Thursday, September 30, 2010

COUP IN ECUADOR

Eva Golinger
Postcards from the Revolution

A third coup d’etat is underway against a nation member of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA), a Latin American bloc of nations that opposes US hegemony in the region and has created new mechanisms for trade and integration based on principles of solidarity and independence from imperial powers.

In 2002, a coup d’etat by opposition forces backed by Washington briefly ousted Hugo Chavez from power in Venezuela. The coup was defeated by the people of Venezuela during a popular uprising rejecting the attempt to destroy democracy. Chavez returned to power two days later. Since then, Venezuela has suffered numerous destabilization attempts, economic sabotages, psychological warfare – both nationally and internationally – electoral intervention, assassination attempts against President Chavez, and a vicious international campaign to portray Venezuela as a dictatorship. This past weekend, opposition forces, funded and supported by US agencies, regained key seats in the nation’s legislature; a platform from where they can intensify their efforts to provoke regime change.

Kickin' Hitler's Butt - Vintage Anti-Fascist Songs 1940-1944

Liam Mac Uaid

Burl Ives’ part in Hitler’s defeat has been ignored for too long. This bloodthirsty little ditty refers to lynching the Fuehrer and hanging Mussolini like a piece of meat. It’s from the album Kicking Hitler’s Butt – Vintage Anti-Fascist Songs 1940-44 and can be downloaded from all the usual places. Ives was a member of the group The Almanac Singers and perhaps someone can fill in the details about his politics.

A note of caution – the video has some gruesome pictures of dead fascists and disturbing images of Burl Ives in the bath.

Jon Stewart’s False “Moderation”

Mark Engler
The Activist

Back in December 2007, I was visiting my home state of Iowa. The presidential primary season was in full flower. It seemed like you couldn’t make a run to the supermarket without bumping into Hillary. My brothers and I joked with a neighbor (perhaps the strongest Biden supporter in the precinct) that the future vice president had been so ingratiating that we expected to see him come over soon to personally shovel the snow off her sidewalk.

That month, I went out to see both John Edwards and Barack Obama stump. Obama gave a solid speech, but he was far less specific and unrelenting in taking on corporate power than Edwards. Instead, Obama stuffed his speech with a lot of filler. He savored lines such as, “I don’t want to be president of Red State America or Blue State America. I want to be president of the United States of America.”

OK, I get it. The line got a lot of applause. But I had a hard time taking that stuff seriously. After all, what politician doesn’t claim to want to transcend the fray, work as a diligent bipartisan, and be a “uniter, not a divider”? Far from shaking up the political status quo in Washington, such appeals to high-minded moderation are an ingrained part of business as usual. I guess some people view these pledges as refreshing; I think they are pretty cynical.

Read more HERE.

America’s China Bashing: A Compendium of Junk Economics

By Prof Michael Hudson
Global Research
September 29, 2010

It is traditional for politicians to blame foreigners for problems that their own policies have caused. And in today’s zero-sum economies, it seems that if America is losing leadership position, other nations must be the beneficiaries. Inasmuch as China has avoided the financial overhead that has painted other economies into a corner, nationalistic U.S. politicians and journalists are blaming it for America’s declining economic power.

I realize that balance-of-payments accounting and international trade theory are arcane topics, but I promise that by the time you finish this article, you will understand more than 99% of U.S. economists and diplomats striking this self-righteous pose.

Read more HERE.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Health Care Privatization

How does the Saskatchewan government's plan for health care help you? It doesn't. Visit keephealthcarepublic.ca to get the facts on how private clinics will result in more staff shortages at hospitals and longer waits for care.

Venezuela: Chávez's Party Wins Elections But Ends Up Short of Two-Thirds Majority

MRzine

Hugo Chávez's party the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) obtained 95 deputies in the 165-member unicameral National Assembly -- in other words 58% of the seats. The opposition captured 64 seats, 39% of the National Assembly, denying the Chávez government and its supporters the two-thirds majority that they sought. In the Latin American Parliament elections, the PSUV won 6 of the 12 seats. The turnout was 66%.

PSUV's national campaign coordinator Aristóbulo Istúriz said, "We couldn't achieve it [the two-thirds majority]. Nevertheless, we have obtained, so far, 95 deputies, an overwhelming majority, a really overwhelming victory. . . . It clearly makes us the strongest political force in our country."

"Well, my dear compatriots, it's been a great day, and we have won a solid victory. Enough to continue deepening Bolivarian and Democratic Socialism. We must continue strengthening the Revolution! A new Victory of the People. I congratulate everyone,"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Venezuela’s Elections-September 26

Posted by Charlie Hardy
The Narcosphere
September 25, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Sunday, September 26, Venezuelans will elect the members of their national assembly for the next five years. No one can foretell the outcome of the elections. The stakes are high.

If the opposition can win one third of the seats, they will be able to effectively put brakes on many of the Chávez government’s proposals. But, whatever the outcome, there are some things to keep in mind.

One: the electoral process in Venezuela is one of the finest in the world. I am not able to vote in these national elections because I am not a Venezuelan citizen. But, as a person who has more than ten years residency in the country, Venezuela does give me the right to vote in local and state elections and so I can personally describe the process.

