Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rousseff wins Brazil's presidential election

BBC News

Dilma Rousseff has been elected president of Brazil, succeeding Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, electoral officials have confirmed.

Ms Rousseff, 62, who had never before held elected office, becomes the country's first woman president.

She promised to "honour the trust" Brazilians had put in her and work to eliminate poverty.

Ms Rousseff enjoyed the full support of President Lula, who is leaving after two terms with record popularity.

Frankenstein's Mother

A Brief Sketch Of The Life Of Mary Wollstonecraft.

M. Wollstonecraft was born in 1759. Her father was so great a wanderer, that the place of her birth is uncertain; she supposed, however, it was London, or Epping Forest: at the latter place she spent the first five years of her life. In early youth she exhibited traces of exquisite sensibility, soundness of understanding, and decision of character; but her father being a despot in his family, and her mother one of his subjects, Mary, derived little benefit from their parental training. She received no literary instructions but such as were to be had in ordinary day schools. Before her sixteenth year she became acquainted with Mr. Clare a clergyman, and Miss Frances Blood; the latter, two years older than herself; who possessing good taste and some knowledge of the fine arts, seems to have given the first impulse to the formation of her character. At the age of nineteen, she left her parents, and resided with a Mrs. Dawson for two years; when she returned to the parental roof to give attention to her mother, whose ill health made her presence necessary.

On the death of her mother, Mary bade a final adieu to her father's house, and became the inmate of F. Blood; thus situated, their intimacy increased, and a strong attachment was reciprocated. In 1783 she commenced a day school at Newington green, in conjunction with her friend, F. Blood. At this place she became acquainted with Dr. Price, to whom she became strongly attached; the regard was mutual.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Workingman's death

Al Jazeera
October 11, 2010

An unflinching portrait of physical work in the 21st century. 'Heroes' looks at freelance miners in Ukraine who spend long days crawling through cramped shafts of exhausted coal mines to dig out a living for themselves.


The First Ten Years: Saskatchewan's Community Clinics

By Dennis Gruending

Two black telephones sitting in a bare room of the third floor of Saskatoon's old A venue Building was hardly an auspicious beginning for two doctors and a small group ofcitizens to pioneer the community clinic on that warm, gusty morning of July 3, 1962, armed with only their medical bags, doctors Joan Witney-Moore and Margaret Mahood settled into''a new venture in health care" . Executive members of the fledgling Community Health Services Association (CHSA) went scavenging for equipment. They found folding tables at the Union Centre and hauled them back. Covered with mattresses, they became examining tables.  The doctors were busy until midnight. 

Events in 1962 precipitating the opening of community clinics had . provoked deep and emotional rifts in Saskatchewan, grabbed head¬lines and filled newspaper columns throughout North America.

The Strike
On July 1, 1962 a majority of Saskatchewan's 725 practising physicians went on strike opposing the CCF government's introduction ofthe first universal, tax-financed, medical care insurance plan in North America.

Saskatchewan Premier T. C. Douglas, speaking in a 1959 provincial by-election, announced his government's intention to introduce the plan, fulfilling a promise made before the CCF rise to power in 1944. "The Premier had fired the first volley."

Read this book HERE. (large PDF, will take a few minutes to download).                                                                                                                                                                             

Jack Scott: 1910 - 2000

Jack Scott Memorial

This week: highlights from the Memorial service for Jack Scott, taped Sunday January 14 at the Maritime Labour Centre in Vancouver. He died December 30, 2000 of a heart attack in Vancouver.

For 70 of his 90 years he was a socialist and labour activist. He was ahead of his time in urging Canadian control of Canadian unions.

In his later years, he became an inspiration and mentor for the generations of activists that followed him, including many who are in the leadership of B.C.'s labour movement today.

Perhaps, in a better world, Jack Scott would have been made an officer of the Order of Canada and would have had a state funeral with all sorts of official pomp and ceremony to honour his achievements.

Instead, he was remembered by many friends and comrades from around the globe, who sent messages or who came out to the informal memorial event in a union hall in East Vancouver.

We think Jack would have preferred it this way.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cops, Crime and Capitalism

The Law and Order Agenda in Canada
Fernwood Publishing

By Todd Gordon

Framed within a Marxist class analysis that highlights the way in which state power and capitalist social relations are racialized and gendered, Gordon’s study locates law and order policing as a central moment of capitalist state power. He argues that, as with policing historically, crime-fighting is not the principal aim of contemporary law and order policing—rather the aim is the production of a new social order based on the severely diminished expectations of working people. Crime fighting matters only insofar as it helps in this process. Law and order policing is not really a fight against rampant and escalating crime; rather it is aimed at forcefully limiting any possibilities the able-bodied poor may try to pursue to avoid the worst forms of wage labour.

