Saturday, March 27, 2010

Profs protest university scholarship program promoting Canadian military

Congratulations to the 16 professors at the University of Regina who have sent a letter to the university’s president Vianne Timmons saying it should withdraw from the program known as “Project Hero”. The program, an initiative of Rick Hillier, a retired general, offers free tuition to the children of dead Canadian soldiers. Hillier, as Chief of the Defense Staff, was notorious for his war-mongering propaganda about killing Afghan resistance “scumbags”. In addition to the thousands of Afghans killed by Canadian forces, close to 140 Canadian soldiers have died in that country, and thousands more have been permanently disabled physically or mentally.

According to the Globe & Mail, “Several universities have signed onto the program, including Memorial University in Newfoundland and the universities of Ottawa, Windsor and Calgary. The University of Regina announced earlier this month that it would provide the scholarship starting in September.”

The professors’ letter says Project Hero is “a glorification of Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan and elsewhere.” Instead of “privileging the children of deceased Canadian soldiers,” it says, “we suggest that our administration demand all levels of government provide funding sufficient for universal qualified access to post-secondary education.”

The professors’ action has been met, predictably, by a storm of criticism in the corporate media and denunciation by the Royal Canadian Legion, which purports to speak for military veterans.

The Globe quotes political science prof Joyce Green, who signed the letter: The program “conflates heroism with the death of individuals who are in the military service and we think that the death of individuals is always a tragic matter, but we think that heroism is something different,” Ms. Green said. “When you attach heroism to the deaths of the military, it makes it very difficult, maybe impossible for us to talk about what’s going on, what the nature of our military engagement is. In other words, it shrinks the space for democratic discussion and criticism of military policy in Canada and in the university.”

Few media outlets have actually published the text of the letter. Here it is:

Dear President Timmons:

We write to you as concerned faculty members of the University of Regina, to urge you to withdraw our university immediately from participation in the “Project Hero” scholarship program. This program, which waives tuition and course fees, and provides $1,000 per year to “dependents of Canadian Forces personnel deceased while serving with an active mission”, is a glorification of Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We do not want our university associated with the political impulse to unquestioning glorification of military action.

“Project Hero” is the brainchild of Kevin Reed, a 42-year-old honorary lieutenant-colonel of an army reserve unit in southwestern Ontario, who has said publicly he was inspired by the work of retired Canadian General Rick Hillier. General Hillier, one of the most controversial figures in the recent military history of this country, was the first to introduce “Project Hero” at a Canadian post-secondary institution, just after he took up the post as Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Since then, a number of other public Canadian universities have come on board.

In our view, support for “Project Hero” represents a dangerous cultural turn. It associates “heroism” with the act of military intervention. It erases the space for critical discussion of military policy and practices. In signing on to “Project Hero”, the university is implicated in the disturbing construction of the war in Afghanistan by Western military- and state-elites as the “good war” of our epoch. We insist that our university not be connected with the increasing militarization of Canadian society and politics.

The majority of young adults in Canada find it increasingly difficult to pay for their education. If they do make it to university, they rack up massive student debts which burden them for years. Instead of privileging the children of deceased Canadian soldiers, we suggest that our administration demand all levels of government provide funding sufficient for universal qualified access to post-secondary education.

The University of Regina has always been closely tied to our Saskatchewan community, and the strategic plan, mâmawohkamâtowin, means "co-operation; working together towards common goals". We do not think that “Project Hero” is a common goal chosen by those of us who work in the University; it is not drawn from the values of this institution. We think it is incompatible with our understanding of the role of public education, or with decisions made by a process of collegial governance.

In addition to withdrawing from “Project Hero”, we think the issues we raise should be publicly debated. We are calling on the U of R administration to hold a public forum on the war in Afghanistan, and Canadian imperialism more generally, at which the issues we raise can be debated. This forum should be open to all; it should take place this semester, before exams, as “Project Hero” is set to start at U of R in September 2010.

To summarize, we are calling for:
(1) The immediate withdrawal of our university from “Project Hero”.
(2) An institutional deployment of public pressure on both orders of government to provide immediate funding sufficient for universal access to post-secondary education.
(3) A public forum on the war in Afghanistan and Canadian imperialism more generally to be held this semester before exams begin.

Joyce Green, Department of Political Science
J.F. Conway, Department of Sociology and Social Studies
George Buri, Department of History
Emily Eaton, Department of Geography
Jeffery R. Webber, Department of Political Science
David Webster, International Studies
Annette Desmarais, International Studies
Darlene Juschka, Women’s and Gender Studies and Religious Studies
Meredith Rogers Cherland, Faculty of Education
Garson Hunter, Social Work
John W. Warnock, Department of Sociology and Social Studies
William Arnal, Department of Religious Studies
Leesa Streifler, Department of Visual Arts
Carol Schick, Faculty of Education
Ken Montgomery, Faculty of Education
André Magnan, Department of Sociology and Social Studies

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Calgary Hosts Iconic 1919 Labour Conference

This Month in History
Project 2010

In mid-March 1919, 239 representatives from various labour organizations in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, including the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), gathered at the Calgary Labour Temple for the Western Labour Conference. The conference was chaired by R.J. Tallon, vice-president of the Calgary Trades and Labour Council.

One of the main outcomes of the conference was the formation of the One Big Union or OBU, which, for a period of time, threatened the supremacy of the national Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC). The OBU was formed during a time of considerable discontent among the working class in western Canada. Many workers were frustrated not only with their employers and with government, but also with the international unions to which they were affiliated. Some were also influenced by recent working class victories in Europe, particularly the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.

It was the BC Federation of Labour, which had held its own conference in Calgary just prior to the Western Labour Conference, that put forward the resolution that delegates sever their affiliation with their international unions and join in the formation of an industrial union that would include all workers. The OBU espoused organization by industry and geography, rather than craft or trade unionism. They also favoured direct action (e.g. using general strikes to force workers’ demands) over political action (e.g. lobbying legislatures for labour-friendly laws) to affect radical change.

Following the conference, referendums were held by labour councils and union locals to endorse the OBU, and a constitution for the new organization was created in June. The success of the OBU in getting labour councils and union locals to affiliate was greatest in BC and Manitoba. In Alberta, coal miners who, along with their counterparts in eastern BC, belonged to District 18 of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) joined the OBU. So did some carpenters, miners and machinists in Edmonton, although this resulted in their expulsion from the Edmonton Trades and Labour Council, which retained its affiliation with the TLC.

