People’s Voice November 1-15, 2017

Volume 25 – Number 18   $1

CONTENTS

1) NATIONALIZE BOMBARDIER: STOP THE GIVEAWAY

2) THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF GREAT OCTOBER

3) UNITY STRATEGY NEEDED FOR 2018 CIVIC ELECTION IN VANCOUVER

4) ONTARIO COLLEGE FACULTY ON STRIKE AGAINST PRECARIOUS WORK

5) OPPOSE DIVISIVE BILL 62 - Editorial

6) IMPERIALIST HYPOCRISY - Editorial

7) THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION’S IMPACT ON LABOUR AND POLITICS IN CANADA

8) CUPW URGES WYNNE TO STRENGTHEN BILL 148

9) “MOST DANGEROUS PERIOD SINCE 1962"

10) PV SELLER DIES ON THE DANFORTH - A VICTIM OF AUSTERITY

11) NATIONAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY A MAJOR STEP FORWARD IN BOLIVARIAN DEMOCRACY

12) SOCIALIST AND ANTI-IMPERIALIST SPIRIT IN CARACAS

13) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

 


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(The following articles are from the November 1-15, 2017, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

1) NATIONALIZE BOMBARDIER: STOP THE GIVEAWAY

Statement by the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada

            The Communist Party’s Executive Committee is demanding the federal government immediately block the corporate deal with Airbus that will kill thousands of new jobs and give away controlling interest in Canada’s C-series jet for $1.  

            Further, Parliament must step up to put Bombardier under public ownership and democratic control, and pull the plug on NAFTA which has contributed in a big way to this debacle.

            Bombardier’s $8.7 billion debt includes over $6 billion spent on development of the C-series jet – a project meant to make Canada a leader in the global aerospace industry, creating thousands of new jobs in Canada. That’s why the federal government made $1.3 billion in loans to Bombardier and why the Quebec government invested $1.25 billion for what began as a 49.5% interest, now shrunk to just 19%. 

            While reaching into the public purse time after time, Bombardier’s executives were being paid millions in publicly funded bonuses year after year – without any public oversight or control.

            What induced Bombardier to hand over control of the C-Series jet to the European based Airbus, was NAFTA, and the decision of the US administration to slap a 300% tariff on Bombardier’s sales of the C-series jet to Delta airlines in the US. The tariff was the result of demands by the US based-Boeing corporation which claimed that Bombardier was unfairly subsidized by the Canadian government. To get around the tariff, Bombardier made a deal with Airbus to build the jets in Alabama, in a non-union shop, in a US right-to- work state. In exchange Bombardier gets a 31% stake in the C-series for 7.5 years, while sales will be larger because Airbus is a mega-player in the aerospace industry.

            Canadian workers get left holding the bag for public investments and loans that will never be repaid, and for jobs that will never materialize because wages are so much lower in the US. In fact, there is a good chance that the 2,000 Bombardier jobs in Montreal could disappear, as production ramps up in Alabama. NAFTA gives corporations complete freedom to set up and close down wherever and whenever they want, with low wages, poor working conditions, and a union-free, regulation-free environment all acceptable reasons to move production out of Canada.

            This is another perfect example of why Canada should pull the plug and get out of NAFTA now.

            Continuing in NAFTA means continuing to watch as manufacturing and industrial jobs are routinely stripped out of Canada, while wages are beaten down, pensions are gutted and unions and labour rights are undermined and destroyed.

            Private corporations have repeatedly demonstrated, in their pursuit of profit, that they cannot be relied upon to provide good jobs with fair wages and benefits, to the working class in Canada. The practice of massive public bailouts to huge corporations, in exchange for job guarantees that evaporate, must end. The aerospace and transportation industry is a key element in Canada's economy and it must be developed in the interests of the people, not corporate profit.

            Enough is enough! Get out of NAFTA! Nationalize Bombardier and block the deal with Airbus. Build the C-series jet in Canada. And build a Canada-wide transportation system that’s publicly owned and democratically controlled, and meets the needs of the people who live and work in Canada – not those corporations that profit here.

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2) THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF GREAT OCTOBER

Statement of the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, October 2017

            Throughout November, celebrations around the world will mark the centenary of the outstanding political event of the 20th century: the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917. By overthrowing the Russian capitalists, landowners and aristocrats, the workers, peasants and soldiers of the Tsarist empire opened the door to a new society in which humanity's dreams of peace, equality and democracy began to become reality. The storming of the Winter Palace, signalled by the guns of the Aurora cruiser, began the historical epoch of the transition towards a socialist society, based on cooperation and social justice, not the  exploitation and oppression inherent in the profit-driven capitalist system.

            The October Revolution was far more than a change in government. It was a fundamental social upheaval, a sharp break with thousands of years of class-divided societies. For the first time, the working class took lasting political power, shattering the myth that only the owners of wealth can rule.

            Under the slogan "Peace, Land, Bread" and with the support of the overwhelming majority of the working class and poor peasants, the Bolsheviks (the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, which the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was then called) began the long and complex effort to build a new "system of civilized cooperators," as the great revolutionary Vladimir Lenin described the essence of socialism.

            The new Soviet government immediately issued its famous "decree on peace", taking Russia out of the imperialist slaughter by the leading capitalist countries for the re-division of wealth and colonial possession they had plundered from the world's peoples. Land was transferred to millions of impoverished peasants, and industrial, financial and other capitalist companies were nationalized. Workers were guaranteed employment. Education and health care became universal and free. Nations oppressed under the Tsarist heel were guaranteed equality and self-determination, including the right to secession. Patriarchal laws were replaced by the full legal and social emancipation of women.

            The imperialist countries, including Canada, sent armies to crush the young Soviet state while the "baby was still in its cradle", as Winston Churchill said. Surrounded by counter-revolutionary forces and invading imperialist armies, the Soviet government and the Red Army triumphed, with the support of workers around the world acting under the slogan "Hands off Russia!" The heroic example of Soviet Russia inspired working class struggles and insurrections throughout the world, including the Winnipeg General Strike and the formation of the Communist Party of Canada in this country.

            The Soviet revolution shook imperialism as never before. Yet it stood on the shoulders of more than one hundred years of working class and national liberation struggles. Millions of workers had supported the First and Second Internationals, whose goal was world peace and socialism, in sharp contrast to the imperialist strivings of the leading capitalist countries.

