People’s Voice October 16-31, 2017

Volume 25 – Number 17   $1
















PEOPLE'S VOICE      October 16-31, 2017 (pdf)


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(The following articles are from the October 16-31, 2017, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)



By Liz Rowley, leader of the Communist Party of Canada


            A campaign by business interests aiming to derail the federal government’s effort to close tax loopholes benefitting the top 5% of incorporated small businesses, has gone largely unchallenged by the media, confused the public, and pressured Finance Minister Bill Morneau to backtrack on his very modest tax reform proposals.


            At the centre of the opposition are the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), and the very powerful Canadian Medical Association (CMA), representing doctors whose lucrative private practices are incorporated to cut their taxes. These are not small family farmers, or the Mom and Pop corner store owners or “start ups”, the vast majority of whom earn less than $73,000 annually. They are the surgeons and specialists whose average incomes are $461,000 a year; the 84,000 doctors providing medical services who are doing extremely well at public expense, collectively billing the government an average of $339,000 a year, or $25.7 billion. In fact only those making over $168,000 a year would see any difference in their tax bills.


            What does it cost? About $3.6 billion in foregone government revenue that could be used to help fund Medicare, post-secondary education, a universal public childcare system, affordable social housing. The list is long - and urgent.


            Not all doctors have drunk the cool-aid of medicine-as-business. Over 500 doctors and medical students oppose the CMA’s campaign and support closure of the tax loopholes. This group should receive a lot more public attention in the media; because (unlike the CMA and CFIB) their position represents the public interest.


            In fact the government’s tax reform proposals are very modest and inadequate. The already skewed tax system increasingly benefits the corporations and the 1%, while starving the federal treasury of the funds needed to provide public services and to invest in jobs, the environment, and the economy.


            Real tax reform would be based on ability to pay, putting the burden on the corporations and the wealthy, starting with doubling the corporate income tax rate, and introducing wealth and inheritance taxes on estates over $1 million. It would restore the capital tax, and tax capital gains at 100% of the gain (realized and unrealized). It would close all corporate loopholes, and collect unpaid and deferred corporate taxes at every level of government. It would also eliminate the regressive HST, eliminate income tax on incomes under $40,000, and restore multiple tax brackets, restoring progressivity to the tax system.


            Real tax reform would also solve the problem of diminishing revenues, more than providing for the public good, for services, jobs, and investment.


            The Liberals’ biggest problem is in Washington. The Trump administration is in the process of slashing the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% - or lower - and eliminating the Dodd Frank legislation, de-regulating banking and financial institutions, and impacting global banking and financial institutions. Trump has also increased the military budget to an astronomical $700 billion, slashing social spending and expanding austerity, while demanding that Canada follow suit. Trump has also demanded Canada completely subsume itself to the US in a renegotiated NAFTA agreement, that would dissolve what remains of Canada’s sovereignty and independence.


            The Liberals could say no to the US administration, and the corporations big and small, inside and outside Canada that are trying to enforce this reactionary and dangerous corporate agenda. But they won’t do it without a massive public outcry and demand for a new direction and new policies – something that has been missing in Parliament for some time.


            The labour and people’s movements have their work cut out. A broad-based opposition united in support of policies and a program for a people’s recovery can stop the drive to the right in Canada, and set the stage to elect a new majority in Parliament committed to peace, jobs, sovereignty and democracy in 2019. 


            The alternative is to continue further down the road of war and reaction, loss of sovereignty and democracy, mass unemployment, and mass impoverishment.


            In fact, it’s no choice at all.


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            October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Despite claims that economic progress has lifted huge number of people world-wide above the poverty line, the World Bank estimated that in 2015, 705 million people were living on $1.90US per day or less.


            Here in Canada, nearly five million people  – one out of every seven individuals – currently live in poverty. Vulnerable groups such as people living with disabilities, single parents, elderly individuals, youth, and racialized communities are more susceptible.


            Here are some facts and statistics about the current reality of poverty, taken from the website of Canada Without Poverty (formerly the National Anti-Poverty Organization),


            The society cost of poverty across Canada as a whole is between $72 billion and $84 billion annually; Ontarians pay $2,299 – $2,895 per year, while British Columbians pay over $2,100 per year.


            Precarious employment has increased by nearly 50% over the past two decades. Between 1980 and 2005, the average earnings among the least wealthy Canadians fell by 20%.


            People living with disabilities (both mental and physical) are twice as likely to live below the poverty line. Nearly 15% of people with disabilities live in poverty, 59% of which are women. Children with disabilities are twice as likely to live in households relying on social assistance


            Estimates place the number of homeless individuals living with a disability or mental illness as high as 45% of the overall homeless population.


            21% of single mothers in Canada raise their children while living in poverty (7% of single fathers raise their children in poverty). Women parenting on their own enter shelters at twice the rate of two-parent families.


            Indigenous Peoples (including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples) are over-represented among the homeless population in virtually all urban centres. Among shelter users, 28%-34% are Indigenous.


            One in five racialized families live in poverty in Canada, as opposed to 1 in 20 non-racialized families. Racialized women living in poverty were almost twice as likely to work in manufacturing jobs than other women living in poverty. Overall, racialized women earn 32% less at work.


            Nearly 15% of elderly single individuals live in poverty. Nearly 2 million seniors receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and live on about $17,000 per year. This is below the most basic standard of living in Canada, calculated at $18,000 per year for a single person


            Children and youth under 18 are particularly vulnerable. About  1.3 million children in Canada live in conditions of poverty (that’s 1 in 5). Half of Status First Nations children live in poverty.