Not surprisingly, the OBU was strongly resisted by government and industry, as well as by the TLC and international unions. These groups sometimes cooperated in an effort to weaken the OBU. For example, coal operators in the Crowsnest Pass refused to take back miners who had been on strike unless they renounced the OBU and rejoined the UMWA. The OBU was also weakened by government actions, such as arresting and even deporting OBU leaders and supporters. By 1922, membership in the OBU had declined rapidly and eventually remnants of it were amalgamated into the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in 1956.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Regina Magazine Seeks Submissions

Aleks McHugh
Act Up in Saskatchewan

Call for Submissions - WRITERS AND ARTISTS

Utilitarian Donuts is a spanking-new magazine that aims to whip up a potent admixture of experimental poetics and class politics featuring mainly, but not exclusively, Regina-based writers and artists.

Poetic pieces can be poems, essays, riffs and verbal experiments of any style (surprise us!) that bubble up from your readings, experiences, dreams. Submit your most unconventional, provocative, apocalyptic works.

For political submissions, email us a brief pitch. You’ll find themed outlines of upcoming issues on our Web site once we get it together. First issue subjects might include tenants’ rights, worker liberation and neoliberal fault lines. In any case, we want active voices and local flavour.

Art work should be reproducible in black and white. Or you can specify that we reserve your submission for consideration as a colour insert. Please don’t send your only copy of anything. We won’t return submissions unless you’ve made arrangements with us first.

The worlds of poetry and politics aren’t meant to live apart. By all means, mash it up. We will. Send art-accompanied adventure logs, rants on your ill treatment at the hands of authorities. We will honour requests for anonymity, but don’t forget to include your contact info.

Doors close for the first issue April 30, 2010. Get in at the ground floor and other clichés.

Submit to:
Utilitarian Donuts OR
P.O. Box 24101
Regina, SK
S4P 4J8

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Investigator


The Investigator first aired on CBC Radio in May, 1954. It tells the story of an unnamed United States senator––obviously modelled on Joe McCarthy—who launches an offensive in a rather unexpected place.

In the early 1950s, Reuben Ship, the Canadian playwright who wrote The Investigator, was living and working in California. He, along with many other writers, producers and actors, was summoned to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee because of his one-time membership in the Communist Party.

In 1953, following a two-year legal struggle against the committee, Ship was handcuffed, taken to Detroit and driven across the bridge to Windsor where he was released. Ten months later, The Investigator went to air. Pirated recordings made their way around the States, reportedly all the way to President Dwight Eisenhower, who is said to have played it for his cabinet. It was so influential at the time that it has been credited with helping bring down what many considered to be McCarthy’s witch hunt.

The play is memorable not only for its biting satiric tone, but also for its brilliant acting and production. The radio actor John Drainie provided an uncannily accurate imitation of Joe McCarthy. On more than one occasion, Drainie drove from his home in Toronto across the border to Buffalo to watch the hearings on television; he based his character on seeing the senator in action.

The Investigator is top–notch drama from the golden age of radio and sounds as brilliant now as when it first aired. You can hear it on Rewind on March 25th at 2 p.m. (2:30 NT) on CBC Radio One.

Bolivian ex-general who captured 'Che' summoned for questioning in alleged separatist plot

Carlos Valdez,
Associated Press

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — The retired general who captured legendary revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara was summoned Friday by Bolivian authorities investigating an alleged plot against President Evo Morales.

Former Gen. Gary Prado allegedly exchanged "ultrasecret" encrypted e-mail with Eduardo Rozsa, a Bolivian-born Hungarian who was slain in an April 2009 raid by an elite police unit. Authorities allege that Rozsa and two other men killed — an Irishman and an ethnic Hungarian from Romania — were involved in a conspiracy to create a separatist right-wing militia in the eastern, opposition-dominated state of Santa Cruz.

Morales said when they were killed that a plot to assassinate him had been foiled. Prado denied having any connection with an anti-government conspiracy and said he would refuse to travel from his home in Santa Cruz, the state capital, to La Paz for questioning.

He told Fides radio Friday that his only contact with Rosza came when Rosza asked for an interview, saying he was a foreign journalist.

"What 'ultrasecret' communication did I have with Rosza, other than that interview? None," Prado said. "I did not have anything to do with that group."

Also summoned was Prado's son, who carries the same name and is running for mayor of Santa Cruz. He said the allegations were worse than a "bad soap opera."

Bolivians will elect mayors and governors across the country April 4, when the immensely popular Morales hopes to consolidate power with gains in the eastern lowlands. Wealthy ranchers and agro-businessmen in the east oppose Morales' policy of seizing fallow lands and giving them to poor peasants from Bolivia's long-suppressed indigenous majority.

Prosecutor Marcelo Soza did not say whether authorities had been able to decrypt the e-mails he said were exchanged by the elder Prado and Rozsa, a journalist-adventurer who fought for Croatia after Yugoslavia dissolved.

Prado did not deny knowing Rozsa, who he said had approached him to inquire about his involvement in the 1967 capture of Guevara. The Argentine hero of the Cuban revolution was trying to foment an uprising in Bolivia and was later executed. Prado, then an army captain, commanded the patrol that captured him.

The Rozsa case has major political overtones. The Morales government contends prominent opposition leaders in Santa Cruz were involved. One of them, Branko Marinkovic, was implicated this week by a former close associate who told prosecutors Marinkovic helped fund Rozsa's group.

The accusation prompted Marinkovic, the son of Croatian immigrants, to slip out of the country. Marinkovic's lawyer denies his client's involvement in the alleged conspiracy.

Shortly after Morales' December re-election, the government confiscated land from Marinkovic.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Is Nuclear Power in Saskatchewan a Green Alternative?

Saskatchewan Eco Network

Now that the world price of uranium is rising, proponents of nuclear energy are once again calling for Saskatchewan to step up production of uranium and perhaps build a fuel processing facility and nuclear power plant in the province.

This time around, their main argument is that nuclear power is a "green" option because it does not produce the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that cause climate change.

So is nuclear a greener fuel?

Nuclear's proponents do have a point. It's true that nuclear power does not directly emit GHGs. Ideally, it could provide an alternative to the use of fossil fuels, especially coal-fired power plants that are high emitters of GHG and pollutants.

Unfortunately, there are a great number of concerns about nuclear power that should be addressed before it can be classed as a green power source. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that the nuclear alternative can be implemented in time to reduce GHGs emissions to meet the target dates of the Kyoto Protocol.

Following are some concerns about the nuclear option in brief. For a full discussion of the uranium/nuclear power option, visit the web site of the Toronto-based organization Energy Probe.

