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following articles are from the May 16-31, 2017, issue of People's
Trade Justice Network reported on May 2 that high level negotiators from 11
countries were meeting at an undisclosed location behind closed doors in
proposed corporate mega-trade deal appeared to be dead after public pressure
The TPP sparked strong public opposition in all 12 countries, in part because the deal which could have covered 40% of the world's economy was negotiated entirely in secret and without public input. As details of the TPP began to leak out, opinion polls in most of the participating countries tracked growing public opposition.
renewed talks have sparked protests from the Trade Justice Network and other
civil society groups who warn that this secretive pact cannot be the basis for
“The TPP is only marginally about trade. It is about harmonizing standards and regulations across countries and strengthening the rights of corporations at the expense of citizens, workers, the public at large, and the environment. The costs of ratifying the TPP far outweigh any small benefit that may be gained. We urge the Trudeau government to stand up for Canadians and against the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Larry Brown, Co-Chair of the Trade Justice Network and President of the National Union of Public and General Employees.
like the TPP never truly die. Their destructive nature – killing jobs and the
environment – lives on in other forms,” said Maude Barlow, National Chairperson
of the Council of Canadians. “Even without the
was a bad deal then, and it’s a bad deal now,” said Unifor National President
Jerry Dias. “We were told we had to be in the TPP because the
TPP is an unfair and undemocratic deal that was negotiated behind closed doors
without any meaningful public participation,” said David Christopher,
communications manager with OpenMedia, the Internet advocacy watchdog. “Such a
flawed and unpopular deal cannot be the basis for
The recent Let’s Talk TPP report, crowd-sourced from nearly 28,000 Canadians, found that the most common reason for opposing the TPP was the failure of the federal government to consult with the public during negotiations. Canadians also highlighted concerns around digital rights, corporate overreach, democratic accountability, healthcare and public services, the environment, labour issues, and the economy as reasons they opposed the deal.
The TPP has been criticized as a transfer of power from democratically elected national governments to multinational corporations that would result in higher drug prices, a dumbing down of national environmental and health regulations and would give corporations special rights to sue national governments without having to go through the established court system.
The TPP has also been condemned by citizens groups including the Sierra Club, Doctors Without Borders, and the Canadian Labour Congress, and LeadNow. More information is available at LetsTalkTPP.ca.
The Trade Justice Network is a network of environmental, civil society, cultural, farming, labour and social justice organizations that aims to raise awareness about free trade agreements and their implications, and to call for a more sustainable, equitable and socially just international trade regime.
By Helen Kennedy
years ago, the percentage of women in the building trades in
a recent meeting of Sisters in the Trades, a peer support group for women in
the building trades in the
Some recruitment strategies have been working – the average rate of recruitment of women in the trades is 15%. Recently the BC government provided $7 million to refit classrooms in Kamloops and the Royal Bank gave $200,000 to CLAC (a company union not in the house of labour). In response to these programs, the number of women rose. However, most of those women recruited into the trades are no sooner hired than they quit. Not all the reasons are due to the hostile or toxic workplace; other issues include the lack of affordable childcare that matches the hours of work demanded in the trades.
The conditions in trades workplaces are not conducive to building an inclusive workplace. Women are often overlooked for training; most contracts do not recognize seniority. Favouritism is rampant; nepotism is very common. Most women want to fly under the radar in order to do their work, get their pay and not to be labelled a ‘trouble-maker.’ As difficult it is for women to find their place in trades workplaces, the same experience extends to racialized, gay, lesbian, trans, and aboriginal workers.
Conditions in Community College training programs have improved over the years; issues of rampant sexism and misogyny have begun to be addressed. It is now not as common for electrical apprentices in training for example, to be taught resistor codes through the mnemonic “Bad Boys Rape Young Girls But Violet Goes Willingly.” However, echoes of the grossly misogynist phrase are heard regularly in today’s construction sites.
There are more support programs in colleges – enforcement of human rights legislation for example – that make it easier to address these issues there than in the workplace.
If a worker forgets his hardhat at a site, the replacement he is forced to wear, to discourage him from doing it again, is often pink with the words ‘forget-me-not’ printed clearly for all to see. The intent is humiliation. Contrast this practise with ‘Days of Pink’ held in schools and other public sector workplaces to protest against bullying.
Hamilton, a manager from Thompson River University, has stated that
What steps can be taken to address the incredibly low percentage of women in the trades? First of all, we need to recognize that we can’t expect changes to come from the 3% who survive in their workplaces every day. We need to demand the enforcement of key legislation in all trades workplaces. We need to demand the enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act which includes measures to prevent harassment and violence in the workplace.
Gender neutral language may seem like a small measure, but if regularly enforced, it would contribute to a more respectful workplace. Programs need to be developed to train male trades workers to address the chauvinist culture in the workplace. A recent project undertaken by the BC Lions of the CFL is a step in the right direction. The program trains men to be ‘more than a bystander’; trains them to confront their peers to address violence-against-women talk in the locker room. This project was extended to trades workplaces in BC with some success.
could the labour movement do to address the gender gap in the building trades?