            The Internationals were inspired by the slogan "Workers of all lands, unite!" and by revolutionaries such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who declared that the working class was the agent of socialist revolution. The working class movement was steeled by persecutions, and educated by the bloody vengeance of the French and Prussian capitalists in 1871 against the Paris Commune - the world's first working class state. When opportunist leaders of the Second International backed their own imperialist governments during the First World War, the revolutionary sections of the working class movement, including Lenin and the Bolsheviks, courageously struggled against imperialist war. Nearly fifty years after the Commune, the October Revolution gave a new impetus, content, and energy to the world revolutionary movement.

            Great October holds a unique and honoured place in history, as the first socialist revolution to achieve and retain political power, withstanding both internal counter-revolution and foreign intervention. It dramatically changed world politics, breaking the hegemony of imperialism, and establishing a new and fundamentally different approach to relations between peoples, nations and states.

            The October Revolution proved that socialism could become more than a utopian ideal. The working class and its allies could move beyond sporadic resistance to challenge the capitalist system as a whole, and achieve social emancipation. The exploited and oppressed, through conscious and united struggle, could shape their own destiny. It was this truth about the Russian Revolution that filled the privileged classes with a fear and hatred of socialism, from the earliest days of the Soviet state.

            Despite unremitting imperialist hostility and subversion, the Soviet Union endured for over seven decades, scoring many great achievements, overcoming unemployment, illiteracy, and social deprivation. Socialism in the Soviet Union transformed an economically and culturally "backward" country into one of the world's leading powers, and made great advances in culture and science.

            It was the Soviet Union which led the heroic military struggle to defeat Hitler fascism on the battlefield, creating the conditions for the emergence of other socialist states in Europe. The Soviet Union championed the cause of anti-racism and decolonization, gave crucial material and political support to liberation movements, and provided vital assistance to the former colonies as they won their independence. The changing international balance of forces was a key factor in helping the peoples of China, Korea, Vietnam and Cuba to carry out their own socialist transformations. The USSR's peace policy also restricted - though it could not entirely suppress - imperialism's tendency to military aggression.

            The gains achieved by workers under socialism inspired the working class in the advanced capitalist countries, compelling the ruling class to concede reforms around labour rights, the 40-hour work week, unemployment insurance, health care, public education, and pensions. The progress toward economic and social equality by women in the USSR was a powerful stimulus to the struggles of women in the capitalist countries for pay and employment equity, and for child care and other social programs which would weaken the patriarchal double burden of capitalist exploitation and unpaid domestic labour.

            Ultimately, however, the first workers' state was overturned and capitalism restored, due to a combination of interrelated internal and external circumstances and contradictions which culminated in the temporary victory of counter-revolution.

            The defeat of socialism in the USSR became a powerful ideological weapon in the hands of monopoly capitalism. We categorically reject the bourgeois contention that the causes of the crisis and defeat of the Soviet Union were rooted in the intrinsic nature of socialism. Rather, that historic setback resulted from the extremely difficult conditions under which socialism was built, especially the destructive impact of decades of imperialist pressures and subversion, and from distortions and departures from Marxist-Leninist theory and practice.

            Whatever the failures and mistakes which occurred during that first great experiment in building a new, higher form of society, these do not detract from the enduring significance of Great October. Socialism's historical balance-sheet was overwhelmingly positive, not only for the people of the Soviet Union but indeed for all humanity. The misery and impoverishment which have befallen millions of people in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since the early 1990s (especially women whose equality gains were rolled back), and the massive profiteering by those who took advantage of the restoration of capitalism, is painful evidence of what happens when counter-revolution succeeds.

            Despite its so-called victory, capitalism itself remains in profound systemic crisis. The widening gap between rich and poor, the endless wars and conflicts spawned by imperialism, and the environmental crisis which threatens human civilization, all show that the private profit system, driven by personal and corporate greed, cannot meet the fundamental needs and interests of the people and the global environment.

            As capitalism generates war, austerity, and catastrophic climate change, people everywhere are yearning for freedom. Struggles against imperialist globalization have grown sharper, and in many countries, the working class is mounting fierce resistance against the corporate drive for higher profits. The powerful example of Cuba's socialist revolution continues to inspire workers, youth and oppressed peoples around the world.

            Imperialism is responding with growing reaction, militarism and war. In the US, Canada, Europe, India and other regions, far-right, racist and neo-Nazi forces aim to divide and weaken the working class movement, and to roll back the equality gains achieved by trade unions, women, LGBTQ people, and immigrants. But the forces of imperialism and reaction cannot hold back the irresistible power and attraction of socialist ideas, the growth of the international working class, and the striving of the vast majority of humanity for social progress, a sustainable environment, and peace.

            Not least, the Great October Socialist Revolution proved the importance of creating the "revolutionary party of a new type" - solidly grounded in the working class, and based on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and the principles of democratic centralism. At a time when working people increasingly reject both the old-line capitalist parties and social democratic opportunism, it is more critical than ever to strengthen the revolutionary political parties which can win the working class for a genuine socialist alternative.

            Nothing can erase the accomplishments of Great October. The Communist Party of Canada will celebrate Great October for its great achievements, for its historic lessons and for the unequalled inspiration it has created for the future of humanity - a socialist future!

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3) UNITY STRATEGY NEEDED FOR 2018 CIVIC ELECTION IN VANCOUVER

PV Vancouver Bureau

            The October 14 Vancouver civic byelection for one city council seat and nine school trustees was an interesting test of political winds heading towards the regular municipal elections next year. The results were mixed, with strong votes for progressive candidates, but the Communist Party renews our warning that right-wing and pro-developer forces could easily take advantage of divisions among progressive groups to win majorities at both levels in 2018.

            The council campaign focused almost entirely on the housing crisis in Vancouver. The two parties which have dominated City Council since 2005, Vision and the Non-Partisan Association, have consistently advocated market-driven policies to encourage developers to build condo units. But while increased supply was supposed to reduce prices, rents and housing prices have instead skyrocketed. Combined with stagnant incomes, working people and even professionals find it increasingly difficult to find affordable housing.