            When food banks emerged during the recession of the early 1980s, people were shocked to see photos of children in the line-ups. Today, more than one-third of food bank users across Canada are children. Food bank usage is 3% higher than 2015 and 28% higher than it was in 2008.


            Four million people in Canada experience food insecurity, and 1 in 8 households struggle to put food on the table. In 2014, the majority of food insecure households – 62.2% – were reliant on wages or salary from employment. Eight out of ten provinces saw an increase in food bank usage in 2016.


            Residents in Nunavut spend twice as much on food as the rest of the country on average ($14,800 v. $7,300 annually), and 62% of children living in the North are food insecure. Overall, two out of every five Northern households are food insecure. Seven of ten Inuit preschoolers live in food insecure households.


            The health effects of poverty are wide-ranging and can be difficult to see from the outside.


            One in ten Canadians cannot afford to fill their medical prescriptions. Canada is the only industrialized country with a universal healthcare system but without a national pharmacare policy.


            A McMaster University study found a 21-year difference in life expectancy between the poorest and wealthiest residents of Hamilton, Ontario. Researchers have found that men in the wealthiest 20% of neighbourhoods in Canada live on average more than four years longer than men in the poorest 20% of neighbourhoods.


            Estimates place the cost of socio-economic disparities in the health system to be 20% of all healthcare spending. It has been estimated that $1 invested in the early years of a child’s life can save up to $9 in future spending in the healthcare system. Food insecure households were 80% more likely to report having diabetes, 60% more likely to report high blood pressure, and 70% more likely to report food allergies.


            Homelessness is the most obvious expression of poverty’s effect on housing, but not the only one. Over the past 25 years, Canada’s population has increased by 30% and yet annual national investment in housing has decreased by 46%.


            Three million Canadian households are precariously housed (living in unaffordable, below standards, and/or overcrowded housing conditions). An estimated 235,000 people experienced homelessness in 2016, with roughly 35,000 people being homeless on any given night.


            Almost 1 in every 5 households experience serious housing affordability issues (spending over 50% of their low income on rent) which puts them at risk of homelessness. Estimates place the number of homeless individuals living with a disability or mental illness as high as 45% of the overall homeless population.


            Youth aged 16-24 make up about 20% of the homeless population. But the number of older adults and seniors experiencing homelessness is rising, making up a combined 4% of shelters users in 2016.


            In Toronto, 5,219 people were homeless in 2013. Roughly half of these people were on wait lists for affordable housing during the same period.


            According to new research, spending $10 on housing and support for high-need chronically homeless individuals resulted in almost $22 of savings related to health care, social supports, housing, and the justice system.


            Internationally, UNICEF has rated Canada 17th out of 29 wealthy countries, due to the number of children living in poverty here, and 26th out of 35 wealthy countries for overall child inequality.


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PV Vancouver Bureau


            As Vancouver’s Oct. 14 byelection campaign for a vacant city council seat and nine school board positions wound down, two candidates for school trustee have raised the huge issue of taxpayer subsidies to elite private schools.


            Two decades of chronic underfunding have left public schools across British Columbia without the support they need. The former Liberal government was compelled by a Supreme Court ruling to restore the classroom staffing levels which had been contained in collective bargaining agreements which they illegally tore up some 15 years ago. Most public education advocates agree that the new NDP government in BC presents a moment of opportunity to make strong public schools a priority.


            But the new government is still scrambling to catch up with the necessary levels of new public investment in the school system, and Vancouver is among districts having trouble filling teaching positions, in part due to astronomical housing costs.


            OneCity School Board Trustee candidates, Erica Jaaf and Carrie Bercic, have pledged to be vocal advocates for ending public funding to elite private schools and returning those funds into public schools.


            Despite the urgent demand for more public funding for our public schools, Jaaf points out that across the province, “$45 million of public money was spent funding elite private schools in 2015/2016.” These elite Group 2 schools are the wealthiest tier of schools in BC, and do not include independent schools for children with special needs, or religious and Montessori schools.


            “At a time when parents across Vancouver are being asked to reach into their own pockets to properly furnish their kids’ schools, it’s unacceptable that our public dollars continue to subsidize the wealthiest members of our society,” Jaaf continued.


            As a long time public education advocate, Bercic pledged that “a vote for OneCity candidates is a vote for champions of strong public schools”. The failed Vancouver School Board budget of April 2016 showed a funding shortfall of between $21 and $24 million—money which cannot be spared from the already strained resources of the city’s public schools, but which could be diverted from elite private institutions.


            “OneCity will work tirelessly at all levels of government ensuring decision makers know how outraged voters are that private elite schools are getting government handouts,” commented Bercic.


            Jaaf and Bercic say they will work tirelessly to hold the government's feet to the fire on ending education subsidies for the wealthy.


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People’s Voice Editorial


            The two largest opposition parties in Parliament have chosen new leaders, and the 2019 federal election is effectively underway. The big business Liberals have abandoned the progressive promises which won them a majority in 2015, and the Conservatives are now led by Andrew Scheer, who has close links to corporate boardrooms and far-right, racist forces. But the NDP has missed this opportunity to challenge the ruling class dogmas of neoliberal austerity and imperialist “humanitarian interventionism.”


            Significantly, the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh is the first racialized person to lead a federal party with seats in Parliament. This outcome rejects the colonialist, racist, and neo-fascist narrative that Canada is a “Christian white man’s country.” But it is also telling that the mainstream media and much of the NDP tout Singh as “more charismatic” than Justin Trudeau - in other words, more “marketable” than the current PM.


