Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Pub Crawl with Karl Marx

NYC doesn't do pub crawls any more, not even on New Years. So thanks to Kasama for digging this out. This account was written by Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1896, about forty years after the night described.

In the spirit of “hair of the dog” I offer the following recollection of a pub crawl with Karl Marx. This night out took place in London during the 1850s, where Karl Marx lived after the defeated continental revolution of 1848. Beer was a favorite among Germans– and refugees of 1848 had brought that love with them into exile around the world. 

One evening, Edgar Bauer, acquainted with Marx from their Berlin time and then not yet his personal enemy […], had come to town from his hermitage in Highgate for the purpose of “making a beer trip.” The problem was to “take something” in every saloon between Oxford Street and Hampstead Road – making the something a very difficult task, even by confining yourself to a minimum, considering the enormous number of saloons in that part of the city. But we went to work undaunted and managed to reach the end of Tottenham Court Road without accident.

There loud singing issued from a public house; we entered and learned that a club of Odd Fellows were celebrating a festival. We met some of the men belonging to the “party,” and they at once invited us “foreigners” with truly English hospitality to go with them into one of the rooms. We followed them in the best of spirits, and the conversation naturally turned to politics – we had been easily recognised as Germany fugitives; and the Englishmen, good old-fashioned people, who wanted to amuse us a little, considered it their duty to revile thoroughly the German princes and the Russian nobles. By “Russian” they meant Prussian nobles. Russia and Prussia are frequently confounded in England, and not alone of account of their similarity of name. For a while, everything went smoothly. We had to drink many healths and to bring out and listen to many a toast.

Then the unexpected suddenly happened…

Saskatchewan Crop Practices Need to Adopt to Climate Change

Adapting to Climate Change
The Director of Weather and Market Analysis with the Canadian Wheat Board says production practices in western Canada may have to be altered as the climate changes. Weather models indicate farmers on the prairies will see longer growing seasons and more weather variability.

"Certainly there's probably some challenges due to the climate variability that we would look at a generation or two ahead," said Bruce Burnett.

"There's probably going to be some opportunities, not only from an economic point of view but also re-inventing agriculture a bit as we go forward looking a newer crops, different crops, different production practices in western Canada."

Burnett says everybody in the agriculture industry in western Canada should be looking at the potential effects and adaptation requirements related to changes in the climate.
Discover Moose Jaw

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Time for the left to get bold

This quote from Murray Dobbin's most recent blog , Harper's Arrogance Reflects Our Weakness, stresses the importance of getting serious about politics. For the left, this means getting serious about connecting, organizing and finding a new sense of boldness. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.

"Given the danger the country faces from the Harper dictatorship there should be emergency meetings being held in Ottawa with all the national unions, the churches, the Council of Canadians, national environmental organizations and other civil society groups whose job it is to create a political culture in which this kind of fascist-minded government simply could not operate.

Harper’s vicious politics were in some ways inevitable. If we allow our political culture to erode and weaken into little more than a side-show to consumerism, it is just a matter of time before the forces of reaction seize the moment and permanently change the country.

It means, in effect, that we are simply not serious in fighting the dismantling of the country. Given the values of Canadians, and the enormous capacity of civil society to respond to the challenge if it chooses to, this simply should not be happening. That it is happening is a dramatic demonstration of our failure of political will.

When will we get serious? Maybe that should be our collective New Year’s resolution. We have two months in which to accept the challenge."
Murray Dobbin's Blog

Senior's Power in Saskatchewan

As a generation of unonists and activists retire and hope to enjoy their senior years, they continue to organizet to have their voices heard as new realities confront them.

Seniors' Voice is published by a group of non-profit seniors organizations. Their stated purpose is "to inform seniors about the many and varied issues which impact on the sense of well-being of all segments of our society. We are dedicated to the preservation of our Canadian Quality of Life, which has made Canada the best country in the world in which to live." Visit their webpage for on-line copies of their newsletter and contact information.

Other organizations are also fighting for retired workers. The Saskatchewan Federation of Union Retirees (SFUR) is a provincial affiliate of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC) which is the independent senior wing of the Canadian Labour Congress, representing retired members of the labour movement. It is open to anyone over 50 years of age, who has been a member of any Canadian Labour Congress affiliated union at any time in their working years (or is presently a member of a union) can join. Spouses are also welcome to join.

The Saskatchewan Retirees Association Inc. represents mostly former employees from Saskatchewan's public service. Visit the SRA website for more information.

