People’s Voice September 16-30, 2016
Volume 24 – Number 14   $1

CONTENTS

1) “THE BIGGEST INDIGENOUS GATHERING IN OVER A CENTURY”

2) SOLIDARITY WITH TREATY 8 CARAVAN TO STOP THE SITE C DAM!

3) THE UNIFOR BROMANCE WITH JUSTIN TRUDEAU

4) THE TEMPEST AND THE TPP

5) SALUTE TO POSTAL WORKERS - Editorial

6) BIG STEP FOR PEACE IN COLOMBIA - Editorial

7) NEW BRUNSWICK’S THREATENED WILDLIFE HABITAT

8) FACTS ON B.C. EDUCATION FUNDING CRISIS

9) MAURICE RUSH: A LIFETIME DEVOTED TO THE CAUSE OF SOCIALISM

10) IS A U.S.-SPONSORED “SOFT” COUP TAKING PLACE IN VENEZUELA?

11) BIGGEST GENERAL STRIKE IN INDIA’S HISTORY

12) WHO PROFITED FROM THE $440 BILLION GREEK BAILOUT? NOT GREEKS


PRINTER FRIENDLY ARTICLES

PEOPLE'S VOICE      SEPTEMBER 16-30, 2016 (pdf)


 

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(The following articles are from the September 16-30, 2016, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

1) “THE BIGGEST INDIGENOUS GATHERING IN OVER A CENTURY”

With files from democracynow.org and Annalisa Merelli at qz.com.

            For months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been protesting the construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline that would cut through four US states. By early September, the protests reached unprecedented size, as hundreds of environmental activists joined the local community of about 8,000. This is the largest gathering of Native Americans in over a century, with over 90 tribes represented at Cannon Ball, North Dakota, just south of Bismarck, the state capital.

            The Native tribes and environmentalists say the pipeline would disrupt a sacred burial ground, as well as threaten water quality in the area. They say that the Army Corps of Engineers should never have granted permits for its construction.

            The pipeline would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation to Illinois. Its supporters claim it will be spill-proof, and that its construction will generate thousands of jobs. Critics respond that any leak would poison the Missouri River, which borders the entire western edge of the Standing Rock reservation.

            The protests led to the arrest of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chair Dave Archambault, among others. Work was eventually halted, pending a Sept. 9 ruling by a judge who has heard arguments against the construction.

            Things turned violent on Saturday, Sept. 3, when security guards working for the Energy Transfer Partners, on behalf of the Dakota Access pipeline company, attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray as they resisted construction on a tribal burial site.

            As Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman reported, “the Dakota Access pipeline company attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray as they resisted the construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline on a sacred tribal burial site... Native Americans were shocked when they went to plant their tribal flags at the construction site and found the bulldozers working over the weekend. On Friday, lawyers for the tribe had filed documents showing how this land was a tribal burial site. Now many fear that many of the graves and artifacts are destroyed.”

            The next day, more than 500 people marched back to the site and held a prayer, mourning the destruction of their ancestors’ graves.

            Interviewed by Goodman, Dave Archambault said “Law officials try to portray that they were attacked by an angry mob and it was a riot scene. But that was not what was taking place. We had protectors who were concerned about the land. And it just goes to show what kind of a company Energy [Transfer] Partners is. They have zero policies on community relations, zero policy on human rights, zero policies on Indian rights, indigenous rights... And they hire security companies with untrained handlers. And the dogs were attacking the handlers. That’s why they released dogs into the crowd...

            “I asked the law enforcement, where did this company get these dogs? Was this something that law enforcement supplied? When I asked the question, they said, no, they had nothing to do with it. The company hired someone to get these dogs, and there was a lack of training on how to handle the dogs. They were using the dogs as a deadly weapon. And that’s something that needs to be looked into, is who was handling these dogs, and whose dogs were they, and why were they being used? This was all premeditated. They knew something was going to happen when they leapfrogged over 15 miles of undisturbed land to destroy our sacred sites. They knew that something was going to happen, so they were prepared. They hired a company that had guard dogs, and then they came in, and then they waited. By the time we saw what was going on, it was too late. Everything was destroyed. The fact is that they desecrated our ancestral gravesites. They just destroyed prayer sites... And that’s why we’re filing for the temporary restraining order.”

            The image of Native Americans being attacked as they try to protect sacred land shocked many, among them commentator Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC whose condemnation of their treatment on Aug. 26 has been widely shared: “Dakota means friend, friendly,” he begins. “The people who gave that name to the Dakotas have sadly never been treated as friends.”

            In his short message, O’Donnell calls the events in Standing Rock a “morally embarrassing reminder” of U.S. mistreatment of Native people, noting that those who lived in the country before European settlers arrived have been “dealt with more harshly than any other enemy in any of this country’s wars.”

            “The original sin of this country is that we invaders shot and murdered our way across the land, killing every Native American we could, and making treaties with the rest,” he says. “This country was founded on genocide.”

            Even after the killings stopped, deals and treaties made with the tribes have been consistently broken. “We piled crime on top of crime on top of crime, against the people whose offense against us was simply that they lived where we wanted to live,” he says.

            He counts the current events at Standing Rock among those crimes. “That we still have Native Americans left in this country to be arrested for trespassing on their own land is testament not to the mercy of the genocidal invaders who seized and occupied their land, but to the stunning strength and the 500 years of endurance and the undying dignity of the people who were here long before us.”

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2) SOLIDARITY WITH TREATY 8 CARAVAN TO STOP THE SITE C DAM!

            The struggle to save the environment is a critical element of the global movement to achieve a better world, and the Communist Party of Canada stands together with all who resist deadly corporate exploitation and plunder of the earth. Today, we express our full solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of the Peace River, as they campaign to halt the Site C dam project in northern British Columbia. On Sept. 6, elders, youth, Treaty 8 members and allies began a historic caravan journey to Montreal, where the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are appealing a federal judge’s decision to approve the construction of Site C, which violates their constitutionally-protected Treaty and Aboriginal rights.

            The Communist Party has repeatedly urged Premier Christy Clark’s provincial government and BC Hydro to cancel the Site C dam, to cease all preparatory work for this destructive project pending the outcome of the legal case, and to drop legal proceedings and threats against those who use their democratic rights to express opposition to Site C.

            Both the federal and provincial governments have completely failed in their responsibility to uphold the terms of Treaty 8, which promised the signatory First Nations across a vast area of Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories that they would be able to continue their traditional practices of hunting, trapping, fishing, and collecting medicinal plants “for as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow and the grass grows.”

