Sunday, January 31, 2010

Founding Statement: Socialist Project

Below is the founding statement of the Ontario-based Socialist Project.

You can find out more about them at their website here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Awa' Stephen, Awa'

Adapting Robbie Burns by Blair Hamilton - sent by Cindy Rubilee (via Don Kosick!)

Awa' Stephen, Awa'

Chorus.-Awa' Stephen, awa'!
Awa' Stephen, awa'!
Ye lead a pack o' traitor louns,
Ye'll do nae gude at a'.

Parliament flourish'd fresh and fair,
And bonie bloom'd our voices;
But Prorogue cam' like a frost in June,
An' wither'd a' our choices.

Awa' Stephen, etc.

Our olden ways fa'en in the dust-
Deil take them what caused it!
An' write their names in his black beuk,
Whit Tory Stephen at the front o't.

Awa' Stephen, etc.

Our sad decay in church and state
Surpasses my descriving:
Stephen cam' o'er us for a curse,
An' we hae done wi' thriving.
Awa' Stephen, etc.

Grim vengeance lang has taen a nap,
But we may see him waken:
Gude help the day when writ shall drop
And justice then be taken!

Awa' Stephen, etc

The original Burn's Awa Whigs, Awa

Whigs were the forerunners of the Liberals and many blamed them for selling out Scotland's crown, identity and heritage.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Conservative MP Andrew Scheer Upstaged by a Camel

Andrew Scheer is my M.P. How embarassing that a province with our strong progressive traditions elects guys like him.

Reposted from Pushed to the Left and Loving It

One of the girls in our CAPP group is teaching in Oman, and sent us several pictures of her one Canadian protest rally in the country where she now teaches.

She was interviewed on a morning radio program in Saskatchewan. You can see the page, make comments to back her up, and listen to the podcast (Link on right).

Following her interview was Conservative MP Andrew Scheer, who remarkably is the Deputy House Speaker.

A Deputy House Speaker who has no idea how Parliament functions, and could not answer the simple question of why his boss cut and ran.

He stated that he would gladly debate anyone on the issue and we could contact him anytime. I did (you knew I would) Still waiting for a response, but I'll let you know.

You can contact him here and explain what democracy means to you. To him it doesn't mean much apparently.

This is CAPPs mission. We are going to take this country back by holding our politicians' feet to the fire. They will start to respect us again or they can hit the road. And that goes for any future PM who tries to pull a stunt like this. We'll be watching.

Posted by Emily Dee

Socialism without Jails

by Howard Zinn

Q. What is your philosophy?

I believe, I suppose, in the one that could be called democratic socialism because I believe that we need a society where the motive for the economic system is not corporate profit but the motive is the welfare of people -- healthcare, jobs, childcare, and so on -- where that is dominant, where there is greater equalization of wealth; and a society which is peaceful and which devotes its resources to helping people in the country and elsewhere. And I believe in a world where war is no longer the recourse for the settling of grievances and problems. I believe in the wiping out of national boundaries. I don't believe in visas and passports and immigration quotas. I think we need to move towards a global society. They use the word globalization, but they use it in a very narrow sense to me -- the freedom of corporations to move across boundaries -- but what we need is the freedom of people and things to move across boundaries. When I talk about socialism without jails, I mean, yes, a greater societal intervention into the economy but without deprivation of civil liberties. Don't trouble the Hollywood writer. Put it very simply: yes, he said "socialism without jails."

Q. How do you blend anarchism, socialism, and communism?

I'd like to think of taking the best elements of all of them. Communism -- if you separate communism from the Soviet Union and from those bureaucratic and totalitarian countries that call themselves Marxist and communist and just treat communism as envisioned by Marx and Engels -- ultimately a society where there would be freedom of the individual and rational use of the world's resources. That's something to take from communism. From socialism I would take what I just described, and that is the use of the government, the democratically elected government, to equalize resources and help people. I would take from anarchism the suspicion of authority, the suspicion of all governments, the readiness to criticize and rebel against any government. They may have started out in a humanitarian way but they can easily become ossified and dictatorial. Anarchism has as its goal the idea of a kind of decentralized society where individuals are free from the oppression of government and corporate power and the church. So, I think there are elements in all three that are useful.

Q. Is that a practical way of thinking?

Well, certainly not practical in the sense of something that is immediately achievable, but I think it's very important to hold it as a goal. Philosophical but not in a utopian sense that makes it simply theoretical and unworkable. Philosophical only in the sense that it's long-term. So, although it's not an immediate possibility or probability, I think it's very important to have an idea of what a good society would be like, so you can measure what is happening today, what policies are today, against that goal.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for?