Resolutions at Federations of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress conventions would put this issue on the agenda for the broader labour movement. Until these are done, activists in the labour movement should bring the issue to the attention of their local Labour Council to begin a much needed conversation about equity and access for women in the Building Trades.
and more upper-income earners in
CBC News analysis of Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) data compiled all individual
income tax and benefit returns filed with the CRA between 2011 and 2014,
focused on the top three income brackets: $100,000 to $149,999, $150,000
to $249,999 and $250,000 and over. During those four fiscal years, the
number of people who legally avoided paying income tax rose about 50 per
cent from 4,050 to 6,110. The number of filers who made more than $250,000
a year and completely avoided taxes doubled. Every
year, one out of three income tax returns filed in
The CRA says: "It is possible for individuals classified in the upper income ranges to reduce their tax liability to zero by using deductions such as business or farm losses of previous years and allowable business investment losses, or significant contributions to RRSPs. Tax filers can also use non-refundable tax credits such as charitable donations, or dividend and foreign tax credits."
the 2014 tax year, half of the 6,000 high-income non-taxable returns were
policy experts explained to CBC News that rich taxpayers — most of them
owners of corporations — can claim most of their earnings as business and
investment income in order to benefit from a combination of credits and
lower their tax rates. "Our tax
system is overly complex and probably benefits people who hire lawyers and
accountants to work for them … lower-income people don't have that
option," says Michael Veall, an economics professor at
year, Veall co-authored a study that found nearly half of high-income earner
are business owners who can write off most of their income through their
corporations, and not pay taxes immediately. That
strategy unlocks a trove of "special deals made for business and
investment income," explains Michael Smart, who teaches economics at
"Those kinds of income are based on lowest tax rates overall, typically less than you would pay on your salary or wage income as an ordinary Canadian. When you add all of them up, you allow taxpayers to be smart about how to exploit this system."
People’s Voice Editorial
9 marked the 25th anniversary of the Westray disaster in
and operated by Curragh Resources, Westray Coal opened in September 1991, but
closed eight months later when the methane explosion killed all the miners
working underground at the time. A public inquiry ordered by the
2003, Parliament passed the “Westray Bill”, to increase legal penalties for
corporations and managers who fail to take steps to prevent bodily harm.
People’s Voice Editorial
are hopes that the victory of Moon Jae-in, the moderate candidate in
of war and aggression against sovereign states, including the DPRK, are
completely outside the rules of international law. The
call on the federal government to oppose
Tyson Strandlund was the Communist Party of
BC candidate in the May 9
What’s at stake in this election for the people of BC?
British Columbians are faced with increasingly heavy economic burdens while multinational corporations make off with ever greater profits in stolen resources. Any semblance of democracy has been completely undermined by corporate donations and a rigged electoral system.
The allegedly “progressive” parties have made a number of ambiguous and inconsistent statements, and promised minor concessions to small sections of the working class while carefully avoiding any criticism of capitalism. An NDP victory would over the next four years at best constitute a tree saved amidst another burned down forest as they oversee a continued trend in capitalist decline and environmental destruction, and at worst, a betrayal of the working class and student activists whose revolutionary instincts they’ve co-opted for their political gains. Rather than a break from the status quo, a vote for any of the capitalist parties would represent not a step forwards, but to the side. British Columbians must decide if they will let first-past-the-post and false progressive rhetoric push them into lending legitimacy to the parliamentary charade, or if they will push for the new direction our society so desperately needs.
What has been the record of the BC Liberals when it comes to the rights of young people in BC?
The economic scene in BC is not so rosy as the Liberals would have British Columbians believe, and this is particularly true for youth. Young adults with full-time jobs are earning $1,200 less per year pre-tax than before the premier took office. Personal debt has skyrocketed, and costs of everything from housing to education and even transit fares have risen far faster than stagnant wages can keep up with. Public schools are desperately underfunded, requiring an additional $500 million dollars (or approximately $1000 per student) just to reach the Canadian average, and yet the Liberals have continued provincial support for religious and private schools, such as the one attended by the Premier’s son.
What is the current government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples like in BC? Is this an issue in the election?
The BC Liberals are the only major party not to have committed to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – not that I think the other parties will show any more commitment should they take power, but at least they’ve said they will even if it is a hollow lie. The government has repeatedly displayed their contempt for indigenous peoples and unsurprisingly sides with corporations that would continue the colonial legacy of plunder and exploitation, such as with the Northern Gateway Pipeline, Kinder Morgan expansion, Site C dam, and other resource extraction projects on unceded traditional territories. The opposition has feigned an unconvincing sympathy for indigenous peoples which they will maintain as long as is useful. Considering that Pacific Northwest LNG and other undisclosed “resource industry leaders” are NDP donors, I am not so naive to put my faith in the orange Liberals.
What has been the response to your campaign so far? What’s it like to be a red on the campaign trail?
Having ran in the 2015 federal election, many people remember me from our previous campaign... The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and people are genuinely interested with the ideas of the Communist Party. Young people especially are drawn to our anti-capitalist message, although increasingly it finds resonance even with those who lived through McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Even those who disagree with our positions have expressed very positive feelings witnessing youth involvement. I am far from the best speaker, the most well versed, so if I am received so well I can only imagine what other comrades might achieve in this regard. As such I must urge all members of the YCL to participate in federal, provincial, and municipal elections that we may demonstrate that the Communist Party is a party of youth.