            The Canadian state is obligated by treaties, court rulings, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to engage in meaningful consultations with First Nations regarding economic developments on their traditional territories. The days when governments and corporations could simply ignore the rights of indigenous peoples are gone forever. In our view, the lack of any serious consultations with Treaty 8 First Nations means that the Site-C project is completely illegal.

            There are many other reasons to oppose this dam, which will flood some of the best agricultural lands in northern British Columbia, and deal a devastating blow to wildlife in the area. The provincial government and BC Hydro claim that the dam must be built to generate electricity for economic development or export, but this argument is utterly false. Rather than spending over $8 billion to destroy a large part of the Peace River valley, B.C. Hydro and the province could invest in less costly conservation measures. The real aim of this project is to provide electrical power to expand fracking on a massive scale, and to make British Columbia even more dependent on extraction and export of hydrocarbons and other unprocessed raw materials.

            This strategy is based on speculation that energy prices may rebound in the near future, and on unfounded claims that huge tax breaks and low-cost electricity will lure big energy transnationals to make multi-billion dollar investments in British Columbia. These plans would mean a major expansion of carbon emissions, the key factor in global warming and climate change. Rather than create jobs and economic well-being for working people, as the Premier claims, this strategy is a potentially disastrous gamble of billions of taxpayer dollars, simply to help the big energy corporations rake in super-profits.

            This fatally flawed project must be blocked now by the united actions of Indigenous peoples, environmentalists, land defenders, and the labour movement, and by the power of public opinion and the courts. The Communist Party joins with all those who oppose Site C in sending our warmest greetings to the Treaty 8 Caravan participants. Yours is a courageous stand for the future of our country and our planet, and we will continue to do everything we can to help build broad public support for your struggle.

            - Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, Sept. 7, 2016

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3) THE UNIFOR BROMANCE WITH JUSTIN TRUDEAU

By Stuart Ryan, Ottawa

            Much has been written about the invitation from Unifor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address the Unifor Convention on August 24. How could a union invite a pro-business Prime Minister to a convention, and how could he get standing ovations from the delegates?

            This was the second time that Trudeau had addressed a Unifor event. He appeared at the Good Jobs Summit in October 2014, although he was not on the official agenda. When you walked into the old Maple Leaf Gardens, he was there to grab your hand and tell you he was so happy to meet you. Before the event started you could see him on the stage, surrounded by many of the attendees.

            The event that night was a panel of economists, including Jim Stanford, to discuss different policy proposals to ensure Canadians would be able to find good full-time union jobs in an economy devastated by the Great Recession of 2008-9. It was the only occasion the whole weekend where participants were allowed to ask questions from the floor. While Trudeau was not in line, the moderator intervened to say that we had time for only one more question, and gave Justin Trudeau the floor. He stepped ahead of Libby Davies, who had lined up with everyone else.

            Trudeau thanked the moderator and profusely thanked Jerry Dias for the invitation to attend the Summit. After blurting out a few more words, he asked the panellists for their opinions on infrastructure and education, two issues close to his heart. It was the first time he had spoken on any issue since becoming leader of the Official Opposition. (The crowd hissed when the moderator tried to close down the questions after Trudeau. Libby was allowed to ask her question about economic inequality in Canadian society. See People’s Voice commentary on “Unifor’s Good Jobs Summit: Tripartism on Display”, Nov. 1-15, 2014.)

            The Unifor flirtation with the Liberals did not start with the lead-up to the 2015 federal election. In the aftermath of the 1988 election, then CAW President Bob White, who had travelled the country with Maude Barlow condemning the proposed Free Trade Agreement with the United States, wrote a stinging rebuke of NDP leader Ed Broadbent for allowing his party to play down “free trade” when it was the only issue in the election.

            Following the 1999 Ontario election, when the CAW advocated strategic voting to throw out the Mike Harris Conservative government, the union commissioned a study of what its ongoing political position should be. That report called for the union to undertake its independent political position, not aligned to any party, which ended its automatic endorsement of the NDP.

            Tensions came to a head when the NDP under Jack Layton withdrew its support for the Paul Martin Liberal government over the sponsorship scandal, which led to the 2006 election. Buzz Hargrove invited Paul Martin to the December 2005 CAW Council meeting, where he gave Martin a CAW jacket for having passed that year a “progressive” budget with NDP support.

When the election was called, the CAW endorsed Liberal candidates where the NDP did not have a chance to win. After the Harper Conservatives won a minority government, the Ontario NDP expelled Hargrove. When Bob White was asked about this, he said that given a choice between his party and his union, he would always choose his union.

            Unifor has continued this policy of strategic voting since its inception. When the local representing NDP staff on Parliament Hill, a local coming from the former CEP, kept pushing for Unifor to endorse the NDP at its founding convention in 2013, President Jerry Dias refused. In the end, that local left Unifor and joined the United Food and Commercial Workers.

             Since its inception, Unifor has adopted the CAW 1998 position in two important elections. In the 2014 Ontario election it and the Ontario Federation of Labour both participated in the Stop Hudak campaign. Tim Hudak, a former cabinet minister under Mike Harris, campaigned for the Progressive Conservatives on adopting anti-union right-to-work legislation and firing 100,000 public-sector jobs. Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynn was the party that ran ads defending unions’ right to exist, while the NDP focused on Liberal corruption. The first person to congratulate Wynn when she came off the stage at her victory party was Jerry Dias.

            In the 2015 federal election, Unifor went all out to defeat Stephen Harper. Its 2014 Canadian Council endorsed strategic voting. Dias told the Toronto Star, “For us, we know that another four years of Harper will be disastrous for working-class people in Canada, period. So that in itself trumps going out there and putting support in a riding where we know that the New Democrats have no chance.” 

            What has made strategic voting seem plausible, given the political climate, was the consistent drift to the right by the NDP. Where was Andrea Horvath when Hudak took on the labour movement? Why did Thomas Mulcair address the Canadian Club in Toronto to assure Bay Street it had nothing to worry about from a NDP federal government? With his promise of a balanced budget in each year of his mandate, Mulcair made it easier for the Liberals to win a majority.

            Fast forward to Trudeau’s address to the Canadian Labour Congress in November 2015, where he promised a “new partnership with Labour”, and then to his address to Unifor.