            Vision won a majority in 2008 with the support of the organized labour movement, after the NPA provoked a bitter strike by outside civic workers. But in this fall's byelection, for the first time Vision failed to win the backing of the Vancouver & District Labour Council, in part due to its policy of taking jobs out of the scope of collective agreements with CUPE and other civic unions. The loss of labour backing, and wide public anger over the housing crisis, left Vision's Diego Cardona fifth among nine council candidates, taking just 11.3%.

            Not surprisingly, the right-wing NPA's Hector Bremner won the seat, but with just 27.8% of the total, hardly an overwhelming victory. Jean Swanson, on the ballot as an independent candidate for council, took 21.4% and second place, after mobilizing hundreds of volunteers and mounting a strong campaign around demands for a rent freeze and a "mansion tax." Pete Fry of the Greens started the campaign strongly, but faltered to finish third at 20.3%. In fourth place was the city's former housing advocate, Judy Graves, who took 13.2% as the candidate for the left-oriented One City party.

            At the Vancouver School Board level, incumbent Janet Fraser and two other Green candidates topped the polls. Vision elected three, including two of its incumbents plus former trustee Ken Clement. The NPA elected two trustees, and One City made its first electoral breakthrough, electing Carrie Bercic.

            This creates a new political terrain for the VSB. The new NDP government has partially addressed the education under-funding crisis created by the former Liberals in Victoria, and it remains to be seen which direction this new group of trustees will take. Some will want to act as strong political advocates to defend public education, while others are tied to private school interests and may defer to board management on key issues. Even the election of a new VSB chair is hard to predict, given these very different outlooks. One possibility is that the two NPA trustees may back Janet Fraser for chair, but some have suggested that Bercic could be acceptable to the other parties, especially since she has a strong understanding of VSB operations.

            Responding to the outcome of the byelection, the BC Provincial Executive of the Communist Party of Canada issued the following statement:

            “Our Party stated at the outset of the campaign that divisions among progressive forces gave the advantage to the two big pro-developer parties, which we said could allow the NPA to win the council seat with as little as thirty percent of the vote. This projection was remarkably close to the final result. There is no guarantee that if One City had dropped its nomination of Graves, all of her votes would have gone to Swanson. Some would have gone to the Greens, for example. But the final outcome would have been closer, and it seems possible that Swanson could have won. On the other hand, considering that the voter turnout was just 11 percent, we caution against reading too much into the byelection figures.

            “We also note that byelections are not always an indication of future results. In 1985, for example, COPE won all nine positions in a special VSB byelection, after the trustees elected the previous year were undemocratically removed by the Social Credit provincial government. At the same time, Bruce Yorke, a well-known Communist Party member, won a runoff byelection as a COPE candidate against the NPA's Phillip Owen. These results led COPE to believe it could win majorities at all levels in the 1986 campaign, and its highest profile City Council member, Harry Rankin, was nominated for mayor. Instead, the NPA's Gordon Campbell easily defeated Rankin, and the NPA won 7 of 10 council seats plus 8 trustee positions.

            “The outcome on October 14 reinforces our view that unity of left and progressive forces must be a high priority heading into the 2018 municipal election. The Communist Party urges an end to sectarian accusations in the wake of this byelection. We support the post-election efforts to bring together all left and progressive civic forces, including the Swanson campaign, One City, and COPE, as well as the VDLC, for urgent discussions around options for cooperation in the next campaign. In our view, the mixed nature of Green policies makes their inclusion in such discussions unhelpful at this time.

            “In the past, COPE's electoral successes were based on building a powerful alliance of the trade union movement, anti-poverty and tenant groups, grassroots community organizations, and NDPers, Communists and other left-wing activists. Such a strategy is needed again today, to reach a minimum agreement to avoid vote-splitting, maximizing the chances to elect city councillors on a platform based on defending the interests of working people and the poor, and school trustees who will fight to defend and improve public education.”

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4) ONTARIO COLLEGE FACULTY ON STRIKE AGAINST PRECARIOUS WORK

PV Ontario Bureau

            On October 16, 12,000 college faculty went on strike at Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAATs) across Ontario. The faculty are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

            The strike began after the College Employer Council (CEC) rejected a streamlined final offer from the union and walked away from the table. OPSEU negotiators described the offer as “bare minimum we need to ensure quality education for students and treat contract faculty fairly.” The union’s offer included several non-monetary proposals such as stronger recognition of academic freedom, improved seniority provisions, and longer notice periods for teaching contracts and work assignments.

            The offer also included the union’s key demand for a 50:50 ratio of full-time to non-full-time faculty. Ontario colleges have steadily and deliberately increased the number and proportion of part-time and contract teaching positions, which currently outnumber full-time positions by nearly three times.

            The strike is also about the faculty’s desire to enhance the quality of education they provide to students. The union has argued that precarious employment for faculty directly erodes their ability to properly prepare and present courses. 

            As with many other public services and institutions in Ontario, CAATs have increasingly adopted corporate and privatized labour practices. In all of these cases this trend has undermined the quality and accessibility of those services, and it has sharply eroded working conditions and union strength.

            Ontario Communist Party leader, Dave McKee, observes that, “One of the underlying issues to this dispute is the provincial government’s ongoing underfunding of colleges. At a time when colleges have expanded their mandates, provincial funding has dropped by nearly 20%, and continues to fall.” OPSEU has noted that Ontario ranks tenth out of ten provinces when it comes to college funding on a per-student basis, with the government committing to a pitiful 0.2% increase for the 2017-18 year, and zero increase for 2018/19.

            McKee said that pressure from underfunding has led colleges to make up the difference through a combination of increased student fees and increasingly precarious employment conditions for faculty. “Instead of standing up for public education at the college level and demanding adequate funding, the colleges have used government underfunding as an excuse to increase precarious employment for faculty, to pursue different forms of privatization, and to diminish education for 300,000 college students in Ontario.”

            The Communist Party is demanding that the College Employer Council return immediately to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract with faculty. The Party is also calling on the provincial government to increase college funding now, so that faculty can provide students with the education they need and deserve.

            “As Ontario prepares for a provincial election next spring,” says McKee, “we will push hard for an immediate halt to the government’s privatization strategy, and for the reversal of two decades of corporate tax cuts that currently total $18 billion in lost revenue each year. The working class in Ontario needs that revenue to adequately fund more, not less, public services and institutions.”

            College faculty have set up picket lines at each of Ontario’s 24 CAATs, and have already received strong support from other labour and community organizations.