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Power is ever stealing from the many to the few." from Senior's Voice.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tommy Douglas "The Cream Separator"

Tommy Douglas recites one of his favourite stories. Introduction by Pierre Berton, video by Doug Taylor.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tommy Douglas on YouTube

A Tommy Douglas page has been set up on YouTube where you can see all Tommy Douglas and related videos in one place.

Visit TommyDouglasTube.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Next Year Country: First issue

Now, for the first time ever, the very first issue of Next Year Country from October 1972 is here in flip page style.

Contributors included Don Kerr, John Richards, Lorne Brown and John Conway.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Carbon Copy: Preventing Oil Sands Fever in Saskatchewan

By Terra Simieritsch , Simon Dyer and Marc Huot

The oil sands in Saskatchewan could hold as much as 2.3 billion barrels of bitumen, and cover an area of 27,000 square kilometres. Development of oil sands is still in its early stages in Saskatchewan, so there is still an opportunity to do things properly and avoid the mistakes in Alberta.
Download pdf here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Leader Fails Canada

By Don Kossick

If there is a shame on Canada, it is a result of the complete lack of leadership provided by the government and our prime minister to creating a more sustainable world.

The sad thing is that the majority of Canadians do want emissions control that work and prevent the overheating of our planet. Unfortunately, Stephen Harper is putting the interests of a minority of Canadians ahead of that of the majority that is deeply concerned.

The fact that he did not speak as a national leader at Copenhagen and that Canada received the Fossil of the Year award indicates that we have a political leadership that simply does not care.

A function of a healthy democracy is the ability to balance all interests for the greater good of all. Prime Minister Harper does not get this.

Don Kossick
Program Developer

Making the Links Radio has been broadcasting for a decade on CFCR 90.5 FM community radio in Saskatoon. Making the Links is committed to reporting on international and local issues in a way that is informative, indepth and offers coverage not normally found in the mainstream media.

Regina Manifesto, Part 2: Murray Dobbin on the Future of Canadian Democracy

By Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
December 23, 2009

"This week, we bring you the other half of our two-part focus on the Regina Manifesto - a founding document of social democracy in Canada.

The Regina Manifesto helped shape the foundation of Canadian social democracy. It was written in 1933 against the backdrop of the Great Depression, representing hope for Canadians in its call for a new, socialized economy, "owned, controlled and operated by the people."

On October 17th in Saskatoon, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives held an event to examine the importance of the manifesto today - 76 years after it was written. The forum was called "The Future of Social Democracy in Canada: The Relevance of the Regina Manifesto in the 21st Century", and featured Murray Dobbin as one of its speakers. A long-time author, broadcaster and journalist, Dobbin observed that the manifesto is so in tune with modern concerns, it could almost have been written today."
- Rabble  Regina Manifesto podcast

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brad hits the Wall

Saskatchewan premier's political Ponzi scheme collapsing
By John Conway

Ponzi schemes are suddenly well understood by many -- the fraudster promises great returns on investment, takes your money and keeps it, paying off those demanding some payout from the funds which continue to flow in from greedy suckers. Those schemes not uncovered by authorities eventually collapse, especially when a recession hits, financial panic sets in and investors scramble to get their money out.

If and when the economy tanks, the stage is set for payback and the government is forced to renege on promises by cutting spending, cutting programs and, horror of horrors, raising taxes. This can lead to humiliation and defeat -- though no prison time, of course.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall's Ponzi scheme has been hit by the world-wide recession before it even got off the ground. Last March, Wall brought in a budget with huge cuts in education property tax, with the biggest cuts going to rural and small town Saskatchewan, combined with large increases in school board funding.

Read John Conway's full Winnipeg Press article.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tobey Nollet: Agrarian Socialist

The description of Tobey Nollet in the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame might lead you to believe Tobey was a standard politician and Minister of Agriculture which, under his guidance, "the Lands Branch and the Conservation and Development Branch were established the latter providing an engineering service to deal with soil and water problems, flood control, irrigation and reclamation. Provincial community pastures were developed which now accommodate well over 100,000 head of cattle. Under an Earned Assistance Policy, hundreds of erosion control projects were undertaken, thousands of miles of field shelter belts were planted and more than 100 community grazing associations were organized and assisted."

But Tommy Douglas called him the most "vociferous socialist" amongst his ministers. Starting with the Farmer-Labor Group and then the CCF, Tobey was a dedicated reformer who fought hard to improve the lives of Saskatchewan farmers.

This snuff chewing, cussing Cutknife cattle rancher was elected with the first CCF governement in 1944. "We were out to build a new world, no matter how long it took. A world in which people would come first and in which the economic system would have social goals." he stated. "We were pioneering a new philosophy, and we were conscious that we couldn't fail. We had to make it work. We knew it wasn't going to be easy and there were no shortcuts."

