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following articles are from the September 1-15, 2016, issue of People's
Labour Day 2016 statement from the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada
Coming almost a year after the defeat of one of the most dangerously reactionary governments in Canadian history, Labour Day 2016 is an important point for the organized trade union movement to respond to challenges facing the working class in the changed political environment - and most importantly, to mobilize against the continued neoliberal austerity policies of governments and corporations.
After a decade of brutal attacks by the Harper Conservatives, working people in
all parts of
In office, PM Justin Trudeau has continued the typical Liberal strategy of “campaigning from the left and governing from the right.” The Liberals made initial con-cessions to people’s movements on some important issues, but without any significant shift from the pro-business course of previous governments. The inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women has begun, and the first Liberal budget contained relatively minor spending increases on some social programs, including reversal of the Tories’ move to change pension eligibility age from 65 to 67. These victories were achieved as a result of years of organizing and political struggles by the organized working class, indigenous peoples, and other sections of the population.
overall, the corporate agenda remains untouched. The Liberal budget did not
provide for the necessary massive spending on infrastructure and social
housing, nor did it address the huge gap in living standards and social
conditions faced by indig-enous peoples and communities. The recent agreement
This list could be greatly expanded, but the point is clear. The pro-corporate, austerity policies that Harper pushed following the 2007-08 economic crisis have continued under the new government, exacerbated by the impact of the collapse in oil prices. Inevitably, the honeymoon period for the Trudeau Liberals is beginning to wane.
unfortunately, instead of using the new situation to prepare for broader
resistance struggles against right-wing economic and social policies, the
leadership of the trade union movement (especially in English-speaking
The most crucial element of such a strategy is to move from the defensive towards an offensive posture. What is needed is a sovereign, independent and united trade union movement, advancing policies based on class struggle, not class collaboration. This means dropping the traditional approach of "outsourcing" labour s political struggles to the NDP or even the Liberals, in favour of independent labour political action at all levels.
This Labour Day, the most immediate priority for labour is to build maximum solidarity in support of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which is engaged in a critical collective bargaining battle. As one of the most militant unions in recent decades, CUPW has been targetted repeatedly by both Conservative and Liberal governments which seek to push back the entire labour movement. This attack is also part of the plan to privatize Canada Post and other public services, and to cut tens of thousands of public sector jobs. Their fight is our fight. The best immediate way to push back is to organize huge turnouts for the September 17 “Postal Power Pan-Canadian Day of Action” (see people4posties.ca for details).
the next period of time, the trade union movement can and must become the
catalyst to bring together all sections of the working class into a powerful,
fighting united front. This means organizing the unorganized and the
unemployed, and reaching out to indigenous peoples, racialized communities,
immigrants, environmentalists, anti-poverty activists, youth and students,
women, farmers, the LGBTiQ community, defenders of civil liberties and human
rights, opponents of the TPP, CETA and other corporate trade deals. It means
building active alliances between the progressive national forces in
To those who say such a strategy is unrealistic, we point to the wave of mass popular movements in recent years: the 2012 Quebec student strike, the Occupy Movement, Idle No More, environmental campaigns, the strikes of post-graduate education workers at the University of Toronto and York University, the massive demonstrations in Quebec against the Couillard Liberal government’s austerity drive and its attempt to take away the collective bargaining rights of municipal workers, the growing “fight for $15” struggle to raise the minimum wage, and last spring’s mass community-labour actions across Newfoundland against the provincial Liberal austerity budget.
These examples show the importance of a political vehicle that can draw in the broadest sections of the labour and people's movements. We urge the labour movement to take the initiative to begin building such a People's Coalition to lead mass struggles against the corporate agenda. Such a fightback could help forge a democratic people's alliance, led by the working class, and which could ultimately challenge the ruling class for political power.
This is the perspective of the Communist Party of Canada, which fights to end capitalism and exploitation, and to win a socialist future, based on public ownership and democratic control of the economy.
A stronger Communist Party and Young Communist League are essential to strengthen the labour movement - on Labour Day 2016, we invite you to join us in this historic struggle!
By Dave McKee,
leader of the Communist Party (
Largely in response to negative press about her party’s scandalous “cash for access” fundraising dinners, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has introduced sweeping changes to the province’s election financing laws.