            More information and updates are available at the union’s strike page, www.collegefaculty.org.

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5) OPPOSE DIVISIVE BILL 62

People’s Voice Editorial

            Bill 62, Quebec's legislation requiring those who access public services to show their faces, is a attempt to fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred, under the false claim of promoting "secularism." The law was adopted in the National Assembly, literally under a Catholic crucifix which symbolized the unity of church and state at a time when criticism of religion was virtually illegal. Like its predecessor, the Quebec Charter of Values, which was defeated by public opposition, Bill 62 is loaded with contradictions. For example, what constitutes a face covering, in a province where people wear scarves for months during winter?

            This vicious law is intended purely to harass a small number of women who practise certain Muslim beliefs - those who wear the niqab, or likely even the hijab which does not actually obscure one's face. The aim is to villify Islam as a religion which is counter to so-called "western values". In a country founded on the "values" of genocide against indigenous peoples, and brutal racism against immigrants of Asian origin, the excuse that Bill 62 “protects secularism” is an utterly shameful version of the lie that Canada is a "white man's country."

            Of course, this newspaper does not defend religion - we believe that public institutions must display neutrality towards religions. We seek to unite the working class against the attacks of the capitalists and to fight for socialism. But we also support the freedom of conscience and the democratic right of individuals to practice their religions or to have none. We advocate persuasion and education to develop scientific understanding, not coercion which will inevitably backfire. As Frederick Engels said, “persecution is the best way to strengthen adverse convictions,” to heighten interest in religion, and to make its actual decline more difficult.

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6) IMPERIALIST HYPOCRISY

People’s Voice Editorial

            The level of Norteamericano imperialist arrogance towards the  Bolivarian  Republic of Venezuela has peaked in the wake of the October 15 regional elections. To the dismay of US and Canadian leaders, the pro-Chavista forces which support President Nicolas Maduro did better than expected in some quarters, winning 18 of 23 state governorships. Bowing to public opinion, and recognizing that their recent campaign to overthrow Maduro through street violence has backfired, four of the five opposition-backed governors agreed to be sworn into their positions by Delcy Rodriguez, the head of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly. Venezuelan sovereignty and democracy have weathered this Yankee-inspired storm, and the country can focus on tackling its urgent economic and social issues.

            But anyone who listens only to politicians in Washington and Ottawa would never understand this reality. Instead, the Trump administration and the Trudeau Liberals (speaking through fascist-friendly Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland), continue to invent arguments that the Venezuelan regional elections were “fraudulent.” This is particularly rich coming from Washington, where the ultra-right president received 2.9 million votes less than his rival but took office due to the historical anachronism known as the Electoral College. We also note that while the Democrats complain about “foreign meddling”, both US parties have continually interfered in the electoral campaigns of dozens of other countries for decades.

            The fact is that the Venezuelan regional elections were conducted peacefully by the National Electoral Council, and that over than 11 million people cast ballots, a turnout of 61.4%. The results have been accepted by most of the opposition. This is in sharp contrast to the US system, which is notorious for gerrymandering, confusing procedures and systematic voter suppression against Blacks and other racialized people. If Chrystia Freeland and Justin Trudeau want to find “fraudulent” elections, they should look on the other side of the border, not in Venezuela.

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7) THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION’S IMPACT ON LABOUR AND POLITICS IN CANADA

By Darrell Rankin

            The 100th anniversary of Russia’s socialist revolution is on November 7, 2017. The profound impact of this revolution on Canada is forgotten by most people, and deliberately omitted from official histories and the education system.

            The socialist revolution animated the politics of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike and about 30 related sympathetic strikes across Canada. Western Canadian trade unionists at a well-represented meeting in March 1919 sent greetings to Lenin and accepted the dictatorship (rule) of workers as sufficient to transform capitalist to “communal wealth”.

            When the Borden Conservative government ordered troops to board ships and crush Russia’s Soviet republic, some of the troops protested in Victoria.

            A month after the Winnipeg General Strike, Mackenzie King promised free medicare at the Liberal convention where he was elected leader. Across Canada, women won the right to vote in federal elections (with the exceptions of indigenous women and those of Chinese, Japanese and Indian origin, who won the right to vote decades later). The revolution inspired the founding of the Communist Party of Canada in 1921.

            Here is the text of the resolution submitted by Jack Kavanagh, chair of the Resolutions Committee of the Western Labor Conference in Calgary on March 13, 1919:

            Be it Resolved that this Conference places itself on record as being in full accord and sympathy with the aims and purposes of the Russian Bolshevik  and German Spartacan revolutions and,

            Be it further Resolved; that this Conference declares its full acceptance or the principle of “Proletarian Dictatorship” as being absolute and efficient for the transformation of capitalist private property into communal wealth, and that fraternal greetings be sent to the Russian Soviet Government, the Spartacist League of Germany, and to all definite working class movements in Europe; recognizing that they have won first place in the class struggle.

            Tim Buck writes: “The resolution was adopted unanimously and the thoroughly aroused delegates climaxed their demonstration of solidarity with a motion, offered spontaneously by a delegate in the body of the hall, that the conference send a cablegram directly to Lenin, expressing their warm fraternal greetings to him personally. The delegates stood up as one man and cheered, when the motion was declared “carried unanimously.””

            “(The delegates) adopted a strongly-worded telegram calling upon the federal government to Withdraw the Canadian Troops From Soviet Russia...”

            “The Credentials Committee reported official representatives present from almost every local union in Western Canada... The British Columbia Federation of Labor and the Alberta Federation of Labor were each represented by their executive officers as were... all the central labor councils between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean. With 239 fully accredited delegates it was unquestionably the most representative gathering... of trade unionists west of the Lakes that had ever been held up to that time.”

            The conference also adopted resolutions to support forming industrial unions and for a referendum on a general strike to demand free speech and remove restrictions on working class organizations.