What do you hope to accomplish with your campaign? Why vote Communist?
We cannot form a majority government, and if we could, it would still fall short of what is necessary. That said, there are several things which still may be achieved by this campaign. First, and most importantly, we are building a broader movement than simply striving towards a seat in the legislature. Every debate opens people’s minds and accustoms their ears towards words that will never be uttered by the bourgeois politicians – most importantly being capitalism, a word we can harbour some very negative feelings for with very simple associations that working class people respond to. In this sense, our work is in laying foundations that we can draw on in future. Indeed, we are able to speak to so many people during election time that this often is one of our best periods for meeting people interested in working with the YCL or the Party, and every such opportunity must be leapt on.
Every vote for our party sends a clear message that fundamental change is necessary. Whether we get a seat or not, a substantially larger vote for the Communist Party would force the other parties to consider adopting more progressive platforms to avoid being outflanked. Our parliamentary system wasn’t made to allow candidates like myself to win, nor was it made to allow for fundamental change however, that’s not to say it’s impossible. If we did get a seat, this would surely represent both a poison dart in the colonial state, and a new stage in the revolutionary work of our organisation. I’d use this seat not as a politician, but as yet another platform from which to call for building the fightback against corporate power and for workers’ power.
Statement from Black Lives Matter-Vancouver
this week (April 28 - Editor) in
need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that
is also not an isolated incident.
of federal inmates today are Black (an increase of 80% since 2003/04), yet
Black Canadians account for less than 3% of the total Canadian population.
Aboriginal people represent a staggering 23% of federal inmates yet comprise
4.3% of the total Canadian population. One-in-three women under federal
sentence are Aboriginal. “These are disturbing trends that raise important
questions about equality and our justice system in
This disturbing trend only continues when Black children are stereotyped, criminalized, assaulted and traumatized by Canadian law enforcement. This needs to stop. The two police officers should be investigated, charged, suspended without pay, and publicly named. The public has a right to know who these officers are. The investigation of police officers by other police officers is categorically biased and has proven inconsequential time and again.
We need meaningful pursuit of justice for this child and for everyone who experiences police violence. The parents have sought legal counsel and BLMV is in contact with the family. BLMV will be contacting the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) and the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) about racial profiling, community consultation processes by municipal police/RCMP, and police accountability.
By Adrien Welsh, Montreal
On April 23rd, French voters chose two out of eleven presidential election candidates to make their way to the second round and aspire to be the next tenant of Élysée palace.
In France, the first round of voting has never been a moment of great suspense. For decades, the two main political parties which have run the country for decades, the Socialists (PS) and the right (Les républicains and, formerly, the UMP or RPR) get to the second round with a comfortable margin. This year, however, until the last minute, four candidates could count on a score near 20% for the firtt round: Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Marine Le Pen, François Fillion and Emmanuel Macron.
At 8 pm the first results were broadcast, making it clear that the seats for the second round would be filled by Marine Le Pen and the “centrist” Emmanuel Macron, getting respectively 21.7% and 24% of the ballots. The candidate of Les Républicains, the right wing party, finished third with 20% and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, from the left, obtained 19.2%. The Socialist candidate, Benoit Hamon, had to settle for only 6%, the party’s lowest score since 1969. For the first time in the history of the 5th Republic (since DeGaulle’s constitutional putsch of 1958), neither of the two parties which governed for almost 60 years was represented in the final round. Macron received 66.1% of the votes on May 7, the first candidate to win the presidency without the explicit support of any political party.
This certainly has a lot to do with the decadence of bourgeois democracy in France and elsewhere.
As the crisis of capitalism started hitting Europe, the lines of a political recomposition started to emerge, especially in the so-called “peripheries” (like in Greece with the raise of Syriza, in Spain with Podemos or in Italy, with Matteo Renzi and Beppe Grillo, but also like Corbyn in Britain under another format). In all these countries, the traditional parties of social-democracy, because of their compromises with neo-liberal policies since the 1980s and 1990s, are being replaced by new political forces, which adopt a seemingly radical rhetoric.
In France though, probably because the Socialist Party was slow to adopt a social-liberal line (unlike in Germany, or in Britain with the Tony Blair’s “new Labour”) and because the PS was in opposition when the capitalist crisis burst in 2008, this political recomposition emerged slowly and tepidly. Until the current electoral process, the old division between the “right” and the “left”, coming all the way from the French Revolution, seemed to serve bourgeois democracy just fine.
During the last five years though, the PS government has been constantly attacking the working class, the youth and popular masses. Unemployment is now about 10% (and 20% for the youth), social programs have been ransacked from healthcare to universities, the nationalized railroad system and the postal services are on the verge of being privatized. The El-Khomri law attacks on the Labour Code in spring 2016 went so far that even the right had no serious objections. In the colonies, youth unemployment is over 60% in some areas (like in Guadeloupe and Martinique), access to education is highly limited, and the right to self-determination is still denied - those people are not even recognized as nations. In French Guyana, social and labour movements actions paralyzed the whole department for weeks, even impeding the launching of rockets from the European base of Kourou.
