these forces as “freedom fighters,” just as they did with Al-Qaida, Osama bin-Laden in the 1980s and the proxy war in Afghanistan demonstrates the destructive policies pursued by the West in the region.

                        In our view it should be the Syrian people who determine their future government and not external forces.

                        The immediate end to this destructive war must be the first step before genuine national political forces can negotiate on how to best to implement a long-lasting plan for peace and start the rebuilding of the country.

Your party was banned in 1983 and forced to operate in clandestine conditions. How can the TPI effect changes in the country under these conditions?

                        During the 1983 attack on our party, the regime’s chief prosecutor announced that they had arrested more than 10,000 of our members and supporters. The aim was to destroy the party in Iran once and for all.

                        Today, following the execution of almost all of our party’s leadership and after the collapse of Soviet Union and the socialist countries in eastern Europe in the 1990s, we have successfully rebuilt the party and play an important role in the political struggle in Iran against the despotic regime.

                        Over the past 12 months, the regime has started a significant propaganda campaign against the party. Fars News Agency – which belongs to the “revolutionary guards” – ran a six-part series of interviews and events about the regime’s attack on the party and how party leaders “confessed” to being Soviet spies aiming to topple the regime.

                        Following this series on July 11, 2015, Khamenei expressed significant worries against the rise of Marxism, attacked our party and asked Iran’s media to re-run the TV “confessions” of our former party leaders mostly now executed by the regime.

                        Today our members and supporters are an integral part of the workers’, women’s, youth and students’ movements in the country. We work closely with the reform movement in Iran and believe that there is a growing consensus that unless all democratic and freedom-loving forces work together, we will not be able to force the dictatorial regime into retreat.

                        We are very conscious that the best cover for a party that is banned and working under the most difficult conditions is to be part of the mass movement and able to influence the direction of the struggle.

                        In short, some of our key slogans and views are reflected in the slogans of the peoples’ movement to end the dictatorship in Iran. That is the strength of the work done by our comrades and supporters all over the world and why the Iranian leadership is seriously concerned about the influence of the party.

                        The past 30 years of rebuilding the party has been successful thanks to the tireless work of our members and supporters all over the world, especially in Iran, and the support and solidarity we have received from the working-class and communist movements everywhere.

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