If I want to be remembered for anything, it's for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality, for getting more and more people to think that way, and also for getting more people to realize that power, which rests so far in the hands of people with wealth and guns, ultimately rests on people themselves, and they can use it, and at certain points in history they have used it: Black people in the South used it; people in the women's movement used it; people in the anti-war movement used it; people in other countries who have overthrown tyrannies have used it. What I want to be remembered as is somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power that they didn't have before.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Building the Good Society

The Project of the democratic left

European Social Democracy is trying to redefine its role in the face of the wreckage of neo-liberalism and the ecological crisis. Below is a U.K. contribution from Compass: Directions for the democratic left.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Have a good Robert Burns Day! (2 videos)

My grandparents were from Falkirk, Scotland, where Tommy Douglas was born, and came across to Canada the same year as the Douglas family. I fondly remember attending Sons of Scotland summer and winter picnics in my youth.

I have recently become a real blog watcher and so I was distressed to see Canadian racists (StormFront) blogging about their Scottish heritage to promote their facists beliefs.

I like this first video for Scotland the Brave as it reflects progressive Scotland today, not as mytholgized Aryans.

This video is a short documentary on Burn's "A man's a man for all that".

Also visit "Tommy Douglas reads Robert Burns"

Sask Oil - It can be done

In the early 1970s the Saskatchewan Waffle, while it was still in the NDP, had launched a campaign to nationalize Saskatchewan's oil industry.

The Waffle proposed a publicly-owned facility that would start at the oil wells and end at the gas pump. Profits would stay in Saskatchewan, not go to multi-national American corporations.

When the NDP regained power from the Thatcher Liberals in 1972, Alan Blakeney's government initiated a much watered down version of this idea with the crown corporation SaskOil

Along with a lot of other public-owned resource corporations, the Devine conservatives privatized it in the 1980's.

It still a good idea. This time with an eye on ecology and investing profits in renewal energies.

Below is a leaflet issued by the Waffle on this issue.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rally for Democracy in Regina

Saturday, January 23
1:00 p.m.
Scarth Street Mall

Alberta isn't just right-wing

As the Wildrose Alliance rises in the polls in Alberta, it is worth rembering that there is, and always has been, a more radical history in Alberta.

To begin discovering this, visit the Alberta Federation of Labour's Project 2012. The AFL is planning on celebrating 100 years of sruggle and solidarity.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tommy Douglas reads Robert Burns

Finally, and just in time for Robbie Burns Day on Monday, I have set Tommy Douglas's reading of Robbie Burn's "A man's a man for all that" to video. Introduction by Pierre Berton.

A Man's A Man For A' That


Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Robert Burns

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Malcolm Norris: "a true Indian socialist" (1900 - 1967)

By Leah Dorion
Eagle Feather News - September 1999

Malcolm Norris was born at Edmonton in 1900. His father, John Norris, was a wealthy Scottish settler. His mother was Euphrosine Plante, a Metis from St. Albert. Children from his father's previous marriage were antagonistic to their Metis step-mother and her children. As a result, the family lived in two separate homes.

Malcolm grew up and received his education in St. Albert from the Sister of Mercy. He was a good student and fluent in English, French and Cree.

When he was sixteen years old he joined the NWMP for a time. He was later dismissed because he was under age. In 1919, Norris started working for the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) at Fort Vermilion until he grew disenchanted with the trading methods of the company. He left the company and spent his next five years trapping and trading. Norris trapped near Camsell Portage. In 1922, he married Celina Tardiff and they lived trapping, hunting and trading near Fort Fitzgerald. Norris and his family moved from place to place for many years where he witnessed the terrible conditions of Indian and Metis people in many northern communities and the negative impact of the HBC monopoly.

In the twenties he became an avid socialist and began to fight against bigotry and racism. He often introduced himself as "Redskin Norris". Political turmoil in the 1930s caused Malcolm to become a strong activist, lobbying for Metis rights and social equality. He joined with Metis leaders, Jim Brady, Pete Tomkins, Felix Callihou, and Joseph Dion and together they organized the Alberta Metis Association. The meetings financed by taking up a collection from the members, who pitched in what ever they could afford.

Norris was the first vice-president of the first Metis organization called the Association des Metis d'Alberta ed des Territories du Nord-Ouest (Alberta Metis Association). Joseph Francis Dion was president, Felix Callihou, second vice-president, Pete Tomkins and Jim Brady shared the secretarial duties. The group worked as a team and each person brought different strengths to the group. Jim Brady was recognized as the genious in composition and writing but he was very soft spoken in public. Brady was the opposite of Norris who was well known for his passionate and fiery speeches. Felix Callihou had a good command of French and Pete Tomkins had a real command of the Cree language spoken by the Northern Alberta Metis. Joe Dion was a well respected teacher and was strongly involved with the church.

Norris had an incredible command of the English language. It was well known in Metis circles that he wrote one sentence with every word in the Webster's Dictionary; which took him over two and a half years to complete, but he did it!

Malcolm is remembered by people as being a straight from the shoulder kind of man. He was ready to sacrifice and do anything for the common cause and for the good of the Metis people.