Unfortunately, Bill 201 An Act to Amend the Election Finances Act and the Taxation Act, does nothing to address parties’ receipt of money in return for meetings with senior Cabinet members. Instead, it delivers another blow to democracy in the form of a full-on frontal assault against working class participation in electoral politics.
In the first place, the proposed legislation aims to ban political donations from trade unions. While a related proposal to eliminate corporate donations to political parties and candidates is welcome, the government is wrong to take the same approach to trade unions. Unions are not corporations, and pretending that they are and applying the same rules places a serious limit on the ability of working people – the vast majority of the population – to participate fully in the electoral process. This is especially true in a class society, in which the political marginalization of the working class is a constant and growing feature.
Furthermore, trade unions have nowhere near the financial capacity of corporations to influence political and electoral activity. The large national and transnational corporations are multi-billion dollar operations, whose interests are narrowly focused on profit, and often collide with the public interest.
Not all working people are in a position to be publicly involved as individuals
in the political process. Many have legitimate concerns for their employment,
for their legal status in
The simple fact is that working people, whether individually or in association with other working people, have the right to participate in elections. By banning trade union donations, Bill 201 diminishes this fundamental right.
The second aspect of this attack on working class political participation comes in the form of draconian limits on third party spending and activity. In recent years the provincial Conservatives, combined with right-wing think tanks and the corporate media, have raised a storm of criticism about the level of third party spending. This outcry has been promoted as a way to support Bill 201’s proposal to limit third party election spending to $4000 per electoral district and $100,000 overall, as well as non-election period limits of $24,000 per district and $600,000 overall for six months before a general election.
The right-wing is particularly vocal about the role of trade unions in third
party advertising. A recent article in the Globe and Mail bewailed that “
What is really notable about the manufactured outrage over third party advertising is that it has arisen specifically in response to working class campaigns that have had an impact on election outcomes. In particular, the Tories and their allies are frustrated that the Working Families Coalition has been effective in building opposition to key Conservative policies, like right-to-work legislation and attacks on the public sector.
The legislation could, and should, deal with the overall issue of general election campaign spending levels. In 2014, the total spending limit for a party was $7.4 million. Without a doubt, such high spending limits allows the largest and best-funded parties to “buy elections” by financially exhausting both their opponents and the electorate. Rather than proposing significant reductions in campaign spending limits, which would limit corporate involvement in elections, the government has zeroed in on the one area – third party spending – in which the working class and its organizations are able to make an impact with their own voice.
There are other areas of concern with Bill 201. The proposal to dramatically lower individual contribution limits and introduce a per-vote allowance represents a further, and very significant, shift in political financing from the realm of donations from the public, to greater state support through per vote funding. The people have the right to fund their parties and movements – limiting that right, and replacing it with a form of state funding that privileges the largest parties, are mechanisms for diminishing democracy.
Furthermore, the bill does nothing to address the serious problem of unequal access to free-time media broadcasting, which amounts very clearly to a form of donation and subsidy to the largest parties, especially those represented in legislature. This applies to both the “free-time” party broadcasts and access to the private broadcast consortium’s election debates and discussions. To ensure that free broadcasting is equally provided, and that there are no exclusions, it should be covered by the provincial Election Finances Act.
Political financing has a profound impact on democracy and democratic
Bill 201 just another a dressed up body-check on working class political
participation. Despite all of the government’s claims that this legislation is
about “levelling the playing field,” it clearly aims to corral
COMMUNIST PARTY BC TO RUN CANDIDATES IN BOTH
“We’re really looking forward to broadening the narrow political landscape that
has existed in
“It’s a shame that the major parties in BC accept so much poverty and income disparity in a province that has enough wealth to take care of everyone. Unfortunately, even the now centrist NDP has become so focused on holding onto their second place status that they very much abandoned all advocacy of practices that could eliminate poverty, hunger, homelessness and unemployment,” says Kerek.
“The other parties just offer different shades of the same capitalist system,” says Beat Klossner, Kamloops-South Thompson candidate for the Communist Party of BC. “Capitalism does not work for the vast majority of us and a system that is fundamentally opposed to basic human needs and instincts can not be reformed - it needs to be replaced.”