1. Nuclear power is not a quick fix

Coal powered electrical production is cheaper than nuclear and will probably be the main choice for power production in many nations, such as China, for years to come. The high capital cost of switching over to nuclear power facilities and the high level of expertise required to build, operate and monitor nuclear plants make it highly unlikely that nuclear power will be widely adopted in the near term, especially in developing nations.

Even if accepted as an option to coal and other fossil fuels, it would take decades to diffuse throughout the world. The Kyoto Protocol requires participating nations to significantly reduce GHGs emissions by 2012. It would take much longer than that to deploy the nuclear alternative. Meanwhile, options such as improved energy efficiency have a tremendous potential to reduce GHGs emissions in the short term, both in the developed nations that produce most of the worlds GHGs, and in China and India, the world's fastest growing economies.

2. Public opinion does not support nuclear power, especially at the local level

Although uranium/nuclear has strong proponents in industry and government, it is not popular with the public, especially in the industrialized nations that produce most of the world's GHGs emissions. Right or wrong, the nuclear industry will have to win the argument that nuclear is the best option to fight climate change. Given the strong opposition to nuclear from the environmental movement, it is unlikely that argument will be won anytime soon. And even with general public acceptance of the option, nuclear faces the "not in my back yard" phenomenon: I may believe nuclear is okay, but I may not want a nuclear power plant or a uranium processing facility in my neighbourhood. This is exactly what happened when a uranium processing facility was proposed for, and rejected by, Warman, Saskatchewan.

3. Nuclear is not entirely GHG-free

Nuclear power plants do not produce GHGs, but it is not entirely accurate to say the uranium/nuclear fuel cycle is GHGs-free. There is considerable energy expended to develop uranium mines and mills, operate them, transport people and materials to remote mine sites, process fuel, build nuclear facilities, and transport and store wastes. Furthermore, nuclear power typically operates in tandem with other power sources that do produce GHGs. This happens for two reasons:

•First, nuclear energy is not very reliable. More than one-third of Canada's billion-dollar Candu reactors have stopped producing electricity due to breakdown. Repairs are frequent and while nuclear plants are down, coal-fired power plants are used.

•At the same time, nuclear is used to provide only basic power needs. Coal or some other source is required to provide peak power-such as when everyone gets up in the morning, turns on their lights and cooks breakfast, or during storms and cold weather.

While the net GHGs output of nuclear is lower than fossil fuel power, to say that the uranium/nuclear option is entirely GHGs free is somewhat misleading. The same could be said for hydro, solar, or wind power. While all options should be assessed for net energy output, the sheer size of uranium/nuclear operations means a lot of fossil fuel energy use is involved.

4. Nuclear replaces one problem with another

The uranium/nuclear fuel cycle replaces one emissions problem, GHGs, with another, nuclear wastes. Scientists who study the environment agree that if we want a sustainable society, nature cannot be subjected to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust.

Uranium is naturally diffused in the planet's crust, but when we concentrate it to make nuclear fuel, it becomes extremely dangerous. That is why extensive precautions are taken to protect people and the environment from it. Given the products and wastes of uranium mining, milling, processing, and nuclear power production remain dangerous for thousands of years, nuclear wastes could become a problem on the scale of climate change were nuclear fuel to replace fossil fuels of a large scale.

The issue of radioactive waste should not be underestimated. In Saskatchewan, we still haven't cleaned up mines in the Uranium City area that were abandoned by the uranium industry decades ago. The public costs of doing so could be in the billions of dollars, Meanwhile, Canada's nuclear industry is generating toxic wastes with virtually no funds set aside for future clean up.

According to Energy Probe, Ontario Hydro has estimated its own nuclear clean up would cost $18.7 billion, yet just $420-million has been set aside for this purpose. Since 1995, Canada's auditor-general has described the totally unfunded radioactive waste disposal program at AECL, Canada's nuclear Crown corporation, as a violation of accepted accounting principles, not to mention the principles of sustainable or "clean" development.

And so far, the industry's waste-disposal plans have been rejected by two public reviews.

5. Nuclear power is a high cost option

Nuclear has not fulfilled its promise of cheap, reliable power. The capital costs of nuclear power are massive. The unsupportable debt created by Canada's Candu reactors has already surpassed $10-billion, not including additional billions hidden in the federal debt after decades of public subsidy.

Every year we hear of high cost repairs to power plants and huge cost overruns. Meanwhile, about one- third of Canada's reactors are shut down-meaning that they are not producing either power or income. In Saskatchewan, the success of the uranium industry is built on a history of public subsidies that still constitute a significant portion of our public debt. Saskatchewan's uranium industry is profitable today because the people of Saskatchewan provided its start up costs.

In Saskatchewan, during the Devine era, we learned that mega-projects do not provide net benefits to the provincial economy. In the case of a nuclear power plant, most of the expertise would come from outside the province and most of the technology would be built elsewhere. Economists have shown that small made-in-Saskatchewan projects are more beneficial to the economy than large projects, such as a nuclear power plant.

In most developing nations, nuclear power represents a high cost option that requires imported expertise and technology, and the installation of high-cost power transmission systems. Nuclear mega-projects would involve these countries in additional foreign debt. In many cases, small-scale, locally produced power is a much better fit, one reason being that it does not require extensive transmission systems.

6. Accidents and terrorism

Recalling Murphy's Law-that if anything can go wrong, it will-let's not forget the consequences of an accidental malfunction of a nuclear plant are potentially disastrous, even catastrophic. It is prudent to remember names like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. A major accident may never happen-but what if it does? As a result of Canada's Nuclear Liability Act, the nuclear industry is exempted for liability should a major accident occur, even if it is their fault. Citizens are not.

We also have to think of the proliferation of nuclear bombs. Canada's uranium/nuclear industry has already provided India with nuclear bomb ingredients and provided nuclear technology to Pakistan. The possibility of nuclear capabilities in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea was hardly welcomed by the United States, Canada, and Europe, the nations that proliferated these technologies in the first place. Expanding nuclear power will multiply the problems with proliferation throughout the world.

We should also consider the potential to use nuclear materials and wastes as terrorist weapons. In both cases, the possibility of an incident increases as nuclear technology spreads.

7. The nuclear alternative deters us from alternatives

A cheaper and more effective alternative to an investment in uranium/nuclear is to invest in an energy path based on a mix of sustainable options. The most promising approach, especially in the short term, is a systematic plan to improve energy efficiency.

This can be accompanied by the development of a wide range of small, benign, affordable, socially acceptable, and renewable energy alternatives such as co-generation, wind, solar, and biomass conversion. Recently, SaskPower has found that new energy requirements can be met with natural gas, co-generation and wind power electrical production. It is also experimenting with options such as the gasification of wood wastes to produce electricity.