In 1934, Malcolm Norris acted as the group's spokesperson at presentations made to the Alberta Government's Ewing Commission, which had the task of investigating the social and economic conditions of the Alberta Metis. He had a sharp tongue and quick wit. In an interview with Murray Dobbin, fellow Metis leader, Adrian Hope tells one of his rememberances of Malcolm at the Ewing Commission hearings in the 1930s. Hope stated that:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saskatchewan and the New Green Alliance

by John W. Warnock
Paper presented at the Learned Socities
April 15, 2000

Saskatchewan is the home province of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the New Democratic Party (NDP). It is the only place in North American which has a tradition of electing social democratic governments. Since 1944 the CCF-NDP has been the natural governing party of the province, with a solid base of 40 percent of the electorate. For many years the Saskatchewan section of the CCF and the NDP was the most left-wing section of those parties. Why is it then the case that members of the left in Saskatchewan launched the New Green Alliance in 1998?

Political commentators have agreed that the Saskatchewan NDP has become more conservative over the past twenty-five years. Some have emphasized the structural changes in the economy. The small family farm has virtually disappeared, to be replaced by much larger farms, and increasingly farmers have seen themselves as businessmen and capitalists. The general standard of living has increased for the majority, and they have become more conservative. While the farm and rural population has decreased, the organized labour force has grown, but it has not sought to transform the NDP into a labour party. The labour movement itself is much more conservative than it used to be. The NDP has been captured by the urban professional class: lawyers, managers, well-paid government functionaries, teachers, employees of crown corporations and co-operatives, and even some small businessmen.

Because they are the natural governing party, many people join the NDP for career reasons without any ideological commitment to social democratic or socialist principles. The other important factor often cited is the rise of the political right since 1980 and the growing hegemony of neoliberal ideology. (See Briarpatch Magazine, December 1983; Brown et al, 1999; Harding, 1995; Rasmussen, 1994)

CCF and NDP were the voice of the people

After the CCF came to office in 1944, people saw the CCF and its successor the NDP as the primary vehicle for advancing social change. Most progressive people and political activists joined the party and worked through the policy formation structure. The business community was tied to the Liberal Party and then the Conservative Party of Grant Devine. The major social, community and popular groups in the province had close ties to the party, primarily through ties of individual membership. When the CCF-NDP was in office, progressive activists found good jobs in the state structure.

But there also has been a long tradition of independent political action by groups outside the informal farmer-labour alliance of the CCF-NDP. The most commonly cited example is the various farm groups and co-operatives. Many trade unions are not affiliated with the NDP, and many locals of affiliated unions have declined affiliation. Aboriginal groups were historically excluded from the party. Women's organizations and environmental groups have been mainly outside the party.

But even groups closely associated with the NDP have maintained some structures independent of the dominant party. For many years the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, the Saskatchewan Farmers Union, and the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation met regularly to discuss how to promote a progressive political agenda.

Climate change is underway in Saskatchewan

- Saskatchewan Eco Network

Records dating back 100 years show there has already been a significant increase in annual average temperatures throughout the province, and climatologists are predicting more warming in the coming decades.

The Prairie climate warmed by approximately 1° C during the 20th Century, but changes have been significantly greater in some locations. Records from Swift Current in Southwest Saskatchewan show the annual average temperature has risen 2.5°C since 1895, when record keeping began. Records also show that temperatures have increased mainly in the winter and spring months, with summer and fall temperatures up only slightly.

Climatologists are projecting a temperature increase of 3°-6° C this century. Although slightly higher precipitation is also expected, warmer weather increases evapotranspiration, resulting in drier conditions.

While a few degrees may not sound significant, this degree of difference in annual average temperature can have a substantial impact on industries such as agriculture and forestry, as evidenced by the costs associated with recent drought and forest fires. Unfortunately, drought will become more common, with the potential to place agriculture in a permanent crisis situation. Forest fires will also increase.

Saskatchewan: Only Socialists Need Apply

Time magazine
Jan. 14, 1946

He was glad to get off the train at Regina, despite the sub-zero weather. George W. (for Woodall) Cadbury's 6 feet 5 inches fold uneasily into a sleeping-car berth. After a good night stretched diagonally across two Hotel Saskatchewan beds, he was in fine humor as he talked to newsmen about the job which had brought him all the way from England.

Handsome, positive George Cadbury,* who thinks socialism in all Canada is inevitable, sees Regina as a city of opportunity. On the invitation of Saskatchewan's socialist CCF government, he will head a new "industrial planning commission," will thus get in on the ground floor of a province-owned industrial empire already worth nearly $4 million.

His new bosses, peppery Premier Thomas C. Douglas and dapper Treasurer Clarence M. Fines, are just as enthusiastic about Cadbury. They imported him as a student of famed Economist Lord Keynes, a veteran of 22 years in Britain's Labor Party, a director of a cooperative cannery and a custard powder firm in Britain.