            More fundamentally, in sharp contrast to UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Singh does not advocate building a powerful movement for progressive social and economic change. His support for a means test for Old Age Security signals that social programs need not be universal. Similarly, Singh’s positive stance on LGBTQ+ equality issues is contradicted by his early backing for the bigoted outcry against Ontario’s sex-ed school curriculum.


            We also note that Singh takes pro-imperialist positions on international issues, including support for greatly expanded Canadian military spending. He is closely aligned with NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière, who is a vocal backer of the anti-Palestinian American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a fierce enemy of Venezuela’s elected President Nicolás Maduro, and a supporter of NATO’s drive to encircle Russia.


            In other words, under Jagmeet Singh, the NDP remains committed to putting a “human face” on capitalism. Working people deserve much better than this “more of the same.”


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People’s Voice Editorial


            The world watched in horror when Donald Trump vowed to the UN General Assembly that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea faces “total destruction,” and that DPRK leader Kim Jong-un “won’t be around much longer.” As Marjorie Cohen and other legal experts warn, such a US attack would violate the United Nations Charter and many international laws. By threatening to launch a pre-emptive war, and to commit genocide and other crimes against humanity, Trump has effectively become a war criminal. But unfortunately, he also heads the world’s greatest military machine, with immunity against any serious possibility of punishment.


            Trump has now escalated the danger. At a dinner photo op with top military brass at the White House on Oct. 5, he told journalists that this occasion was taking place during “the calm before the storm.” Defence Secretary James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Joseph Dunford and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly were all present as Trump directed them to provide “a broad range of military options… at a much faster pace,” and “to overcome the obstacles of bureaucracy.”


            The 27 million human beings who live in the DPRK are not the only potential victims of this impending disaster. Trump’s illegal aggression would bring immediate retaliation, with millions of civilian lives lost in South Korea, Japan and other areas where US troops are stationed. Other countries have pledged to help the DPRK resist a US attack, most likely sparking a wider global conflict.


            Make no mistake about it. Donald Trump is not only talking about committing mass murder - he is preparing to launch a war that could kill billions and inflict catastrophic damage on human civilization. The urgent imperative today is to protest this madness, before it’s too late.


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This Sept. 30 letter from Keith Ellis, Coordinator of the 2017 Canadian Network on Cuba Hurricane Relief campaign, reports on the progress of this important work.


            Our campaign is off to a good start thanks to a spirit in which suggestions and initiatives are being taken in an organized way that keeps reminding us of one of Fidel's frequently repeated dictums: "cada soldado un comandante" (every soldier a commander). This spirit was abundantly evident in a very successful event held last Friday, September 22, in Toronto by the end of which, combined with other events, and including donations received from other parts of the country, we can say that we have so far collected $35,000.


            We fully expect that this spirit will continue to be manifested here and throughout Canada, as we try to help the admirably courageous Cuban people who themselves are so deeply and intelligently involved in this recuperative effort against the terrible effects of Hurricane Irma.


            You will be pleased to know that Venezuela was prompt in beginning to provide its substantial aid to Cuba. President Maduro himself arrived in Havana with one of the first shipments on September 21. Also, very promptly too, Venezuela and Cuba have announced their plans to aid Puerto Rico. Venezuela has proposed a “special plan of support and solidarity.” Cuba has 39 doctors ready to go to help its historically sister island (the phrase “dos alas del mismo pájaro” [two wings of the same bird] was first applied to Cuba and Puerto Rico when they were both struggling against colonialism).


            For us, as simple human beings, not corrupted or dehumanized by the big media, this response by Cuba and Venezuela will seem to be commendable and inspiring. But don’t be surprised if it further incites the punitive anger of our Minister of External Affairs, Chrystia Freeland. She knows that the plan of the moneyed vultures, some of them well-placed in the Trump administration, is to take advantage of Puerto Rico’s heightened crisis, to squeeze the “associate state” to the point of asphyxiation, so that it will offer privatization of its publicly-owned assets at give-away prices as the only exit from the crisis. The Puerto Rican people will thus become enslaved to the new owners for use of erstwhile public utilities. A part of Hillary Clinton’s family benefited in just this way from the very tardy response to the horrendous Haiti earthquake of 2010.


            You will remember how prompt Cuba and Venezuela were in their response to that great tragedy, when within the first twenty-four hours some 1100 medical interventions were carried out by the Cuban medical team that happened to be in Haiti on a different humanitarian mission.


            Alas, a similar rapidity of response cannot be achieved in the case of Puerto Rico. It is U.S. territory; and permission, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina, will have to be obtained from that country’s government in order for Cuba and Venezuela to carry out their humanitarian activities there. Permission was denied in the case of Katrina, at the expense of many lives. We hope that when President Trump gets there, as he is scheduled to do on Tuesday, the 3rd of October, he will make a just assessment of the people’s needs and allow appropriate interventions.


            During his slow, apparently reluctant, journey to the nearby island, he is taking every opportunity to remind his 3.5 million unfortunate compatriots there that they have a pre-hurricane debt of 70 billion dollars to New York banks that must be paid.


            An interesting proposal aired by President Maduro is to work toward making Puerto Rico eligible for membership in CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).


            Let us remember always, as we raise funds for Cuba, that our efforts are never ever linked to swindlers’ pipe-dreams, to frauds, of the kinds that may well be hoodwinking our Minister of External Affairs, but to short-term and long-term help to and solidarity with the Cuban people and their government.