His engagement as a soldier in World War One and his exposure to socialists back home in Montana shook his convictions and turned him to the left. "Ever since the war, I had been asking myself the question "What's wrong?'" He started reading everything from Robert Owen to Karl Marx. The Depression solidified his new convictions and he took up politics when he moved to Saskatchewan.

Throughout the fifties, Nollet denounced McCarthyism, the Cold War,  nuclear arms, military spending, world hunger and the "imperialistic exploitation" of the third world. His cantankerous character was infamous and he liked to stir up the right-wing opposition .

In the 1980s, he reviewed his accomplishments by asserting "I'm satisfied we did all we could. I would do it all over again, although I never considered myself as a politician; I considered myself as a reformer. Just to be in politics didn't appeal to me at all. But if there was a cause -- a real, just, worthwhile cause -- then I would endure politics and the political system as it is. I always considered myself in the left. I am a socialist and I'm proud of it. To be a socialist means your for the benefit of society. Politically it may be a bad word, but it expresses my viewpoint."

Tobey Nollet served as the Minister of Agriculture from 1946 to 1964. He died on April 16, 1988 in Kelowna, BC.

Quotes are taken from Olenka Melnyks's No Bankers in Heaven: Remembering the the CCF.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friend of Nature, Enemy of Capitalism

Jack Warnock, now in his 70s, continues to analyze and write about Canadian political economy. Read his latest article "Understanding the Great Financial Crisis" in Act Up in Saskatchewan.

A Canadian Dimension Salute to Jack Warnock
By Joe Roberts

It was in the spring of 1976 that Jack Warnock wrote his first article for the new magazine, Canadian Dimension. The title was "Canadian Policy in Vietnam, 'Ready, Aye Ready'". Jack and his wife Betty Meyers came from Washington D.C., where he worked in the State Department of the brand-new Kennedy administration, After two years of that experience, he decided that even serving a liberal imperialist was not his future. Jack and Betty moved to Saskatoon, where Jack was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Since then he has produced thirty more articles, interviews and book reviews for CD, down to his review of Joel Kovel's Enemy of Nature in the July/August, 2003 issue. Over the years Jack has served continuously on CD's Editorial Collective, but has now decided to retire. At age 72, he is busy writing his tenth book, due in 2006.

Jack is one of the most prolific political economists. His capacity for research and translation of information into politically useful knowledge for movements and individuals has made him an invaluable asset to the movement. His research and writing on the political economy of Saskatchewan is unequalled. It continues to pour forth from his fertile mind, as if he were in the prime of academic productivity.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Future of Social Democracy

Armine Yalnizyan: The Regina Manifesto in the 21st Century
By Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
December 17, 2009

The Regina Manifesto helped shape the foundation of Canadian social democracy. It was written in 1933 against the backdrop of the Great Depression, representing hope for Canadians in its call for a new, socialized economy, "owned, controlled and operated by the people."

On October 17th in Saskatoon, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives presented a forum called "The Future of Social Democracy in Canada: The Relevance of the Regina Manifesto in the 21st Century." Armine Yalnizyan, the CCPA's senior economist, was one of its speakers. She observed that even though many of the changes called for by the Manifesto have since become established aspects of Canadian life - like a national bank, labour standards and universal healthcare - its message remains just as relevant as it was 76 years ago.
Rabble Podcast
CCPA Saskatchewan
View the full text of the Regina Manifesto here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Waffle meeting video - 1969

Watch this fascinating video of an early Waffle meeting discussing resolutions to the NDP national convention in 1969. Participants include James Laxer, Mel Watkins, Gerry Sperling, Pat Smart, Ed Broadbent and many others.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Trevor Herriot's Grass Notes

Thanks to fellow Saskatchewan blogger Louis Riel Trail for bringing Trevor's blog to my attention.

Trevor Herriot's Grass Notes is a visual and educational gem. Anyone who loves the prairies will truly appreciate this.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What Should We Do to Help Build a New Left?

In the latest issue of Relay, Greg Albo and Herman Rosenfeld of the Socialist Project posit the question of rebuilding the left and propose four main points for the Canadian left to start work on. The following is a short summary of their article.

"The defeat of the Left and the workers’ movement dates from the end of the post-war boom and the militant  attempts through the 1970s to develop alternatives in multiple forms – a radicalized social democracy, reform communism, liberation struggles carrying the banner of socialism, workers’ control and participatory democracy movements, and still others. The ascendancy of neoliberalism to revitalize capitalist power as a response to these developments still haunts us. This also has deeper roots in the often ossified ways that Marxism was translated into the political, cultural and economic realities of developed capitalist society. 