Gordon says that to properly understand the law and order agenda, we must situate it within the broader context of the political and economic changes associated with neoliberalism. Law and order policing is not an isolated state policy endeavour or policing practice. It is a central feature of a state power that, far from retreating with the demise of the Keynsian Welfare State, is actively facilitating the establishment of an new—neoliberal—capitalist order premised on the restructuring of social relations. Law and order policing is very much about the role of an aggressive state and its relationship to the class struggle lying at the heart of contemporary Canadian society.

◦Electronic Panopticon or Techno-Fetishism? A Critical Look at Panoptic Theories of Policing
◦Producing Capitalist Order: Race, Class and Gender
◦The Emergence of Contemporary Law and Order Policies: Policing, Class Struggle and Neoliberal Restructuring
◦Pan-handling By-Laws and the Safe Streets Act: The Return of Vagrancy Law
◦Criminalization, Race and Neoliberal Order: Policing Immigrant Communities

About the Author
Todd Gordon is a social justice activist who completed his Ph.D. in political
science at York University. His articles have appeared in Studies in Political
Economy, Canadian Review of Social Policy and Capital and Class. He is also an editor of New Socialist magazine.

4 Reasons Why Jon Stewart's Restoring Sanity Rally Is Great for Progressives

By Adele M. Stan

Given the way things have gone for progressives since the election of Barack Obama, perhaps we shouldn't be blamed for looking warily, as some do, at the spectacle that promises to fill the national Mall tomorrow at the rally hosted by Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. But with any luck, it will be a eye-feast of hundreds of thousands of good-humored, well-behaved Americans, there to answer the cynicism of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally, at which the notion that the election of a black president somehow sullied the nation's dignity was dressed in sanctimony and a display of patriotism so bombastic that it was almost camp.

Yet progressives and liberals, ranging from left wing to the just left of center, have expressed a range of reservations, missing, I believe, the larger point of this rally's potential for reordering our out-of-whack politics, if only for a moment. But if that moment lasts until the polls close on Tuesday, it will have been worth it.

Matewan - The Union

Matewan: The movie
Movie Review: Siskel and Ebert

The Fraser Institute and the subversion of Canadian values

By David Livingstone 
The Rossland Telegraph

Since the early 1970s, there has been a broad international agenda led by right-wing American foundations to sway public opinion towards greater acceptance of an economic philosophy called Neoliberalism, of which Canada’s Fraser Institute has been a pivotal part.

It is by tracing the connections between the Fraser Institute and several prominent Canadian politicians, like Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and other far-right conservatives, including Premier Gordon Campbell of British Columbia, that we can identify the source of their disdain for traditional Canadian virtues. These politicians' dismissive attitudes toward democracy, a penchant for slashing social programs, their unconditional support for American foreign policy expeditions, and an utter refusal to condemn the gross human rights abuses of Zionism in Israel are all a part of the larger movement they support by their policies.

Despite its radical nature, the Fraser Institute is a part of everyday Canadian life. Each year, the group announces a Tax Freedom Day, the first day of the year when the country of Canada has theoretically earned enough income to fund its (supposedly horrific) annual tax burden. The institute’s “Report Cards” on the school and the health care systems are widely-circulated and designed to convince Canadians of the importance of reducing public spending and privatizing these and other social services.

Read part one HERE.
Read part two HERE.

Thinking About the North American Left and Die Linke

By William K. Tabb

The North Atlantic Left Dialogue (NALD), by bringing North Americans and Europeans together, allows participants to reflect on their own situation through the lens of the thinking of other leftists who face similar political issues in different contexts. There are commonalities in the division between social movements on the one hand and political parties/labor organizations on the other; and there are differences, for example the multiparty system in Europe that allows representation by left of center-left parties on the one hand and the first-past-the-post winner-take-all structure in the United States on the other.

From attending NALD meetings, I have come to three conclusions. The first is that, for all the differences in national political cultures, histories, and institutional specificities on both sides of the Atlantic, the left is faced with capital's domination of the main political parties, whether they are called socialist, social democrat, or by any other name, and that the best-intentioned leftists functioning in government face irresistible pressures to accommodate unless they are deeply rooted in movements which hold them accountable. It is not so much that they are always sellout misleaders; it is that they have to cope with decisions those not in office cannot begin to fathom, so elected leftists need to explain why they do what they do to the people who put them in office. The second conclusion is that the divisions on the political right and left in Europe and the United States are not so different. The spectrum from the extreme right through the business-oriented right to the corporate center-left to an underrepresented left of center-left is common to both. There are of course unique features in particular countries, however, and I want to talk about the difference that working within a parliamentary system makes.