Energy efficiency has a lot of untapped potential here. In the residential area, for example, the Saskatchewan Research Council is currently undertaking a project to build a Factor 9 House, which will reduce energy use by 90% compared to a conventional house. Green commercial buildings are cutting energy use by 30-40%. Compact florescent light bulbs reduce energy use by 75% without compromising lighting. Deploying these options pushes back the time when new power facilities will be required. It may be that nuclear power will one day be affordable, reliable, and safe. If and when the issues are worked out, it could prove a welcome addition to the world's power options.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring on the prairies

It’s a new day…

By Stacey

After countless hours of effort, here it is! The totally new and revamped! Let me tell you, this new website is so much more than just a refresh of the old. It’s now a site that offers you the chance not only to voice your opinion, but also to find restaurants, clothing, services, and events!

Our blog has been streamlined and refreshed so that it’s as easy as ever to get your voice heard, and to get in contact with the Regina Streets Magazine if you want to write, get your artwork out there, advertise, or just have an idea or event we should know about.

Extra! Extra! The new Regina Guide has been launched on, and it’s growing by the week! If you are trying to find anything from a great restaurant or café to a Fair Trade instrument, look no further. Our directory is your one-stop-shop for Regina’s ever expanding services. Check the directory frequently, as more and more Regina businesses are being added to this useful feature.

This new site is also a great, quick resource if you’re interested in learning more about the Regina Streets Magazine. Want to subscribe to the print copy and help a local non-profit tackle poverty? Want to find more information about advertising and our guidelines? Want to write, have artwork published, or get involved behind the scenes?

Oh, and just wait… there’s more to arrive! Coming soon, you will be able to take a virtual tour of downtown Regina. These are just a few examples why you should check back to often and see all the new features available at your fingertips.

From the Regina Streets Magazine team, we hope you enjoy this labour of love. As always, if you have any feedback, we’d love to hear from you at

Canada’s Long Embrace of the Honduran Dictatorship

Todd Gordon and Jeffery R. Webber
Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 330

Peter Kent recently returned from a three day trip (February 17-20) to Honduras, proudly declaring the mission a success. As Canada's Minister of State for the Americas, Kent is the Tory government's point person for Canada's growing political and economic interests in the region. Honduras has become an important focus of those interests, since the military coup last June against the moderately left-leaning president, Manuel Zelaya, swung the country sharply back to the right.

Ignoring the ongoing abuses of human rights in the country under the new coupist presidency of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, Kent has been following through with his promise to promote the normalization of the country's relations with the rest of the hemisphere. Lobo won fraudulent elections held in November under the military dictatorship in a context of repression and intimidation. The election was boycotted by the anti-coup movement, and the Organization of American States and European Union refused to send official observers. Despite this, immediately following Lobo's inauguration on January 27, Kent declared that Canada will “support President Lobo's efforts as he moves to fully reintegrate Honduras into the international and hemispheric community, including in the Organization of American States.”

Canada, Honduras and the OAS

On his way to Honduras Kent met with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, on February 16. Kent used the meeting to push Canada's goal of recognizing the Lobo government onto the OAS agenda. Roberto Micheletti, the dictator that replaced Zelaya after the coup, withdrew Honduras from the organization when it became clear that the majority of member states were going to vote to kick the country out. While some staunch imperial allies in the region, such as Colombia and Peru, have recognized the Lobo government, other countries, notably Venezuela and Brazil, have refused to do so. The re-admittance of Honduras into the OAS will be a contentious and divisive issue, pitting the U.S., Canada, and their right wing allies, against those countries that want less influence from North American imperialism in the region.

Kent's visit to Honduras, following his meeting with Insulza, was thus intended to strengthen the new government's claim to legitimacy and its case for reinsertion into the OAS. Acting as if everything is once again well and good in Honduras also makes it easier for Canada to deepen its economic ties with the country. Canada is the largest mining investor in Honduras, for example, and its interests will increase significantly should Lobo and the right get their way and pass a new mining law that increases the rights of foreign capital.

Peter Kent and the Boys in Honduras

Unsurprisingly, then, Kent was all praise for Lobo and his administration during his latest trip. He was pleased that “President Lobo is beginning the process of national reconciliation, including supporting the formation of a truth commission.” Besides meeting with Lobo, Kent also met with three of the latter's cabinet ministers. These included Micheletti's spokesperson, Minister of Planning and Cooperation, Arturo Corrales. Corrales supported the Micheletti government's refusal to implement the San José-Tegucigalpa Accord, which it had initially signed along with Zelaya and which called for a government of national reconciliation (itself a very problematic feature of the Accord from a democratic perspective). Kent also met with Foreign Minister, Mario Canahuati. Canahuati is the son of one of Honduras's most powerful capitalists, the maquila magnate, Juan Canahuati. His brother, Jesus, is the president of the Honduran Manufacturers’ Association. Mario, meanwhile, was Lobo's vice presidential candidate in the 2005 election, which Lobo lost to Zelaya, and is the past president of the Honduran National Business Council, a pro-coup organization.

Kent also met with Canadian business leaders in the country, though he didn’t publicly disclose which ones (requests from his office for the names of companies with which he met went unanswered).

Who Kent Didn’t Talk To

Kent suggested the Lobo government was taking crucial steps toward, “healing the wounds created by the recent political impasse,” steps which will allow “Honduras to regain a sense of trust in their country's democratic institutions.”

This depiction of political developments in the country is hard to square with facts on the ground – namely, political assassinations, repression, torture, and mass arrests. Kent might have grasped this had he bothered to meet with the Committee of Family Members of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), the country's most prestigious human rights organization, founded in the 1980s.

On January 30, three days after the celebrated inauguration of Pepe Lobo, COFADEH reports that:
• Blas López, a Secondary School Teacher and known member of the anti-coup resistance, was discovered dead from multiple gun shot wounds.
• On February 2, Vanessa Zepeda, a 29-year-old union activist and active member of the resistance, was killed after she was thrown from a moving vehicle in the streets of Tegucigalpa.
• On February 15, just two days prior to Kent's arrival in Honduras, Julio Fúnez Benítez, a union activist and resistance member who had received multiple death threats by coupist supporters, was gunned down and killed by men on a motorcycle.
• Four days after Kent left the country, and only a day after the release of his press communiqué exalting the successes of Lobo's administration, Claudia Larisa Brizuela Rodríguez, the 36-year-old daughter of a prominent radio journalist and resistance activist was shot in the face in front of her children after opening the front door to her home.