On the other hand , the Socialists provided the corporates with high subsidies for low-paid and precarious jobs, through the CICE and the “Responsibility Compact”, costing tens of billions of euros.
Francois Hollande’s five-year mandate was also marked by attacks against democratic rights, through security measures and the State of Exception applied almost without interruption since the January 2015 attack against Charlie Hebdo. This measure led to people being arrested without evidence (including children), deployment of the military in the streets, and attacks on protestors, but in no way did it prevent terrorism, as the victims of the November 2016 attacks could testify. The rhetoric of “total war against terror”, as named by Prime Minister Valls, gave justification for France to be more involved in imperialist wars, such as in Syria, Iraq and its former African colonies, Mali and Central African Republic.
This all led to massive popular discontent and desperation which, coupled with the anti-terrorist rhetoric, gave fertile ground for the ultra-right, xenophobic and fascistic ideas of Marine Le Pen’s Front National. This is particularly the case in the northern and eastern regions of France, hit by pro-European Union policies of deindustrialization. In local and European elections, Le Pen’s party reached its highest share of votes. When Le Pen made it to the second round of Presidential elections, this was not a surprise to anyone.
In short, the five years of anti-social policies imposed by Hollande and the PS government forced a drastic political recomposition on many levels. The results of the 2017 presidential elections reflect this change, and the big corporations are the big winners.
The compromised Socialist Party could not play social-democracy’s role of channelling people’s anger towards reformist ideas. Hollande and his party were sacrificed to the benefit of both Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and of Emmanuel Macron with his “En Marche!” movement. Both are former members of the Socialist Party.
Mélenchon voted for the privatizations under the Jospin government, as well as for Maastricht and all subsequent agreements that integrated France into the EU of capital. He is now the leader of La France insoumise, a movement adopting a radical rhetoric, but which refuses to be a clear voice calling for a rupture with the EU, implying that this free-trade agreement is reformable. Clearly he is perceived to be the one who can become the official “leftist” opposition.
Macron, presented as the “new element”, actually bears the whole record of Hollande’s five years in office. Despite saying that he is both from the left and right, the reality is that Macron served as Minister of Finance. He gained his political legitimacy by participating in the past government. The voice of finance, perceived as a youthful pragmatic leftist not coming from the traditional right, supported by people from the two main parties (including Hollande himself) - the bourgeoisie could not find a better candidate to revamp the image of bourgeois democracy. Pretending to be above parties, Macron is the most suitable candidate to continue the austerity policies, without generating as much popular hostility as if the right were in power.
The Front National, on the other side, plays an increasingly important role as a foil to channel and discredit all kinds of opposition to the system. Its nationalist deviation of the popular rejection of the European Union, of NATO and free trade; its xenophobic, islamophobic and racist rhetoric, as well as its social demagogy, constitute a dangerous poisonous mix for the advencement of fascist ideas.
This brutal shift in the French political landscape, away from opposition between the left and right parties, to a clash of personalities “above” parties, will certainly force the capitalist class to change tactics. Since Macron comes from no political party, nothing seems clear, except that he will ensure that the agenda of the 1% is reflected in French policies. Pro-European Union, pro-globalization and pro-free-trade, Macron calls for a break with the French economic model, meaning that he will fiercely attack all gains the working class obtained through its difficult past struggles.
The Front National, despite its attempt of “de-demonization” still has difficulties to erase its old image of links with collaborationists and holocaust negationists. A Donald Trump-like scenario was very unlikely, especially since François Fillion, the candidate of the right, called for a vote for Macron.
Most of the losing first-round candidates and most of the political parties, from the right to the PS, called for a vote for Macron (or a vote against Le Pen) and for a “republican front”. However, Mélenchon (critically supported by the French Communist Party) along with the class-oriented labour union CGT, did not give any voting advice. They stressed the correlation between austerity and the rise of fascism, and that in this situation, voting for one or the other would be like chosing between plague and cholera.
Emmanuel Dang Tran, member of the PCF National Council, put it this way: “Of course, Marine Le Pen and the fascist groups supporting her are dangerous. But for us, what really matters isn’t so much the danger of her being elected (which is unlikely), but the danger, on a longer term, of her movement to gain more popularity as a result of the anti-people measures that Macron will impose. Fascism doesn’t fall from heaven, it is the expression of capitalism in crisis. This is why our anti-fascist mobilization cannot rely on a representative of the 1% like Emmanuel Macron. This is why our anti-fascist actions cannot be separated from our struggles against capitalism. As communists, our duty now is to be ready to hit the streets, go on strike to defend our public services, our rights and to oppose all resistance needed to block Macron’s pro-corporate agenda. And this has to start right now, with May Day being the first moment to show our strenght and our opposition to both the voice of racism, xenophobia and fascism and to the voice of CAC 40 and the diktat of finance.”
PV combined sources
Greece capitulated on May 2 to eurozone creditors’ demands for more cuts, in return for releasing bailout funds. The Syriza-ANEL coalition government — elected in 2015 on an anti-austerity manifesto — agreed to a new round of pension cuts in 2019. It committed to maintaining a strict budget surplus target along with new tax increases after the current bailout programme — signed in 2015 despite voters rejecting it in a referendum — ends next year.