            Cheques should be written to "CNC," with the following words on the memo line. – “Hurricane Relief”. They should be mailed: c/o Sharon Skup, 56 Riverwood Terrace, Bolton ON L7E 1S4


            Un abrazo, Keith Ellis, Coordinator, 2017 CNC Hurricane Relief Campaign


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Statement by the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, Oct. 5, 2017


            The Communist Party of Canada condemns the savage violence of the Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy exercised against the Catalan population, in order to prevent voting in a referendum on October 1, 2017 to decide on their future as a nation.


            According to the Catalan authorities, more than 800 people were wounded by police forces, including nearly 100 more severely.


            While Rajoy rejoiced that the Spanish state had succeeded in preventing the referendum "with all its strength", the Catalan regional government announced that more than 90% of the 2.2 million ballots that could be counted supported the indpendence option. The police did manage to close 319 polling stations and seize the ballot boxes, so that approximately 770,000 ballots could not be counted.  In total about 56% of the 5.3 million registered voters cast a ballot, or were prevented from voting by the repression.


            This situation follows the Catalan regional parliament's decision on September 6 to hold the Oct. 1 referendum on self-determination. After the referendum was declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court, the Spanish government announced three days later that it would not recognise the result. About a million Catalan people went into the streets of Barcelona to demand the right of self-determination, that is, the right to decide for themselves.


            On September 20, the Spanish police stormed the Catalan government, conducting searches and arresting a dozen senior officials, including the Minister of Finance, under the pretext of "disobedience", "prevarication" and "misappropriation of funds" in connection with the organisation of the referendum. Again, thousands went into the streets of Barcelona to protest the arrests.


            When the central government announced its intention to use force to prevent voting, thousands of people occupied the voting places. Although opinion polls initially did not give the majority of votes to the independence option, ironically, the authoritarian acts of the central government eventually seem to have rallied more and more people.


            Following the vote, the Catalan authorities considered that a majority had clearly expressed themselves in favour of secession. They met behind closed doors to discuss the next steps in their plan to declare independence and separation from Spain, defying the Rajoy government. Forty-four Catalan organisations, including the main Catalan trade unions and two pro-independence associations, called for a one-day general strike and mobilisation on Tuesday October 3.


            The authoritarian drift of the Spanish government, according to the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain, is a qualitative leap in the process of liquidating freedoms during recent years. Today, this attack by the Rajoy government is launched against the right of the people of Catalonia, and imposes the de facto liquidation of the Generalitat (the political organization of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia). Tomorrow, it will be the rights of assembly and protest, and thus step by step, to the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, etc., always justified by "defence of the law".


            The Communist Party of Spain (PCE) also supported the mobilizations to defend democratic freedoms and the right of national self-determination, calling for steps to restore normal democratic life, and for "an agreement between the [Spanish and Catalan] administrations that gives the Catalan people the right to vote peacefully with the full guarantee of being able to decide on the different ways of organizing themselves as a nation", and to guarantee the social and labour rights that the two governments have undermined since 2010. Following the repression of Oct. 1, the PCE called for the resignation of President Rajoy, and for mobilization of the social and democratic forces of the whole country to find a way out of the crisis and avoid any unilateral action that would deepen it.


Silence of foreign governments


            The European Commission considers the referendum illegal, and therefore supports the Spanish Government, declaring that this is an internal matter which must be settled in accordance with the constitutional order of Spain. The Commission says that "in today's times we need unity and stability, not division and fragmentation."


            Most countries in Europe have also avoided pronouncing on this crisis. The French and U.S. presidents openly supported the Rajoy government, urging a united Spain.


            Amnesty International has been content to deplore the use of excessive force employed by some police officers in the performance of their duties. According to AI, "the tensions are very strong, it is essential that Spanish legislation such as international human rights law be respected."


            The Canadian government said that "the question of [Catalonia] is a matter for the internal affairs of Spain." Canada wants "a solution to the country's internal debates to be found in harmony and respect for its constitutional framework," said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.


            Strangely, that is not what the Canadian government has said in the case of Venezuela. Minister Freeland has happily interfered in the internal affairs of that country, especially when she openly attacked the Constituent Assembly election, which is provided for in the the Venezuelan Constitution, and by adopting economic sanctions against its political leaders.


            On the other hand, in the Quebec National Assembly, the Couillard government first observed the same silence and invoked non-interference in the affairs of Spain. Premier Couillard  has even maliciously tried to oppose the right to self-determination of Aboriginal nations to that of Quebec. But on October 4, fearing that public opinion may be very sensitive to the violence committed by the Spanish government one year before the next election in Quebec, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion denouncing that, violence and calling to resume political dialogue between Catalonia and Spain, with international mediation if both parties consented.


            The real reason for this silence is that the Canadian state does not recognize the right of self-determination for the nations that make up this country, up to and including the right to secede. By not criticising the force used by Spain against Catalonia, it actually reserves the possibility of doing the same thing here.


            While the Canadian state tolerated the holding of referendums in Quebec in 1980 and 1995, it subsequently passed the "Clarity Act", which gives the federal government authority over the question, and the interpretation of the voting result. This is a complete denial of the right to self-determination, and it is imperative that the Canadian working class reject this form of national oppression.


            Among the various components of the working class in this country, the Communist Party of Canada defends the idea of mutual recognition of the right to national self-determination, up to and including secession. Our aim is to promote unity and solidarity of the multinational working class in its struggle for socialism, and to reduce distrust and barriers which can divide workers along national lines, under the leadership of their respective bourgeoisies.