The former guerrilla set to be the world's most powerful woman

Brazil looks likely to elect an extraordinary leader next weekend

By Hugh O'Shaughnessy
The Independent


Dilma Rousseff in her 1970 police mugshot,
when she led a revolutionary group
The world's most powerful woman will start coming into her own next weekend. Stocky and forceful at 63, this former leader of the resistance to a Western-backed military dictatorship (which tortured her) is preparing to take her place as President of Brazil.

As head of state, president Dilma Rousseff would outrank Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State: her enormous country of 200 million people is revelling in its new oil wealth. Brazil's growth rate, rivalling China's, is one that Europe and Washington can only envy.

Her widely predicted victory in next Sunday's presidential poll will be greeted with delight by millions. It marks the final demolition of the "national security state", an arrangement that conservative governments in the US and Europe once regarded as their best artifice for limiting democracy and reform. It maintained a rotten status quo that kept a vast majority in poverty in Latin America while favouring their rich friends.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Saskatchewan Farmer-Labor Party: How radical was it?

By George Hoffman

Much of the writing which has been done on the early Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.) has emphasized its radical socialist nature.

This holds true for both the nalional party and its Saskatchewan counterpart from 1932 to 1934. the Farmer-Labor party. Historians generally argue that both were radical and socialist at their origins in 1932 and 1933. They also maintain that the party broadened out and became more moderate, particularly after the mid 1930's, because of the political realities of tbe time. They claim that it was necessary for the party to change its stand on certain issues because the original position was too radical for the majority of Canadians.

One cannot seriously dispute that the Farmer-Labor party, founded in Saskatoon in July 1932 was a good deal more radical than the other major political parties in the province at the time. Judging from many of the policy statements of the United Farmers' of Canada (U.F.C.). the Independent Labour Party (I.L.P.) and the Farmer-Labor party between 1930 and 1934, it would seem that the new political movement which emerged in Saskatchewan was unmistakably socialist.

Read the full article below.


How to Decide the Potash Question

CO2 Art: Eco Art

Here's a cool little intuitive exercise I came up with - good for making tough decisions easy:

All it is, is we take a short list of recent news headlines, write them one after the other, and then derive the obvious conclusion. OK here goes...

* NFU Warns New Trade Agreement with EU Could Crush Canadian Farmers
* Commodity speculators push cocoa to 33-year high
* Hedge funds accused of gambling with lives of the poorest as food prices soar
* UN warned of major new food crisis at emergency meeting in Rome
* 500 Citizens blockade prison farm cattle trucks
* One quarter of US grain crops fed to cars - not people, new figures show
* UN to hold crisis talks on food prices as riots hit Mozambique
* Feeding the corporate coffers: why hybrid rice continues to fail Asia’s small farmers
* World Bank report decries global land grab while encouraging it

Conclusion: MAINTAIN CONTROL OF CANADIAN POTASH IN CANADA

What does Ed Miliband's election mean for the left?


The man chosen by key trade union leaders and many union members is now the leader of theLabour Party. And the one chosen by Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair isn’t.

That’s positive, and is an important message from the victory of Ed Miliband as Labour leader.

He won by just over 1 percent over his brother, former foreign secretary David, after second, third and fourth preference votes came into play.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Communist Town Council from Blairmore, Alberta

PAINTING THE TOWN RED: THE “COMMUNIST” ADMINISTRATION AT
BLAIRMORE, ALBERTA, 1933-1936

By Kyle Randolph

Harvey Murphy addresses a May Day
gathering at a picnic ground west of Natal, BC, 1930s
 On 14 February 1933, the citizens of Blairmore, Alberta, elected a Communist town council; this so-called Red administration remained in power until 1936. Best known for their seemingly outrageous actions, the council exists within current historiography as either the result of protracted depression or an example of the success experienced by the Communist Party of Canada during this period.

This thesis will challenge both arguments, demonstrating that a series of social, economic, and political experiences resulted in the election of known Communists being socially permissible by 1933. It will be demonstrated that the agenda of council was not strictly Communist, rather it represented a balance between radical and populist programs, thus enabling council to challenge capitalist society while providing a practical response to the local effects of the Depression. The deterioration of this balance by 1936, coupled with a series of scandals, was resultant in the council's electoral downfall.

Read Kyle's Thesis HERE.
Lethbridge even had a “Red Square”. This was the name given to a meeting place between 1st and 2nd Avenue South behind the Arlington Hotel (later Bridge Inn). Protest meetings and speeches were held here. The workers had marches. Regular May Day meetings were held. This photograph  shows one of these meetings in "Red Square" in the 1930s.



Also read The Cold War and Working Class Politics in the Coal Mining Communities of the Crowsnest Pass, 1945-1958 and Doctorate student explores communist roots of the Pass.

The mural of Julio Escamez

By Kate Clarke
Morning Star

They say history repeats itself. Perhaps it does. In 1974, after the bloody military coup in Chile led by General Augusto Pinochet, a huge mural painted by Chile’s leading muralist Julio Escamez was destroyed on the orders of the junta.

First the offending mural, painted on the wall of the Salon de Honor of the city hall, was painted over. Then somebody pointed out that paint could be removed at some date in the future, so the junta ordered the wall itself to be demolished completely.