These are part of our difficulty in  developing a ‘21st century socialist’ vision, and in finding ways to apply socialist thinking today to the needs of segmented and unorganized working classes.

We could do much worse than start with the following, which constitute a very small part of what needs to be done.

First, there is no way to avoid sustained building of alternate communications, publications and educative capacities for socialist ideas and analysis.

Second, there is a need to work among the different segments of the working class, gaining a deeper understanding of how to build class unity and how to mobilize and inspire workers to fight-back.

Third, socialist approaches to the environmental crisis need to be explored and movements built around them, and challenge the ecology movement’s drift toward its vulgar embrace of market solutions and its utopian and nativist vision of localist enclaves.

Fourth, there is a political urgency to working together as socialists to build toward higher forms of unity: the era of small group attitudes and organizing around a singular issues is, at long last after decades of isolation and marginalization, over.

In the actions taken today in the building a new correlation of political forces, in our workplaces and communities, the constricting grip of neoliberalism might at last be broken, and new kinds of political futures again be explored."

Latest issue of Relay

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Solidarity with Latin America

When refugees from Chile arrived in Saskatchewan after Pinochet's overthrow of Salvador Allende's socialist government, many Chilean support committees were formed across the province. Chileans were welcomed and enriched left wing culture here despite their tragic journey.

When the Sandinistas triumphed in Nicaragua, these groups were relaunched and eventually took on the struggles, not just with reconstructing Nicacagua, but with other struggles in El Salvador, Guatemala and Grenada. When those struggles died down, so did the Latin American support movement.

Now there are startling developments once again in Latin America as Venuezuela, Bolivia , El Salvador and a slew of other leftist government and movements have arisen. These movements have much to teach us but they  also require our active solidarity.

Yet there is no organized movement in Saskatchewan to popularize the achievements and challenges facing these countries. Maybe it is time to resuscitate the spirit of internationlism and take advantage of our experience in building solidarity.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Dogmatism and sectarianism infected the socialist left in Saskatchewan as much as elsewhere. As we look at rebuilding the left, we need to appreciate democracy and divergent ideas as a healthy apsect of left movements. Let's embrace and respect this diversity. Make it a strength, not a weakness.

Rosa Kouri in Copenhagen

Rosa Kouri, from Saskatoon, is a well known advocate on environmental issues, and was recognized by the World Conservation Union in 2007 as one of 25 women across the globe leading the fight against climate change.

Rosa’s experience in youth leadership in climate change ranges from national campaigns to tracking policy on parliament hill to local projects with youth of all ages. Her work will be profiled in the upcoming book Green Warriors by Lobster Press.

Follow her as Canada's lead tracker for "Adopt a Negotiator" at the Copenhagen climate talks. You can also view her reports on YouTube here.

Don Kossick inerviews her on Making the Links.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Surprise birthday bash for Lorne Brown

Next Year Country

On November 16, 2009 Lorne Brown, veteran socialist, academic and activist, turned 70.

A motley crew of radicals, friends and family filled the Cathedral Neighborhood Centre in Regina to celebrate Lorne's contributions and longevity. (More photos here)

Lorne was born on the family farm near Hughton in southwest Saskatchewan in 1939, the year Canada entered WW2.

As a youth he had joined the CCF Youth Movement and went on to study and graduate from the University of Saskatchewan.

In 1969 Lorne was one of the founders of the Waffle movement in the NDP and help develop their manifesto For an Independent Socalist Canada. The Waffle was Canada's largest "new left" organization, though it has a lot of participation from the old left.

In Saskatchewan, Lorne became a professor of political science while maintaining his activism.

(Lorne addressing Saskatchewan Waffle convention in Moose Jaw, 1972)

Brown's writings were always aimed at building popular support the socialist project (through Next Year Country, Canadian Dimension and other publications) or providing critical insights into our history as in his first book with Caroline, An Unauthorized History of the RCMP. Many of his students were to learn from his knowledgeable labour history classes.

His activism also centred around solidarity both here in Saskatchewan and especially with Latin American struggles. The picture below, with Lorne on the right and Bill Gilbey on the left, protesting the US invasion of Grenada.

Lorne remains active, continues to write and lives with his wife Fay in Regina. All his friends and comrades wished him well and looked forward to his continuing participation in Saskatchewan politics.