Saskatchewan's government-owned plants are already set to turn out boots & shoes, bricks, fish fillets, horsehide coats, woolens, boxes, type, lumber and power. The government can also supply fire and general insurance, looks forward to marketing a volcanic-ash kitchen cleaner, running a bus service and perhaps a Moose Jaw radio station. With Cadbury at the helm, this might be only the beginning.

* A name famous on candy boxes in England. The Cadbury chocolate business at Bournville was founded by Grandfather George Cadbury, a paternalistic Quaker who sponsored housing reforms and recreation facilities for his workers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Saskatchewan birds, nature and scenery

Here is another great Saskatchewan nature website: Nick Saunders' Saskatchewan: Birds, Nature and Scenery. For me, Saskatchewan's natural environment always juxtaposes serenity and beauty with the anxiety of the human condition.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bill Moriarty on the CCF (1933)

William (Bill) Moriarty was elected to the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Canada at its founding convention May 1921, and remained one of its most important leaders through the 1920s. He was expelled from the CPC in 1930 as a supporter of the "right wing" Lovestone current, (known as the "Communist Party (Opposition)" in the U.S.), and remained a member of Lovestone’s international tendency until his death in 1936.

The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, predecessor to today's NDP, was originally a true federation, bringing together a wide variety of socialist, labour and farmers' organizations, as well as individuals who joined the CCF Clubs. Moriarty's Toronto-based group, the Marxian Educational League, joined the Ontario CCF's Labour Conference in 1933, and he was elected a delegate to the Regina Convention of July 1933.

The CCF was founded in Calgary in 1932, but the Regina meeting was its first real national convention. The program it adopted, known as the "Regina Manifesto," was more radical than anything it or the NDP has said since, but, as Moriarty's report shows, socialists in 1933 were far less impressed than some later writers.

This article appeared in the CP(O)'s New York based newspaper, Workers’ Age, September 15, 1933. The original featured idiosyncratic spelling (e.g. "tho" and "thru" for "though" and "through") and erratic paragraph breaks. In the interest of easier reading, we have corrected both.
Socialist History Project
The Labor Movement In Canada: The Regina Convention of the C.C.F.
by W. Moriarty

Around 140 delegates convened in Regina, Sask., during the closing days of July, for the first national convention of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. The delegates came from the six major Canadian provinces.

It is scarcely a year since the C.C.F. was first organized. In that time the Federation has experienced a remarkable growth; particularly in the Tory-ridden province of Ontario has it made giant strides. But it must be said that the social composition of the first organization is distinctly middleclass. The influx of this element into the individual membership section, known as the "clubs," was reflected in the attendance and discussion at Regina.

The whole tenor of the convention was reformist. From the first crack of the whip, J. S. Woodsworth, M.P., leader of the C.C.F., appealed to the delegates not to follow the model slavishly, but to build up a "Canadian Socialism." "The untrained masses are incompetent to pass judgment upon the complicated problems of capitalism." So, it was not surprising to discover that a "Brains Trust" had been at work upon a 14-point program. This was flung into the convention and considered right off the bat.

A "Brains Trust" Program

The program was a skillfully prepared document. It reflected the patient care of its university godfathers. Though to the left of the simple 8-point program of the past year, much more comprehensive, it is thoroughly reformist through and through. The present writer went to the mat on the preamble, moving the deletion of two references: "We do not believe in violent change" and "seeking to achieve its ends solely by constitutional methods." Comrade Winch, Socialist Party delegate from British Columbia, seconded the amendment. Little support was secured. The convention was just as solidly against my attempt to have provision made on the ultimate planning commission for worker and farmer representation.

Social Control—By Your Leave

The next major explosion followed an attempt to revise the section on social ownership. "We do not propose any policy of outright confiscation for the taking over of these (basic) industries from private into public control. The transfer of businesses and industries to public ownership should be made at a fair valuation." My amendment called for the deletion of this asseveration. Other comrades supported and the clause was referred back. The subsequent revision differed only from the original in that it was even more evasive. The convention stuck to its compensatory guns with strange arguments.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Saskatchewan Environmental Champions

Elmer and Gladys (McKay) Laird

Elmer Laird has been an outspoken champion of organic and family farming since the 1960s. He received national attention for his media-savvy campaigns to draw Canadian's attention to chemical-free farming, including a well-publicized contest to design a grasshopper harvester that would turn a farm pest into a cash crop!

Born in Swift Current in 1924, Laird served in the air force in WWII. After the war, he began farming near Davidson. He was active in the National Farmers Union and traveled to Africa on an agricultural study in 1964.

It was the low grain prices of 1969 that launched Laird in organic farming. His goal was to reduce input costs by eliminating farm chemicals. Also in 1969, he married Gladys McKay. With Gladys support, Elmer became a leader and frequent spokesman for the emerging organic farm movement in Saskatchewan.