“We will be advocating for the immediate construction of affordable housing, significant improvements to public transit, electoral reform and a reversal of the tax breaks given to the wealthiest British Columbians 15 years ago,” says Klossner. “That break slashed provincial revenues by over $2 billion annually with the deliberate intention to justify reduced funding for public services."
The candidates acknowledge that their party will not be running enough candidates to form government, but do hope that their message will help build momentum for future elections and promote progressive values.
“Revolutionary political change doesn’t happen overnight, and, in countries where there’s very little diversity in media or meaningful political debate, it happens even more slowly,” says Kerek. “Regardless of the challenge of winning seats there needs to be real demands for the most progressive ideas to come to fruition, and that’s why it’s important for parties of the Left to always make such demands, especially during elections. And it’s also important for people who support those ideas to vote for them as many governing parties adopt progressive policies in order to avoid losing support to us. But, if people don’t vote for us, then that pressure to adopt people-friendly policies is significantly reduced and we end up with governments only beholden to their political financiers.”
“A small party like ours could potentially hold the balance of power and use that position to help extra-parliamentary movements to block neoliberal austerity policies,” Kerek added.
One of the hot-button issues in the
“This would be a totally different discussion if the entire mining industry were nationalized, then AJAX would need to be of net benefit to the entire community rather than the current situation where we’re weighing the community’s benefits and costs against the profit requirements of the mine owners,” says Klossner.
“The mining industry is the single biggest donor to this Liberal government. Industries don’t donate money without favours returned - that’s the simple truth about politics in ‘Western Democracies’,” says Kerek. “If it was about supporting the democratic freedom of voters to choose the best candidate then they would donate equally to all parties.”
Kerek says the current state of campaign financing continues to disadvantage parties and candidates that openly challenge the status quo and economic injustices.
“In some cases industry does donate to multiple parties, but, that’s usually because they see each of those parties supporting their interests – it’s not done to improve political diversity – it’s actually done to promote just one single outlook and simultaneously quash diversity.”
Kerek is a 43-year-old father of three, husband and stay-at-home dad. He was
active on the
Klossner is a 55-year-old husband and father of one who moved to
The Communist Party of BC is a registered provincial party which campaigns in
PV Ontario Bureau
The summer heat wave broke, briefly, but anti-privatization activists in
The rally was organized by the GTA West Club of the Communist Party, and included participants from the Indo-Canadian Workers Association, the Rationalist Society and Concern Nepal Canada. They decorated Hydro One’s front yard with “Keep Hydro Public” lawn signs, and waved placards at the busy traffic. Scores of passing drivers honked, waved and shouted support, indicating the breadth of opposition to this sell-off.
Speaker Dave McKee,
McKee also noted that 200 municipalities – one out of every two in
Participants unanimously agreed to send a message to the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne, calling on her to stop the sell-off.
Speakers noted that the process of privatization is underway everywhere in
In other areas, such as public transit, privatization often takes the form of contracting the private-sector to manage and oversee public programs and services. Virtually all sectors are seeing the increase of P3s – public private partnerships – to finance, build, maintain or upgrade public services. In all cases, services for people decline while corporate profits increase.
The provincial government claims that privatization is necessary because budget constraints mean that sufficient public funding is not available. Wynne constantly describes the Hydro One sell-off as the key to financing her government’s infrastructure program, an election promise that helped secure a Liberal majority in 2014.
The reality, though, is that privatization is a dead-end for public services.
The Hydro One deal is the largest privatization in memory, estimated to yield
$9 billion, but the government has committed to using $5 billion to pay down
debt. That leaves $4 billion to be used for services and infrastructure – money
that Hydro One’s annual profit payments of nearly $1 billion would provide to
the public over four years. After that, these profits will go straight into
corporate bank accounts and the people of
It’s a similar, sad story for the other sectors facing privatization.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Since 1995, when the Mike Harris
Conservatives were elected, the
The good news is that working people in
Says McKee, “Imagine a province-wide day of action, in which communities across
People’s Voice Editorial
In the latest chapter of one of the most outrageous tales of corporate theft in Canadian history, Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel ruled on August 19 that U.S. Steel Canada may set aside $1.57 million for "key employee" retention bonuses, but is not required to reinstate retirement benefits for more than 20,000 retired workers. The judge did order U.S. Steel Canada to contribute $2.7 million to a transition fund meant to fill in some of the gaps left by the loss of benefits.