Ecuador's Challenge: Rafael Correa and the Indigenous Movements

By Benjamin Dangl
Toward Freedom

The recent right-wing coup attempt in Ecuador shed light on the rupture between President Rafael Correa and the country’s indigenous movements. This rocky relationship demonstrates the challenges of protesting against a leftist leader without empowering the right.

When Correa took office in January of 2007, he moved forward on campaign promises including creating an assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution, using oil wealth for national development, and confronting US imperialism. However, once the electoral confetti stopped falling, Correa began to betray the indigenous movements’ trust on many fronts, pushing for neoliberal policies, criminalizing protests against his administration and blocking indigenous movements’ input in the development of extractive industries and the re-writing of the constitution.

Indigenous movements protested a right wing coup attempt on September 30th while criticizing the negative policies of Correa, a president widely considered a member of Latin America’s new left who is working to implement modern democratic socialism. How did it come to this? The history of the dance between Correa and the indigenous movements offers insight into the current political crisis in the country.

Read more HERE.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Painful Failure of Swedish Red - Green Alliance : Is There a Message for Canadians?

CO2 Art

Some remarkable political parallels have developed between Sweden and Canada.

Now that Prime Minister Harper has taken to routinely, and falsely, labeling the opposition in the House of Commons "your (Ignatieff's) coalition", it may be worthwhile to look at the results of what Sweden called its Red - Green Alliance.

Read More HERE.

Imagine Our Fair Share


The National Farmers Union (NFU) will present a vision calling for the citizens’ fair share of Saskatchewan’s resources for current and future generations. The press conference will be held on Tuesday October 26th at its National Office in Saskatoon.

The National Farmer’s Union decries the impoverished discussion since the spark of public interest in our resources was lit by the potential acquisition of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. by the Australian firm BHP Billiton.

One only has to look at Norway’s management of their non-renewable resources to see what is possible. Norway captures 50% of the resource wealth extracted each year. The wealth is retained for present and future generations. Norway has a sovereign wealth savings fund of $480 billion. Sask. captures 12% of resource wealth each year and is projected to have $340 million in its savings fund at the end of its next fiscal year.

“Saskatchewan has been impoverished by apathy and its politicians’ lack of vision and gross mismanagement of the province’s natural resources for the last 30 years. We will leave future generations a bankrupt province with mountains of mine waste when the resources run out,” says National Farmers Union President Terry Boehm.

“Tomorrow the National Farmers Union will be calling on all citizens to share a vision of Saskatchewan where our resource wealth is saved for the citizens and used to build equitable caring communities and vibrant family farms both now and in the future.


Press Conference
Date: Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 Time: 10:30 a.m.
Location: National Farmers Union National Office, 2717 Wentz Avenue, Saskatoon.

If you require further information, please call:
Ross Hinther, Director of Research, National Farmers Union
Ph. 306-652-9465 email
National Office
2717 Wentz Ave.
Saskatoon, Sask.
S7K 4B6
Tel (306) 652-9465
Fax (306) 664-6226

The Real History of The Second World War: Part 2

Part One HERE.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Latin America Mourns the Death of Nestor Kirchner

Buenos Aires, Oct 27 (Prensa Latina)

An avalanche of sympathy messages is pouring into Argentina from all over Latin America for the sudden death of former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at a hospital in Calafate, Patagonia.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez regretted the loss of the popular Argentine politician, who at the time of his death was secretary general of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

With interviews of experts and politicians who knew him and special reports, the Venezuelan media is extensively covering the death of Kirchner, who was also a legislator, and chairman of the Justicialist Party, with aspirations of running for president again in the 2011 elections.

From Brasilia, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sent a message of condolence, stating that "the Brazilian government and I were shocked by the news of Kirchner´s death."

"Nestor Kirchner was a great ally and a fraternal friend," emphasized Lula, who highlighted that Kirchner "made a notable contribution to the economic, social and political reconstruction of his country, and to the common fight for South American integration".

President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay expressed his grief at the sudden loss of "a friend and a partner in the construction of a Latin America without exclusion, with an active role in the process of regional integration."