Only months before, president Salvador Allende had travelled to the southern city of Chillan to inaugurate the mural.

Exposing the shallowness of Labour Right thinking

Left Futures

Rarely can a pamphlet have got it so wrong. The significance of Peter Kellner’s diatribe against social democracy is not its ideas, which can be readily dismissed as extreme and even outlandish, but rather that such an unbalanced farrago of right-wing populism can purport to represent any strand of contemporary Labour thinking. It reveals the mountain that has to be climbed if the Labour Party is to rid itself of the smothering blanket of the marketisation of everything, an endless programme of spending cuts, privatisation of welfare, and the abandonment of any concern about inequality (Mandelson’s ‘supremely relaxed about the filthy rich’ writ large).

But the analysis is deeply flawed and the counter-arguments scream out to be made.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review: Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet

Anders Hayden, Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet: Work Time, Consumption, and Ecology (Toronto: Between the Lines 2000)

Jim Stanford
Canadian Auto Workers
Labour/Le Travail
 
ANDERS HAYDEN is commonly known as the guy who works 24 hours a day for a shorter work week. As a staff person for the Toronto-based 32 Hours campaign and as a volunteer activist, no one has done more than Hayden in helping to build political support in Canada for policies to reduce average working hours. Now, with the publication of Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet, Hayden also makes an impressive intellectual and empirical contribution to our understanding of this important but complex issue. The book describes a holistic vision of progressive social and economic policy reforms, rooted in reductions in working hours combined with measures, especially ecological tax reforms, to enhance the "eco-efficiency" of current economic activity.

Shorter working hours are commonly advanced as a simple solution to unemployment. If there is a shortage of job openings, then a shorter work week will spread available work around to more people, thus reducing the incidence of unemployment. Hayden is more careful than most shorter work-time advocates in noting the limitations of this rather mechanistic argument. He cautions that shorter work-time should not be seen as a form of "collective austerity" that is, as a means of sharing unemployment. Rather, a stronger campaign for shorter work-time will be built by viewing it as a positive goal in and of itself, as a means of capturing the benefits of technological development and productivity growth in the form of increased leisure time (rather than material consumption), and as a means of reshaping our economic activities to become more harmonious with ecological as well as economic priorities.

Leadership


Add caption


Venezuelan election photos





Saskatoon ecosocialists organize

Ecosocialists in Saskatoon have organized and set up a website. Visit http://www.ecoleftsask.ca/ for more information.

The Saskatoon Parklands Eco-left Collective, SPEC.

We are a non-partisan political collective seeking to bring together the wisdom of the left and the wisdom of the earth, seeking to envision and build an ecological socialist future, and organizing primarily in the Saskatoon and central Saskatchewan region.

Globally, we are loosely affiliated with the Ecosocialist International Network, a network which, in recent years, has brought together a lot of interesting eco-left and eco-socialist individuals and groups from around the planet, forming the beginnings of a more solidified ecological left movement.

The website of the Ecosocialist International Network is http://www.ecosocialistnetwork.org/.

While networking with like-minded people around the globe, we also recognize the need to organize locally and respond to the particular social and ecological questions confronting us in Saskatchewan in the twenty-first century.

The Saskatchewan context brings with it many issues and challenges. We are responsible for mining about a quarter of the world's uranium, contributing globally to nuclear power, nuclear waste accumulation, and both nuclear and depleted uranium weapons, (not to mention the thousands of tonnes of radioactive mine tailings left behind in northern Saskatchewan). Our coal, oil and tar sands development, meanwhile, contributes to climate change. In the Saskatoon area, people who believe in a progressive approach to education have the task of confronting the growing corporatization and nuclearization of our university. Meanwhile, we confront a range of social and economic justice issues with rising rates of poverty, and the marginalization of various social groups.

The Saskatoon Parklands Eco-left Collective seeks to address various issues in our quarterly publication, "The Weaver", on our website, and in other advocacy contexts. At the same time, we wish to envision a radical, ecologically sound socialist alternative, beyond the limits of capitalism, militarism, nuclearism and imperialism.

Arguing Socialism

By Dominic Alexander 
CounterFire

Erik Olin Wright,
Envisioning Real Utopias
 (Verso 2010)
The crisis that burst upon the world in 2007 undermined neo-liberal ideology and created a new audience for socialist ideas. Dominic Alexander looks at three books that attempt to address the new possibilities for socialists.

The economic crisis beginning in 2007 punctured the dominance of neo-liberal ideology, without completely overturning it. To accomplish that, and force socialism back on the agenda, is the urgent political job of the left, as the establishment’s relative disarray will not last for the long term. The tired old saw on democracy still functions for capitalism as a whole: however bad capitalism is, it is the best system possible. Breaking this piece of common sense is a priority. Happily, the crisis does seem to have given left-wing writers the confidence to start openly arguing for socialism once more.

Despite books by figures as different as Badiou (The Communist Hypothesis, Verso) and G. A. Cohen (Why Not Socialism?, Princeton University Press), much of this new wave of writing seems to be coming from the context of the American continents. The upsurge in the left across Latin America in the last ten years or so, as well as simultaneous bitter divisions within the USA, no doubt provide the impetus. Nonetheless, the three books considered in this review are all very different in intentions and approach, and so it might be considered somewhat unfair to consider them side by side. And yet, it is precisely their very varying perspectives that beg comparison.