            (See Tim Buck, Canada and the Russian Revolution [1967] and Forty Years of Great Change, 1917-1957 [1959])

            Buck’s books also record the text of a resolution adopted unanimously a month earlier at the Alberta Federation of Labour:

            “Trade Union Support to the Russian Revolution

            “WHEREAS: The war between opposed imperialist interests has ceased; the suddenness of its collapse being due to the Social Revolution which, starting in Russia, gradually found its way into Austria-Hungry and Germany. Those who where expecting at any moment to be called upon to don the khaki and face the ghastly horrors of twentieth century wholesale slaughter, owe a deep debt of gratitude to those splendid Russian revolutionists. Millions of soldiers on the battle fronts of Europe owe their lives to the glorious victory of the Russian working people. Are we prepared to repay that debt by extending to Russia the hand of fellowship in such a manner as will frustrate the nefarious designs of the organized international capitalists? Throughout the long years of this brutal blood-fest it has been unceasingly proclaimed, from Press, Pulpit, and Platform, that ‘we must crush German despotism and make the world safe for democracy.’ Millions of men heard that slogan and believed it and today are rotting beneath the battlefields of France and Flanders. Have those men been betrayed? If not, why are those who are chiefly responsible for the overthrow of the German Junker ruling class being vilified by our government-controlled Press? Why are the governments of The Allied Nations supporting counter-revolutionary armies in Russia? Why do our government’s spokesmen mouth much about Self-determination while using every means at its disposal to undermine and handicap the Soviet Administration in Russia? The working class is bewildered by these contradictions. While workers are inclined instinctively to support the social revolution which is developing so mightily, nevertheless they tend to hesitate after reading the poisonous propaganda of the Allied governments. This unceasing campaign of calumny can have but one purpose; namely, to win working -class support for the decision of the capitalist class to throttle the socialist republics of Russia and Germany. Hesitation on our part would be fatal!

            “The aspirations of organized Labor as embodied in the preamble to the Alberta Federation of Labor Constitution; namely “the social ownership and control of the means of production, transportation, and distribution,” are now taking material shape under the Soviet Administration. We are challenged:  either to renounce our principles, or to take such action as will save them from becoming meaningless phrases. Therefore be it

“RESOLVED, that this convention of the Alberta Federation of Labor places itself on record as being in full accord and sympathy with the aims and purposes of the Russian and German socialist revolutions, and be it further

“RESOLVED, that this convention gives the incoming executive officers full power to call a  province-wide general strike should the Allied powers persist in their attempt to over-throw the Soviet administration in Russia or Germany or in any country in which a Soviet form of government is or may be established and be it further

“RESOLVED, that this resolution be forwarded to the Western Labor Conference, to be held in Calgary, for endorsation and co-operation in the carrying it into effect, and be it further

“RESOLVED, that Copies of this resolution be sent to all Central Labor bodies throughout Canada.”

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8) CUPW URGES WYNNE TO STRENGTHEN BILL 148

            The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) is calling on the Ontario government to strengthen Bill 148, The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act.

            In a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, the union, which represents 20,695 workers in Ontario, says it supports many of the proposed changes in the Bill 148, particularly the $15 minimum wage, fairer scheduling, expanded emergency leave protections, and the provisions on equal pay for equal work.

            “We applaud the efforts of all the community organizations, workers, and unions who fought tirelessly to bring about these important changes,” says the letter, signed by CUPW National President Mike Palecek.

            “Immediately following the announcement of the legislation, big business – led by millionaire CEOs –came out in force, declaring publicly just how much they stand to lose by being required to provide decent wages and working conditions. Their outcry exposed the truth that working people in this province have always known: big business makes huge profits off exploiting workers in low-wage and precarious jobs.

            “While Bill 148 takes us in the right direction, it falls short in some vital ways. We are especially concerned with some of the amendments that were made after the legislation was announced. We call on this government to strengthen, not weaken, Bill 148.

            “CUPW has over 3000 members living in Peel Region and working at facilities like Gateway Mail Processing Plant, one of the Canada Post network’s largest distribution centres. Peel is home to many large distribution and logistics companies that profit from a heavy reliance on low-wage workers. Too many workers in this area are stuck in the vicious cycle of temporary work, exploited by both the temp agencies and the client companies. Others are forced to work as independent contractors in roles that should be categorized as full-time, permanent jobs. Those with permanent jobs are often part-time, struggling with unpredictable schedules and low wages, never knowing week-to-week if they will make ends meet, and hard-pressed to plan for the future.

            We know that temporary, contract and part-time workers are some of the most vulnerable workers and that women, immigrants, and people of colour make up a disproportionate percentage of these workers. Temporary, part-time, and contract workers should be paid the same as permanent workers doing the same job, deserve fair and advanced scheduling, and genuine protections if they become ill or injured on the job. We are very concerned with the loopholes that have been introduced to the Bill that will allow employers to evade the scheduling and equal pay provisions. Workers will be unable to meaningfully enforce their new entitlements regarding right to refuse shifts and last minute cancellation of shifts if they do not receive their schedules in advance. Defining seniority by number of hours worked, as opposed to date of hire, will only further entrench inequality between part-time and full-time workers and undermine the intent of the equal pay provision. We are also very concerned by on-going employer efforts to further weaken the language on job definition in order to be able to evade their equal pay responsibilities.

            “Our members know that unionization is critical to ensuring truly fair workplaces. Bill 148 improves access to unionization for Ontario workers, but further steps are still needed to provide greater access to employee information and to remove undue restrictions on workers’ right to unionize when lists are provided. We urge you to remove exceptions for agricultural, horticultural and domestic workers that deny vital protections to some of the most vulnerable workers. Card check certification needs to be extended to all sectors and workers also need quicker access to first contract arbitration. Succession rights need to be improved to ensure companies cannot flip contracts in order to drive down wages and working conditions and thwart collective efforts by workers. Finally, the legislation should prohibit the hiring of replacement workers, which undermines a union’s fundamental right to fair bargaining.”

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9) “MOST DANGEROUS PERIOD SINCE 1962"

By Ed Lehman, Regina

            Miguel Figueroa, Acting President of the Canadian Peace Congress, addressed a well-attended public meeting in Regina on October 16, the last stop on the western part of his fall speaking tour. Referring to the monuments honouring war veterans in nearby Victoria Park, Figueroa pointed out that these are a reminder of war, and that millions of people died in both World War 1 and World War 2. He observed that we are in the “most dangerous period since 1962.”

            Figueroa discussed key hot spots in the world and mentioned that many conflicts are under the radar. He singled out Yemen as an example and explained that Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and the U.S. are acting together against Yemen.