Messages are also coming from El Salvador, Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador and the rest of the region.

The Case for Obama

The charges are familiar: He's a compromiser who hasn't stood up to the GOP or Wall Street. But a look at his record reveals something even more startling — a truly historic presidency
Rolling Stone

The following is an article from the October 28, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.

For many progressives, the presidency of Barack Obama has been deeply disappointing. To hear some prominent lefties tell it, the New Jesus of the campaign trail has morphed into the New Judas of the Oval Office. "He loves to buckle," MSNBC host Cenk Uygur declared in a July segment called "Losing the Left." "Obama's not going to give us real change — he's going to give us pocket change and hang a 'Mission Accomplished' banner."

Read more HERE.

Privatizing potash was a costly mistake

By Erin Weir

The greatest tragedy in BHP Billiton's $38.6-billion (U.S.) bid for the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS) is that the Government of Saskatchewan previously sold PCS for just $630 million. This privatization was the worst fiscal decision in the province's history and has been aggravated by subsequent royalty giveaways to private potash companies.

PCS was created in 1975 as a provincial Crown corporation. The Saskatchewan government privatized it in 1989, selling all of its shares by 1994.

Presumably, the proceeds were deducted from the provincial deficit. Borrowing $630 million at 10 per cent interest, compounded over two decades, would have added $4.2-billion of provincial debt by now.

In fact, provincial bond rates have fallen far below 10 per cent since the early 1990s. Also, had PCS shares not been sold, dividend payments to the government would have partly offset interest charges on its additional borrowing. Therefore, $4.2-billion is a very optimistic estimate of privatization's fiscal benefit.

The fiscal cost of privatization is the amount that PCS would be worth had it remained a Crown corporation. Since privatization, PCS has acquired additional potash mines in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, phosphate and nitrogen facilities in the U.S. and Trinidad, and shares in other fertilizer companies.

During the 1990s, Crown corporations were encouraged to invest outside the province. Therefore, PCS could have made the same acquisitions and developed along the same lines had it remained a Crown corporation. If so, the fiscal cost of privatization is at least $40-billion (the Canadian-dollar value of BHP's offer), which is about 10 times the maximum fiscal benefit.

Of course, privatization supporters would claim that PCS has been better managed as a private company. Had it remained a Crown corporation, PCS might have lacked the initiative or financial ability to expand.

New "Label": Potash

Check NYC's Potash "Label" to review all the articles covering Saskatchewan's  potash dispute. Potash has been a fundamental resource to Saskatchewan and the world over the last 40 years and deserved special attention. - NYC

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Power of Taxes: The Case for Investing in Canadians

By Stephen Dale and Trish Hennessy
National Office, CCPA
October 26, 2010

When you think about taxes, do you think about the $10,000 having a baby could cost if you lived in the U.S. and didn't have health insurance?

Do you think about an education system that allows even the children of poor families to become doctors, teachers, or engineers?

Government inspectors who make sure highway overpasses are repaired before they fall down, that meat packing plants don't poison their customers, that a city's water is safe to drink?

Read more about what our taxes buy us in this new primer.
Download related materials:
The Power of Taxes: The Case for Investing in Canadians PDF File, 3800 KB

FMLN Celebrates 30th Anniversary with Rally of 250,000

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

On Sunday, October 10th, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a massive mobilization and rally in San Salvador. More than 250,000 people came from across the country to form a sea of red that stretched for dozens of blocks.

In his speech, FMLN General Coordinator Medardo González made clear that the massive mobilization was also a message that any attempt at a coup d’état in El Salvador - like the successful coup in neighboring Honduras or the unsuccessful attempts in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador - would be met with an organized and tenacious resistance. “The coup plotters of the region do not rest in inventing new methods for coups, for destabilizing, or for turning around these processes that have installed themselves in the continent,” Gonzalez explained. He then asked the crowd, “Will we be ready to defend this government against whatever tricks those with coup-plotting mentalities try to invent?” The crowd responded with 250,000 energetic yeses. He went on to thank the support of international solidarity, which has made the party’s 30-year history of “struggles and victories” possible.

Monday, October 25, 2010

No Justice for Omar Khadr at Guantánamo

By Andy Worthington
New Left Project

Exactly two years ago, when I began writing a weekly column for the Future of Freedom Foundation on Guantánamo, torture and other crimes and abuses committed as part of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” I focused on the story of Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002, and the news today that he has accepted a plea deal, and has agreed to an array of charges relating to terrorism and murder in exchange for a reported eight-year sentence, does nothing to diminish the profound sense of unease — and of warped justice — that has plagued Khadr’s case for the last eight years.