In return, the creditors will pay Greece 2.8 billion euros it needs to avoid defaulting on its loans in July, and start talks on how to ease the country’s debt burden.
The agreement with creditors was reached after a nightlong session of talks at the Hilton hotel in Athens. Government officials said lenders dropped their demands to abolish a long list of employment rights and also agreed to the expansion of benefit schemes for jobless and low-income families.
Across the political spectrum, this latest development has been condemned. Even the right-wing New Democracy opposition pointed out that Syriza promised more funding without austerity, only to implement more austerity with no additional funding for social needs.
“This is a painful compromise,” Interior Minister Panos Skourletis said to state television ERT. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose Syriza-led coalition has a parliamentary majority of just three seats, has said he will stand down before the 2019 general election.
Hours before the deal, protesters gathered at the entrance of the Hilton during large May Day rallies in the capital, but riot police blocked them from entering the building
The main protests were organized in 78 cities across the country by the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME), including a mass rally at Syntagma Square near the parliament in Athens, under the slogan “with the workers of all countries for a world without exploitation, wars and refugees."
Thousands joined the PAME demonstrated against the new anti-people measures that the "left" government of SYRIZA-ANEL is imposing on behalf of capital, as well as against imperialist war.
The May 1st rally escalated the preparations for a May 17 general strike in the public and private sector, in response to the new raft of anti-people measures in Parliament.
A large delegation of the leadership of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) took part in the rally, including General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumpas.
The rally opened with Bertolt Brecht's one act play "Job creation", presented by members of PAME's theatre group. This play belongs to the work "Fear and Misery of the Third Reich".
The Palestinian Ambassador, Marwan Emil Toubassi, brought a message of greetings, as the demonstrators expressed solidarity with the 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. The rally demanded that a delegation of PAME and the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) be allowed to visit with the hunger strikers.
The main speech was delivered by Giorgos Perros, a cadre of PAME, who spoke about the anti-people political line of the SYRIZA-ANEL government, and urged the Greek workers not to shed their blood for capitalist profits. He ended by saying that "the struggles of the working class in each period are the only ones that can place the exploiters in a difficult position and challenge their dominance and power. Because the working class can abolish capitalist slavery and also build a new society without them and their parasitism. This is what the exploiters all over the world are afraid of."
After the rally ended with a rendition of the "Internationale", the demonstrators marched to the US embassy, stopping outside the Hilton hotel, where the negotiations were taking place between the SYRIZA-ANEL government and the “Quartet” of international creditors.
By Tom Sibley, Morning Star
In July 1936, international fascism launched a war of intervention against the Spanish people.
Earlier in that year the democratic forces, making up the Popular Front, were elected following a period of extreme right-wing government in which the fascists played a leading role. The Popular Front government was initially supported by the whole of the left, including many members of the powerful anarchist movement and the centrist Republican Party.
It brought forward a progressive programme aimed at democratising and modernising Spain which, at the time, was dominated by the Church, the military and the big landowners and whose industries were often controlled by foreign capital. The Republican government’s measures to introduce land reform in order to end widespread and abject poverty in the countryside, educational expansion and change and women’s rights were anathema to the forces of the right. They were seen to be against the interests of the Church and were presented by the right as the first steps along the road to a communist society.
With anti-communism as its pretext, the Spanish military, led by General Franco, launched a military coup in July which was immediately supported with copious supplies of trained troops and modern weaponry by nazi Germany and fascist Italy.
Initially Franco’s forces were repulsed in most of the big cities and towns as workers’ militias and armed police loyal to the elected government came together in defence of the republic. Madrid continued to hold firm, thanks mainly to the arrival of modern weaponry from the Soviet Union and the solidarity provided by the thousands of International Brigade volunteers organised by the international communist movement.
But in other parts of the country the tide turned quickly as Italian and German forces were deployed. And the limitations of the badly organised and poorly trained militia were exposed.
In the face of overwhelming military force, in the early months of 1937 the Popular Unity movement splintered under the pressure of ultraleftist adventurism, culminating in the tragedy of the Barcelona May Day events, the 80th anniversary of which we mark on May 3 this year.
The May Day events were one of the most important turning points of the civil war (1936-39).
In the middle of a war in which international fascism threatened to overthrow by military force a democratically elected government, the ultra-left movement which had initially played an important part in resisting Franco’s first offensive turned against the regional government in Catalonia and launched an insurrectionary putsch. Guns, which should have been at the disposal of forces fighting Franco, were instead turned on the state forces defending the republic.
The insurrection was instigated by dissident anarchist militias, which had a strong base in Barcelona, encouraged by the Trotskyist-influenced POUM which since the beginning of 1937 had been actively and very publicly campaigning for the overthrow of the Popular Front government in Catalonia.
What was the subtext which led to the May uprising and put at risk the whole of the republican movement’s attempts to withstand the fascist offensive?
The underlying catalyst was the determination of the Republican government to radically reshape the war effort following months of military setbacks. This followed widespread demands to incorporate all militia in a national popular army with a unified command.