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By Bennett Guillaume, in Shanghai


            If official media reports are to be believed, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and President of the People's Republic, recently told the Politburo that a profound understanding of Marxism on the part of the country's leadership was essential. He warned his colleagues that any abandonment of Marxism would cause the CCP “to lose its soul and direction.”


            As the CCP approached its 19th national congress in mid-October, he also suggested that the Chinese people, largely because of the profound social and economic changes their society has undergone in recent decades, are in a unique position to further develop those theories first elaborated by the authors of the Communist Manifesto.


            I confess to being puzzled by academics, pundits and ordinary followers of the global scene who casually affirm, as though it were a given, that Beijing has abandoned Marxism and socialism. Perhaps this is an unreasonable reaction to such affirmations, since the reasoning behind them isn't obscure. China's is a market economy; there is no doubt about it. The private sector is large and flourishing, generating the bulk of new employment. The country now boasts a vigorous capitalist class, often fabulously rich (and notoriously vulgar in its consumption habits). Inequality, both between regions and social strata, can be striking.


            Yet it is undoubtedly worthwhile to listen to what the Party itself says, to consider its own elaborations on the “Chinese road to socialism,” and to study what is actually occurring here. Party thinkers put matters quite simply and in terms that strike me as notably Marxist: the rapid and comprehensive development of the productive forces remains the primary task and the condition for present and future prosperity. The relative equality of pauperism, part of Mao's legacy, is not a communist vision; rather, decent remuneration according to work and, increasingly, services supplied on the basis of need, require a highly developed material base. And accelerated development is most effectively accomplished through a thorough integration in the world economy, which means wholehearted participation in markets – even as the State drives the process.


            The results have been far from trauma-free, of course. But these results include, over the past three decades, the greatest poverty alleviation program in the history of the world, an initiative that has seen perhaps half a billion people rise from destitution. Last year alone, more than 12 million rural citizens of China stepped over the poverty line, according to government statistics.


            Even as the Party encourages private enterprise and initiatives from civil society (in the shadow of such slogans as “Small State, Big Society,”) the Chinese public sector remains far from modest. At its apex, and under the direction of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC), there are just over 100 publicly-owned, central-level, non-financial enterprises. Then there are numerous players in banking and finance ultimately held by the China Investment Corporation. Add to this myriad subsidiaries of these just-mentioned entities, along with many thousands of more firms controlled by regional and municipal SASACs and governments, and one begins to get a general idea of the public sector's reach. And then consider the fact that of 1,624 listed private companies in the country, some 23 per cent name State entities as top, though not controlling, shareholders. (Indeed, this mixed ownership model cuts both ways, as a majority of publicly traded entities effectively controlled by the State also list at least one individual among their top ten shareholders.)


            So-called productive sectors where the Chinese State remains dominant or prominent include finance, telecommunications, energy, aviation, engineering and construction and even vehicles and auto parts. And then of course there is the terrain of social service provision – healthcare, education and related fields – in which public entities are leading if not monopolistic providers.


            Clearly, what can be expected in coming years is more of the same: continued State and Party control of key sectors alongside an ongoing effort to attract international capital; subsidies for public and domestic private players alike that appear capable of innovating and creating employment; and a well-publicized fight against corruption designed to shore up Party legitimacy and improve economic efficiency. The model is mixed ownership, with the State holding a decisive place in decisive spheres.


            Meanwhile, looking beyond its borders, Beijing is placing enormous emphasis on its Belt and Road project, an international infrastructure initiative designed to link the country with markets along the historic “Silk Road.” The plan also  involves boosting capacity within the borders of neighbouring and more distant States in which China invests and with whom it trades (more on this, perhaps, in a future article).


            And the workers?


            Of course, any discussion of State and Party control over socioeconomic life in China leads to additional questions. Most notable is this one: if markets prevail, and if reforms in China have indubitably allowed a capitalist class to reemerge (not to mention a State-linked elite with considerable income and privilege), what about the workers? Specifically, if socialism and communism are to remain on the agenda, must the working class not have its own self-defence organizations, whose effectiveness depends precisely on their democracy and autonomy? This is a theme partially recognized in theory, by the way, by the All China Federation of Trade Unions – and even to some extent in practice. But it is a work in progress, to say the least. Suffice at this point to note two things: Chinese workers are often not shy about taking action if they are ripped off; and when ripped off, they are often disinclined to rely on their official representatives.


Impressions of Shanghai


            Having recently arrived in Shanghai, I think that some anecdotal impressions might be appropriate to this article. This most populous city in the world's most populous State strikes the newcomer with its extraordinary energy, obvious prosperity and cutting-edge ambiance. Purchases are accomplished in most stores with an app (never mind that sheet of old technology known as a bank card, though it remains an option). Huge towers are ubiquitous, as others who have travelled here will know. This a place built to the clouds.


            Public transit is outstanding, in terms of reach, performance and affordability. One gets the distinct impression that if the Shanghainese are buying and driving new cars, and they are in alarming numbers, it is not due to a need to get around; the mammoth subway system will deliver one anywhere.


            Also impressive from a public transit point of view is that network built around a considerably simpler vehicular technology. Clusters of brightly coloured bicycles abound. For a paltry sum you can take a bike from anywhere and leave it anywhere, provided you lock it up. One would be tempted, on this basis alone, to call Shanghai a cyclist's paradise – except for the fact that car and scooter owners can be lethal in their driving styles. To be sure, crossing the street as a pedestrian is possibly the riskiest act one can undertake in this mega-city of around 25 million.


            Nor is the sharing economy limited to bikes. In this region of regular rain, umbrellas may also be had in subway stations. Just remember to return yours to the rack.