Such para-military terrorization of peaceful resisters has been a continuous stain on Honduras’ human rights record from the moment of Micheletti's coup on June 28, 2009, through the transition to Pepe Lobo, and on until the present day. According to COFADEH, by the end of February, 2010, there had been 43 politically-motivated assassinations of civilians associated with the resistance since the coup. This number is almost certainly a low estimate, the human rights organization acknowledges, as community members and the families of those killed are often too afraid to come forward for fear of reprisal. Many political murders are passed over in the mainstream media as “gang killings.” As far back as January, the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (National Front of Popular Resistance, FNRP) claimed that over 130 activists had been assassinated.

In a communiqué released on March 5, 2010, COFADEH argues that the selective attacks against members of the resistance are part of an orchestrated campaign to demobilize and fragment the FRNP. They document 250 violations of human rights since Lobo's inauguration.

According to the report, the government is also engaged in a full-blown disinformation campaign through the domestic, coup-backing, private media, and the mainstream international media outlets, to consolidate the image of Pepe Lobo as a legitimate, democratic, and civilian government open to foreign investment and good relations with North America and the European Union. Disgracefully, the EU fell in line with North American imperialism and decided at the end of February to normalize relatios with Honduras.

Imperialism Re-Booted in Latin America

The first decade of this century witnessed mass, extra-parliamentary mobilizations overthrow a series of heads of state in Argentina, Ecuador, and Bolivia, followed by the election of a vast array of self-described left and centre-left governments across South and Central America. Overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. state has felt its grip on the region loosen.

Recent years have seen renewed efforts by the Bush and Obama governments to reconstitute the contours of a new counter-reform offensive. The Obama administration, today, sees new sources of hope in the consolidation of right-wing governments in Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Panama, and, more recently, Honduras and Chile. New U.S. military bases in Colombia and Panama illustrate the utility of such clients. Washington is also betting on its ability to turn a number of centre-left regimes – Kirchner in Argentina, Funes in El Salvador, Colom in Guatemala, and Mujica in Uruguay, among others – against the relatively more independent regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent the first five days of March on a whirlwind tour of the region, denouncing Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and attempting to pressure various governments into normalizing relations with the Honduran dictatorship.

Clinton met with Lobo in Guatemala City on March 5. “We support the work that President Lobo is doing to promote national unity and strengthen democracy,” she told journalists gathered at a news conference. Earlier in the week, during a visit to Buenos Aires, she claimed that the “Honduras crisis has been managed to a successful conclusion.” It was also apparently “done without violence.”

As Eric Toussaint, president of the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, recently pointed out in the Socialist Worker:

“we can see that the Obama administration is in no hurry to break with the methods used by its predecessors: witness the massive funding of different opposition movements within the context of its policy to ‘strengthen democracy’; the launching of media campaigns to discredit governments that do not share its political agenda (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Manuel Zelaya's Honduras and so on); maintaining the blockade of Cuba; the support for separatist movements in Bolivia (the media luna and the regional capital, Santa Cruz), in Ecuador (the city of Guayaquil and its province), and in Venezuela (the petroleum state of Zulia, the capital of which is Maracaibo); the support for military attacks, like the one perpetrated by Colombia in Ecuador in March 2008; as well as actions by Colombian or other paramilitary forces in Venezuela.”

Canada's imperial role in the region has taken on a similar guise as the U.S., although shaped more specifically around Canadian mining and other capitalist interests in the area.

Kent's last trip to the region, prior to the Honduras visit, saw him in Venezuela. Apparently there was insufficient time to meet with any representatives of the democratically-elected government of Hugo Chávez, although he met with a number of groups associated with the far-right opposition. On January 28, after having returned to Canada, Kent issued a news release declaring that there was “shrinking democratic space in Venezuela” under Chávez. “During my recent visit to Venezuela,” Kent said, “I heard many individuals and organizations express concerns related to violations of the right to freedom of expression and other basic liberties.”

The comments elicited a response from Chávez on his weekly Alo Presidente TV program. The Venezuelan President said he wouldn’t take advice from an “ultraright” government that had just “closed” parliament. Chávez was referring to Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper's, notorious suspension, or “proroguement,” of the Canadian parliament on December 30 until March 3 to avoid debate surrounding Canadian military abuses in occupied Afghanistan. The Vancouver Sun reported that Roy Chaderton Matos, Venezuela's ambassador to the OAS, accused the Canadian government of backing “coup-plotters” and “destabilizers” the country.

Last week, Peter Van Loan, Minister of International Trade, made a further show of whom Canada considers its friends in the region, tabling legislation to implement the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Of course, no word was uttered of the infamous record of human rights violations committed by the Álvaro Uribe regime in Colombia, nor of its intimate ties to paramilitary networks operating with impunity throughout the country. “The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will provide greater market access for Canadian exporters of goods such as wheat, pulses, barley, paper products and heavy equipment,” the press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade declared this week. “An increasing number of Canadian investors and exporters are entering the Colombian market, and it is also a strategic destination for Canadian direct investment, especially in mining, oil exploration, printing and education.”

The effort to consolidate the coupist installation of the far-right in Honduras is, in other words, merely the latest puzzle piece in a much wider and reviving North American imperial project in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Resistance Continues
In Honduras, as elsewhere, the resistance has not been cowed. On March 8, the FNRP released their 51st communiqué. They announced that they would be organizing a poll of the Honduran people on June 28, 2010 to assess the popularity of the call for an Inclusive and Popular Constituent Assembly. The date will commemorate the first anniversary of the coupist regime, and will represent the unbreakable will of the Honduran people to resist, and to build an authentic democracy that transforms at its roots the reigning system of injustice and repression.

The communiqué condemned the U.S. government's efforts to construct a legitimate face for this dictatorship, especially the role played by U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens.

The resistance also pointed to the role played by the private media in defending the Honduran oligarchy and the coup regime that serves its interests. In particular, the FNRP pointed to the way in which the daily newspapers La Prensa and El Heraldo, owned by business tycoon, Jorge Canahuati, have portrayed working class families and popular leaders aligned with the resistance as terrorists. The FNRP also highlighted the parallel part played by the TV station Corporación de Televicentro, property of Rafael Ferrari.

The Communiqué closed with a call to popular movements to attend the Second Gathering for the Refoundation of Honduras, in the city of La Esperanza, between March 12 and 14.

According to Claudia Korol's América Latina en Movimiento report, dispatched from on scene in La Esperanza, over a thousand delegates had gathered by March 13th, representing an array of different popular sectors: Lenca and Garífuna peoples’ movements; feminists; environmentalists; rural and urban trade unionists; peasants; and different currents of the revolutionary left – many with links going back to the Central American revolutionary struggles of the 1980s.