Child and Family Poverty in Saskatchewan

December 3, 2009

The Social Policy Research Unit at the University of Regina has just released its report card on child and family poverty in the province. Paul Gingrich and Fiona Douglas - the study's authors - report some troubling findings:

• In 2007, there were 35,000 (16.7%) children under age 18 living beneath the poverty line (before-tax Low Income Cut-off) in Saskatchewan.
• Saskatchewan has the third highest provincial child poverty rate.
• 45% of Aboriginal children live in low-income families.
• More than one in three immigrant children are poor.
• 20% of children spent three or more years in poverty, exceeding the national average of 15%.
• One-third of poor children live in families with full-time, full-year employment.

For more details, view the full report here.

Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System

by Jim Harding Fernwood, 2007
Reviewed by Marita Moll
Canadian Dimension, July 10th, 2008
From his student days in the late fifties campaigning for nuclear disarmament to representing the International Uranium Congress in hearings on nuclear-waste disposal in the nineties, Jim Harding has been holding Saskatchewan nuclear proponents to account. This chronicle of battles fought with the political and corporate elites — against uranium-mining ventures, unwanted and unnecessary nuclear reactors and a high-level nuclear-waste storage site in Saskatchewan — is a modern-day David-and-Goliath story.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bill Beeching: Saskatchewan Communist

The legacy of Communist parties in the 20th century is one of both honour and infamy and deserves neither emulation nor derision.

William Charles (Bill) Beeching (1913 - 1990), born in Qu'Appelle, was the standard bearer for the Communist Party of Canada in Saskatchewan and was a fixture of left politics here for decades. The website Focus on Socialism chronicles some of the important contributions Beeching made to left politics.

During the 1930's, the Communist Party was one of the few organizations willing and able to fight for workers. They instigated the estabishment of the Worker's Unity League, the Farmer's Unity League, the National Unemployed Workers’ Association  and the Relief Camp Workers' Union, all had political resonance here in Saskatchewan.

Beeching also served honourably with the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion in the Spanish Civil War.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Making a Workers Mural: Celebrating Saskatchewan

By Doug Taylor
(Our Times - December 2003 / January 2004)

This is the most exciting day of my life," declared 23-year-old artist Crystal Howie last fall at the unveiling of her mural at the Regina Union Centre. Standing before a diverse audience of friends, workers, artists, and dignitaries that included Regina's mayor Pat Fiacco, she had good reason to glow that day in September 2003. As Fiacco said in his speech to the gathered crowd, Howie's mural illustrated perfectly "just how much of themselves people put into their communities." A huge part of our history, said Fiacco, "is the struggle of the workers who built our cities, our province, our country." The mural provided an opportunity "to think about past struggles and today's efforts to build a better world."

Howie's workers' mural was initiated by the Saskatchewan Centennial Workers Celebration Committee. In the summer of 2002, a group of about 45 Regina-based artists, trade unionists, academics and retired activists struck the committee in order to organize projects that would recognize the important roles working people have played in building Saskatchewan. To this end, they decided to sponsor a written history of Saskatchewan labour. As well, they agreed that another effective way of celebrating workers' history, and educating people about that history, would be through the visual arts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dobbin and Deverell: Prescient Knowledge

The following editorial was written by Murray Dobbin and John Deverell in 1973. It is astonishing how it reflects the necessites of our times, particularly with respect to the environmental crisis we are facing.

Although we failed to build a sustained organization of the left, we need to learn from our past and start building again.

What should socialists do?
A socialist in Saskatchewan has a hard time these days trying to find ways to give effect to his or her political beliefs and ideals. Yet in the larger scheme of things there has never been a time when it was more necessary to mobilize all socialist and progressive people into an effective political force.

We live in times in which many of the assumptions of the past will not hold. In particular, the environmental issue challenges the notion that time is on the side of socialism. Industrial society, driven primarly by the motor of capitalist expansion, is beginning to threaten the very capacity of the earth to support life. Not only are the wealthy industrial societies pushing against the limits of growth, but there is every possibility that they will exceed those limits before even knowing what they are.

This new dilemna adds an urgency to socialist political thinking. It is now entirely possible that the international capitalist system, driven by its need to expand or die, may destroy the potential for a socialist future long before its own internal contradictions bring it to the point of collapse.
Read the full article in NYC, April 1973 (large pdf)

Nowadays, John Deverell , retired from CUPW and the Toronto Star, is a senior figure in Fair Vote Canada while Murray Dobbin remains active as a freelance journalist, broadcaster and author. He is also a leading activist and analyst in the movement against corporate globalization and a research associate and board member with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.