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By Nino Pagliccia


            During four days, September 16-19, I was in Venezuela, as one of about 200 delegates (including seven Canadians) invited from 60 countries, representing political, social, religious and trade union organizations. I was representing the Canadian organization Frente para la Defensa de los Pueblos Hugo Chavez at the solidarity meeting  “Todos Somos Venezuela – Dialogo Mundial por la Paz, la Soberania y la Democracia Bolivariana” (We Are All Venezuela – World Dialogue for Peace, Sovereignty and Bolivarian Democracy).


            However, this was not an ordinary invitation to an ordinary meeting. This was not an occasion for a photo op to be seen with famous Venezuelan people, and the dialogue did not just involve expressions of solidarity. This was an urgent call to the world to roll up our sleeves and work alongside the Venezuelan people anywhere we live.


            Why such urgency and such a wide call?


            There is a concerted plan by the U.S. government to overthrow President Maduro and to completely wipe out the Bolivarian Revolution and the governing Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV, United Socialist Party of Venezuela). The first attempt was the failed coup against Chavez in 2002. Then there have been attempts through parliamentary coups and referendums to remove the president “constitutionally”.


            Failing all of that, the level of violence, orchestrated by the rightwing Venezuelan opposition, increased reaching a peak in April-July of this year with 120 Venezuelans killed, some burned alive as suspected Chavistas. This tactic was used to destabilize the country and reach international visibility with the aid of corporate media, setting up the perfect excuse for the U.S. government to justify any intrusion in the name of the “poor suffering” Venezuelan people.


            Following U.S. threats of military intervention and escalating sanctions, the violence has subsided. But the last round of sanctions of August 25 were applied, amounting to a virtual financial blockade that prevents Venezuela from having access to international financing necessary for its oil industry.


            Regrettably, Canada has recently joined the U.S. in applying sanctions to 40 high-ranking Venezuelans including President Maduro.


            The sanctions come from governments that want to strangle the Venezuelan economy for the purpose of regime change; hence the call to the meeting “Todos Somos Venezuela” in Caracas.


            During the four days we had an opportunity to hear from and exchange with President Nicolas Maduro; Jorge Arreaza, Minister of Foreign Relations; Delcy Rodriguez, former Minister of Foreign Relations and current President of the National Constituent Assembly; and Adan Chavez, brother of Hugo Chavez, vice president of the National Constituent Assembly, and United Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV) International Coordinator.


            Among the international delegates Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, shared his undivided solidarity with Maduro. Other delegates were Fernando Gonzalez, former “Cuban Five” prisoner and President of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples; Maria do Socorro Gomes, president of the World Peace Council; the son of murdered President Patrice Lumumba, from Congo; and Sonia Gupta, renowned academic from India, who gave a strong speech praising Venezuela for the “creation of a new value system and a new model of democracy” to replace the “worn out model.”


            Now that all delegates have returned home, what next?


            The Caracas Proclamation issued on the last day stated, “Our commitment to peace, sovereignty and the Bolivarian democracy is closely linked to the development of a broad and permanent conference of solidarity in each country, promoted by every political, social, religious and trade union organization of democratic nature that participates in this Conference.


            From the first day we were divided in several working groups with a clear mandate, to work on a draft declaration or proclamation; and to produce a plan of action.


            The result was an “Action Plan to strengthen solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution and to promote the emancipation struggles of the peoples.”


            The general activities listed in the Action Plan include: collecting and distributing statements of support for Venezuela at all events and public activities; expanding the support base for the Bolivarian Revolution in the different sites of struggle; visits from activists willing to go to Venezuela to perform voluntary activities; coordinated international information campaigns on Venezuela’s government policies, National Constituent Assembly, call to peace, Venezuela’s participatory model, etc. The Action Plan calls to launch a collective and coordinated social media offensive; information on the website can be used as a resource.


            Some of the scheduled activities in the Action Plan were already underway in the first half of October. These included worldwide activities on the electoral process prior to the Governors’ elections of October 15 in Venezuela, as well as street mobilizations and visits to U.S. embassies. Solidarity activists have participated in events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the murder of Che Guevara. Indigenous Resistance Day, observed on October 12 in many countries, was an occasion for actions to reject U.S. interventionist policy.


            Coming up soon, December 20, 2017, has been designated as the "International Day against Imperialism", in commemoration of the invasion of Panama in 1989 by the United States. Throughout December, the symbolism of the Christmas holidays will be used to promote a global campaign of peace and solidarity with Venezuela against international aggression, with messages such as "Venezuela wants Peace".


            The work plan is ambitious but it must be done for the sake of justice and to fight back against U.S. imperialist ambitions on Venezuela and on all of Latin America.


            For the Caracas Proclamation and Action Plan, and to join in any action, contact the Frente para la Defensa de los Pueblos Hugo Chavez:


            (Nino Pagliccia’s next article about the Caracas meeting will focus on the theme “Socialist and anti imperialist spirit.”)


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Statement by the Political Bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party on September 30, 2017, on the referendum of the Kurdistan region, calling for an unconditional dialogue on the basis of the country’s constitution.


            Since the referendum in the Kurdistan region on 25 September 2017, our country has been facing an extremely difficult and complex situation that threatens its security and future. It calls for urgent and responsible action by the national political forces and all those who are genuinely keen to dispel the dangers.