As PV readers learned in previous coverage, U.S. Steel Canada entered bankruptcy protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act in September 2014, and was granted permission to stop covering retiree benefits last October as a “cash-conservation measure”. But the judge's order simply allows the company to steal money from workers who generated profits for their entire working lives.
As USW Local 1005 says, “the company is sitting on a mountain of cash and they can well afford to pay (benefits). We are not talking about the survival of a company, rather the theft of benefits already earned. It is similar to someone coming into your house, taking your wallet and stealing your money. If one of us did this, we would go to jail.”
Of course, human life is secondary to the profits of corporate interests. In
this case, U.S. Steel Canada claims that reinstating the benefits owed to
retirees could jeopardize the sale of the company, and that recent positive
income reports should not be seen as a trend. Backing this view, the federal
Liberal government remains absent from any step to protect steelworkers and the
The union argues that the ruling was likely predetermined and that the court case was a sideshow. Their demand for a full public inquiry should receive wide support.
People’s Voice Editorial
Recent weeks have seen indications that opponents of
Here are a few examples. During the World Social Forum held in August, some
MPs, the mayor of
Such tactics aim to intimidate people from expressing any form of solidarity or
even sympathy with the struggle of the Palestinian people. But despite this
bullying, growing numbers of Canadians recognize that
PV Quebec Bureau
As negotiations between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) drag into the eleventh hour, according to the union, management remains completely intransigent. “We are still far apart,” said Mike Palecek, National President of the CUPW told People’s Voice. “While we hope for progress we haven’t seen much and the deadline is fast approaching,” he said.
People’s Voice reached Palecek on his lunch break between negotiations in late
August. At issue are jobs, wages, pensions, pay equity and the broader question
of the future public post office as well as one of
“Our goal is to negotiate,” Palecek said, but noted that Canada Post needed to come up with proposals to address issues including “fundamental injustices that are decades-old” in the case of pay equity for Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers. “We need some movement.”
Negotiations have been underway for over nine months, beginning in November 2015 and intensifying in April 2016. In July, the union obtained a strike mandate from its membership until August 25, but decided not to use this pressure tactic immediately.
“Canada Post is demanding cuts and concessions including the closure of some 500 post offices,” said Palecek. “Shutting down the post office has been rejected by CUPW and rejected by the public,” he added, noting that the Trudeau Liberals won a mandate based on stopping the job losses and closures associated with shutting down urban home mail delivery.
“It seems like the Tories are still running the post office,” Palecek said. “We need to bring this Crown Corporation in line with the government. The government is taking about improving pensions, while Canada Post is going in the other direction. We have to say to Prime Minister Trudeau, do you actually believe in it, [this agenda you talk about]. Put your money where your mouth is.”
Palecek also explained that the dispute regarding Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers was “a classic, clear, text-book pay equity case, meeting all the definitions under the legislation.” The rural mail carriers unit only recently joined the union in 2004. Prior to that the carriers were contractors and, according to Palecek, seventy percent or more of the workforce were women.
“This is a group of undervalued women who are doing the same work, for 28 percent less pay,” said Palecek. Many of the workers were rural women who also worked of family farms, picking up part time work to bring in some extra money. But because they were wives and mothers and not “so-called primary bread winners,” he said, the post office has paid them less than urban mail carriers for decades.
Palecek was very positive about the community support that CUPW is receiving. One example is the cross-Canada day of action called by the People for Posties solidarity group, which will take place on September 17th.
He appealed to the public to continue to loudly respond and participate in the upcoming federal government review about the future of the post office. “Let your Member of Parliament know the value of the public post office, pay equity and pensions,” he said. Information on the hearings will be available on the union’s website, cupw.ca, and announcements about the rallies can be found via facebook and at people4posties.ca.
Despite the misinformation campaign by Canada Post’s CEO Deepak Chopra and others who claim Canada Post is past its prime, Palecek said the union is confident in the future potential of the public post office. He noted that CUPW had recently made a proposal to “green the post office” so that the crown corporation took a leading role in building a more sustainable and less polluting economy.