A mix of popular political traditions focusing on decolonization, anti-imperialism, and socialism converged as those gathered broke off into twenty simultaneous popular assemblies to discuss a variety of themes: the preservation of water, forests, land, subsoil, traditional territories, and air; the political system and popular sovereignty; culture; justice; autonomy; sexual diversity; health; communications; foreign policy and international relations; anti-patriarchal struggles; anti-racism; national security; work and workers’ rights; the economic system; indigenous and black communities; youth; fighting corruption and learning about popular accounting.

These different general discussions then fed into issues of strategic orientation: What does refounding Honduras mean, and how is it different than mere reform? What will a refounded Honduras look like? What are the necessary stages to get there? What do we mean by constituent power and the building of popular power from below? How can we strengthen our popular organizations to foment this popular power? What are we really calling for when we demand a Popular and Democratic Constituent Assembly? How can we shape our participation as a resistance movement to ensure that the genuine interests, aspirations, and proposals of the people will be included in the new constitution?

In the coming months these questions will begin to take concrete form through the extra-parliamentary struggles in the streets and the countryside, in defiance of selective assassinations, intimidation, media obfuscation, and imperialist meddling.

Jeffery R. Webber teaches political science at the University of Regina. He is the author of two forthcoming books: Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia (Brill) and Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia: Class Struggle, Indigenous Liberation and the Politics of Evo Morales (Haymarket).

Todd Gordon teaches political science at York University, in Toronto. He is the author of Cops, Crime and Capitalism: The Law-and-Order Agenda in Canada (Fernwood), and the forthcoming Imperial Canada (Arbeiter Ring Publishing).

Together they are currently writing a book on Canadian imperialism in the Americas in the age of neoliberalism.

Red Finns, Broken Dreams, and History Remembered

A review of Red Finns of the Coteau
By Beth L. Virtanen

In Red Finns of the Coteau, Larry Warwaruk tells of the struggles and aspirations of a group of Red Finns who settled in Canada. The Reds were so named for their communist leanings in a pre-McCarthyist political arena. At that political moment, their concerns for the collective well-being of community and society preceded individualistic notions of wealth and capitalistic success.

Divided into “white” and “red” camps, but with predominantly Red tendencies, the Finns’ political lives reflected the activities of global political upheaval in the early twentieth century. Influenced by immigration, Finnish independence and civil war, the Winter War and World Wars I and II as well as the Great Depression, the Red Finns in Canada made choices to create socialist or communist unions and to debate these issues publicly.

We get a sense of what ideas these Red Finns were entertaining and what books they were reading: Darwin, Nietzche, Marx, Plekanov, and Kautsky, all important thinkers and philosophers of the day. They also read Tolstoy and other great works of literature. We also get a sense of the publications that catered to their needs, including the Työmies, the Vapaus, Canadan Uutiset, and the Socialisti.

With this information we develop a sense of respect for the learnedness of the community and the earnestness with which they strove to meet their ideals for a better society.

In text, Warwaruk gives names and faces to the characters in the drama of diaspora that is played out in modern history. We discover and see photos of the Lahti family and the Lekanders who migrated from Finland to Canada and went on to Karelia. We discover that they found only hardship there, instead of the utopian dreams of idyllic soviet farm life, and that the Lahtis left Karelia within the year. We also discover that the Lekanders, having left Canada before acquiring citizenship, had no citizenship rights other than in the Soviet Union and thus could not leave.

We discover tidbits about these families and others. Warwaruk shares Finns’ experiences as they locate themselves as global citizens.

Originally released in 1984, this re-released edition contains additional photos and presents, in short, the author’s further discovery of descendents of the Coteau Finns in the remnants of the former Soviet Union. It is a small densely packed book with facts and figures related to the experiences of a small group of Red Finns in Canada and their migrations in search of a better life. For those with interest in Finnish migration, the book provides particular insight and information into the motivations of those sojourners.

The text is published by St. Peter’s Press of Muenster, Saskatchewan, and is available from the author at Box 1556, Outlook, Saskatchewan S0L 2N0, Canada.

Larry Warwaruk is a principal at a school on the south rim of the Coteau Hills.

Friday, March 19, 2010

CCF Colonialism in Northern Saskatchewan

A Review of David Quiring's, CCF Colonialism in Northern Saskatchewan: Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers and Fur Sharks (Vancouver: UBC Press 2004)
By Ken Collier
Labour/Le Travail

THE TITLE CONTAINS the central conundrum of this book. Who are the colonialists? Apparently not the parish priests, bootleggers, and fur sharks. Indeed, Quiring concludes the book with the claim that churches and private businessmen (including the fur sharks) deliver up more promise of progress, development, and employment than the Government of Saskatchewan.

From 1944 (when the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was first elected) to about 1964 (when the CCF was defeated by Ross Thatcher's right-wing Liberals), the provincial government made use of politically sympathetic existing public servants and appointees to try to transform the northern economy. Quiring's account is that of a historian at the University of Saskatchewan, trying to trace how well that plan worked.

This review rests in part on my living and working in the north starting in 1960 and earlier visits to the north as a somewhat politically aware teenager. I also participated intermittently in the La Ronge CCF club and provincial CCF conventions. 

Quiring defines neither colonialism nor socialism. At least in this case, they go together for him. The book's introduction says he was alerted to the "socialism" of the CCF in his youth when the party called for co-op and government farms in his native southwest Saskatchewan, events which influenced his views of the CCF in the North.

CCF socialism seems to consist of ideologically motivated government intervention in the North at the behest of a couple of cabinet ministers and some partisan government employees, many (but not all) of whom were friends, activists, and CCF members. Leanings toward development of fur, timber, fish and other co-operatives, grants to local housing or employment projects, and evidence from archived government correspondence provide the basis for this view. Prior occupations in private business, subsistence activities, and bush piecework have no ideological content or importance for the author.

Colonialism seems to be founded on the fact that these partisans were there and took action, apparently as external forces sent to "colonize" the North. Though some southern CCF activists went to the north during that time, most mentioned in the book were long-time residents. Little is made of the fact that the number of so-called colonial activists was very small, and that the vast majority of northern government employees were not at all partisan, but merely did long-standing, non-political jobs.