            The insistence on holding the referendum unilaterally, despite the rejection it was met with on Iraqi, regional, Arab and international levels, and despite the pressing calls for its postponement and the exclusion of the disputed areas from its framework, led to severe reactions that were not difficult to foresee. This is especially so as our heroic armed forces were continuing their great task of pursuing terrorist Daesh, after completing the battle of putting an end to it in Nineveh province and achieving outstanding victories.


            Our party, which has always expressed respect for the right of peoples, large and small, including the Kurdish people and the people of Kurdistan in general, to express their will and self-determination, had suggested since last May that the referendum process should not take place under the existing circumstances. It pointed out that the country was still busy with the war against terrorist Daesh, while on the other hand there was a lack of consultation and understanding with the federal government in preparation for the referendum.


            Matters were further complicated after the referendum as certain quarters, internal and external, resorted to muddying the waters, stirring up emotions and issuing extremist and provocative calls aimed at preventing a rational and realistic handling of the emerging situation on the basis of the Constitution. This approach would secure the rights stipulated in the Constitution for the citizens of all nationalities and sects, including the citizens of the Kurdistan region, and take into account their legitimate demands and aspirations.


            Subsequent events and developments have shown that this new crisis is not isolated from the general crisis that has been weighing on Iraq for years, and is only one of the consequences of the crisis of the political system based on sectarian and ethnic quotas. It is no secret that the already strained relationship between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government is one of the manifestations of the predicament of the country's sectarian-ethnic quota system, and that the successive federal governments and the Kurdistan Regional Government bear responsibility for this relationship. They had both managed this relationship through secret bargaining and deals, away from the sight of the people and their interest and will, and away from their aspiration for stability, construction and establishing a system of constitutional institutions on the basis of citizenship and not on the basis of quotas.


            On the other hand, our party believes that the formula of the federal state can still provide solutions that are satisfactory to all parties, and ensure the rights and interests of the Kurdish people and other social constituents in Kurdistan and the whole of Iraq, if political will exists among all parties and if the United Nations provides the necessary support.


            In order to deal with the referendum crisis and overcome its interactions and repercussions, it is necessary to act on the basis of the public and national interest; the interests and rights of the Iraqi people with all its nationalities and other constituents, by exerting efforts to:


- Reject escalation in all its forms, curtail the “warmongers” and advocates of nationalist hatred, completely renounce the logic of violence and military force or hinting at their use, and to adopt the logic of reason and its language.


- Call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to cooperate in finding a safe and acceptable way out of the grave situation that has existed since the referendum, and to contribute seriously to this approach by taking positions that allow for dialogue within the framework of the Constitution.


- Reject the irresponsible demands by those who are pushing for imposing a kind of siege on the Kurdistan region, and avoid taking any action that may contribute to a collective punishment of the people of Kurdistan, which will ultimately hurt first and foremost the toilers and the poor.


- Embark as soon as possible on dialogue without preconditions, not only between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, but also between all the Iraqi national parties, within the framework of a comprehensive national dialogue according to a clear agenda and with a specified time limit.


- Invite the United Nations to contribute to facilitating the launching of such a dialogue, facilitate reaching agreements on existing problems and provide guarantees for their implementation according to approved timetables.


- Take quick steps to address the factors causing tensions in the disputed areas, especially in Kirkuk and the Plain of Nineveh, and to develop formulas for their administration that guarantee the rights and participation of their whole population, until the completion of the implementation of the stages stipulated in Article 140 of the Constitution.


- Strengthen cooperation between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government in the field of   assistance to the displaced people, and accelerate their return to their areas, along with continuing the cooperation and coordination between the armed forces and the Peshmerga forces in the war against Daesh.


            We are confident that such an effort to achieve a national solution to the current crisis, through serious and frank dialogue, would shut the doors on regional and international interference which only aims to serve the interests of their countries at the expense of the Iraqi people.


            At the same time, however, we are aware that the series of crises will not end unless we get rid of the destructive policy based on the quota system and the corruption, mismanagement and misrule that are closely associated with it.


            We therefore appeal to all the democratic civil forces, to all those who are keen to get the country out of its deep crisis and open promising horizons for its new generations, to strive relentlessly to reach common positions on tackling the current crisis and to unify their efforts in general. Only by doing so will they be able to play an effective role in shaping the balance of forces necessary to launch the process of reform and change towards building a democratic civil state; a state of citizenship that provides security, services, rights and freedoms and achieving social justice.

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            Nepal’s two main communist parties have agreed to merge ahead of elections later this year. The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and the CPN-Maoist Centre signed a pact in Kathmandu on October 3, along with the much smaller New Force Party. They agreed to jointly contest two-stage elections to the new House of Representatives on November 26 and December 7, and announce their unification after that.


            The three parties named an eight-member unification co-ordination committee, which includes CPN-UML president KP Oli, Maoist chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal — better known by his nom de guerre Prachanda — and New Force leader Baburam Bhattarai.


            Oli said a truly unified communist party was a “historic necessity solely in the interest of Nepal and its people.” He invited smaller communist factions to join, saying the new party was open to all.


            The new alliance hopes to win a landslide two-thirds majority in the 275-member lower house, overtaking the Nepali Congress party currently governing in coalition with the Maoists.


            Prachanda reassured Congress over the alliance’s intentions. “This is not targeted at any force and the alliance is for the well-being of the people and the nation,” he said.


            But India’s Hindustan Times reported that an emergency meeting of the Nepali Congress had accused the Maoists of “betraying” their coalition partners and resolved to take “serious steps” against them. Some unnamed Congress leaders told the newspaper that the aim of the new alliance was to force their party out of government.


            The new lower house will have 165 members elected by the first-past-the-post system from constituencies and 110 by proportional representation in a single nationwide constituency.