According to CUPW, there are almost twice as many post offices across
“We are proposing a renewable-powered electric postal fleet, charging stations
for electric vehicles at post offices, and postal banking which can fund small
projects like installing solar panels on your home, through micro-loans,” he
The campaign draws from ideas raised by Naomi Klein in the “Leap Manifesto” but goes much further, putting the question of public ownership as the springboard for the leap. “Capitalism and the free market can’t solve climate change,” he said.
Palecek pointed to the experience of
The campaign is calling for the post office to help deliver a one-hundred percent renewable economy, to address inequality, put power in public hands, and improve people’s lives. More information is at www.DeliveringCommunityPower.ca.
By Kay Tillow,
Health care in the
Several decades later, after the rest of the industrialized world moved to universal health care systems, the collective bargaining power of US unions is no longer sufficient to advance and protect health care benefits. Profiteers have rigged the system. For-profit insurers and pharmaceuticals are holding our health care, our collective bargaining, and our democracy hostage.
Reining in that control now requires far more than collective bargaining. It requires a dynamic movement that rallies the rank and file of the labor movement, links with communities and the public, takes on the corporate controllers of health care, and pushes relentlessly until it passes national single payer health care, HR 676.
The evidence of the crying need to act is all around us. "Today, we said
enough is enough, and went on strike for a restoration of health benefits and
fair wages and working conditions," said Fabia Sespedes, a housekeeper who
has worked for 9 years at the Trump Taj Mahal in
Current owner of the Taj, billionaire Carl Icahn, is refusing to restore those benefits and threatening to shut down the casino. Half of the workers rely on subsidized health insurance and a third have no health benefits at all. Icahn extracted $350 million from the property using bankruptcy proceedings to strip Taj workers of health care and pensions. "Now we're going to take it to the streets," said Mayra Gonzalez, a pantry chef at the Taj for 26 years.
In June over 4,000 coal miners from seven states rallied in
In the compelling fiery rhetoric that is his custom, UMWA President Cecil
Roberts called on the miners to go home, recruit five people each, and prepare
to march on
In June 5,000 Minnesota Nurses Association members who work for the Allina Hospitals struck for 7 days as Allina sought to shift $10 million in health care costs onto nurses and their families. Monica Proulx, a surgery nurse for more than 20 years said that Allina has refused to negotiate over issues such as patient care and reducing workplace violence unless the union capitulates on the health insurance issue. The nurses are back at work but the struggle continues.
In May more than 350 workers at Honeywell Aerospace were locked out in
In Fostoria, Ohio, where over 1,000 of those retirees live, UAW Local 533 President David Angles said, "It is dishonorable that this corporation would do this to people that gave 30 or more years of their lives to this company helping them make billions of dollars in profit and then turn around and take this benefit away during a time in their life that they need it the most." "We are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have a national health care system and it's time. Stand up and do something, if not for yourself, your children and grandchildren, because they will need your help," concluded Angles. President Angles is right.
Begin by getting your union or organization to endorse HR 676, national single payer health care; see http://unionsforsinglepayer.org/ for samples.
As retired USW steelworker Steve Skvara asked in
(This commentary originally appeared at http://mltoday.com/article/2499-employer-based-health-care-is-failing-workers/94)
By J. Boyden, the first of a three part series on retirement pension issues
Nothing in life is certain -- except death and taxes.
Whether you are taking a break at work, sitting around with friends in the dog days of summer, or in the line-up at the grocery store, who hasn’t heard this popular saying drift into the conversation?
Wikipedia claims the “death and taxes” is an idiom which goes back three centuries. One early source is a book called “A political history of the devil,” written by Daniel Defoe in the baby years of capitalism.
Nobody ever says “Nothing is certain except death and pensions.” Surely, however, all workers expect some retirement before death. Maybe “Death and pensions” doesn’t have the same ring. Or perhaps pensions have been around for a much shorter time than taxes.
Universal pensions in
According to the Canadian Association of Retired People, poverty among those over 65 has more than doubled in the last ten years. Across the country, over half a million seniors - one in nine - live in poverty. This includes 30 percent of single seniors, particularly women.