Class Conflict in a Prairie City

The Saskatoon Working-Class Response to Prairie Capitalism, 1906-1919

By Glen Makahonuk
Labour/Le Travail

"... I wish to distinctly stale that as long as the present system of production for profit instead of for use lasts, so long will we have an accutc labor problem. We realize that the transformation to that ultimate aim will take time and therefore must be brought about by a gradual process."

WALTER MILLS, PRESIDENT of the Saskatoon Trades and Labour Council, was trying to convince the Royal Commission on Industrial Relations, which held a hearing in Saskatoon on 7 May 1919 as part of its nationwide investigation of industrial unrest, that as long as capitalism continued there would be "friction between the union men and bosses" not only in the city, "but throughout the Dominion of Canada."

It is interesting to note that such an argument would come from a craft unionist in a small prairie city whose provincial economy was predominantly agricultural. Other workers, whether they were coal miners labouring in a Cape Breton mine or factory workers toiling under appalling conditions in a Toronto sweat shop, had made similar statements to the commission in its tour of 28 cities across Canada. In articulating their grievances about unemployment, low wages, high prices, long hours, appalling conditions, non-recognition of unions, and the refusal of collective bargaining, the Saskatoon labour representatives to the commission were demonstrating that they shared similar class experiences with other workers.

Although W.J.C. Cherwmski has completed a major study ol the organized labour movement in Saskatchewan in which he has emphasized its weakness, smallness, and conservatism, there is still a need to examine the nature of the labour-capital relations in a city like Saskatoon. The Saskatoon working class was far from being weak and conservative in its relationship with the ruling class, especially in the period from 1912 to 1919.

In fact, the Saskatoon working class issued both an economic and political response to prairie capitalism which culminated in a sympathy strike for the Winnipeg workers in 1919. Thus the purpose of this paper is to address the class experience in terms of the workers' material conditions' and their means of carrying out class struggle, using methodologies developed in studies of the larger urban centres of eastern and western Canada.'

Read this article HERE

The Inspiration of Keir Hardie

 Bob Holman
 guardian.co.uk

James Keir Hardie
Every 25 January in Scotland, Robert Burns's birthday is marked by celebrations across the country. Yet the birth date of an equally significant Scot, Keir Hardie, on 15 August, is ignored. With a general election in the offing, it is appropriate to remember the man who, as Tony Benn puts it, was "Labour's first, and in many ways, greatest leader".

Born illegitimate near Glasgow in 1856, he went down the coal mines at the age of 10. As a young man, he was sacked for being a spokesman for the trade union. He later accepted a post as a trade union official which, along with his political activities, led eventually to his famous general election victory at West Ham South. By this time he was a socialist whose ideas owed little to Marxism and more to his experience of poverty and his conversion to Christianity.

Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)

Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) performed by Arlo Guthrie. Original by Woody Guthrie. Lyrics here.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Message from BHP Billiton Regarding the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan

SkitSkit TV

Darwin Bruce Q. Vegemite of BHP Billiton Ltd., which is currently bidding to acquire the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, shares a message of peace and goodwill with the people of Saskatchewan and their beleaguered potash industry.

With Brent McFarlane, Daniel McFarlane, Ashton Francis, Jared Soanes, Kevin Coleman, Ed Mendez, and Dan Taillon. Camera-work by Brent McFarlane and Kristen Holfeuer.

SKIT SKIT performs Dec. 2nd-5th, 2010 and March 17th-20th, 2011, at the Persephone BackStage Stage in Saskatoon, SK.



For more information, contact boxoffice@persephonetheatre.org, contact Skit Skit directly at skitskitemail@gmail.com, or visit http://www.facebook.com/skitskit .

Learning About Bridges to 21st Century Socialism

Mondragon Diaries: Day One: Why Humanity Comes First at Work

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

“This is not paradise and we are not angels.”
--Mikal Lezamiz, Director of Cooperative Dissemination, MCC

After a short bus ride through the stone cobbled streets of Arrasate-Mondragon and up the winding roads of this humanly-scaled industrial town of Spain's Basque country in a sunny fall morning, taking in the birch and pine covered mountains, and the higher ones with magnificent stony peaks, I raised an eyebrow at the first part of Mikel's statement. The area was breath-takingly beautiful, and if it wasn't paradise, it came close enough.

I'm with a group of 25 social activists on a study tour organized by the Praxis Project. Our focus the the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, a 50-year-old network of nearly 120 factories and agencies, involving nearly 100,000 workers in one way or another, and centered in the the Basque Country but now spanning the global. We here to study the history of these unique worker-owned factories, how they work, why they have been successful, and how they might be expanded in various ways as instruments of social change. Georgia Kelly of the Praxis Project is our cheerful and helpful tour leader, but Mikel is in charge of teaching us what he knows.

Follow Carl Davison on his review of the Mondragon experience HERE.

The murals of Caracas

Marxist Theory of Art
August 2010

The last of three articles on popular art in the Bolivarian Revolution, originally published by venezuelanalysis.com here. Photos by Silvia Leindecker. Translations of the Spanish provided where required.