Chemical farming is like painting by numbers. Organic farming is striving to be a real artist and accept challenges. - Elmer Laird In 1973, they established The Back To The Farm Research Foundation (BFRF) under the Societies Act and with the sponsorship of the National Farmers Union. Laird became President. The BFRF became well known for its letters and briefs to political leaders and the media, on farm chemicals and alternatives, as well as other environmental issues.

To counter the use of toxic pesticides used to control grasshoppers, Elmer and the BFRF proposed that grasshoppers be harvested and sold as food in countries where they are considered a delicacy. The media was attracted to the grasshopper harvester design competition and Laird became a repeat media guest, including on Peter Gzowski's radio and television programs.

Gladys Laird never worked in the field but supported the BFRF effort doing research, particularly on organic farming. Until she passed away in 1999, she cooked numerous lunches and dinners and baked cookies for the large number of visitors who came to talk about organic farming at the Laid farm.

In 1983, the Lairds were instrumental in founding the Canadian Organic Producer's Marketing Coop in Girvin, near Davidson. It was the first certified organic farmers cooperative that milled flour and marketed grains and oilseeds in North America and abroad.

In 2001, Elmer retired as a farmer and donated the use of his land (640 acres) to the BFRF. It was established as an organic research and demonstration farm, the first of its kind in Canada. The BFRF Board of Directors also made him Farm Manager.

In 2005, the BFRF had ten research plots underway for the purpose of demonstrating the benefits of farming without pesticides and other aspects of organic farming. The Foundation also offers, without charge, consultations and advice on all aspects of organic agriculture.

In 2006, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Saskatchewan Eco-Network and an Organic Visionary Award at the Organic Connections Conference. That year the Saskatchewan government also presented him with a Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan. The medal recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the province.

Elmer Laird was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2008.

Laird also continues to produce letters and reports designed to stimulate action on a variety of farming and environmental issues.

Elmer Laird and the Back to the Farm Research Foundation operate the first certified organic research farm in Canada near Davidson, SK.

Saskatchewan Environmental Champions
A Compilation of Written Works by Elmer Laird (PDF)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rebuilding the Left: Reflections from the Saskatchewan Waffle

Forty years ago a manifesto entitled “For an Independent Socialist Canada” was published by a group of left NDP activists. This movement, strong in Saskatchewan, came to be called the Waffle.

Rebuilding the Left aims to have participants reflect upon the experience of the Saskatchewan Waffle and discuss what the left needs to do to rebuild a movement here to challenge the growing attack from the right.

To register for the conference, contact Joe Roberts at or phone 352-9289.

The Conference is free. Lunch provided but donations will be requested to defray costs.

Bookmark this page as more information on the agenda is developed.

Facebook page.

Draft Agenda for Rebuilding the Left

Saturday, January, 30

Conference Begins 10:00 a.m.
Chair - Hugh Wagner, former Waffle member


Brief Presentations on the Waffle Experience
Speakers  - Lorne Brown, former Waffle member and historian
                  - Don Mitchell, Waffle candidate
                    in the 1970 provincial NDP leadership election
Brief Presenattions on left activism today
Speakers   - Cara Banks, feminist and trade unionist
                  -  David Mitchell, Briarpatch editor and activist

Questions and Discussion will follow the presentations


Facilitator - Adriane Paavo
What can the left do?

Adjourn 3:00 p.m.

Recommended Pre-conference readings:

Statement on Rebuilding the Left: Reflections from the Waffle

Forty years ago a manifesto entitled “For an Independent Socialist Canada” was published by a group of students, young faculty and social activists in Ontario. It was soon endorsed by many who sought the same goals across Canada, including Saskatchewan. Strangely, perhaps, 1969 was not a time of economic crisis in the capitalist world that might explain such a manifesto. But it did come at the end of a decade in which the crisis of democracy had become glaringly apparent.

Recently there have been invitations issued for gatherings in Winnipeg and Toronto to celebrate the memory of the Waffle Manifesto. The Waffle experience in Saskatchewan arose differently and had different effects from other places. Many who participated in that movement and were influenced by the experience remain politically and socially active today.

Now Canada and the world are in the grip of a severe economic and social crisis of capitalist development. To those who experienced the mobilization forty years ago it must seem strange that there has been no similar uprising of protest and demand for change comparable to what the manifesto in its innocence proclaimed. For as alarming as the present crisis is, it is far worse that no voice of challenge has arisen from a left demanding a new social system.

So some obvious questions seem to present themselves: for those who experienced the Waffle here is there anything useful to be said about the present state of affairs? Would it serve any purpose in stimulating initiative to gather and discuss the present crisis?