            In his introduction to Trudeau, Jerry Dias denounced Stephen Harper as a Prime Minister who genuinely did not like Canadians. He pointed out that Harper stole the surplus from Employment Insurance to put it into the government’s general fund, in order to balance the federal budget. But Dias failed to mention that the robbery of what was then Unemployment Insurance to the general fund was started by former Finance Minister Paul Martin, in the 1995 budget where he was going to slay the deficit “come hell or high water.”

            Trudeau’s speech was a dud. His main point was to reiterate his government’s new partnership with labour: “The labour movement has been essential to building a stronger economy, one that's centered on the principles of fairness and inclusion, You hold employers to account, and that includes my government. You fight for the interests of the (sic) middle class, and you demonstrate a sense of community in everything you do."

            "We believe in partnership and collaboration," said Trudeau. "We believe in renewing our relationship for the betterment of all Canadians. And we believe that Labour is a solution, not a problem."

He cited his record since being elected. The only new initiatives he promised were to allow employees flexibility to schedule their working hours, and flexibility in parental benefits. He said nothing on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; nothing about the Trans-Pacific Partnership; nothing on climate change.

            Much has been made of the “numerous standing ovations” given Trudeau by the Unifor delegates. Two of them were after his introduction and when he finished. This was a courtesy given all the guest speakers. The only ones during the speech came when Trudeau said he kept his promises to put the retirement age back to 65, and to repeal the anti-union Bills C-377 and 525 which the Harper government passed just before the 2015 election, by having the Senate vote to violate its own rules of procedure.

            His reception was nothing compared to the responses to Cindy Blackstock and Murray Sinclair, who were granted the Unifor Neil Reimer and Nelson Mandela awards respectively, for their advocacy for the indigenous peoples of North America. Standing ovations came every two minutes for them.

            What will this bromance with the Liberals bring to the members of Unifor, and the Canadian working class as a whole? How often have the Liberals campaigned from the left and governed from the right? Have people forgotten that Pierre Trudeau lampooned the Conservative promise of wage controls with his slogan, “Zap you’re frozen”, in the 1974 election campaign, only to impose the very same attack on workers in 1975? Remember that Jean Chretien promised to improve the FTA in 1993, only to bring us NAFTA in 1994.

            The test will come with the Trans Pacific Partnership. During the 2015 election debates, Trudeau said that while he had not seen the details of the TPP, the Liberals support trade. Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland signed the TPP in New Zealand last December, and Trudeau promoted free trade as the solution to the sluggish global capitalist economy at the recent C20 Summit in Hangzhou, China.

            Unifor delegates unanimously passed a resolution to launch a campaign to oppose the TPP because it will cost jobs, allow the importation of milk with Bovine Growth Hormone, and threaten Canadian sovereignty by allowing corporations to sue governments if they pass laws or regulations that affect their profits.

            Let’s hope Unifor will forget its “partnership” with the Trudeau government and follow through with its pledge to Stop the TPP.

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4) THE TEMPEST AND THE TPP

By J. Boyden

            Campaigners in Canada both for and against the Trans-Pacific Partnership have all been reviewing political weather forecasts and navigational charts of late. Following this mega-deal was an almost-daily preoccupation this summer, as it crashed through the turbulent waters and gale-force winds of global events.

            Now it seems the cruise of this grand and gleaming trade deal might be coming to an end. Indeed, it may run ground, not on a coral reef surrounding some Polynesian island, but on the shores of the very country which launched the TPP several years ago. As a potential shipwreck looms, the lighthouse beam of the US Presidential race has not revealed a sleek schooner. Instead, we are told, it is the ugly hulk of a cargo freighter, leaking fuel and toxic waste and carrying away American jobs.

            So, as Shakespeare might say, what tempest put the wild waters in this roar, as if they would pour down stinking pitch, so this brave vessel was dashed all to pieces?

            The first hurricane blew not from the Pacific, but the Atlantic. Since the so-called Great Recession, storms have been brewing in the European Union (EU), with regular lightning bolts, mass protest and general strikes, and the promotion of far-right reactionary forces, racism and fascism. Throw into the mix proxy wars on Europe’s periphery, and the refugee crisis.

            Following the Eurozone crisis, German capital was forced to push for faster and deeper integration than desired by some sections of British capital. Then UK Tory government called the June 23 referendum, which decided by two percent in favour of exiting the EU. The Brexit, condemned by Canadian media as a reactionary move, was actually a significant and courageous vote by working people, rejecting neo-liberalism. 

            Just as the EU has always been about much more than trade, so too has trade always been part of its DNA. Likewise trade deals are always about much more than trade. Today the EU works to shift power from elected national governments to the European Commission, where the big business agenda can hack away at existing labour rights and democracy. Indeed, as the Council of Canadians noted in a statement on the Brexit, “rejection of these destructive trade deals [NAFTA, TPP, CETA, etc.] is part of a positive vision of ‘fair trade.’”

            The Brexit vote rocked the TPP boat. Since then, Obama, Trudeau and other global big shots have been on damage control. At the G20 in Hangzhou, China, Trudeau condemned “divisive, fearful rhetoric” against trade. A recent Angus Reid Institute poll that showed only one in four Canadians support NAFTA. Polls also show this sentiment continues to be strong in the USA against the TPP. 

            Negotiating trade deals is a temporary power granted to the US President. In 2015, after over two years of pushing, Obama got the mandate for fast-track legislation for the TPP. Essentially anti-democratic, fast-track means that Congress can approve or deny but cannot amend the deal. After the legislation is introduced, it has to be passed in 90 days and only used once. This puts some pressure on the process. To date, Obama has not begun to steer the TPP through Congress.

            The November 8th US vote will also see elections to Congress. Before its successor's term begins, the outgoing Congress will meet again for a “lame duck session,” where politicians are not directly accountable to the electorate. This is the main option Obama has for the TPP.

            In August, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority leader, came out against such a vote, noting the “political climate” is “toxic” towards passing the TPP. A number of members of Congress who voted for fast-track have now re-considered.

            For big business, however, a delay is no problem, if it means an opportunity to add even further trade liberalization to the TPP. This is the way to understand McConnell’s comment that the TPP has "serious flaws" and he would not support the deal in its current form.

            The New York Times reported in August that business groups don’t want the TPP to come to Congress before they can lock-down enough support, holding pro-TPP events in “more than 120 congressional districts”. Darci Vetter, the chief US agricultural negotiator for the TPP, said recently that Farm Bureau lobbyists have characterized McConnell as less uncompromising on prospects of a lame duck vote.