In Caracas, murals decorate the walls of barrios with the sentiments and aspirations of the people. These creations, sometimes elaborate and detailed, sometimes simple and direct, are often the product of a collective effort among neighbors to beautify their living space. In the community spaces as well as the nooks and crannies of the bustling, sprawling city, this art rivals commercial billboards that permeate much of the visual landscape. In many cases the murals pay homage to Latin American heroes who continue to inspire people to fight for freedom and justice. They also tell stories of history, oppression, and resistance.

Read more HERE.

Watson Thomson and the Cold War Politics of Adult Education in Saskatchewan, 1944-6

Conflicting Visions, Divergent Strategies:Watson Thomson and the Cold War Politics of Adult Education in Saskatchewan, 1944-6

By Michael R. Welton
Labour/Le Travail

Christian McLeod's latest in his Tommy Douglas
 'pop art' series, "Metallic Tommy", 48 x 36 images,
 oil on canvas, 2009.
The name of Watson Thomson is scarcely a household word in the histories and popular traditions of the Canadian left. Norman Penner makes no mention of him in his synoptic history, The Canadian Left, and only a few traces can be found in our adult educational history, such as it is.*

A few veteran prairie and west coast activists from the 1930s and 1940s remember him, some with great fondness, but he has essentially drifted into obscurity. This is unfortunate, because Thomson's priorities, aims, strategies, values, achievements, and failures throw light on a moment of highest importance in the social history of Canada. Using Watson Thomson's adult educational work with Tommy Douglas' CCF from late 1944 to early 1946 as an anchor point, this case study has several goals.

First, to explicate Thomson's transformative-communitarian socialist vision and thereby confront the inadequacies of the communist/social democratic framing of the history of the Canadian left; second, to illuminate the tensions on the left at an axial moment in its history; third, to examine the specific failings of the social democratic imagination and political will; and finally, to insert Watson Thomson into the social history of adult education and western Canadian radicalism.

Read this article HERE.

* Norman Penner. The Canadian Left' A Critical Analysis (Toronto 1977), and Michael Welton, "In Search of a Usable Past for Canadian Adult Education," CASAE History Bulletin, May 1985.

Michael R. Welton, "Conflicting Visions, Divergent Strategies: Watson Thomson and the Cold War Politics of Adult Education in Saskatchewan, 1944-6," Labour/Le Travail. 18 (Fall 1986), 111-138.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Relay #30: Summer, 2010

Socialist Project

The financial crisis has now entered a new phase of intense political struggle over which classes will pay for the exit strategy from the crisis. It is now taking concrete form in the planning and implementation of so-called 'exit strategies' from the emergency fiscal measures to offset the demand shocks from the crisis. Although there remain serious concerns over the pace of return to the neoliberal orthodoxy of balanced budgets in the midst of still stagnant economies, calls for public sector austerity are coming from both the political right and social democratic parties.

The IMF has gone so far as to suggest two decades of 'fiscal adjustment' – read long-term austerity – might well be in order as an appropriate 'debt stabilization strategy.' The push for austerity was recently endorsed by the G20 meetings in Toronto in June, although with a great deal of concern still being expressed about the possibility of slipping back into a sharp recession. This issue of Relay focuses on the battle over public sector austerity in the wake of the G20 meetings, with contributions from Leo Panitch, Sam Gindin, Jane D'Arista, Jim Stanford, Paul Kellogg and others on assessing the economics and political challenges of the turn to austerity in the capitalist heartlands of North America and Europe.

The way the crisis has unfolded – and indeed the G20 Summit itself – has revealed only too starkly the sad shape of the left – able to express anger and despair, but completely impotent to counter neoliberalism and desperately lacking imaginative new forms of resistance from either the labour or social movements. The impasse of the left has raised a huge array of theoretical, practical and historical issues to be confronted. It has to be the central objective of the left in Canada and around the world to reconsider the left's organizational legacy, and map new beginnings.

Contributions by Daniel Bensaid and John Riddell do just that in examining the political tactic of the 'united front' in its historical and theoretical dimensions. Marta Harnecker does the same in looking at new organizational developments in Latin America. From a similar angle, Ian MacKay, Sam Gindin and Wayne Dealy look at the history of the left in Canada and ask whether new efforts to form workers' assemblies might be one measure to address organizational decline. The organizational challenges and the emerging left are also looked at in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Netherlands.

And more: the dialectics of capital, Canada and Apartheid Israel, ecology, the Hurt Locker, workers' councils in Iran.

PDF of Relay HERE.

Privatizing potash a Devine error

By John S. Burton,
The Leader-Post September 21, 2010

Allan Blakeney, old time CCF picnic 1975
Potash is a big news item in Saskatchewan at present. People and governments are discussing what should be done. It is essential that accurate information is made available.
Bruce Johnstone (Sept. 11) had some interesting comments, but I must dispute one statement where he said, "Under the NDP, PotashCorp was literally driven into the ground by producing too much potash, pushing down prices and running up huge losses."

That statement is completely false. From the time that operations started in late 1976 until the end of 1981, almost $413 million in profits were earned and that was after almost $270 million was paid in taxes and royalties. Efforts were geared to develop a stable growing market that avoided the roller coaster experiences seen in the last two years.