Saskatchewan Archives Board material provides most of the citations. Though Quiring interviewed about two dozen northern and government individuals, archive documents override these voices. Quiring says he found memories faulty or selective. The documents apparently are seen as dependable. But Quiring's own documenting practices leave something to be desired. He makes claims, but the footnotes often show a group of sources, so it is impossible to tell which source made which point. In addition, some sources quoted do not show up in the bibliography. One interviewer, cited by last name only, is several times discovered in the middle of lists of archive sources, making it impossible to tell which source by that surname is being cited (though I know who it was, because I was a peripheral participant in the taping process).

The CCF as a party had very diffuse ideas about changing Saskatchewan's North. To transform an economy from mixed hunting and gathering and resource extraction into a periphery of an agricultural and industrializing provincial economy (which was, and is, a periphery itself) is a task that defeated more disciplined socialist forces elsewhere on the face of the globe.

The Saskatchewan CCF, having become the New Democratic Party in 1961, developed more conscious ideas and organizational forms to try again in the 1970s in the North. It would be more accurate in both earlier and later cases to call those efforts "social democratic management of a capitalist periphery economy." "Colonialism" existed only in the sense that there is some evidence for overt moves to attach the North to the southern provincial economy. The global uranium market, new uses for timber previously viewed as low grade, fleeting hydro power and water export possibilities, greased with federal government funding until the mid 1970s, made the North economically attractive in a way it could not be during the time dealt with in Quiring's book. Quiring cites other authors on colonialism in the North, but definitions and analytical rigour are somewhat stretched among them also. Socialism is normally construed as anti-colonial, so the reader has to do some mental gymnastics to adapt to Quiring's assumptions.

The book is nonetheless a useful read. It marshals evidence that was formerly diffuse. Purposeful marches through archived government files uncovered much detail most ordinary citizens would never see. Quiring's historical assemblage fills in much colour and shading previously rendered in the black and white arguments of the partisans. He has little to say about the reasons why CCF and other socialist and non-socialist activists battled abuses by the parish priests, bootleggers, and fur sharks.

The key role of the former Centre for Community Studies at the University of Saskatchewan is outlined too sparingly. Oddly, the CCF newspaper, Commonwealth, was not accessed for any official party views on the North. Perhaps it had little editorial or news content about this topic, but the very few mentions in Quiring's book indicate there was something there. Quiring conflates the CCF and the Saskatchewan government. He refers to the party members and employees interchangeably, as if the party and the government virtually acted as one. In one case among several, he refers to a person I know well as the CCF Public Relations Director, though he in fact held that job in the provincial government.

Quiring's conclusions seem liberally founded, pragmatically oriented to jobs and incomes within the narrow confines of the bush economy, without much focus on means for political and economic northern transformation. He thinks the aboriginal (his term) people were satisfied with the arrangements set up by the churches and fur trading stores. In the end, he thinks the CCF government activists did no better, and did worse in some instances.

When I showed this book to some of my northern Saskatchewan friends mentioned, they were bemused to see their words (from old government, party, and organization files) in print and analysed. They knew the people and places on the cover pictures, taken in the 1940s. They, like myself, do not share Quiring's views, but took a certain amount of satisfaction seeing their work recognized and acknowledged, even if the results of their efforts were not as hoped.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saskatchewan: Shrewd Socialism

Time Magazine
July 29, 1946

The sudden revaluation of the Canadian dollar caught most capitalistic speculators unawares. But not Saskatchewan socialists. Last week CCF's Provincial Treasurer Clarence M. Fines told how the province had cleaned up close to a quarter-million dollars on revaluation.

About a year ago, Treasurer Fines had to pay off a Saskatchewan bond issue of $2,250,000. As the issue had been floated in the U.S., he had to pay in U.S. dollars, then worth 10% more than Canadian dollars. After sending the check to Saskatchewan's New York banker, Fines decided that the Canadian dollar would ultimately be worth as much as that of the U.S.

So Treasurer Fines shrewdly ordered the banker not to cash the check, instead to borrow enough U.S. dollars on it to pay off the bonds. If the Canadian dollar stayed put, the gamble would cost only the interest on the New York loan.

Last week, Treasurer Fines totted up the profits on his gamble. Gross: $247,500 Net (less $16,875 interest due on the loan): $230,625.

Read more:,9171,776945,00.html#ixzz0iVCGpvcD

Pete Seeger Tribute: Jerry Gray and The Travellers

A CBC Concert on Demand

May 3, 2009 was Pete Seeger's 90th birthday, and Jerry Gray and The Travellers hosted a tribute concert in Toronto that evening to celebrate the great man's life and songs.

The Travellers formed in 1953 and were one of Canada's premier folk music acts for decades afterward. Jerry Gray - the group's lead singer, banjo player, and lone remaining founding member - has known Pete Seeger for 60 years. In fact, it was Seeger who suggested The Travellers do a Canadian version of Woody Guthrie's song, "This Land Is Your Land." It became their biggest hit.

Joining the current lineup of The Travellers for this event are Ken Whiteley, Paul Mills and Joanne Crabtree.

Visit this concert here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Under One Sky - Voices of Youth


Under One Sky - Voices of Youth is a three-part examination of the voices of youth who are working internationally and locally to make social change.

This program is produced by Making the Links - Wolf Sun Productions in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation (SCIC).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Manifesto of the Saskatchewan Waffle Movement 1975

Manifesto of the Saskatchewan Waffle Movement 1975

  1. Social Class in Liberal Capitalist Society
  2. The Liberal Capitalist State
  3. Imperialism
  4. Political Parties
  5. Workers' Organizations
  6. Cooperatives
  7. Oppression in Canada
  8. A Socialist Party

You can also view this document HERE.

CCF Book Poster (1946)

A Turning Point in the History of Israel? - Joel Kovel speaks in Regina

In and Out of Crisis

The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives
Greg Albo, Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch

With the recent publication of their new book on the financial crisis and the crisis of the North American Left, In and Out Of Crisis (PM Press, 2010), ZNet took the opportunity to interview Greg Albo, Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch on some of the themes of the book and the struggles that now confront the Left. The authors all teach political economy at York University, and edit the Socialist Register. The Bullet reproduces that interview here.

Can you tell ZNet, please, what In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives is about and what is it trying to communicate?

This book departs from the common tendency on the left no less than on the right to judge economic and political developments through the prism of ‘states versus markets,’ with each crisis marking an oscillation between one pole or the other. There are many conceptual and political traps in such a binary opposition. On the one hand, it suggests that markets can be potentially self-sufficient and that somehow states, as the underwriters of a vast administrative and physical infrastructure necessary for markets to exist at all and as guarantors of private property, can be marginalized.