            Republican nominee Donald Trump has said he opposes the deal and would re-negotiate. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton, who initially supported the TPP, came out opposed in the Democratic primaries.

            But big questions remain. The Communications Workers of America just sent an open letter urging Clinton to say she would actually vote against the TPP. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s Vice Presidential running mate, and Ken Salazar, chair of her presidential transition committee, are both on record strongly supporting the TPP. Salazar even works for a pro-TPP lobby group. Finally, the Democratic Platform (available online) calls for the standards to which the TPP should abide.  In other words, it supports the TPP.

            Obama opposed free trade with the Republic of Korea in his election campaign. He passed free trade with Korea three years later.

            In Canada, the Liberal 'consultation' strategy is quite a smart tactic in this context. Under the direction of trade minister Chrystia Freeland, they have held special committee hearings in about seven major cities. Initially they only heard the captains of industry. Then they allowed the public two minutes. Then “Town Hall meetings,” which continue at the riding level this fall.

            As one Tory insider told the National Post, “The Trudeau government didn’t want to waste taking a positive position unless it looked like it would pass through Congress.” But, the Post notes, Freeland recently went out of her way to note a minor internal Global Affairs Canada study endorsing the TPP “wholeheartedly.”

            For some months, trade unions, social movements, and Communist Party of Canada have been running campaigns against the TPP.  Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians will launch a cross-Country tour on the TPP in November, after their annual conference in St. John’s. They will no doubt reflect that the deal is far from dead, but in volatile waters, like a vessel facing the icebergs that lurk off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. With unity and struggle, there is still a chance for the labour and people’s forces to build a tempest that can sink this dangerous ship.

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5) SALUTE TO POSTAL WORKERS

People’s Voice Editorial

            Few trade unions have as proud a record as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. CUPW's first illegal wildcat strike in 1965 succeeded in winning the right to collective bargaining for all public sector employees. Other major industrial actions over the following years won above average wage increases, and better job security in the face of new technology at the post office. When CUPW defied back-to-work legislation in a 1978 strike, President Jean-Claude Parrot was jailed. Three years later, CUPW became the first federal union in Canada to win maternity leave for its members. Rotating strikes in 1987 and 1991 against plans to privatize postal outlets were ended by back-to-work legislation, and saw attempts by Canada Post to break the strike using scabs. In 2003, CUPW organized about 6,000 Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC), winning a first collective agreement for these workers, mostly women.

            Little wonder that successive Liberal and Conservative governments have frequently tried to weaken this militant, democratic and socially progressive trade union. This year, CUPW again faced off against a viciously anti-labour employer, winning a two-year collective agreement despite an intensive right-wing propaganda campaign. As we go to press, it appears that CUPW won some important gains. For example, the tentative deal doubles all paramedical benefits for RSMCs, with the exception of physiotherapy, raising extended healthcare benefits for these workers to the same level as urban operations. While the gendered 28% pay gap between urban and rural employees remains, the union did win a major victory, establishing a process to finally resolve this shocking pay discrepancy within nineteen months.

            There are huge issues left unresolved at Canada Post, and the two-year agreement is a short time frame. This is not a time to relax: it remains urgent to stand in full solidarity with CUPW during the weeks and months ahead.

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6) BIG STEP FOR PEACE IN COLOMBIA

People’s Voice Editorial

            The conclusion of the six-point general agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the government of Colombia is a big step towards ending the longest armed conflict in the American hemisphere. The latest opinion polls show 72% of Colombians intend to vote “yes” in the Oct. 2 referendum on the agreement, a result which would mark a decisive rebuff to the reactionary hard-liners who wanted to wage unending war against the FARC-EP.

            Negotiated in Havana during a lengthy process encouraged by the government of Cuba and supported by the international community, this agreement opens the door to a new era for the people of Colombia, after decades of state repression and paramilitary violence. While achieving radical change will take time, the re-entry of the FARC-EP to the political sphere will help change the balance of forces in the country, helping the popular movements to strengthen their resistance against austerity and neo-liberalism.

            But the people of Colombia still need our solidarity, to block attempts by the fascist forces to assassinate activists, as they did during the 1980s against the left-wing Patriotic Union, and to keep up pressure on the government to fulfill the reforms contained in this agreement. Not least, the 9,500 political prisoners languishing in Colombia’s jails must be released, and the right-wing paramilitaries must be disarmed and disbanded.

            The FARC-EP deserves warm congratulations for its principled struggle to win peace and social justice in Colombia, going back more than half a century to its origins in defence of rural working people under attack by landowners and armed gangs. People’s Voice will continue to help inform people in Canada about the progressive and revolutionary movements in Colombia, and to build solidarity with their struggles.

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7) NEW BRUNSWICK’S THREATENED WILDLIFE HABITAT

By Norm Knight

            The white-tailed deer harvest in New Brunswick has decreased by a factor of more than seven during the last three decades, a period in which the harvest in Quebec increased four-fold, and deer populations in many other parts of Canada and the United States also increased.

            The New Brunswick harvest was 31,205 in 1985, and 4,378 in 2015. The provincial economy has remained heavily dependent on forestry since colonial times, and New Brunswick's forests are more intensively harvested than those of any other Canadian province.

            Loss of habitat and appropriate grazing vegetation are blamed for the decline in New Brunswick's deer numbers. Although New Brunswick is 85% forest-covered, most of that forest has been "borealised" - converted from mixed, old-growth forest of the Acadian type to softwood forest, mainly spruce and fir, which is harvested typically on a 50-year rotation.

            Fast-growing softwoods are deemed more desirable by the pulp and paper industry than are slower-growing, longer lived tree species. Somewhat more than one percent of the province's forest is harvested annually. Regeneration of deciduous species is discouraged by clearcutting, silviculture (tree planting), and the application of glyphosphate, a herbicide which also harms wildlife and is a suspected human carcinogen.

            New Brunswick uses a greater volume of glyphosphate than any other province. Deer need deciduous trees for food, and need forest stands which are more than 50 years old - "overmature," by the pulp and paper industry's definition -- for protection in winter.

            New Brunswick's forest industry has been dominated since the mid-20th century by the Irving company, which has a status almost approaching that of a feudal ruler, with oil, shipbuilding (Canadian Navy frigates), railway, media, and retail holdings in addition to its pulp mill, extensive private timber ranges, and licenses to cut on crown land. It owns three of the four daily newspapers, and wields enormous influence in the province’s Conservative and Liberal parties, which, between them, have never been out of power.