From 1982 to 1987, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan had a net loss of $185 million. That was under the Devine Progressive Conservative government. Constant political interference, demands for dividends and stalling on major issues by the Tory government handicapped management in doing its job. Contradictory directives also imposed additional heavy burdens on the corporation.

At one time, the potash corporation worked for the benefit of Saskatchewan. The Devine Tories sold it for a pittance. Now it is a pawn in the hands of international mining giants and foreign investors.

Everyone agrees now that potash belongs to the people of Saskatchewan. That's easy to say. Of course we get some return from production, but what really counts is making sure the province can make critical decisions and gets the full benefit of this valuable resource. Does it matter much now whether potash mines are owned by American, Australian or Chinese investors?

The Devine Tories gave away control of this valuable asset some 20 years ago. Now everybody can see what we lost.

John S. Burton was a member of the board of directors of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan from 1975 to 1982 when it was Crown-owned.

Standing up for robosexuality

Jake Kornegay reviews Futurama, the sci-fi cartoon The Simpsons creator Matt Groening--now back on the air after a seven-year absence.

Socialist Worker
September 21, 2010

Bender and Amy lead a Robosexual Pride rally on the TV show Futurama
WELCOME TO the world of tomorrowww! Again. That's right, meatbags, Futurama is back!

In case you've been hiding under a space rock, Futurama is Matt Groening's "other" show--the one he put his true nerd heart into. If it looks like a Simpson's knockoff to you, bite your eye, fellow Earthican. It's anything but. This is sweet, savory sci-fi at its most adventurous, presented in beautiful, Technicolor cartoon form.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Video: Swedes rally against racism

The day after the Swedish election people in Stockholm went to protest against the Swedish Democracy party (right wing, nationalistic, racist party) who got 5.7% of the votes in the election.

What Castro really means

Apparent U-turns have led some to declare Cuba's revolution dead. It has life in it yet, however

Richard Gott
guardian.co.uk,
Friday 17 September 2010

The ever-surprising island of Cuba has come up with some fresh economic measures this week that pose the question: is this the end of socialism? For President Raúl Castro to sack half a million state employees, and then allow his brother Fidel to hint to an American reporter from the Atlantic that the country's economic model is not working, suggests that there is certainly something significant in the pipeline. But this is not the end of the revolutionary dream, nor is it a simple rectification of policy, of which there have been many over the years. It is, more importantly, the start of a major new programme, long-awaited. How it should be ideologically defined remains to be seen.

Everyone who lives in Cuba and those who follow Cuban affairs closely know that the existing economic model has not been working well. It hardly needs Fidel to spell this out. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, which deprived the island of its principal model and benefactor, the Cuban authorities have improvised brilliantly, breaking every rule in the rulebook, both socialist and capitalist. Tourism has replaced sugar as the country's principal earner of foreign currency. Collective farms have been broken up. Hundreds of thousands of people now work on their own account, soon to be joined by half a million others – or possibly more.

Those Trapped Chilean Miners Are So Goddamn Lucky!

By Mark Nowak
MRzine

Over the course of the past week, several stories have appeared in the U.S. media that seemed to celebrate, without an iota of sarcasm or self-criticism, the bright and happy futures of 33 coal miners who have been trapped underground in the San Jose mine, in utterly unbearable conditions, for six weeks -- and who are likely to remain trapped for at least several more months.

On September 15, a story by Eva Vergara and Vivian Sequera ("Chile's Trapped Miners Have a Thousand Job Offers") circulated through a U.S. media market that took a break from airing stories about the almost 10% unemployment rate and the moribund U.S. economy to let readers know that those lucky miners in Chile had, for all intents and purposes, a future just about as rosy as Kevin Sbraga (who, the same week, took home the crown of Top Chef D.C.).

"The San Jose miners have been offered 1,188 jobs as of Tuesday," the article proclaimed. And, unlike the jobs that under- and unemployed readers of the article might be in line for, "[t]here will be no deadline for the trapped miners to take advantage of this 'relocation program'," Jose Tomas Letelier, vice president at the Canadian gold mining company Kinross was quoted as saying. And a good thing, too, because I don't think that the fax machine is set up yet to send off their resumes from inside the 500 square foot cavern where the 33 future job-seekers have been spending their darkened days.

On the same mid-September day, Jorge Medina's story ("Trapped Chilean Miners' Next Challenge: Celebrity") appeared via Reuters. "Los 33" (The 33), it seems, have yet another test ahead: handling the fame of the media circus whose groundwork is daily prepared for us by the likes of USA Today, Survivor, and Lost.

As I said when I appeared on Al Jazeera to talk about the Chilean miners a few weeks ago, we must not uncritically assume that the next few months of ongoing rescue will be executed to perfection -- though we hope and pray that it will. The focus must remain on keeping these 33 men safe and strong in the coming weeks as well as working tirelessly for their rescue.