Of course, many issues unexamined during the Waffle era have now become evident and contribute even larger threats than the cyclical economic crisis. The most awesome is environmental breakdown. But the development of industrial agriculture which began to be evident forty years ago is now a scourge globally as well as in our own neighborhood. The long record of injustice to the aboriginal population, generally overlooked by the left in the past, is today inescapable. These and other changes significantly affect the landscape now faced by us who felt confident of change in those past decades.

Yet it is also true that those who are no longer with us have been replaced by others who, as if fellow travelers, aspire to a society – a world – no longer in thrall to capital accumulation, war and class rule. Of necessity this message is addressed initially to those who experienced the Waffle call, but those who emerged subsequently with similar views are invited to respond to this initiative.

1969 Waffle Manifesto: For an Independent and Socialist Canada
Link here.

1973 Saskatchewan Waffle brochure
Link here.

Socialist Project: What Should We Do To Help Build a New Left?
Link here.

SaskOil Campaign
Link here.

Next Year Country: Bureaucracy vs Democracy - The Meaning of Woodrow Lloyd's Resignation

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Transforming Power: New paths to social and political change

Judy Rebick is the guest speaker at the year's Woodrow Lloyd Lecture on January 21st at the University of Regina.

As we are facing unprecedented global economic and environmental crises seemingly unsolvable by the world’s leaders, movements around the world are developing new approaches to political and social change that offer new hope for humanity.

Globalization and mass communication technology are revolutionizing our understanding of power and producing profound new ideas about social and political life. Using examples from around the world and Canada, Judy Rebick will talk about new approaches that can create a better world out of these combined crises.

Judy Rebick is Social Justice Expert and Activist , CAW Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saskatchewan Cows with Guns!

Disappearing Landscapes

Like most Saskatchewanians, I grew up loving the prairies and taking for granted our "prairie giants" that dotted the landscape. Since the 1880s an icon of the Canadian prairies has been the traditional wood primary grain elevator; that "visual metaphor for the backbone of the prairie economy - grain farming". These "Prairie Giants" have been in slow decline since the peak of elevator growth in 1938 altering the very character of the prairie landscape.

Thankfully projects have been undertaken to at least visually record this heritage. Visit The Changing Face of the Saskatchewan Prairie website for more wonderful images.

Wolseley, Saskatchewan

Join the Prairie Giants Facebook page.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Saskatchewan Waffle: Bold politics

The left in Saskatchewan and Canada needs to re-discover its sense of boldness and challenge the status quo. This leaflet from 1973 reflects a time when it was thought posssible that radical social change could be brought about. Many proposals caught the public imagination.

The campaign to create a publicly owned oil industry, from well to pump, was one Waffle initiative. "Sask Oil, It Can Be Done" demonstrated the strength of the left as the Saskatchewan NDP set up a water-downed version in the 1970's.

The left needs to organize and be bold once again.

Tommy Douglas on Jobs and the Environment

A short audio clip from the 1983 NDP Convention.

Proroguing and the Left

By Kyle Buott
New Socialist

Proroguement: an Affront to Democracy?

Across the country, activists from social movements, unions, and various opposition parties are moving quickly towards a day of action on January 23rd against the proroguement of the Federal Parliament.

At the time of writing, events are being planned in 23 cities around the country and in Quebec.

The rallies are framed as an action to protect Canadian democracy, which is said to be at stake because the Prime Minister evoked his powers to prorogue parliament, shut down debate, and remove various pieces of legislation form the order paper.

While it is very true that using a parliamentary tactic to shut down debate on important issues like torture, the environment, economic recovery and the upcoming budget is totally anti-democratic, so-called “Canadian democracy” is in much deeper trouble than a simple proroguement.

Democracy in Canada has been suffering for a long time – since about ummm… say 1867?

Canada’s government continues to be based on the ridiculous First-Past-The-Post system. We continue to recognize a hereditary monarch as our Head of State. Money plays a huge role in our political process, and small parties are not given the opportunities to present their ideas to a broader audience.

When politics is reduced to personalities (ie: whether or not Harper is a “Strong Leader” or if Ignatieff is “Just in it for himself”) the debate becomes meaningless. It is no wonder that record numbers of Canadians are tuning out, and not bothering to vote or get involved in the political process.

Regardless of whether or not Parliament is prorogued, these issues must be contended with.

What is the Role of Socialists in the Current Struggle?

First and foremost, Socialists of all stripes should get actively involved and work to build the demonstrations on January 23rd. This is one of those rare opportunities that a broader audience is tuning into politics and there is a chance to engage more people.

Second, Socialists should push organizing coalitions to continue working after January 23rd. Raising questions about the state of democracy in Canada and Quebec. These demonstrations can potentially be used to strengthen organizations like Fair Vote Canada, or build local coalitions working towards a more democratic country.