            In 2014 the Liberals approved a new timber deal Irving had negotiated in secret with the preceding Conservatives (it included a temporary Irving-imposed publication ban), decreasing the land area protected from cutting, and increasing the allowable annual harvest from crown land. This was in spite of ongoing expressions of concern by local biologists that the forest was already being over-exploited.

            The forest industry in New Brunswick does, however, appear to be in economic trouble. Major forestry multinationals including the American Weyerhauser and the Finnish UPM Kymmene have pulled out. Of the province's ten crown-land timber licenses, all have changed hands since 2000, except the two held by Irving.

            The license for the east-central part of the province currently has no company willing to operate it, and is under a government-appointed management team. Companies claim that New Brunswick forestry cannot compete globally against regions whose climates enable greater annual growth rates of wood, or where cutting regimes even more intensive than those allowed in New Brunswick.

            A more promising trend from an environmental perspective is that small woodlot owners (defined as those who do not own a mill), who 50 years ago were the worst from a forest-management perspective, now increasingly embrace the non-timber values of their stands, such as aesthetic, conservation, residential, and spiritual values. A survey in 2011 found that they gave environmental and legacy reasons as their principal motivation for owning forest land - ahead of timber harvesting as a motivation. Thirty-seven percent of the small woodlot owners said they had not harvested from their land in the last ten years.

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8) FACTS ON B.C. EDUCATION FUNDING CRISIS

PV Vancouver Bureau

he crisis facing British Columbia’s public school system continues this fall. Even as students and teachers went back to the classrooms, school trustees across the province are wrestling with difficult school closure decisions, forced by years of under-funding under the Liberal governments of premiers Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark.

            With the next BC election looming in May 2017, the Liberals keep throwing dust in the air, to prevent voters from getting a clear understanding of the situation. Once again, the Liberal line is that the province is spending “record amounts of money” on public education - even while Education Minister Bernier and the Premier dole out tiny grants to save a handful of small schools in rural areas represented by Liberal MLAs.

            Fortunately, the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has put together research materials which demolish the Liberal propaganda. And surprisingly, even the right-wing Fraser Institute, which has done more than any other group to undermine public education in BC over the past three decades, recently agreed that, just as the CCPA has long pointed out, per student funding here is about $1000 lower per capita than the Canadian provincial average. In other words, the school system in BC suffers from an annual shortfall in the range of $500 million, with devastating consequences for classroom learning and teaching conditions.

            Here are some facts and figures from the CCPA-BC:

* Despite provincial government claims that education funding is “at record levels” funding has actually shrunk substantially as a share of BC’s overall economic pie, and fallen almost $1,000 per student below the Canadian average. Meanwhile, enrolment is projected to rise; the government estimates that there will be 40,000 more students by 2024.

* At least half of BC’s local school boards have faced budget crises this year, with many forced to close schools and impose other cutbacks to balance their budgets as required by provincial law.

* We see a significant drop in the share of total economic resources dedicated to public education. K–12 funding has fallen steadily from 3.3% of BC’s Gross Domestic Product in 2001 to a projected 2.5% in Budget 2016— a 25% decline. Actual operating grants the province sends to school boards fell from 2.8% of GDP in 2001 to 1.9% in Budget 2016.

* This year alone the provincial government declared a $730 million budget surplus, and stashed away another $300 million in a “prosperity fund” (misleadingly linked to LNG). It also sent over $310 million in public tax dollars to fund private schools.

* BC has the second lowest education funding in the country, nearly $1,000 per student lower than the national average, according to 2010/11 data from Statistics Canada. Later school district level numbers from StatsCan confirm that BC continues to lag behind. Enrolment-adjusted school district expenditures increased from 2009 to 2013 by an average of 12.3% across Canada, while BC was at 5.6% (almost zero after inflation(,

* The provincial government has downloaded costs to local school districts, including substantial increases in BC Hydro, Medical Services Plan (MSP), Employment Insurance (EI) and WorkSafeBC rates; the carbon tax; provincially mandated computer network upgrades; a proliferation of new technology in the classroom; as well as the cost of salary and benefit increases for teachers, support staff and administrators. These cost pressures on school districts amounted to a provincial cumulative total of $192 million for 2012/13 to 2014/15.

* Students with special needs and learning challenges benefit from more classroom support. Yet the number of BC classes with four or more students with special learning needs has increased dramatically over the past ten years from around 9,500 to over 16,500.

* Households in BC’s top 1% now pay $41,000 less in tax per year than they did in 2001, and pay a lower overall tax rate than the vast majority of the population.

* Public tax dollars are flowing into private schools at a growing rate, including to elite prep schools that charge $20,000 per year in tuition. Funding for private schools has increased at more three times the rate of public schools over the past ten years, and is projected to reach $358 million in the 2016/17 school year.

* Private schools are subsidized in other ways, including with property tax breaks on their facilities, and a “child care” tax break that parents at prep schools like St. George’s in Vancouver can claim for children’s recess and lunch times.

- See more at: http://www.policynote.ca/education-crisis/#sthash.aFmwHkgS.dpuf

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 9) MAURICE RUSH: A LIFETIME DEVOTED TO THE CAUSE OF SOCIALISM

            The oldest member of the Communist Party of Canada, Maurice Rush, died peacefully on August 18, eight months after reaching the age of 100, after decades of involvement and leadership in the key working class struggles of the last eighty years.

            Born in December 1915 in Toronto, Maurice was one of nine children in a Jewish family which fled Czarist oppression in Poland. As he wrote in his political memoir, “We Have A Glowing Dream,” the Rush family moved to Los Angeles in 1923, and then to Vancouver the following year. Maurice attended his first Communist public meeting at the age of 14, and left school soon after to find work. Seeking better opportunities as the Great Depression deepened, the family moved to Kamloops in 1930, but economic conditions became steadily worse. In January 1934, he and several other activists established a Kamloops club of the Communist Party, determined to organize the unemployed and fight for social justice. Working in a local cannery, Maurice helped lead a strike for better pay and working conditions.

            By early 1935, the struggle of the Communist-led Relief Camp Workers Union against Tory Prime Minister R.B. “Iron Heel” Bennett’s slave labour camps was gathering momentum. As the 19-year-old secretary of the Young Communist League club in Kamloops, Maurice was tasked with organizing billets and meals for about 70 RCWU delegates at the historic March 1935 conference which voted to launch a strike and take the demands of the unemployed to Vancouver. After more than two months of creative and dynamic political activity in Vancouver, the RCWU decided to take their fight directly to Parliament. The resulting On to Ottawa Trek was smashed by RCMP violence in Regina on July 1, but these events set the stage to defeat the Conservatives in a federal election months later, followed by the closing of the camps and a long series of important victories by the labour movement.