These numbers are expected to only get bigger. The Trudeau Liberals’ latest pension reforms, as the Communist Party recently pointed out, do almost nothing to substantially help pensioners today and are little more than an attempt to delay the ticking time bomb of public pressure. So while death and taxes remain certain, the ability of millions to even retire is very much in doubt.
The Canadian pension system is usually divided into three pillars: personal savings, private pensions, and public or state pension plans. A quick look at the facts shows that while these pillars work quite well to support the bosses, they are structurally unsound for working folks.
First, consider savings. Do you save? If your answer is “no,” or “not much,” you are among the majority. According to the Canadian Payroll Association, about half of Canadians would have difficulty paying their bills if their pay cheque was just one week late. Wages are stagnant and personal debt is at record levels, driven ever higher by high housing costs.
If your answer is “yes” to saving, you have probably asked: what is the
motivation to save? Even if people are able to squirrel-away some wages, the
governments of big business have responded to the economic crisis with monetary
policy deliberately forcing interest rates to rock bottom or “ultra-low” levels
– even zero in Europe and
Some neo-liberal boosters claim there is no crisis in pensions because of
rising house prices. However, the price of condos and cute little
bungalows into which seniors will “downsize” has also soared. Then there is the
reality that all bubbles burst (housing prices in
As a 2016 study by the Broadbent Institute showed, even when accounting for their total net worth, only 28 percent of Canadian seniors without employer pensions have even five years’ worth of retirement income saved to keep them out of poverty.
Pensions and Scams
About half of workers aged 55 to 65 actually have a private pension plan. But the Canadian Labour Congress recently revealed that over 65 percent of the employed workforce, about 11 million people, have no form of workplace pension plan. Those who do, mainly unionized employees, have had their plans used as blackmail and ransom in collective bargaining.
Postal workers, currently in bitter negotiations, are an example of an employer trying to force changes in the pension plan from Defined Benefits to Defined Contributions. Most plans – about 75 percent overall, and 95 percent in the private sector – have now been created as, or converted to, the rackets known as Defined Contribution plans, in which the worker, not the employer, carries all the risk while receiving smaller benefits. Your retirement savings can evaporate, depending on the whims of financial markets, or if the company declares bankruptcy. Retired workers therefore either live poorer lives, or keep working – sometimes until past 70.
That is exactly what is happening according to an article by the Globe and Mail this August entitled “Employees working longer after shift to defined contribution pension plans”.
With scarce savings and few quality private pension plans, the overwhelming majority of workers face a looming crisis with old age. Millions have great expectations for the third pillar, public pensions, which will be the topic of the second article in this series.
The situation described here is basically, as Canadian journalist Earle Beattie wrote back in the 1980s, a billion dollar swindle. All their life, working people are told that they should be able to retire, yet when they get there, individual seniors are confronted with insurmountable circumstances which they did not create. Apparently they are no longer deserving of support.
Simone de Beauvoir once said that capitalist society “treats the old as outcasts. The aged do not form a body with any economic strength whatsoever and they have not possible way of enforcing their rights: and it is to the interest of the exploiting class to destroy the solidarity between the workers and the unproductive old so that there is no one at all to protect them [...and they are] condemned to poverty, decrepitude, wretchedness and despair.” These are the crimes committed by the boss class against the elderly, and all those who toil by hand or brain.
Socialists understand the need to overcome this strategic Achilles heel. All working people have the fundamental right to retire with dignity. Wide-ranging pension reform needs to be included in any comprehensive project for a people’s alternative, including immediate and substantial increases to benefits to a livable level and reduction of the pension age.
After all, retirement is a collective, not an individual, responsibility. Retirement is not a private affair of future savings for when you get old, but a collective problem for today. Nor should pension plans be marketable goods. Retirement funds are not casino chips for the big insurance firms to gamble with. The elderly and all workers deserve more certainty than just death and taxes.
Part Two in our next issue looks at how the class solidarity succeeded in pushing government and business to build public pensions, which are now under attack.
Earlier we pointed out the mess in which Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of
Hopes of growth and development on which he won federal polls stand belied, as
Modi’s various foreign trips holding the ‘make in India’ logo in his hands
failed to generate international investments and employment opportunities.