In that article, written while Khadr was enduring interminable pre-trial hearings for a planned trial by Military Commission under the Bush administration, I analyzed an important, and almost completely overlooked document regarding the treatment of juvenile prisoners at Guantánamo — those under 18 at the time their alleged crime took place.

Read more HERE.

Getting Over Brad’s Wall of Potash

Posted by Erin Weir
Progressive Economics Forum
October 25th, 2010

On Thursday, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said “No” to BHP:

Do we want to add PotashCorp to that list of once-proud Canadian companies that are now under foreign control? . . . It’s our government’s belief that the people of Saskatchewan deserve nothing less than a potash industry unequivocally managed, operated and marketed for the benefit of Canada and Saskatchewan.

Of course, it is still possible that his Conservative counterparts in Ottawa will approve BHP’s bid. That approach would allow the Premier to play to his home crowd without ultimately offending prospective foreign investors. In any case, Wall’s rhetoric leaves essentially no room for the opposition NDP to position itself as tougher or more patriotic regarding Potash Corp.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

By Dave Harker
TUC History Online

Robert Tressell 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' (RTP) is a very readable account of how capitalism operates in the workplace, but in some ways it is also a very contradictory book. It rarely lets the bosses and 'Idlers' off the hook, yet the nearest thing to a working-class hero, Frank Owen, shows little faith in winning economic reforms through collective action. It shows that some workers get 'some of their own back', some of the time, but marginalizes trade unions. However, it demonstrates that do-it-yourself reforms are temporary, and that individual workers are powerless against the bosses, so it provides an excellent case for organising against capitalist exploitation, which is why it has been part of many trade union activists' tool-kits for almost a century.

RTP also offers a socialist critique of many of the ideas that seek to justify class society, and it retains an ultimate faith in the coming Co-operative Commonwealth; yet it does not tackle (let alone solve) the problem of how to get there. Owen is clear that the basic problem is politically rooted in 'The present system - competition - capitalism.' And he rejects reformism: 'it's no good tinkering at it. Everything about it is wrong and there's nothing about it that's right. There's only one thing to be done with it and that is to smash it up and have a different system altogether.' But he sees his job as winning workers to socialist ideas, which are rarely tested in practice, and he offers no political strategy, or even a set of tactics.

After Growth: The Future of Social Democracy

By Mehdi Hasan and Jonathan Derbyshire
Social Europe Journal

The implosion of neoliberal ‘turbo-capitalism’ in the autumn of 2008 should have been the moment for social democratic parties to come in from the cold. More than two years on, however, social democracy is in retreat across the Continent, electorally weak and intellectually incoherent.

Growth and prosperity have vanished, leaving social democrats ideologically disorientated – and the fortunes of the last Labour government in Britain, in particular, contain lessons for centre-left parties in western Europe. What the British experience of the past decade suggests is that modern social democracy has amounted, in practice, to limited state intervention in markets, coupled with high levels of government expenditure and a rhetorical commitment to the establishment of ‘world-class public services’. What has been missing is any substantive philosophy of the public good.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Grameen Bank and `microcredit': The `wonderful story' that never happened

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Far from being a panacea for fighting rural poverty, microcredit can impose additional burdens on the rural poor, without markedly improving their socio-economic condition, write Patrick Bond and Khorshed Alam.

Mohammad Yunus accepts the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
October 21, 2010 -- Pambazuka News -- For years, the example of microcredit in Bangladesh has been touted as a model of how the rural poor can lift themselves out of poverty. This widely held perception was boosted in 2006 when Mohammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, the microfinance institution he set up, jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize. In South Asia in particular, and the world in general, microcredit has become a gospel of sorts, with Yunus as its prophet.

Consider this outlandish claim, made by Yunus as he got started in the late 1970s: "Poverty will be eradicated in a generation. Our children will have to go to a `poverty museum' to see what all the fuss was about."

According to Milford Bateman, a senior research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London, who is one of the world’s experts on Grameen and microcredit, the reason this rhetoric resonated with international donors during the era of neoliberal globalisation, was that "they love the non-state, self-help, fiscally responsible and individual entrepreneurship angles".

Read more HERE.

Scottish demo of 20,000 shows what is possible

New Left Project

Britain's biggest anti-cuts demonstration to date took place yesterday, when 20,000 marched and rallied in a Scottish-wide protest in Edinburgh. BBC News has also reported 'several thousand' demonstrating in Belfast, in a trade union-organised event.