Finally, we need to be presenting alternative policies that would allow for more democracy, choice and freedom for all, including:
  • Proportional Representation – including a two staged referendum, one which asks the question “Do you favour moving towards a system of Proportional Representation?” and a second which decides on the form that PR would take.
  • Abolition of the monarchy and the creation of an elected President.
  • Abolition of the Senate.
  • Economic Democracy – workers’ control and collaborative decision making processes in the workplace.
  • Further restrictions on political spending and increases in the public subsidies received by political parties. Restrictions must also be put in place on political advertising outside of the election cycle.
  • Lowering the voting age to 16.
  • Removing newly created restrictions that require multiple pieces of identification to vote.
  • Recognizing social rights like health care, education and freedom from poverty in the Canadian Constitution.
Socialists have an opportunity to try and engage with social movement activists on these important reforms. While these reforms alone do not a socialist society create, they would open new, public spaces for dialogue and discussion of issues. The Left has allowed the Right to dominate the public sphere for too long. Creating space for socialism must be a major priority.

Kyle Buott is President of Halifax-Dartmouth and District Labour Council

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Canada’s 1960s: The Ironies of Identity in a Rebellious Era

Lorne Brown reviews Bryan Palmer's political history of the 1960's in Canada in the latest issue of Briarpatch magazine.

The Ironies of Identity in a Rebellious Era
By Lorne Brown

Canada’s 1960s (By Brian D. Palmer University of Toronto Press, 2009) is a magnificent achievement that distills the essence of the political and social upheavals that defined the 1960s in Canada. Palmer sets out to demonstrate that the 1960s transformed Canada in fundamental ways, and does so very convincingly. Canada, as it had previously been understood, “fractured and came apart in the 1960s.” When Canadian identity was put back together again after that rebellious decade, “it bore little resemblance to the Canada that many of the pre-1950 years thought they knew so well.”

Perhaps what had changed most significantly in the political identity of the country was the perception of Canada as a British self-governing Dominion with some subordinate regional and ethnic variations. Waves of non-British post-war immigration, the beginnings of the Quebec independence movement and the rise of a Red Power movement among Aboriginals would powerfully challenge this perception. British decline and the rise of American imperialism further contributed to changing the nature of nationalism in both Canada and Quebec.

Youth and labour in revolt

The revolt of the Québécois and Native peoples overlapped with a generalized revolt among youth, workers, women and the intelligentsia. In many respects youth were at the forefront of all these struggles, as revolutionary politics coincided with a broader transformation of the cultural and political mores of the country.

When many people think of the youth revolt of the 1960s they imagine university students. Palmer, however, demonstrates that youth revolt drew strength from all sectors and was very pronounced among the working class, women and Aboriginal peoples. Demographic changes fuelled this youth surge as the post-War baby boomers poured into the workforce and the educational institutions and, in some areas, swelled the ranks of the unemployed.

Between 1964 and 1966 the country was beset by a tremendous wave of strikes – many of them illegal, and often involving sabotage and violence. About 600,000 workers went on strike between 1964 and 1966. Young workers were at the forefront of most of these struggles, especially the wildcats, which were in defiance of not only capital and the state but the union leadership as well. 

At the same time, the union movement underwent a transformation in which economic struggles intersected with nationalist anti-imperialist struggles in both Canada and Quebec. This was the beginning of a process where the “internationals” (American unions with branches in Canada) would eventually lose their dominance in the House of Labour and the broader concerns of social unionism would supersede the narrow interests of business unionism in many labour organizations. Much of the Quebec movement would become overtly socialist and radical-syndicalist for a time.

Palmer ends his chapter on the great labour revolt with speculation on what might have been if the many sectors in revolt had combined their forces. “Around the corner of the wildcat wave of 1965-6 was a growing left challenge. Had it co-joined youth of the university and the unions, the result could well have reconfigured the nature of twentieth-century Canada. Class difference is a difficult hurdle to leap, however, and as campus youth, women, and Aboriginal advocates of ‘Red Power’ joined the unruly workers of the 1960s in an explosive embrace of dissidence and opposition, they did so, ultimately, divided from one another, in separate and unequal mobilizations.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ecology and Democracy

- CCPA Saskatchewan Office

Simon Enoch, Director of the Saskatchewan office of the CCPA, will present a public lecture on the future of environmental politics at the University of Regina on January 15th.

Simon's presentation, "Green Leviathan Reborn? Authoritarianism and the Contradictions of Ecological Crisis," will investigate the emergence of authoritarian responses to the current environmental crisis and the absolute necessity of a participatory democratic politics to any viable solution to the present crisis.

All are welcome
3:30 p.m.
Friday, January 15
Classroom Building – Room 431
University of Regina

More info:
Contact the Department of Political Science

Monday, January 4, 2010

Remembering Patsy Gallagher

By Lorne Brown

Patsy Gallagher 1939-2006

The labour and socialist movements in our country suffered a grave loss when Patricia (Patsy) Gallagher died on June 19, 2006, of complications after surgery for lung cancer. She was only 66.