            Maurice was soon a key leader of the YCL and the Communist Party in British Columbia. He was involved in the famous 1938 Vancouver post-office sit-down strike by unemployed workers, and later served as an artillery instructor in the Canadian military from 1942-1944. He fought Hitler’s fascists in Holland and Germany, where (he) was taken prisoner in February 1945, and later liberated by British forces. Upon his return to Canada, he became the BC organizer of the Communist Party, and later served as its BC labour secretary, Vancouver regional organizer and national education director. In 1960, he was appointed associate editor of the Pacific Tribune, one of the forerunners of People’s Voice, and then became the editor in 1970. In 1977, he became the party’s BC provincial leader, a position he held until retirement. For many years, he was also a highly respected member of the Party’s Central Committee.

            Over the Cold War decades and beyond, Maurice was deeply involved in labour activities, struggles to defend BC‘s forests and fisheries against corporate pillaging, campaigns against the arms race and the US imperialist war in Vietnam, municipal reform movements, the long and successful effort to establish the Committee (later Coalition) of Progressive Electors, the Operation Solidarity struggle against the Socred government’s austerity attack in 1983, and many other issues. Thanks to the efforts of Maurice Rush and other party leaders, BC Communists played a much larger role than their numbers, combining a strategy of broad unity around immediate demands with the aim of a socialist Canada.

            Maurice travelled overseas to various socialist countries on behalf of the Pacific Tribune and the Party, including to the USSR, the German Democratic Republic, China, and Vietnam, where he and long-time CPC leader Tim Buck met with Ho Chi Minh in December of 1965. After a section of the leadership tried to liquidate the CPC in the early 1990s, Maurice was among those who remained loyal to the Party and to its ideology of Marxism-Leninism, helping to publish the Western Bulletin, which was an important vehicle to project Communist views on current issues. After the Party’s 30th Central Convention in December 1992 restored control to the membership, he became a frequent contributor to People’s Voice. In 1995, Maurice published his memoirs, and he continued his participation in the North Shore Club CPC as long as health allowed. At a celebration of his 90th birthday, he gave his last timely speech, warning about the dangers of the Harper Conservatives, who won a minority government just weeks later. In his later years, Maurice was a resident of the Silver Harbor seniors’ centre in North Vancouver.

            The Central Executive Committee and BC Provincial Executive Committee of the CPC salute comrade Maury’s decades of contributions to the cause of the working class, and his powerful revolutionary spirit.

            This year’s Revolution Banquet in Vancouver (Sat., Nov. 12, 6 pm at the Victoria Drive Community Hall, 2026 E. 43rd) will feature a special tribute to Maurice Rush.

 

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10) IS A U.S.-SPONSORED “SOFT” COUP TAKING PLACE IN VENEZUELA?

By Nino Pagliccia, September 9, 2016

            Attempts at regime change in Venezuela have occurred since the Bolivarian Revolution initiated by the visionary Hugo Chavez was embraced by the majority of Venezuelans as well as many Latin Americans. The challenges have been carried out at times with violence and threats by an opposition typically instigated by the U.S. government.

            The most severe challenge took place in 2002, when a coup forced Chavez out for a few hours until a large mass of supporters succeeded in reestablishing him in power. The latest is developing now, with a weak but vocal opposition conducting a drive for a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro from office.

            Recalls from office of elected persons are legitimate as established in Article 72 of the Venezuelan constitution. In fact, a recall referendum tried to remove President Chavez in 2004. The attempt failed, with 58% of voters against the recall.

            The current recall effort has additional issues even from the beginning of the process.

            On August 9, Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) president, Tibisay Lucena, announced a detailed timeline for the different stages of the recall to take place. [1] Having received all the pertinent documentation on April 14 and having accepted the request on August 3, the next stage of the process will be held from October 24-30. During that time the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD for its acronym in Spanish), will have to collect 20% of signatures of all registered voters, representing 3.9 million people, so the recall process can actually proceed.

            If the opposition succeeds, the recall referendum will happen three months later, in January 2017. That is the time required by law and by previous experience in order to comply with technicalities and verify all the signatures. This is what the opposition refused to accept, and proceeded to call the population to a “Take Caracas” march on September 1.

            According to the Constitution of Venezuela, if the recall happens after January 10, Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz, who has been appointed by Maduro, would take over as president for the rest of the term until elections at the end of 2018. Naturally the opposition wants the recall to take effect within this year so a national election can be called sooner.

            Ironically, the main reason for the delay that the MUD coalition refuses to accept is fully their own responsibility. For the first three months of this year, the different factions could not agree on how to proceed. Some did not agree with the recall referendum, and this delayed the recall request until April 14. That is when the “legitimization” stage of the recall process began, and was concluded by the CNE on August 3. During this time a full verification by the CNE and corrections by the MUD coalition could be made in order to comply with the legal requirements. This stage is mostly to the benefit of the opposition, to ensure that they comply with the law and the request can proceed. On August 9 the full chronology of the next stage for the collection of the 20% of voters’ signatures was laid out.

            There is nothing unusual in the careful planning, attention to details, and legality of a process as critical as a recall referendum taken by the CNE. This is necessary to guarantee that the rights of those who have expressed their political choice for a president through a legitimate electoral process are regarded as equally important as the rights of those requesting the referendum.

            The “Take Caracas” rally on September 1 was matched by a pro-government rally to “Take Venezuela” peacefully. The rallies had bouts of violence, with masked individuals trying to break a security barrier. At least four individuals were arrested for throwing objects at security forces.

            In reference to the misinterpretation of these events, the Venezuelan foreign minister, Delcy Rodríguez, declared that “there were no more than 30,000 people in the [opposition] rally, and that is a reality that the international media refuses to recognize.” [2] This is not new, but the direct foreign intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs is far more insidious.

            From the international arena point of view, the U.S. Empire is in an unprecedented aggressive campaign towards regime changes in many regions. The official line is “to bring democracy” to the world. The truth is that the military industrial complex is a voracious machine that needs to be kept oiled (quite literally) in order to keep the U.S. economy running. All access roads to oil and other resources must be kept open and controlled. That can only be achieved with ideologically submissive governments. This is particularly true in oil-rich and politically progressive Venezuela.