Called by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the Edinburgh demo throws the failures of the TUC General Council - who managed nothing more than a couple of thousand in Westminster Hall on the day before cuts were announced - into sharp relief. As Jeremy Dear (NUJ general secretary and a member of the General Council) said at Wednesday's Downing Street rally, the TUC has failed its first great test.

The Edinburgh demo is significant beyond Scotland. It illustrates the potential that exists for mobilising large numbers against the cuts - not in some distant future but now. It's a welcome counterblast to those who muse on the supposed British indifference to protest while our Gallic brothers and sisters rise up in popular revolt.

If the TUC and the big unions had operated in the same way across Britain as STUC did north of the border, or indeed as the union movement did in Northern Ireland, we could have had 50,000 or 100,000 on the streets of central London for a national demo yesterday. The TUC national demo on 26 March 2011 will be a landmark protest, but it is not soon enough.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Sell-Off of Corporate Canada

Posted by Bruce Livesey 
The Progressive Economics Forum
October 23rd, 2010

The announcement this week that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not going to intervene in the sale of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan to the Australian conglomerate, BHP Billiton Ltd., speaks volumes about how Bay Street and its servants in Ottawa are so willing and eager to sell off Canada’s corporate assets to foreign corporations.

It’s a phenomenon that has been growing for years now. And yet, depressingly, no one seems to care that much about it. One by one, jewels of the Canadian corporate community have been bartered away, and it goes pretty much unremarked. Neither the Liberals or NDP have seen fit to make an issue of the matter – which is in marked contrast to the 1970s when who controlled the Canadian economy triggered a national outcry and led to the creation of the Foreign Investment Review Agency (FIRA).

Bill Livant: 1932 – 2008

Ben Livant
Monthly Review
July/August 2008

Bill Livant was an independent Marxist intellectual whose main purpose was to provide theoretical tools to people engaged in revolutionary struggles. The Red Scare after the Second World War did not diminish the admiration he had felt for the Soviet Union during the war. The subsequent execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg was an ideological turning point for him. While working on his PhD in psychology at the University of Michigan, Bill stood out as a prominent radical. He was part of the Students for a Democratic Society movement that produced the Port Huron Statement. He also helped organize opposition to U.S. imperialism in Vietnam.

As a professor at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, he was notorious among administrators for aligning himself with the students when they demonstrated. He was a charter member of the Waffle, an offshoot of the New Democratic Party (NDP) formed to take the new political formation in a thoroughly anti-capitalist direction. He engaged in union solidarity and was able to influence the writing of occupational health and safety legislation eventually adopted by the NDP government. Bill actively supported third world national liberation developments, participating in grassroots diplomacy and trade with various nations emerging from colonialism and fighting against neocolonialism. In this, he was loyal to Cuba from 1959 onward and exhilarated by what is happening in Venezuela today.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gramsci and social change

Published for the first time in English, Antonio Santucci's book Antonio Gramsci is a brilliant short introduction to the life and work of one of the most important revolutionaries of the 20th century.

Written by Chris Nineham CounterFire

Antonio Santucci, Antonio Gramsci (Monthly Review Press 2010), 176 pp.

This book is particularly welcome because so many other commentators have distorted Gramsci’s politics. Ever since the publication of his Prison Notebooks in 1948 influential commentators from the left and academia have tried to present Gramsci as a gradualist or a ‘cultural’ Marxist.

Even the more perceptive studies tend to try and distinguish Gramsci from the classical revolutionary Marxist tradition, arguing that he developed a uniquely open, undogmatic Marxism.

Read more HERE.

“This book is a brilliant and stimulating synthesis of Gramsci’s life and thought. Students and scholars alike will find it extremely rewarding. Antonio A. Santucci brings to the study of Gramsci a fine historical sensitivity and a rigorous theoretical depth.”—Benedetto Fontana, Baruch College, author of Hegemony and Power: On the Relation Between Gramsci and Machiavelli.

“The Wobblies” (1979 documentary)

From Where the blog has no name

The 1979 documentary, The Wobblies, directed by Deborah Shaffer and Stewart Bird, is now available on line at google video (1:28:39). Highly recommended.

This 1979 documentary established a new, primary-research modus for historical nonfiction—no narrator, no authorial perspective, just original documents and witnesses—but its subject matter was, and still is, its most radical characteristic. By the ’70s American culture had been made to forget that the Industrial Workers of the World had ever existed, just as in the century’s first decades the segregated union utopia was condemned, brutalized, legislated against, campaigned against, and demonized.