On the other, it is proposed that the state can compensate for market failures and act as a neutral policy mechanism to offset private interests by governing in the public interest. This misses the point that we are talking about capitalist markets and capitalist states, and the two are deeply inter-twined in the class and power structures of global capitalism. This book especially shows how far this is so in the case of the American state in relation to financial markets.

We hope to dispel some debilitating misconceptions on the left concerning the nature of capitalist crises as well as the relationship between the state, finance and production in the neoliberal era. The book traces the historical process through which, over a century punctuated by previous crises, the American state and finance developed in tandem, and came to play a new kind of imperial role at the center of global capitalism. And in light of the contradictions that were produced in this process, it also traces the development of the crisis that began in 2007 and explains the active role of the American state, both under Bush and Obama, in containing the crisis in ways that reproduced the structures of class inequality and power domestically and internationally.

In addition to this, we analyze the relationship between industry and finance, especially in terms of how it played itself out in the crisis in the auto sector. This means the full class dimensions of the crisis are brought to the fore, and leads to a sober examination of the impasse of the North American labour movement and how seriously this affects the North American left.

Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book?

The interpretation offered in this book is located within the analytical framework of radical political economy, and in particular its lineages in Marx and state theory. It is partly a product of collective efforts, not least the intensive discussions we have had with our graduate students in the political science department at York University. Many of the chapters are based on pieces each of us wrote during the course of the crisis that appeared on The Bullet of the Socialist Project. The three of us found it very stimulating to work together in laying out our overall argument for this book, and clarifying our conceptualization of the neoliberal period of capitalism, our reading of the crisis, and the vision and politics behind the strategic alternatives we want to pose for the North American left.

What are your hopes for the book? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve politically?

The book was conceived at a historic moment when the ruling elites – from the financiers through the Detroit auto executives to liberal politicians – had lost credibility. Yet labour and the left remained on the defensive. Being realistic today means daring to put forward something really new on the political agenda. Rather than perpetuating dependence on markets, competition, private corporations and the values and pressures they represent, the left needs to be organizing around an independent vision.

Our book argues that the alternatives needed are not ‘technical’ solutions to capitalist economic crises, but political ones that challenge property rights in the name of democratic and social rights. This involves a transformation in left culture, one which can't really begin, let alone succeed if it isn't part of the widest degree of discussion and debate about economic and political possibilities, involving mobilization within and across the gender, racial and ethnic diversities of working class communities, and developing strategies for identifying allies and building new popular, union and community capacities. We see the book as a contribution to this.

Even as they tried to stimulate the economy, states were impelled to lay off public sector workers or cut back their pay, and to demand that bailed-out companies do the same. And while blaming volatile derivatives market for causing the crisis, states promoted derivatives trading in carbon credits as a solution to the climate crisis. In the context of such readily visible irrationalities, a strong case can be made that – to really save jobs and the communities that depend on them in a way that converts production to ecologically sustainable priorities during the course of this crisis – we need to break with the logic of capitalist markets rather than use state institutions to reinforce them.

However deep the crisis, however confused and demoralized are capitalist elites both inside and outside the state, and however widespread the popular outrage against them, making the case for such a broader democratization will certainly require hard and committed work by a great many activists. They will need to put their minds not only to demanding immediate reforms but how to finally make a genuine democracy that transcends the capitalist economy and state. We want to clarify that this is on the agenda as a essential precondition for building out of this crisis the new movements and parties that are needed to make such a genuine democracy a real possibility.

The book is published by PM Press/Spectre. A preview is available on Google Books.
From The Bullet

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ecosocialist to speak in Regina

Joel Kovel will be speaking  on the most pressing issue facing us today. Please forward this information to all who are concerned with our future.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

An "Economic Guernica" for Greece

by Joseph Halevi

Greece faces a veritable economic Guernica, a massacre, in the face of which the European Left shows an unforgivable passivity. What is imposed on Athens is meant as an example, to strike terror into Spain, Portugal, and even Italy. But even France, facing German directives, has melted down as if in a new Sedan test, which is also economic.

Last summer, Angela Merkel allowed Berlin to run deficits, tempering the Protestant fanaticism of the then Social Democratic Minister of Finance. Now with Schäuble in that ministry, we are back under the full biblical curse.

According to surveys, the European public opinion tends to accept the argument that deficit spending be balanced by drastic cuts. That argument is tantamount to equating the state to a family who spends more than it earns and then is forced to reduce its standard of living. The State might find itself in this situation if there were full employment as a natural tendency. Such a chimera aside, the deficit can always be financed, provided that the authority that runs it has control over both monetary and fiscal policies, which is impossible under the euro.

Of course, under the euro, capitalist relations within Europe are defined so there are those who can and those who cannot. Apart from ideological fanaticism, Berlin's rapid return to financial orthodoxy stems from a very simple vision. We, say the rulers of Berlin, won't give a dollar to Europe (in this case to Greece and the Iberian peninsula) because in the meantime our capitalism has gotten out of the crisis thanks to net exports. The wage freeze caused by unemployment makes us comfortable while our domestic mechanisms of subsidies, both at federal and state levels, facilitate the restructuring. These and wage deflation will enhance the inter-capitalist competitiveness of Germany.

Who cares about the denizens of Greece and the Iberian peninsula? The only concern is how to protect the financial values of the French and German banks that hold government bonds issued by those countries. Vague hints of possible loans to Greece are in fact directed only to that effect. The cuts imposed on Athens should reassure the markets, as they are indeed mostly successful, despite the upheaval that they are producing in the economy of the country. Thus came an extremely tight agreement among Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt (home to the Bundesbank and the allied ECB), and the rating agencies, which assess the solvency of the issuer of securities, the very agencies at which until a few months ago both France and Germany were pointing the finger as one of the main culprits of the financial crisis.

The "markets" are acting as loan sharks preying on Greece with the full support of those who criticized them first. 2008 never happened, the late Jean Baudrillard might say. Anti-financial populism of Merkel, Lagarde, and Sarkozy (as well as Tremonti) has shown of what stuff it is made. A makeshift product, it is mixed up with the myopia of French as well as German capitalism. Sinking Greece and forcing Spain and Portugal to follow it, Berlin, Frankfurt, and Paris are in fact striking at a group of countries which, at the outbreak of the crisis, that is until 2008, accounted for over 9% of Italian and over 10% of French exports, as well as 6% of German exports.

And now the crisis of new outlets looms, unseen, on the horizon, because the growing China is a net exporter to Europe. Meanwhile, Greece continues to be a recycling area for the German military industry: the acquisition of 150 Leopard tanks, concluded last October, has not been suspended, even while pensions and salaries are being cut.