            The relentless aim at regime changes in “unfriendly” countries is today the main strategy of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. government has an array of political and real weapons at its disposal to achieve its goal, from brutal wars in the Middle East, to so-called “soft” coups in Latin America, some of which were reported in this paper. [3]

            We are witnessing a U.S. sponsored “soft” coup in Venezuela. As Delcy Rodríguez stated to Russia Today on September 1, “Today Venezuela defeated a coup that has the imperial stamp; it has the stamp of Washington.” [4]

            Emboldened by winning a majority of seats in the National Assembly in the 2015 elections and by the tacit support of the U.S. government, the Venezuelan right-wing refuses to accept the democratic process and the rule of law, and continues to incite the population with the aim of destabilizing the country.

            As we write, the MUD coalition is calling another manifestation on the streets, this time in other cities. Venezuelans are being warned and security is on alert. [5]

            The opposition forces are bent on using aggressive provocations in the hope of creating violence that would have to be stopped, and then accusing the Maduro government of “repression”. This undemocratic tactic did not happen on September 1. Two realistic interpretations are possible: 1) The Venezuelan people have chosen to reject violence, thus becoming the true victors; 2) the Bolivarian Revolution is firmly committed to a respectful democratic process, a sign of maturity and conscience of the Venezuelan people. But Venezuelans must be vigilant.

 

[1] http://www.cne.gov.ve/web/imagen/publicidad/2016/presentacion.pdf

[2] http://www.noticiasaldiayalahora.co/delcy-rodriguez-no-llegaron-a-30-000-en-la-marcha/

[3] http://peoplesvoice.ca/2016/06/01/obamas-new-u-s-foreign-policy-latin-america/

[4] https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/217763-canciller-venezuela-rt-derrotar-golpe-washington

[5] http://www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve/tema-dia/territorializacion-violencia-nuevas-claves-golpe-estado-progreso/

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11) BIGGEST GENERAL STRIKE IN INDIA’S HISTORY

PV Vancouver Bureau, with files from People's Democracy and The Guardian

            The all-India one day general strike on September 2 was bigger and more widespread than on the same date in 2015, raising the same 12 point charter of demands. The central trade union federations counted a participation of 150 million workers in the strike last year; this time, media reports indicated that 180 million workers participated. A top industry group says the general strike cost the economy up to 180 billion rupees (nearly $3 billion).

            Last-minute concessions by the finance and labour ministries, including a 104-rupee rise in unskilled workers’ daily minimum wage, failed to undermine the strike against the anti-worker and anti-people policies of Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP government.

            The turnout was a big rebuff to the government, which claims to protect the interests of workers. Significantly, the pro-government BMS union central, which withdrew from the strike at the last minute in 2015, did not join the strike call this year at all. In fact, the government did everything in its power to create confusion and sabotage the strike, with the willing support of the BMS, which declared that it was ‘withdrawing’ from the strike after claiming a ‘historic victory’ for the workers. The corporate media aired these false claims and added to the misinformation campaign.

            But the working class was not deceived, and BMS members even joined the strike in several places. Workers who are not organised into unions, as in the Pune industrial area, joined the strike again this year. In several places the strike spread to newer areas and sections of workers. In many states, not just traditional union strongholds, the strike turned into a "bandh" economic shutdown, mainly due to the massive participation of road transport workers.

            Despite attempts by the TMC government in West Bengal to suppress the strike by issuing warnings and threats, state transport buses were empty. In Kerala and Tripura, where the Communist parties are historically large and influential, the strike turned into a bandh.

            The anger of workers against the policies of the government was visible in many ways. Around 70,000 anganwadi (health care shelter) workers and employees of ASHAs (community charities), most of them not members of any union, joined the strike in Gujarat, and many joined demonstrations. Similarly, unorganized workers at smaller ports in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh joined the strike, along with non-union members in many industrial clusters across the country.

            In a few areas, such as the larger ports and some road transport sectors, the strike was not as good as 2015, but overall it was observed in many more industrial clusters and sectors.

            In several states, striking workers were subjected to police repression and physical attacks. In Haryana, 22 leaders of the road transport workers’ union were arrested and the striking workers were lathi charged; police went to the residential areas where contract workers lived and coerced them to jobsites. Several coal workers in Jharkhand were suspended for joining the strike. In West Bengal CITU leader and former MP Suraj Pathak and many CITU leaders were arrested. TMC goons attacked the workers and their supporters attending rallies, including women. Around 5000 workers were arrested in different parts of Assam.

            An overwhelming majority of bank and insurance employees all over the country joined the strike, along with state government employees, some for the first time. Participation of income tax employees, postal employees and other central government workers was massive. Employees in several defence production units joined the strike, along with telecommunications workers, coal miners, medical workers, and contract workers in the public sector.

            Unorganised workers in construction, beedi (cigaret production), head load workers, auto and rickshaw drivers, street vendors, and domestic workers in several states joined the strike and also participated in demonstrations.

            The Sept. 2 action was the seventeenth joint country-wide general strike since the advent of neoliberal policies some 25 years ago. It was preceded by joint campaigns to organize workers across the country. Booklets exposing the government's claims were published in local languages, for example.

            Among the trade union demands were a 692-rupee daily minimum wage, universal social security and a ban on foreign investment in the railway, insurance and defence industries.

            Modi won power in 2014 promising to replicate across India the double-digit economic growth he oversaw as Gujarat’s chief minister. He has opened up sectors such as defence and aviation for foreign investment, and sold shares in many state-owned industries, but working class resistance has so far prevented a full privatisation strategy.

            Prof. Jayati Ghosh, a development economist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, says that "less than 4% of workers in India come under labour protection, and even those protections have become more and more eroded. There’s a general sense that instead of targeting poverty they are targeting the poor, and there has been a real running down of spending on essential public services."

            She said health workers in some states had not been paid in months, food subsidy and distribution schemes were being neglected and “private

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12) WHO PROFITED FROM THE $440 BILLION GREEK BAILOUT? NOT GREEKS

By Jack Rasmus, Information Clearing House (slightly abridged from the original text)

            August marked the first anniversary of the 2015 Greek debt crisis. Last August 20-21, 2015, the “Troika” – i.e., the pan-European institutions of the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), plus the IMF – imposed a third debt deal since 2010. Greece was given US$98 billion in loans from the Troika. A previous 2012 Troika-imposed debt deal had added nearly US$200 billion to an initial 2010 debt deal of US$140 billion.