In Catalonia the Popular Front administration, in the teeth of opposition from both POUM and the local anarchists, took measures in line with central government policies. The government called on the local militia to surrender its arms and join the national army. It shut down the local patrol groups controlled by the anarchists and put policing into local government hands.
Catalonia’s important arms industry was nationalised and the government sought to take over the strategically vital communication centre, the Barcelona telephone exchange, which until May 3 had been controlled by an anarchist trade union committee.
All of these centralising measures were taken primarily to strengthen the war effort. But they also threatened to totally undermine what the anarchist and POUMists saw as pillars of their strength, influence and control. Rather than fall in line, in the interests of boosting the anti-fascist war effort, the ultra-leftists launched an insurrection against the elected government.
The immediate spark for the insurrection was the retaking by the government of the telephone exchange. The anarchists had used their control of this facility to intercept and disrupt calls between government ministers and military leaders. This could not be tolerated in a war situation where the country was fighting for its very existence. Consequently government ministers ordered the police to take back into state control the telephone exchange.
Unarmed senior police officers were met with a volley of shots and a standoff followed. But the sound of gunfire and the subsequent surrounding of the exchange by armed police officers was a signal for the anarchist militia to take to the streets, erect barricades and bring tanks and other armed vehicles into the fray.
In the fighting that ensued in which the rebels were opposed by Communist Party militia and the Republican Guards, hundreds were killed or maimed. Catalonian ministers quickly called for central government reinforcements and within a few days, encouraged by their national leadership, the local anarchists had laid down their arms.
Throughout the piece the overwhelming majority of Barcelona’s workers had taken government advice to stay at home.
Eighty years later arguments still appear from both the anti-communist left (sometimes described as the anti-Stalinist left) and the liberal right suggesting that the Barcelona events were provoked by Moscow so as to crush a nascent social revolution.
Such action was necessary, the critics argue, in order to reassure Western imperialist powers, with which the Soviet Union was seeking to build an anti-Hitler front, that Republican Spain was not about to usher in communist control under Soviet tutelage.
Some of the commentators also assert that by removing hopes for a fully fledged socialist revolution the Republican government destroyed any possibility of a military victory.
Given the balance of political forces both in Spain and internationally these hopes were entirely unrealistic. In this they partly reflect Orwell’s defeatist assessment made in late 1937 that whichever side won the civil war a fascist-type regime would be installed in Spain.
What are we to make of these assessments? First, there is no evidence to back assertions that the Soviets provoked the uprising.
On the contrary, recently opened archive material shows that the insurrection was planned months in advance and that the dissident anarchists and POUM put their demands above the requirements of the national struggle to defeat fascism.
In the circumstances of 1937, to call for a full-blown socialist uprising would have created deep divisions in the republican movement, thereby guaranteeing certain and early victory for the fascist forces.
The Barcelona events were indeed an important turning point but not as some anti-communist and liberal commentators present it. For there followed a period during which the national Popular Army was transformed into an effective fighting force.
Despite the overwhelming military advantages enjoyed by the fascist enemy and the continuing arms embargo placed on republican Spain by the Western democracies, the reorganised National Army supported by the International Brigade was able to hold on for a further 18 months, giving space for Spain’s outstanding socialist prime minister Juan Negrin to negotiate for increased international assistance.
The fundamental reasons for the defeat of Spanish democracy were outside the republic’s control.
First, Franco could not have prevailed without the massive military support of the fascist powers. And Spanish democracy could have survived if Britain, France and the United States had lifted the arms embargo placed on republican Spain and put diplomatic and economic pressure on the fascist powers to stop their war of intervention.
By May 1937 it was clear to Negrin and the Communist Party, which provided the backbone to his administration, that only the centralising strategy of the Popular Front government could stop the slide to military defeat, and consolidate the substantial and profoundly democratic changes it had instituted.
These reforms could have rapidly moved Spain from a largely backward, medieval theocracy to an advanced social democracy. Many on the left saw such developments as important steps on the road to socialism.
The following letter was sent to Canadian MPs on May 1, by the Russian Congress of Canada
In commemoration of the third anniversary of the tragic events in Odessa on May 2, 2014, the Russian Congress of Canada (RCC) remembers those who fell victim to the violence of right-wing Ukrainian radicals and draws attention to the failure of Ukrainian authorities to properly investigate and prosecute the culprits. RCC calls upon the Canadian government to exercise its influence on official Kyiv so that the investigation be brought to a conclusion, the truth be known and justice served in this, one of the darkest pages of recent Ukrainian history.
On May 2, 2014, Odessa became a place of tragedy. Dozens of people died in the outbreak of violence against citizens of the city and surrounding region who did not support the ‘Euromaidan’ regime change in Kyiv ten weeks earlier. Protesters set up a tent camp on Kulikovo Pole square in the centre of Odessa as a place of peaceful gathering. They were collecting signatures for a proposal to conduct an all-Ukrainian referendum on decentralization of Ukraine’s central government powers and recognition of Russian as the second official language of the country. These demands have always been shared by the people of southern and eastern Ukraine, who historically, culturally, and linguistically have been close to Russia. However, successive governments in post-Soviet Union Ukraine have never agreed to these demands.