            Discussing the interconnectedness of the various conflicts in the world, Figueroa observed that any place that says it won’t follow the dictates of the World Bank finds itself under assault. He discussed the use of economic levers against countries striving for economic independence, the role of the international media to attack leaders who do not go along with the World Bank and IMF, and observed how opposition forces are financed and create crisis.

            The current government of Canada, he said, is even more hawkish that Harper’s government, and noted the plan to increase Canadian military by a projected 75%.

            However, he also pointed out that the domination of U.S. imperialism is receding, and that it is projected that China will surpass the USA in a few years as an important power in the world. He reminded the audience of the plans and projections of the right-wing Committee for a New Century, noting how NATO is right on the border of Russia, and that the “Pivot to Asia” started under President Obama. He also pointed out how the U.S. is influencing a change in Japan’s anti-militarist constitution, and that US military bases are now in Australia. At the same time, in Latin America there is a shift away from support for agenda of the big monopolies.

            Referencing Donald  Trump’s threats against the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, Figueroa explained that the DPRK believes it needs a deterrent, after living without a peace treaty since 1953 because the U.S. refuses to sign.

            Having recently returned from a solidarity conference in Syria, Figueroa explained that the conflict in that country is not a civil war; but rather a proxy war, and that Syria has been a progressive, secular state which has supported the Palestinian struggle. He reported the good news is that 85% of the country is now out of the hands of Al Qaeda or ISIS.

            Touching on Venezuela, which Figueroa also recently visited, he noted the left victory there in the Oct. 15 regional elections, and observed that we in Canada should be responsible for our own government, which along with the US has been undermining the government of Venezuela.

            Concluding his talk by discussing Canadian foreign policy, Figueroa said the so-called BMD is not “defensive” - it is a repackaged version of Reagan’s Star Wars, and part and parcel of the U.S. first strike nuclear policy. Canada doesn’t need nukes to protect itself, he said, and it should have been with the 122 countries which voted to abolish nuclear weapons on July 7th at the United Nations. Stressing that it will take great effort to have the NDP and Liberals take a strong position for peace, Figueroa called for the reinvigoration of the peace movement, and concluded that “I am optimistic”.

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10) PV SELLER DIES ON THE DANFORTH - A VICTIM OF AUSTERITY

PV Ontario Bureau

            In early October, one of our People’s Voice distributors in Toronto asked us for help with his pension. For some reason he’d been cut off and hadn’t received a nickel since August. A recipient of CPP, OAS and GIS, he was poor and the public pension was his only income. To make matters worse, his rent cheque to Toronto Community Housing had bounced, the bank had charged him an NSF fee of $45, and TCHC was demanding the rent. Billy was in a big jam.

            When we finally got through to Service Canada’s CPP department, we were told that Billy had been cut off because he hadn’t answered a letter. Incredulous, we pointed out that the pension belonged to Billy. It was deferred wages. It was his, unconditionally. Service Canada had no right to stop the pension, and since he had no other income they had turned his life upside down with the flick of a pen: no food to eat, no groceries, no rent, no transit, no nothing.

            Well that’s our policy, the man at Service Canada said. He should have answered the letter. How’s he supposed to do that, we asked: he has no phone, he has no email, and he had no money for envelopes and stamps. And who’s going to fix this mess he’s in, caused by your department’s decision to just cut him off?

            We’re not in the habit of paying other people’s bills, he said.  

            They reinstated Billy’s benefits that day, though it would be two or three days before the funds arrived in the bank. Two days later Billy died on the street. He was in his usual spot on the Danforth selling People’s Voice. He suffered a heart attack, brought on by stress they said. No kidding.

            Capitalism kills. Austerity kills.

            Justice for Billy means an end to arbitrary cutoffs of pensions and assistance to vulnerable people. It means increasing pensions and incomes to livable levels. It means affordable housing that’s not on the edge of town. It means dignity and respect for human rights, and the enforcement of those economic and social rights.      A million seniors in Canada are in the same vulnerable position that Billy was in. Just one cheque away from complete disaster. Billy died on the street; most die at home.

            It’s time for the labour and peoples’ movements to demand real action on pensions and incomes now. Pensions need to rise substantially and the age needs to drop. And pensions need to be locked into defined benefit plans like the CPP, not jumped-up RRSP plans that leave people penniless soon after retirement. Governments jump when big corporations make their demands. No more cap in hand – the public must fight to force action on pensions and incomes. And labour must lead.

            People’s needs, not corporate greed.

 

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11) NATIONAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY A MAJOR STEP FORWARD IN BOLIVARIAN DEMOCRACY

By Larry Wasslen, Ottawa

            On July 30, 2017 over 8 million Venezuelans went to the polls to elect a national constituent assembly (Asamblea Nacional Constituyente, ANC). The working class of Venezuela overwhelmingly supported the government’s effort to find a mechanism to break the constitutional impasse, overcome capitalist economic crisis gripping the country, and halt the cycle of fascist violence responsible for at least 124 deaths and millions in property damage.

            Peace or violence, democracy or repression, submission or independence: calling for the 2017-ANC, President Maduro put these questions to the people, placing sovereignty into their own hands.

            On July 18, the Trump regime threatened “strong and swift economic sanctions” should the Maduro government proceed with the ANC. After the vote, Trump threatened military intervention. The Canadian government has been a virtual echo chamber for Washington. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has “serious concerns” about the process and stated that the ANC was “contrary to Venezuela’s constitution.” Mainstream media outlets from the CBC to the Washington Post have relentlessly repeated these accusations and warned that the ANC is just another step towards dictatorship.

            Seriously lacking in the capitalist press is a thoughtful discussion of what led to the 2017-ANC, the actual struggles that have taken place in Venezuela over the past two decades, the Bolivarian constitution, and the aims and objectives of the 2017 ANC.

            Hugo Chavez swept into power in the December 1998 election with the explicit objective of building a new Venezuela out of the shambles of the Fourth Republic, a time during which more than 11,000 political disappearances occurred.

            The electoral success of the ‘dictatorial’ Bolivarian Revolution is impressive. Of the 21 elections, the revolutionary forces have won 19, including four presidential elections: in 1998 Chavez won 56.2% of the popular vote; 2000: 59.8%; 2006: 62.8%; 2012: 55.1%. Nicolas Maduro won the 2013 election with 50.6% of the popular vote after the death of Chavez. The Polo Patriotico led by the PSUV has won three of the four National Assembly elections since 1999. President Chavez narrowly lost a referendum regarding constitutional reform in 2007 and President Maduro lost the National Assembly election of 2015.