Today, things haven’t changed much—Deborah Shaffer and Stewart Bird’s film stands among a scant handful of books detailing the labor movement’s astonishing power and growth, its newspapers and songs and sheer membership, as well as the sickening history of suppression, murder, and criminal injustice that was brought to bear upon it. (Don’t forget Warren Beatty’s Reds, shot around the same time and with several of the same elderly survivors.) American high schoolers should have to see it to graduate, but then so much of what they’re taught would evaporate as a consequence. Released with new interviews and old anthems, and alongside nine other classic docs in the “Docurama Film Festival I.”

By Michael Aktinson (Village Voice) June 20, 2006

Bill Maher on climate change

Socialism explained

Josh Lees
Socialist Alternative
22 October 2010

Frederick Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) is a marvellous explanation of what “modern Socialism” – which today we call Marxism – is all about. Engels traces the historical development of capitalism out of feudalism and along with it the development of socialist thought from utopianism to historical materialism – from an ideal based on moral outrage and wishful thinking, to a science based on working class struggle.

His third section, “Historical Materialism”, brilliantly outlines all the contradictions of capitalism which lead to the world we find ourselves in today – a world of immense wealth alongside immense poverty, hardship and endless crises. Thankfully, Engels also lays out the solution to this contradiction: workers’ revolution and socialism.

The development of Utopian Socialism
“Like every new theory, modern Socialism had, at first, to connect itself with the intellectual stock-in-trade ready to its hand…”

Marxists are often accused of being “utopians” or “idealists”. The reality is that Marxism developed in opposition to the utopian theories prevalent up to the 19th century. The 18th century had witnessed in western Europe the overthrow, in thought and practice, of previous feudal relations, culminating in the French Revolution of 1789. Engels commented:

“Now, for the first time, appeared the light of day, the kingdom of reason… We know now that this kingdom of reason was nothing more than the idealised kingdom of the bourgeoisie.”

Soon the contradictions within bourgeois democracy became all too evident. While a rising class of capitalists had been liberated by the revolution and were now the masters of society, so too a new class of propertyless wage-workers, upon whose continued exploitation and oppression the capitalists depended, was beginning to develop. Into the ideological breach stepped the utopian socialists – Saint-Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Union fights to keep Saskatchewan highways in public hands

Website enlists campaigners to protect province's vital public services from privatization.
Public Values
The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union. has launched a website called If You Love Saskatchewan . The purpose of it is to protect the province's vital public services from privatization.

Its front page reads:
Parks. Power. Highways. Health care. And so much more. In Saskatchewan, we couldn't do without our public services.

But the Brad Wall government is nibbling away at those public services, privatizing them a bit here and a bit there... where corporate profit becomes more important than affordable, available services for you and me... good jobs for Saskatchewan families suddenly disappear out of province... and we all start paying more and getting less.

Before it goes too far, let's ask ourselves if that's really the kind of Saskatchewan we want for our families' futures.

This website is about having our voices heard. Have a look through and when you're done we invite you to join with us in showing your heart to Saskatchewan and its vital public services.

Links and sources
If You Love Saskatchewan

The Rosenberg Case

The Rosenberg "Atomic Espionage" Case, among the most controversial Cold War episodes of the early 1950s, despite the passage of decades, continues to raise serious doubts as to: The reliability of the testimony? The Judge's relationship with FBI Director Hoover & the prosecution? The legality of the sentence? The rush to electrocute the only Americans ever executed for espionage?

Posted from The Rosenberg Fund for Children

Despite massive, worldwide protest, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed on June 19, 1953, at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, NY, after being convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Espionage in one of the most hotly-debated trials in U.S. history.

Read Robert Meeropol's blog ("Surprise Ending," 10/07/10) for information on Final Verdict, a new book by Walter and Miriam Schneir publishing Oct 12, 2010, which unveils a startling new interpretation of what really happened in the Rosenberg Case.

See also Famous Trials and Can the Rosenberg case be re-opened.

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg Kissing
Bound for separate cells, handcuffed Julius Rosenberg and his wife, Ethel, share a fervent kiss in prison van outside Federal Court after arraignment on atomic spy charges in 1950. The couple lost plea to have their bail of $100,000 each reduced and eventually became the only two American civilians to be executed for the crime of espionage during the Cold War.
© Bettmann/CORBIS
August 23, 1950

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Potash Contradiction: Cracks in neo-liberal ideology?