The situation at the San Jose mine is not another episode of reality TV. It is reality. And in the culture of the contemporary moment, we must work harder than ever to make, and to remember, that distinction.
URL: mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/nowak200910.html

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Che and the Manifesto

Sweden – Where liberal left is right

Nicholas John Mead
New Left Project

Sweden is regularly held up as a model of social democracy, equality and of a "cradle-to-grave" welfare state. But while it still has a welfare state and level of equality that's ahead of most countries, the truth is that it has been in terminal decline for the past 40 years. The astonishing thing is, this decline has happened under a liberal center-left government – the Social Democrats – who have been the ruling party in Sweden for all but 13 of the last 78 years. It is their failure to stand-up for working Swedes that has seen the country shift even more to the right in this year's General Election. While many liberal-left Swedes are outraged at the success of a racist far-right party in this year's election, they show little outrage at this right-wing attack on their society by liberal-left wing governments since the 1970s.

Sweden's social democracy and welfare state reached a peaked in the 1950s and 60s when unemployment reached virtually zero for a while and it was considered one of the richest countries in the world. Since the 1970s however, Sweden's welfare state has been subject to a series of vicious attacks by successive center-left Social Democratic governments which have failed to stand-up to corporations and international right-wing organizations such as the IMF and OECD and aggressively applied pro-corporate neo-liberal economic policies ushered in by the Reagan and Thatcher eras and which still continue today.

Read more HERE.

Cold War Fashion - Saskatoon 1956

Lots of variety. You could buy a topcoat and hat or a hat and a topcoat.

Caswell's Ltd., 130-21st Street East, Saskatoon, SK.
Photo of window display of men's overcoats, hats, gloves and scarves


Tommy Douglas: Keeper of the Flame

National Film Board of Canada

This feature documentary traces the political career of T.C. (Tommy) Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan and leader of the New Democratic Party, who was voted the Greatest Canadian in 2004 for his devotion to social causes, his charm and his powers of persuasion. Known as the "Father of Medicare," this one-time champion boxer and fiery preacher entered politics in the 1930s and never looked back.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Prairie Marxist's Memoir

From young communist to senior citizen fighting for health rights. At 95, Ben Swankey tells his story.

By Tom Sandborn
Nov 2008, TheTyee.ca
What's New: Memoirs of a Socialist Idealist
By Ben Swankey, Trafford Publishing (2008)

"The mounted police swept from the alley in which they had been hiding, charging into the crowd, swinging their long clubs indiscriminately at men, women and children, clubbing anyone within reach. The foot police charged in from another alley, using their clubs in the same way."

It was Aug. 1, 1931, and one of the appalled witnesses when the Vancouver Police Department cut through a peaceful protest rally at the Cambie Street Grounds was Ben Swankey, a prairie boy who had recently hitchhiked to the coast looking for work.

Within weeks, on the day he turned 18, the son of Eastern European immigrants made a decision that shaped the rest of his life. Like many members of his Depression-reared generation, Swankey turned to Marxism as a way of understanding the economic and social chaos that surrounded him and as a source of solutions. He climbed the stairs off East Hastings to the offices of the Young Communist League and tried to join.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jonathan Kay vs. David McNally

Jonathan Kay vs. David McNally on capitalism, communism, and what Michael Moore has to say about America

Jonathan Kay, David McNally
National Post

Icelanders hang capitalist doll
As part of the National Post's weekly Arts and Life "popcorn panel" feature, pundits are brought together to debate newly released films. This Saturday's installment will feature excerpts from an email debate between National Post comment editor Jonathan Kay and York University political science professor David McNally on Michael Moore's new film Capitalism: A love story.

What follows below is the full uncut version of their exchange.

Jonathan Kay: I know why I was picked for this panel: because Terry Corcoran wasn't available, and you wanted a right-wing true-believer to batter America's iconic left-wing punching bag. But I'm not co-operating -- at least not entirely. Capitalism: A Love Story may be larded up with all sorts of gratuitous, intellectually dishonest stunts. Even so, Moore makes a strong case for his core thesis that unregulated capitalism has destabilized American middle class society in cruel and unsustainable ways. I'm a big fan of the free market. But when Moore introduces us to airline pilots making $17,000 a year, and selling blood plasma to make ends meet, it becomes clear that America's collective value system has gone off the rails.

David McNally: Well, as the left-winger here, I agree that the “collective value system” that dominates American life “has gone off the rails.” But before we start turning warm and fuzzy and declaring our agreement, let’s cut to the chase. After all, Michael Moore is doing more than denouncing the obscenity of pilots living below the poverty line and selling their plasma to make ends meet. He is insisting that poverty, homelessness, disregard for the lives of working people are inherent in a system driven by the maximization of corporate profits. And this is the strength of the film. More than just expose injustice, it insists there is a social-economic system at fault: capitalism.

Read more HERE.

Democracy in Afghanistan

Contributed by John W. Warnock
Act Up in Sask

There will be elections for the parliament in Afghanistan on September 18. Few Canadians are aware of this as there has been no coverage by our mass media. For geopolitical reasons, the U.S. government has been deeply involved in Afghanistan since the early 1970s. But Canada’s involvement in the war and economic development has been justified on the grounds that we are helping to build democracy. How has this been going?

There are many reasons why a liberal democratic political system has not been established since the U.S. invasion and overthrow of the Taliban regime in October 2001.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Viva Mexico! - 200 years



"Workers' Control is Workers' Control"

PSUV Press
(google translation)

Upon completion of the Council of Ministers which was held on Wednesday 15 September in Miraflores, President Hugo Chavez attended the meeting of the socialist workers of the National Power Corporation (Corpoelec) and its subsidiaries, concentrated in the Teatro Teresa Carreño de Caracas.