            In the 2015 election, the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) won 109 of the 164 deputies. There was video evidence of electoral fraud and vote buying on the part of the opposition in southwestern Amazonas state, and the Venezuelan Supreme Court temporarily suspended the deputies and launched an official investigation. Henry Ramos Allup, the president of the National Assembly, ignored the ruling and swore in the members, leading the Court to nullify all actions taken by the legislative body.

            The two priorities of the illegal National Assembly were to immediately remove Maduro from office and release from prison several violent criminals, responsible for 43 deaths. Freddy Guevara, a member of the far-right Voluntad Popular, stated “we have to accelerate the exit of this government as soon as possible.”

            In February 2016 the Assembly passed a controversial amnesty law to free several criminals involved in the 2014 violence, including Leopoldo Eduardo Lopez Mendoza, founder of Primero Jusicia, in clear violation of the Bolivarian Constitution. The Assembly made no effort to address the capitalist economic crisis affecting the population.

            Unable to overthrow the elected government by constitutional maneuvers, the opposition changed tactics to fascist violence and foreign intervention. The street violence known as ‘guarimbas’ cost the lives of more than 120 persons with 1200 people injured between April and July of 2017. Foreign financed street violence caused millions of dollars damage to public and private property in Caracas. Some people of colour became victims because they “appeared to be Chavistas”. They were doused with gasoline and set alight. Members of the Security Forces were attacked with Molotov cocktails and small arms fire. On the international stage the USA used the Organization of American States (OAS) as a forum to facilitate direct intervention in Venezuelan affairs. Secretary General Luis Amagro attempted to invoke the ‘Democratic Charter’ against Venezuela. The move failed when the Permanent Council of the OAS issued a statement in support of dialogue.

2017-ANC

            Venezuela needed to find a way through the constitutional impasse and to respond to the capitalist economic crisis, the fascist violence and the direct threats of foreign intervention. President Maduro turned to Article 348 of the Bolivarian Constitution. On May 1, 2017, he issued Decree 2830, calling for a National Constituent Assembly, based upon the constituent popular process. Far from being a dictator, President Maduro turned to the people of Venezuela, placing power into their hands.

            Maduro suggested nine programmatic objectives:

Peace: “The constituent process is a great call for a nation-wide dialogue to contain the escalation of political violence”

Economy: “The perfection of the national economic system moving towards a Venezuelan Power by conceiving the new post-petroleum, mixed, productive, diversified and integrating economic model”

Missions: “To enshrine the Missions and Grand Socialist Missions in the Constitution”

Judicial System: “The broadening of the responsibilities of the Judicial System to eradicate criminal impunity, particularly regarding crimes committed against the people”

Democracy: “To enshrine in the Constitution the new forms of participatory and protagonist democracy through the recognition of the new subjects of the People’s Power, such as the Communes, Communal Councils, and the Workers Councils”

Sovereignty: “The defense of sovereignty and integrity of the nation and the protection against foreign interventionism” and “the promotion of the consolidation of a multi-polar and multi-centric world that ensures respect for law and international security.’

Multicultural character of the Homeland: “enabling us to recognize each other as Venezuelans in our ethnical and cultural diversity” “inoculating us from social and racial hatred that is today incubated in a minority of society.”

Youth: “enshrine the rights of youth…free and conscious use of information technologies, the right to a dignified and creativity-liberating job.

Biodiversity: “the sovereign rights to protect our biodiversity and the development of an ecological culture in our society.”

            Curiously the opposition had demanded a constituent assembly to try and oust Maduro, but when the call went out for its convocation, the MUD boycotted the election.

            The make-up of the 2017-ANC is extremely interesting. 364 seats were designated for geographic regions, including at least one seat per municipality and two more  for each state capital. Eight seats were guaranteed for indigenous peoples to be elected according to their traditions. A total of 173 seats were allocated to sectoral groups, including workers groups (79), peasants(8), fishers (8), students (24), pensioners (28), disabled (5), communal council members (24), and business people (5). Clearly the working class is heavily favoured within the 545 seat 2017-ANC.

            More than 6,000 candidates ran for the various seats on the ANC.

            Despite significant efforts to prevent voting, including physical attacks on those trying to cast their ballot, more than 8 million people participated. The election of the 2017-ANC has enabled the government to take the initiative. The most important advances include an immediate halt to the street violence, the dismissal of Luisa Ortega from her position as Attorney General for ‘grave misconduct” including lying about her approval of Supreme Court Justices, calls for revamping the economy, and new anti-hate legislation.

            The 2017-ANC is a major step forward in the struggle for national independence and sovereignty, against violence and war. It opens the door to more political and economic democracy. It will allow the government to address many of the problems facing Venezuela, including the  economic crisis. But the privileged classes will not accept the democratically elected ANC, just as they have never accepted the democratically elected Presidents Chavez and Maduro. The struggle continues.

            (The author was a delegate to the “Todos Somos Venezuela-We Are All Venezuela” international solidarity conference held September 16-19, 2017, in Caracas.)

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12) SOCIALIST AND ANTI-IMPERIALIST SPIRIT IN CARACAS

By Nino Pagliccia

            The international meeting “Todos Somos Venezuela” that took place in Caracas on September 16-19 still reverberates in the minds of many of us who had the privilege to attend.

            The timing of the meeting was well planned to impress on the participants the importance of solidarity actions, particularly before the Oct. 15 elections for governors of the 23 Venezuelan States. The Bolivarian Revolution and Chavismo have a reason to celebrate a great victory with 18 governorships in the hands of the government party in those elections.

            However, the greatest winner of the elections of October 15 was socialism and the anti-imperialist spirit dominant in Venezuela. It is precisely that spirit that we witnessed in Caracas. In fact, this was the underlying thread of the meeting. Together with self-determination and sovereignty, Venezuelans, as well as international delegates, expressed openly socialist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist sentiments.

            Former foreign minister and current president of the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, said that the US Empire was a serious threat to international security. "We have a right to have the political and economic model we want." She also stated, "Capitalism is without a doubt a system that creates wars, inequality and poverty. Capitalism cannot give benefits or happiness."