Patsy played a major role in many of the political and social struggles of her lifetime. She was born in Saskatchewan to a working-class family in a cultural milieu rare in Canada today. It was mainly a socialist culture and some of Patsy's relatives were Communists. It was in this atmosphere that Patsy developed a solid class and political outlook, which guided her throughout her life.

Patsy was active in many of the progressive political causes of the 1960s, including the nuclear disarmament movement and the peace movement. In the mid-1960s she worked with the students' union and the library at what was then the Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan. While there she was also involved in forming a CUPE local. It was her work with the students that led Patsy to work with the Canadian Union of Students (CUS) in Ottawa at the end of the decade. It was the peak of the radical student movement in Canada, then, and Patsy's political background and experience made her much more sophisticated than most student leaders of the day.

Like many of us, Patsy was also active in the New Democratic Youth and the NDP. This activity included work with The Commonwealth, the official paper of the Saskatchewan CCF-NDP. This was the beginning of Patsy's experience as a political journalist, which would remain a part of her work for the rest of her life.

The 1970s would be a very creative period in Canadian left and labour history, and Patsy was in the thick of it. She played a key role in the Waffle from the time it was launched with the Manifesto for an Independent Socialist Canada in 1969.

In the mid-1970s Patsy was one of the founders of Saskatchewan Working Women (SWW), an organization composed mainly, but not exclusively, of trade-union women. They fought for publicly funded childcare, equal pay for work of equal value, better labour laws, and a greater role for women within unions.

In 1976 Patsy began what would become 25 very busy years as a full-time trade union official. She was Executive Assistant to the President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour from 1976-1982. This was followed by nineteen years with the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU) as education officer, staff representative, director of membership services and finally as executive director of operations, a position from which she retired in 2001. These were years, especially the 1970s and 1980s, which saw tremendous changes in the labour movement. Unions expanded and public-sector unions came into their own with women playing an increasing role. Ideological tensions within unions were many and the struggles fierce. There were many debates about how Labour should relate to the NDP, which governed Saskatchewan from 1971-82 and again from 1991 to the present.

With Patsy's passing her contributions to labour politics have been much praised. Barb Byers, one of Patsy's old comrades and now a CLC executive vice-president, spoke for many when she said in an interview with the Regina Leader-Post, "She was a fierce, funny feminist, trade unionist and socialist. She really believed that if we were much more active and took up the cause for people, then we could make a difference in the world. The world just isn't going to be the same"

Photo: Lorne Brown on left, Pat Gallagher on right.

NUPGE mourns PG
Briarpatch mourns PG

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Next Year Country: Second issue

This issue of NYC is from December\January 1972\73. It includes articles on the re-colonization of northern Saskatchewan, potash and foreign ownership, and Saskatchewan history.

Contributors include Jack Warnock, Fred Gudmundson, John Conway and Sally Mahood.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Saskatchewan Coyotes: Don't shoot!

Nature Saskatchewan, a non-profit conservation organization and advocate for harmony between nature and human culture, believes that the recently-announced bounty on coyotes in Saskatchewan is not the right way to help livestock producers deal with depredation. 

Countless studies have proven bounties to be ineffective in stopping problem coyotes from taking livestock. “What our producers need,” Lorne Scott, President of Nature Saskatchewan said, "is an adequately-funded, aggressive control program in areas where depredation is a problem. The focus should be on eliminating problem animals—not a province-wide bounty."

Many farmers and ranchers view the coyote as an ally, helping to control rodent populations, including gophers (ground squirrels). The coyote is a native species and a key predator in prairie ecosystems. It makes little sense to promote poison campaigns to reduce ground squirrel numbers and at the same time, launch a province-wide bounty program to eliminate a main predator of ground squirrels.

Research has proven repeatedly that coyote bounties simply weed out the weak and less wary individuals, leaving the survivors to increase the size of their litters and thereby make up for any short-term or local dip in their numbers. As well, if coyotes are hunted out of a local area, their counterparts from adjacent regions rapidly move in to fill the void.

Scott concluded by saying that “tax dollars would be far better spent by providing resources directly to assist producers where coyote depredation on domestic livestock is a problem."

Nature Saskatchewan

Friday, January 1, 2010

Saskatchewan Labour Protests Wage Controls - 1977

CBC Broadcast Date: Oct. 17, 1977

Saskatchewan's labour movement has never been one to back down from a fight, and wage and price controls are well worth a protest. In 1975 the Trudeau government passed legislation restricting wage increases in Canada  alledgedly in a bid to control inflation. The Saskatchewan NDP government followed suit with their own version of wage controls. The effects of the law were so unpopular that one million workers mobilized for a one-day strike on Oct. 14, 1976. A year later, Saskatchewan workers are still protesting, reported Gerry Sperling for CBC Regina's 24 Hours.

Wage and Price Controls by Leo Panitch
CBC archives

'Auld Lang Syne' by Robert Burns

Auld Lang Syne


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

The Radical Robert Burns