            The alliance has agreed that CPN-UML members will make up 60 per cent of the constituency candidates and the Maoists 40 per cent.


            The restored Federal Parliament replaces the 593-seat Constituent Assembly that has governed since 2008.


            The parliament has not sat since former king Gyanendra dissolved it in 2002 — triggering a crisis that ended with the overthrow of the monarchy in 2008.


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News analysis by Marjorie Cohn, Truthout, September 29, 2017


            Donald Trump threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 19. That threat violates the UN Charter, and indicates an intent to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, the war crime of collective punishment and international humanitarian law. Moreover, a first-strike use of nuclear weapons would violate international law.


            By threatening to attack North Korea, Trump is endangering the lives of countless people. In the past, he has indicated his willingness to use nuclear weapons and Kim Jong-un has threatened to retaliate. The rapidly escalating rhetoric and provocative maneuvers on both sides has taken us to the brink of war.


            Trump's threat prompted North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho to state, "Given the fact that this [threat] came from someone who holds the seat of the US presidency, this is clearly a declaration of war."


            Ri added, "Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make counter-measures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country."


            Such a move by North Korea would violate international law. But that does not justify US law-breaking. Two wrongs do not make a right. Moreover, the use of military force by either country would prove disastrous.


UN Charter requires peaceful dispute resolution


            After two world wars claimed millions of lives, the UN Charter was adopted in 1945 "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war." The Charter mandates the peaceful resolution of international disputes and forbids the use of force except in self-defense or with Security Council authorization.


            Article 2 requires that UN members "settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered." Peaceful means are spelled out in Article 33: Parties to a dispute likely to endanger international peace and security must "first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice."


            In 1953, after one-third of North Korea's population was decimated, the United States and North Korea signed an armistice agreement. But the US never allowed a peace treaty to be adopted. North Korea has repeatedly advocated the signing of a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War. To this day, 30,000 US troops continue to occupy South Korea.


            By stating the intention to totally destroy North Korea, Trump has threatened genocide.


            The US has also refused to pursue the "freeze-for-freeze" strategy suggested by China and Russia. Under this plan, North Korea would freeze its nuclear and missile testing, and the US and South Korea would end their annual, provocative joint military exercises. Vassily Nebenzya, Russia's ambassador to the UN, said this path would offer "a way out" of the current situation.


            Instead, the US has engineered punitive sanctions against North Korea, which have only strengthened the latter's resolve to develop usable nuclear weapons. Since 1953, North Koreans have lived in fear of annihilation by the United States.


            In his speech to the General Assembly, on top of his threats toward North Korea, Trump also issued a veiled threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. That sends a dangerous message to North Korea that the US cannot be trusted to abide by its agreements.


UN Charter prohibits threats and preemptive use of force


            Article 2 of the Charter states that all members "shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." Trump's threat to totally destroy North Korea violates that mandate. In addition, the preemptive use of force violates the Charter.


            The only exceptions to the Charter's prohibition of the use of force are self-defense or approval by the Security Council.


            Self-defense, under Article 51 of the Charter, is a narrow exception to the Charter's prohibition of the use of force. Countries may engage in individual or collective self-defense only in the face of an armed attack. In order to act in lawful self-defense, there must exist "a necessity of self-defense, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation," under the well-established Caroline Case.


            North Korea has not attacked the United States or another UN member country, nor is such an attack imminent.


            Moreover, the Security Council has not authorized any country to use military force against North Korea. The council resolutions that establish sanctions against North Korea end by stating the Council "decides to remain seized of the matter." That means that the Council, and only the Council, has the authority to approve military action.


            Both Trump's threat to use military force against North Korea and the mounting of a preemptive strike would violate the Charter.


The crime of genocide


            By stating the intention to totally destroy North Korea, Trump has threatened genocide.


            The crime of "genocide," as defined in the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, is committed when, with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, any of the following acts are committed: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part.


            Trump's threat to totally destroy North Korea, if carried out, would destroy, in whole, the national group of North Koreans. That would amount to genocide.


Crimes against humanity


            Under the Rome Statute, "crimes against humanity" include: the commission of murder as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population; or persecution against a group or collectivity based on its political, racial, national, ethnic or religious character, as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population.


            Trump's threat to totally destroy North Korea, if realized, would constitute a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population of North Korea, which would amount to a crime against humanity.


            The crime of "collective punishment" is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is considered a war crime. Collective punishment means punishing a civilian for an offense he or she has not personally committed.


            If Trump were to make good on his threat to totally destroy North Korea, he would be punishing the civilian population for offenses committed by the North Korean government. This would constitute the war crime of collective punishment.


            The United States has a legal obligation to comply with the requirements of proportionality and distinction, two bedrock principles of international humanitarian law, as delineated in the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions.


            "Proportionality" means an attack cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage sought. "Distinction" requires that the attack be directed only at a legitimate military target.


            The total destruction of North Korea would violate the principles of proportionality and distinction.


First-strike use of nuclear weapons violates international law


            In its 1996 advisory opinion, "Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons," the International Court of Justice (ICJ) determined that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law."


            The ICJ went on to say, "However ... the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake." That means that while the use of nuclear weapons might be lawful when used in self-defense if the survival of the nation were at stake, a first-strike use would not be.


            Donald Trump's apocalyptic threat against North Korea violates international law. It also imperils the lives of untold numbers of people. We must urge Congress to prevent Trump from launching a catastrophic war.


Copyright, Reprinted with permission


            (Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the US National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website:


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