Foreign Direct Investors and multinational corporations want Indian authorities
to enact tax laws suitable for them, and also to ensure a peaceful environment
for security of their investments and industrial infrastructure. Such
guarantees are not easy to offer under the present disturbed environs in
A hope that soon died out
Soon after Modi took over in 2014, he promised to make “India First” his
religion and to venerate its Constitution as the only holy book. Also “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” (Together
with all, Development for all) was the road he promised to tread for peace and
economic growth. Such assurances emanating from Modi lent people and the
minorities in particular some hope for better security, because his record as
BJP Chief Minister of
But peace was shaken too soon as activists of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh), an extreme Hindu right organization and its affiliates, took the BJP’s
electoral victory as the golden opportunity to make
Violent mobs stormed the streets against ‘Love Jihad’, the name given by RSS to inter- religious marriages. They harassed, beat, punished and killed men and women in their homes, on the roads, in fact anywhere, merely on the suspicion of their eating or carrying beef. Minorities felt beleaguered but the PM kept quiet. Many opine that he either acquiesces or is unable to discipline the rowdies that include many BJP law makers and his cabinet colleagues, some of whom in saintly robes spew venom against opponents and incite followers to impose the Hindu way of life on all. In higher education centres, many liberal minded scholars and administrators who refused to fall in line were kicked out, and some have been killed. Hindutva elements have now targeted Dalits in the name of cow slaughter!
Decades before Modi took over as its chief minister,
The Rath Yatra (“Chariot Journey”) from Somnath in Gujarat, to Ajodhya in Uttar
Pradesh, undertaken by L.K. Advani in 1990, mobilized Hindus to build a
Tens of thousands of activists reached
A decade later Modi became Gujarat Chief Minister, and the province witnessed a
pogrom in which thousands of Muslims lost their lives, many were hurt, and
myriads became homeless. Moving fast forward,
Dalits under attack
Disposal of dead animals, skinning them or carrying night soil, etc. are the vocations assigned to Dalits by Brahminical Hinduism since times immemorial. But the online image of a hefty cow protector hitting half-naked Dalits tied to a car with his cane is repugnant. Many other horrible images of Dalit and Muslim victims lying dead or reeling under feet of cow protectors have also appeared.
Thanks to the Modi regime, which prompted his followers to recreate scenarios of the feudal era, murder, flogging, and humiliation of Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow protection, are increasing day by day, while law enforcement agencies look the other way.
Under such a backdrop, Dalits in
Besides Dalits, cattle traders, Dairy farmers, soap manufactures and transporters have been exposed to their job hazards not known before.
In the end
Breaking his silence over incidents of violence against Dalits and Muslims, PM Modi has come up with a melodramatic statement: “shoot me’, but stop attacking Dalits.
Quite strange for a man with his much proclaimed 56 inch chest, a powerful PM of world’s largest democracy, to say such things. Instead of dealing sternly with criminals, he is making appeals to those who in the name of Gau Hatya (cow slaughter) are indulging in Manav Hatya (man slaughter). Maybe something is common between Narendra Modi and these elements.
“Dalits were like mentally retarded children”, he had said as Chief Minister of
Interestingly the mainstream media has questioned Modi, “Would the PM care to explain to the country what he means by manual scavenging being a “spiritual” experience?
By Nino Pagliccia
Elections in the
Just as a new car model typically has wheels, engine, doors, etc., the
There is also the primary selection process for candidates seeking nomination by the respective parties. Like a reality show, there is no shortage of drama, with endless debates, speeches, threats, promises, denunciations, defiance, lies, warnings of doom and gloom, accusations, love-ins, etc. In other words, an extensive array of confusing information is deployed by so-called communication experts, journalists and competitors, seemingly designed to misinform and entertain rather than to discuss relevant policy issues that will affect all voters.
Occasionally, a new model is rolled out, with changed features. In the 2008
model, colour was the new detail that appealed to many. This year, the feminine
character of the model is being promoted as a novel addition. Never mind that
it is not an original idea. Several other countries have used this feature for
a long time, but this is “making history” à la
The 2016 election had the potential for the Democrats to nominate a radical (by
But what does the
Take a look at some features of the 1888
The contenders were Grover Cleveland, the Democrat seeking re-election, and Republican Benjamin Harrison (grandson of the 9th President, William Henry Harrison). Although Cleveland had a larger popular vote, Harrison won the presidency with more electoral votes, due to the decisive Republican support in the state of New York, about which Martí wrote, “In New York are the rich who pay for the vote that is sold.”