            That’s approximately US$440 billion in Troika loans over a five year period. The question is: who is benefiting from the US$440 billion? It’s not Greece. If not the Greek economy and its people, then who? And have we seen the last of Greek debt crises?

            One might think that US$440 billion in loans would have helped Greece recover from the global recession of 2008-09, the second European recession of 2011-13 that followed, and the Europe-wide chronic, stagnant economic growth ever since. But no, the debt has actually impoverished Greece even further, condemning it to eight years of economic depression with no end in sight.

            To pay for the US$440 billion, in three successive debt agreements the Troika has required Greece to cut government spending on social services, eliminate hundreds of thousands of government jobs, lower wages for public and private sector workers, reduce the minimum wage, cut and eliminate pensions, raise the cost of workers’ health care contributions, and pay higher sales and local property taxes. As part of austerity, the Troika has also required Greece to sell off its government-owned utilities, ports, and transport systems at “fire sale” (i.e. below) market prices.

Bankers got 95%

            The US$440 billion in Troika loans – and thus Greek debt – has gone to pay the principle and interest on previous Troika debt, as that debt has been piled on prior debt in order to pay for previous debt.

            A recent study has revealed conclusively that all the interest and principal payments on the US$440 billion debt has gone directly to European bankers and investors, and to the Troika institutions of the EC, ECB, and IMF, who indirectly in turn recycle it back to private bankers and investors.

            According to the White Paper (WP-16-02) published this past spring by the European School of Management and Technology, ESMT, entitled “Where Did the Greek Bailout Money Go?”, more than 95 percent of the initial Troika loans to Greece went to pay principal and interest on prior Troika loans, or to bailout Greek private banks (owned by other Euro banks or indebted to them), or to pay off European private investors and speculators. Less than 10 billion euros was actually spent in Greece.

            The ESMT study further estimates the August 2015 deal will result in more of the same: of the US$98 billion loaned to Greece last year, barely US$8 billion will find their way to Greek households.

Cost to Greece

            In exchange for the 95 percent paid to the Troika and banker-investor friends, the austerity measures accompanying the Troika loans has meant that Greece’s unemployment rate today is still 24 percent.

            The youth jobless rate still hovers above 50 percent. Wages have fallen 24 percent for those fortunate enough to still have work. The collapse of wages is due not just to layoffs or government and private business wage cutting, both of which have occurred since 2010, but is due also to the shifting of full time to part time work. Full time jobs have collapsed by 27 percent, the lowest ever, while part time jobs have risen 56 percent, to the highest ever.

            The poorest and most vulnerable Greek workers and households have seen their minimum wages reduced by 22 percent since 2012, on orders of the Troika. Pensions for the poorest have been reduced by approximately the same. All that to squeeze Greek workers, households and small businesses in order to repay interest on debt to the Troika, to Europe’s bankers, and private investors.

            None of the debt, austerity, depression, and collapse of incomes existed before the Troika intervened in Greece starting in 2010. Greece’s debt to GDP was around 100 percent in 2007, about where it had been every year for the entire preceding decade, 1997-2007. It was no worse than any other Eurozone economy, and better than most. Greek debt rose in 2008 to 109 percent due to the global recession, accelerating to 146 percent of GDP in 2010 with the first Troika debt deal. It then surged to more than 170 percent in 2011, where it has remained ever since.

            Greece’s debt since 2010 is certainly not a result of government spending, which has fallen from roughly 14 billion euros to 9.5 billion in 2015, reflecting deep austerity cuts demanded by the Troika. Nor can it be attributed to excessive wages and too many public jobs, as both of these have declined by a fourth as debt has accelerated.

No relief

            What happened a year ago was the same that happened in 2012 and 2010: US$98 billion more debt was added to Greece’s already unsustainable US$340 billion or so.

            In exchange, Greece had to implement even more severe austerity measures: Generate a budget surplus of 3.5 percent of GDP from which to repay Troika debt – i.e. around US$8 billion a year. Raise sales taxes to 24 percent, plus more tax hikes on “a widening tax base” (i.e. higher taxes for lower income households). Introduce what the Troika calls “holistic pension reform” – i.e., cut pensions up to 2.5 percent of GDP, or around US$5 billion a year, and abolish minimum pensions for the lowest paid and the annual supplemental pension grants. Introduce a “wide range” of labour market reforms, including “more flexible” wage bargaining, easier mass layoffs, new limits on worker strikes, and thousands more teacher layoffs as part of “education reform”.

            Cut health care services and convert 52,000 more jobs to part time. Introduce what the Troika called a more “ambitious” privatisation program. And this is just a short list.

            Greek government spending since August 2015 has further declined by 30 percent as of mid-year 2016, except for military spending which has risen by US$600 million. Since August 2015, quarterly Greek GDP has continued to contract on a net basis. Greek debt as a percent of GDP has risen further.

            There are 83,000 fewer full time jobs (but 28,000 more part time jobs). Youth unemployment rates have risen from 48.8 to 50.3 percent. Consumer spending has dropped by almost 10 percent, as consumer confidence continues to plummet, home prices deflate, and business investment, exports, and imports all slow. In other words, the Greek economy continues to worsen.

Financial imperialism

            By imposing austerity to pay for the debt, the Troika has forced the Greek government to extract income and wealth from its workers and small businesses – i.e. to exploit its own citizens on the Troika’s behalf, and then transfer that income to the Troika and European bankers and investors. That’s imperialism pure and simple – albeit a new kind, now arranged by State to State (Troika-Greece) financial transfers instead of exploitation company by company at the point of production. The magnitude of exploitation is greater and far more efficient.

            What’s happened, and continues to happen in Greece, is the emergence of a new form of financial imperialism that smaller states and economies, planning to join larger free trade zones and “currency” unions, or to tie their currencies to the dollar or the euro, need to avoid at all cost, lest they too become “Greece-like” and increasingly debt-dependent on more powerful capitalist states in which they decide to integrate economically.

            Neo-liberalism is constantly evolving, and with it forms of imperialist exploitation as well. It starts as a free trade zone or “customs” union. A single currency is then added, or comes to dominate, within the free trade customs union. A currency union eventually leads to the need for a single banking union within the region. Central bank monetary policy ends up determined by the dominant economy and state.

            The smaller economy loses control of its currency, banking, and monetary policies. Banking union leads, of necessity, to a form of fiscal union. Smaller member states now lose control not only of their currency and banking systems, but eventually tax and spending as well. They then become “economic protectorates” of the dominant economy and State  such as Greece has now become.

 

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