            The renowned academic Sonia Gupta praised Venezuela for the “creation of a new value system and a new model of democracy” to replace the “worn out model” of the capitalist system.

            The delegate for the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine received a standing ovation when he said, referring to the imperialist United States government, "You can assassinate our families, destroy our homes, schools or perhaps all our towns, but you will never undermine our willingness to fight!:

            In fact, I heard repeatedly the reference to “Bolivarian socialism”. There was never a formal definition of the term and I will not attempt to define it here. In context, I took that to be a proud affirmation of the revolutionary struggle that Chavismo has embarked on and is committed to continue.

            Hugo Chavez referred to it as “socialism of the 21st century”, a renewed vision of classic socialism prevalent in the 20th century, and a projection into a new conception of a society where the people are the recipient of the social gains but at the same time they are the protagonists of the social organization.

            Chávez himself said, "El socialismo es la democracia participativa y sobre todo la protagónica" (Socialism is participatory democracy and above all, protagonist [democracy]). This concept that views all Venezuelans as authors and builders of democracy is embedded in the preamble of the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela.

            But perhaps Maduro’s statement, addressing a crowd of Venezuelans in front of the Presidential Office of Miraflores, following a large anti-imperialist march, contains the essence of what may still be a process under construction in the Venezuelan context. “Socialism is a patrimony that comes from the original people, from the history of Venezuelan fighters that struggled for freedom and continues rebelling to domination,” Maduro said.

            All of us in the crowd cheered those words and his acknowledgement of the upcoming centenary celebration of the October Revolution. He also recognized Vladimir Lenin, leader of first socialist revolution.

            Venezuela appears to be intent on building its own brand of socialism – Bolivarian socialism – with its own characteristics based on its past revolutions of independence and heroes, people’s aspirations and needs, defiance to the current colonial empire, and with a good doses of 20th century Marxism.

            With that spirit in the air at the Caracas meeting, without doubt we proudly felt “We are all Venezuela”. I felt doubly proud as a Venezuelan and as a socialist.

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13) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

Celebrating the October Revolution

While many readers of People’s Voice will observe the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution at official commemorations across Canada this month, it's also a good time to explore the cultural achievements of the revolution, including its music.  Older readers may have treasured vinyl recordings to spin on their turntables, but not all comrades can enjoy that particular frisson. Fortunately, a cornucopia of Soviet-era music is available free-of-charge on YouTube. For starters, I would recommend two Red Army Choir collections. Search for "One Hour of Music - Soviet Communist Music", for an inspiring album of songs by the world-famous choir, including The Anthem of the USSR, The Sacred War, and The Partisans Song.  For two-hours of the same ensemble, look for "The Red Army Choir: The Definitive Collection", where, in addition to patriotic and fighting anthems, there are glorious renditions of old Russian folk songs (The Song of the Volga Boatmen, Dark Eyes), internationalist songs (Italian partisan song Bella Ciao), and Moscow Nights, the world-wide Soviet hit from the mid-fifties. For an hour of songs about the Great Patriotic War, look for "Best Soviet Music of the 1940-1950s".  It includes one of the most famous songs of the war, The Dark Night, from the 1943 movie "Two Soldiers", performed by the Soviet actor and singer Mark Bernes. It's accompanied by dramatic wartime film clips. For a charming look at popular music in the hopeful 60s check out "Best Soviet Music of the 1960s" - ninety minutes of popular songs, with clips from contemporary Soviet films. If the thought of Soviet funk music makes you cringe, you might reconsider after listening to the delightful small combo funk-inspired 70s jazz of "Soviet Funk Volume One, Side A & Side B". Beyond the 70s, however, it's not so easy to find great Soviet popular music. So, if you wish to celebrate the October Revolution, avoid "Best Soviet Music of the 1980s" collections! Lovers of classical music can celebrate the October Revolution by feasting on outstanding composers like Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978), and Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). Search for "Sergei Prokofiev - Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution" and you'll find an excellent performance of this work by the London Symphony Orchestra. It carries English subtitles, and has  dramatic passages from historic speeches of Lenin. Other memorable works by Prokofiev to look for include his scores for the Sergei Eisenstein films Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible, and his ever-popular children's classic Peter and the Wolf. Khachaturian was renowned for his ballet music. Look for the Bolshoi Ballet's brilliant performance of his Spartacus (1954), featuring the lovely Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia. His 1942 dramatic ballet Gayane, set in Soviet Armenia, features the unforgettable Sabre Dance. Lastly, there is Shostakovich, composer of some of the most beautiful orchestral music of the twentieth century. Listen, for example, to his lovely Romance, from the 1955 Soviet film The Gadfly. Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony ("Leningrad"), completed in the midst of Nazi Germany's 900-day siege of Leningrad, is still regarded as the major musical testament of the estimated 25 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in what Russians still call the Great Patriotic War. 

Robertson honoured by Six Nations

Robbie Robertson, the guitarist, songwriter, film composer, producer, author, and actor, who rose to world-wide fame with the rock group known as The Band, was honoured on October 14 by the Six Nations of the Grand River. The Lifetime Achievement Award, the first ever granted by the Six Nations, was presented at a ceremony in Ohsweken, Ontario, on the reserve where Robertson, now 74, spent much of his childhood. Robbie Robertson was born to Rosemary Chrysler, a Mohawk from  the Six Nations reservation near Hagersville, Ontario.  Chrysler came to Toronto in the early 40s and lived with an aunt in the city's working-class Cabbagetown neighborhood. She worked at a jewelry plating factory. Robertson's biological father was Alexander Klegerman, a professional gambler who was killed while Robbie was still an infant.  His mother subsequently married co-worker James Patrick Robertson. At age 16, Robertson was a professional musician, playing lead guitar on Yonge Street with rocker Ronnie Hawkins, and building the singer's backup band, The Hawks. The rest is history, as they say. The Hawks became famous through their work with Bob Dylan, and ultimately, as that peerless rock outfit, The Band. After The Band's farewell concert in 1976, Robertson created music for films, including American director Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, King of Comedy, and The Color of Money. Robertson has released five solo albums, including two influential albums that address his indigenous roots: Music for the Native Americans (1994), and Contact From the Underworld of Red Boy (1998). In 2016, he released his autobiography, Testimony. For more info: http://robbie-robertson.com.

 

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