In several reports, Martí refers to the general situation in the
The other key issue was related to trade. Protectionist Republicans wanted to raise import tariffs, which Democrats wanted to keep low to benefit consumers with lower prices.
Martí describes the general atmosphere of the clash: “They throw buckets of mud on each other’s head. They purposefully lie and exaggerate. They stab each other in their guts and their backs. All insults are allowed. Every blow is good so long as it numbs the enemy.”
In reference to politicians in general, Martí wrote: “they do not put their political
genius on the side of the poor…rather they side with those in power to be put
in power.” More incisively he wrote, “The self-interested politician is a
thief.” In particular, Martí made many pointed references to James G. Blaine as
the “elastic politician…who inspires much hatred in his rivals”.
Martí quoted Thurman as saying: “This protectionist system, comrades, is a cove
for bandits.” And further, “we must campaign for the nation, not for the
capitalist who accumulates unfair profits at the cost of the nation.” “I am
always on the side of the underdog.” Thurman would have been
Interestingly, Martí also made reference to the politicians’ practice of giving speeches. He noted how well they get paid “because they have national fame, and fame pays as much as the skill of public speaking.” Then he asks, “What liberty can have a public speaker that is paid?” He drives in his point: “there are illustrious lawyers who get paid a certain amount for an evening, similar to clowns that are hired to josh in performances.”
Referring to presidential candidates, Martí wrote that they are “so determined to win that [they are] almost winning even though [they have] offended too many to achieve a full triumph. And [they are] so unconcerned about moral constraints that, even though [they] know that [they are] not speaking the truth, words still pour out of [their] mouths.”
Martí seemed to suggest a call to action, stating that, “the government that uses its power to increase anger of those governed, and to unnecessarily deprive them of what they need for their well-being, under pretext of serving them, is deceiving the people, and this is a case of slaves’ rebellion against their master.”
Martí clearly acknowledged that money was a large part of
The similarities between 1888 and 2016 are striking. The essence of the two processes 128 years apart does not appear to have changed at all. The two parties engage in the same trickery to occupy the highest positions in the country, to ultimately execute the pre-ordained policies of exploitation, imperialism and hegemony of the few.
That cannot be called democracy! That is a sad reality today, as it was when Martí wrote. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
No wonder that a large number of
Fidel's 90th: a musical extravaganza
Last June, the Cuban Institute of
Music announced that on August 13th, "a great cantata and concert"
would launch a nation-wide day of festivities to celebrate Fidel Castro's 90th
birthday. When the anniversary arrived, more than 100 children's choirs and
concert bands performed a tribute to Fidel simultaneously across the country.
Prophets of Rage perform outside prison
rock-rap supergroup Prophets of Rage performed outside
Ensamble Transatlántico de Folk Chileno
Scrolling through Facebook
recently, I discovered a video showing an orchestra of joyous young musicians
playing a lively cumbia while strolling through a neighbourhood in the Chilean
Last December, the Communist Party of Britain launched an new website called "Culture Matters". The CPB provided the web-space, and editorial and technical support, as part of its commitment to a 'broad left' cultural struggle for socialism. Since its inception, Culture Matters has become a meeting place for writers, artists, academics, and activists interested in the arts, culture, and politics. In less than a year, it has has attracted a diversity of contributors and built an extensive archive. It regularly posts music, video, poetry, short stories, visual art, essays, and reviews. There are also articles on cultural theory, film, theatre, sports, religion, and science. Contributors include fiction writers, poets, visual artists, musicians, trade unionists, and academics. In welcoming readers to the site last December, editors Mike Quille and Ben Stevenson wrote: "Culture Matters is currently like a first edition, or a skeleton, or a thinly-populated country, which we have provisionally mapped out but not defined. In the months and hopefully years ahead, we want contributors to populate the country, help put flesh on the skeleton, and clothes on the flesh". Check it out at http://culturematters.org.uk/.