Kulikovo Pole became the centre of anti-Maidan activists. Odessa city and the region were split over support of Euromaidan, with pro and anti-Euromaidan marches and public rallies taking place throughout February-April 2014. On May 2, hundreds of football ultras, known for their support of right-wing Ukrainian nationalism, arrived to Odessa by buses to attend a match. Members of extremist, paramilitary ‘self-defence’ units of Euromaidan from various Ukrainian cities also arrived to Odessa that day. They joined with local football ultras and paramilitaries to organize a march for unity of Ukraine through the centre of the city. The Anti-Maidan activists organized their groups in central Odessa. The two sides came into conflict and police did little to prevent the violence that erupted. Six people died in clashes, and many more were injured.
By 6:30 pm, nationalist ultras reached the Kulikovo Pole square. They attacked and burned the camp down, using Molotov cocktails, cobblestones and firearms. They beat the Kulikovo camp activists with baseball bats and chains. The activists took refuge in the House of Trade Unions close to the camp. The right-wing radicals encircled the building and set it on fire, trapping activists inside. Some of those inside tried to escape the fires by fleeing to the roof of the building. From there, some were eventually rescued. Others jumped from the windows on the second and third floors. Some of those were then beaten to death by the gathered extremists. Inside, many were burned alive or died from suffocation.
According to official statistics, 42 people died in the fire in the Trade Unions House on May 2. However, the number of victims was most likely over a hundred, according to relatives and witnesses. Many survivors were seriously injured. Some of them were taken to hospitals but did not stay there. Relatives took them away, fearing that they would be killed by extremist vigilantes. Others did not even go to hospitals out of fear of being reported to authorities and arrested. Some of the survivors died of injuries.
The massacre occurred under the eyes of the police who were observing but did not intervene because, police officials later said, they had ‘no orders’ to act. Police superiors were attending an unscheduled meeting which had been called by higher authorities and lasted several hours. The fire brigade, located within 0.5 km from the Trade Unions House, received numerous calls for assistance but it took them 45 minutes to arrive.
Ukrainian authorities launched five separate investigations of the Odessa massacre – by the General Prosecutor, by the Ministry of Interior, by a special Parliamentary Commission, by the Ukrainian Ombudsperson and by the police department in Odessa. None of these investigations have been concluded. Almost all of those who have been arrested in relation to the May 2 events and currently face criminal charges belong to the federalist, anti-Maidan camp. They are all accused under identical charges of “causing mass disorder” instead of being individually charged with specific offenses. None of the right-wing nationalists responsible for the murders at the Trade Union House have been charged. As late as March 24, 2017, the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee was still demanding “further progress in the investigations into the crimes committed during the Euromaidan protests and the violence in Odessa of 2 May 2014, in order to bring to justice those responsible without delay.” (1)
Three years after these tragic events, it is clear that Ukraine’s authorities intentionally impede the progress of investigations. The prosecution has been unable to produce any convincing evidence against the accused federalists and supporters of Ukraine’s friendly relations with Russia. Numerous legal and procedural violations have been observed during the proceedings. On a number of occasions, right-wing extremists broke into courtrooms during proceedings, threatened judges, defense lawyers and families of the defendants and physically assaulted them. In several cases, judges recused themselves from the investigation for fear of nationalist reprisals. Documentary evidence has been tampered with. The investigation has been sabotaged at the highest level of Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior (2).
Ukrainian authorities clearly lack the will to bring the investigations to conclusion for one simple reason – the same people and institutions that bear responsibility for the Odessa tragedy are in charge of investigating it. The International Advisory Panel of the Council of Europe concluded in November 2015 that the Ukrainian government had failed to properly investigate and prosecute those responsible for the violent clashes in Odessa on May 2, 2014. The European experts found that Ukraine’s investigations into the “mass disorders” in the city centre, the fire in the Trade Unions House and the conduct of the State Emergency Service staff in response to the fire lacked institutional and practical independence (3).
The Ukrainian government’s failure to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of the Odessa massacre has cast serious doubts about democracy and the rule of law in post-Euromaidan Ukraine. The current Ukrainian rulers and their ardent supporters in the West, including the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, claim that Ukraine is successfully reforming its law-enforcement agencies and the Prosecutor General’s Office. According to the statement made by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to the Parliament of Canada’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on March 23, 2017, “… there are many positive examples of what has changed on the ground (in Ukraine). We are on the path, with the judicial system, with police reform, to fundamentally change the lives of Ukrainian citizens, and provide an example to people in Belarus and Russia of what is a better future….”
How successful are these reforms if none of these agencies proved willing or able to bring mass murderers to justice even three years after the Odessa massacre? Ukrainian society needs to know the truth, which is denied to them by the Ukrainian authorities. Nationalist radicals guilty of killing innocent civilians in cold blood should be held accountable for their actions.