With the assistance of more than 3000 members of the workers, union leaders, socialist leaders and different fronts in the sector, the Venezuelan president in the company of Minister for Electric Power, Ali Rodriguez Araque, Aristobulo Isturiz the PSUV, and Dario Vivas National Assembly President Fetraelec, heard the speeches of certain workers who expressed their rejection of the recent sabotage in the sector and reaffirmed their full support for the Bolivarian government.

Potash chief lost £4m in BHP Billiton bid

Bill Doyle sold shares two months before BHP's bid pushed Potash's value up 24%

By Simon Goodley
guardian.co.uk
Thursday 16 September 2010

A Potash Corp holding centre facility near Saskatoon.
Photograph: David Stobbe/Reuters




Bill Doyle, the chief executive of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, cost himself $6.7m (£4.3m) by cashing in share options this summer, two months before BHP Billiton's $39bn bid for the company was revealed.

In May and June, Doyle sold 134,200 shares at an average price of $98.71, 24% below BHP's $130 a share offer price which the Potash board described as "grossly inadequate".

The shares were part of Doyle's stock option package which are cancelled after 10 years. This award was due to expire on 21 November, but had Doyle held on for five months the current Potash share price of around $148 would imply additional profits of $6.7m. Doyle's other holdings mean he is set to make more than $400m if Potash is sold.

His massive personal wealth has added a dimension to the already dramatic bid for the fertiliser group, which has seen him trying to fend off BHP's approach.

Potash claims that other bidders could emerge, and newspaper reports in Canada claim the company is trying to stitch together a consortium led by China to back a leveraged management buyout. The approach would include a large chunk of capital from a Chinese resource company or investment fund, with smaller contributions from international sovereign wealth funds and possibly Canadian players. Rival potash producer Mosaic has also been tipped as part of the consortium.

Analysts said the consortium looked unwieldy and may fall foul of regulatory hurdles.

Last month the Saskatchewan government said it was unlikely to support a takeover of the Saskatoon-based company by a sovereign wealth fund, or any other large potash-buying nation because it fears the motive would be to deflate the price of the region's most important asset.

A rival bid from the Chinese had been seen as Potash's best hope of avoiding the clutches of BHP after its rivals Vale and Rio Tinto signalled they would not be launching a rival bid.

Potash has spent the past month trying to persuade the market that BHP was attempting "an opportunistic effort to transfer value to its own shareholders" and has been explaining why it believes its shares will rise as the demand for potash increases and drives up prices.

Potash, the raw material, is used as a fertiliser, as livestock feed supplements and in industrial products such as soaps and water softeners.

Shares in Potash Corp edged up $1.44 to £148.57, while BHP shares slipped 2.33p to £19.61.

The NDP and left-wing populism

By Murray Dobbin
Murray Dobbin's Blog 

The NDP may well pull itself out of its self-created mess on the long gun registry but not before using up a lot of good will across the country and a lot of political energy. It was a struggle that should not have been necessary. It leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth associated with support for this critical program. Instead of leading the fight to keep the registry, the NDP will be seen as having barely come through. Hardly a glorious day in the party’s parliamentary history.

What is clear to me is that this whole ugly business reflects what people have known for years: that the NDP is now just a party machine and no longer a movement. While Stephen Harper can count on populist anger and mobilizing his base of party members and supporters, the NDP cannot. It depends strictly on paid political operatives, ensconced on Parliament Hill. If they had that capacity their strategy would have been to tell Harper to shove it and do serious education work in the ridings in question and counter the lies and fear-mongering put out by the government.

This lack of grass roots capacity is ironic if you consider the NDP’s historical roots which were quintessentially populist. The CCF was socialist in its vision but populist in its politics. The term populist now has negative connotations because only the right can mobilize people on this basis. The CCF’s populist anger was directed right where it should have been: the banks, the grain companies, the machinery companies and the gouging of other middlemen – and against employers who squeezed every last dime out of their workers.

The CCF/NDP lost its populist character decades ago and has been an electoral machine ever since. The party cannot call on its members to mobilize at the community level and it has virtually no relationship with civil society organizations upon which it could call upon for allies in a fight like this one. It is almost powerless against the kind of politics practiced by Harper.

That is why rural members of the NDP were terrified of losing their seats. Even though all the facts are on the side of the registry, with a hostile and lazy media and no grass roots presence in the communities affected, the NDP MPs had to run for cover falling back on that old excuse of “representing their constituents.” That ends up being just another way of saying opportunism. What happened to principle?

The only way the NDP will ever get beyond its historical high point of about 20% in the polls and elections (it’s now closer to 15%) is if it re-tools itself to become a movement-party once again. A few years ago a project called the New Politics Initiative had as its objective exactly that. It found real support amongst many rank and file NDPers as well as among those, like me, from the social movement side of the ledger. One of its aims was to bridge the gap between the two. A resolution calling for such a change in the party achieved nearly 40% support at a national convention.

Maybe it needs to be reconstituted.