Yet it is unlikely that in today’s Ukraine justice will be served without any external help. As in the case of unidentified sniper killings on Maidan in February 2014, high-ranking officials in Kyiv have proven themselves uninterested in honest and effective investigations of the Odessa Massacre because it might reveal the involvement of current power holders in these killings. Ukraine’s government has denied and covered up the involvement of the extreme right nationalists and their paramilitaries in the escalation of violence on Euromaidan and the persecution of pro-Russian Ukrainians across the country. Meanwhile, hundreds of people who opposed the Euromaidan have been arrested and detained illegally. Far-right thugs routinely intimidate and attack those who dare to publicly voice their disagreements with the Ukrainian ultra-nationalism. The government does nothing to protect the rights of the attacked.
The failure of the Ukrainian authorities to investigate the tragedy of May 2, 2014 in Odessa calls for an immediate action by the Government of Canada. If all members of Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet care about the people of Ukraine and want them to live in inter-ethnic peace, there should be no difficulty on the part of our Government to pressure Mr. Poroshenko and the Ukrainian government as a whole to name and prosecute those responsible for the deaths of ordinary Ukrainian citizens in Kyiv and Odessa.
We call upon the Government of Canada to hold the Ukrainian government accountable for bringing to a conclusion the investigation into the Odessa tragedy. Only truth and justice can bring reconciliation and forgiveness.
An open letter to the people, from the Communist Party of Venezuela
To our compatriot Nicolas Maduro, President of the Republic; to the working class and working people of the city and countryside; to the patriotic officers, classes, and soldiers of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces; to the national leadership and militancy of the political parties and popular organisations of the Great Patriotic Pole, including the United Socialist Party.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela finds itself threatened yet again by acts of political violence from sectors of the extreme right as part of the execution of a destabilising plan elaborated by North American imperialism.
This plan has as its objective the imposition through force and blackmail of a government which would work to maintain US hegemony throughout the continent, taking apart the processes of national liberation which begun across Latin America at the start of this century, and turning back progressive advances which have allowed the working class and the people in general to establish rights and social advances which were historically denied them by governments which responded absolutely to the interests of the bourgeoisie, which in itself acted as a subordinate to North American imperialism.
On this occasion the aggressive escalation against our people by those actors of the oligarchy and extreme right is much greater.
Apart from the anti-popular violent acts resulting in the creation of shortages and the high cost of living, terrorist acts have been seen in various cities across the country in recent weeks.
These acts have been accompanied by a national and international propaganda war which looks to sew confusion and instigate confrontation between nations, creating a state of chaos and violence which only favours a bloody resolution of the political crisis, be it through a coup or a direct intervention by North American imperialism and the international institutions at its beck and call.
The Venezuelan extreme right, following instructions from US imperialism and with its direct financing, does not control itself in its crimes of violence and provocation.
With such objectives in mind, the pro-US right are pressuring military officers with diverse forces of blackmail and manipulation.
We call on the patriotic soldiers and officers to not cede to these unpatriotic terrorists and to take up the cause of the defence of our national sovereignty and our independence and the security of our people without hesitation and with complete commitment.
For us, the Venezuelan communists, it is clear that what is happening is the sharpening of the class struggle in its political form — the heightening of the struggle for power. The forces which represent the interests of European and North American great monopoly capital are attempting to take over control of Venezuela and all Latin America by defeating and vanquishing the social and political sectors which offer resistance to such objectives.
In light of the dangerous terrorist escalation, which is putting our national sovereignty, independence, and the gains of the working people at risk, we call for a unified, forceful, and coherent response. It is necessary to mobilise without delay the widest possible anti-imperialist alliance to defeat the anti-democratic terrorist plans.
We urgently need the central government, the parties of the Great Patriotic Pole, the forces of the popular and working-class movement, and the patriotic command of the armed forces to work together.
It is necessary to develop a popular and patriotic plan to defeat the pro-imperialist and terrorist extreme right. To not do so would be to act with irresponsibility and, in reality, to hand oneself over without a fight.
The true revolutionaries do not hand ourselves over, we fight united until we succeed.
The Venezuelan working class needs that the sectors of the petit-bourgeoisie which currently hold hegemonic power in the national executive, the other powers of state and parties of government, immediately abandon all sectarian and selfish conduct which has only weakened the Bolivarian process and effectively works in favour of the enemies’ plans.
The Communist Party of Venezuela has insisted for many years for the need for a collective and unified national leadership of this Bolivarian process of changes, but the petit-bourgeoisie groupings which have exercised hegemonic control over the government have not paid attention to these calls and proposals.
Hence, in the current context we insist on unity of action of all the political and social forces willing to defend the nation against the imperialist enemy and their puppets.
However also, in the context of a wavering and inconsequent petit-bourgeoisie in power, we call upon the most conscientious and combative sectors of the popular and workers’ movements, the peasantry, the middle strata, the revolutionary intellectuals and the patriotic officers to forge a block of forces which will lead the wide patriotic and anti-imperialist alliance so as to halt the seditious plans of the pro-US right and also so as to displace the reformist-appeasement sectors which, from positions of government, tend to favour the sectors of the big bourgeoisie and form pacts with social democratic elements of the right wing.
Only an ample, popular unity, led by the organised and conscientious working class can guarantee the defence of the Bolivarian nation and the deepening of the revolutionary changes towards the real construction of socialism on scientific and committed foundations.
Peace is won by defeating fascism.