By Murray Dobbin
Murray Dobbin's Blog

I have argued that ideology makes you stupid and if you have power it makes you dangerous. One of the best examples is the idiocy of more and more tax cuts with the supposed goal of making Canadian business internationally “competitive.”

First, tax rates regularly come about 6th or 7th down the list of factors that actual CEOs look at when deciding whether or not to invest. For large firms, the tax bill often makes up less than 2 percent of total costs. Secondly, huge amounts of the revenue raised by taxes actually go to things that actually do make Canadian business internationally competitive: advanced education, efficient infrastructure, abundant energy supply, Medicare (and the healthy workers it maintains), a stable society. Medicare, for example, saves the Big 3 auto companies $1500 per automobile compared to costs in the US (where unions have to bargain for company health plans in their contracts).

SGEU Signs

The Via Campesina – The NFU working in solidarity around the world

National Farmers Union

Via Campesina is a global movement that brings together organizations representing small- and medium-scale farmers, peasants, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities. It is pluralistic, democratic, and multi-cultural, and non-partisan.

Via Campesina and its members focus on issues such as food sovereignty and trade; agrarian reform (re-distribution of access to, and control over, resources such as land, seeds, water, credit); appropriate technology and sustainable agriculture; strengthening women’s participation in social, economic, political, and cultural matters; peasants’ and farmers’ rights; biodiversity; migrant farm workers; and the promotion of economic relations of equality and social justice.
Via Campesina is organized into eight regions: Europe, Northeast and Southeast Asia, South Asia, North America, the Caribbean, Central America, Africa, and South America.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Mexican Suitcase Rediscovered

Spanish Civil War negatives by Capa, Chim, and Taro on view at the International Center of Photography

Robert Capa, [Exiled Republicans being marched on the beach
from one internment camp, Le Barcarès, France], March 1939.
© Estate of Cornell Capa / ICP / Magnum, International Center of Photography
“The Mexican Suitcase,” a groundbreaking exhibition revealing the most famous group of recovered negatives of the twentieth century, will be on view at the International Center of Photography (1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street) from September 24, 2010 through January 9, 2011.

Considered lost since 1939, the so-called Mexican Suitcase is in fact three boxes containing 4,500 negatives documenting the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capa, Chim (David Seymour), and Gerda Taro. There are also several rolls of portraits of Capa and Taro by Fred Stein. Besides offering new images by these major photographers that provide a comprehensive overview of the war, the cache of negatives also includes previously unknown portraits of Ernest Hemingway, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Dolores Ibarruri (known as “La Pasionaria”).

Urzúa, miner number 33

By Martín Granovsky
Pagina 12 and People's World
October 19 2010

He stood before President Sebastián Piñera and, chief to chief, said, "I hope that this will never happen again." And also, "I'm proud to live in this country."

Later, Chilean miner #33, Luis Urzúa, hugged Piñera, gave a big hug to Andrés Sougarret, engineer for the Corporación del Cobre [Copper Corporation], gave a giant hug to his son, spoke with them all and with others, and broke medical protocol. For him there would be no stretcher, no urgency. He ended up singing the national anthem, the hymn that describes Chile as the "tomb of the free" or the "refuge against oppression."

If one were to judge it by the life of Urzúa, the way it was described for the daily El Mundo de España by journalist Jorge Barreno, until last night his country was more of a tomb than a refuge. Urzúa's father was labor union director of the Communist Party. He became one of the "disappeared" at the beginning of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who on September 11th, 1973, overthrew Salvador Allende.

His stepfather, Benito Tapia, was a copper miners' union leader and member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Youth organization. In October of 1973, he was murdered in the Copiapó cemetery and buried without a casket in a mass grave, together with two of his comrades. He was one of the victims of the Caravan of Death, the extermination squad that left Santiago in a helicopter with orders from general Sergio Arellano Stark to selectively murder social leaders and those who held office during the Allende government. Tapia was 32-years-old. Luis Urzúa was barely 17.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Next Year Country - USA Trailer

NEXT YEAR COUNTRY tells the story of three Montana families who hire a rainmaker in an attempt to bring relief to their drought-stricken farms. Montana is a state under siege; the drought that has lingered here for the better part of the last two decades is the worst the American West has seen in over 500 years.

 The impact on Montana’s small family farms has been profound, as many have been forced to sell out and move to town. NEXT YEAR COUNTRY profiles three families who persist in living and hoping through a punishing drought.

Brazil: Toward the Continuation of Lulismo

Written by Raúl Zibechi
Americas Program

Dilma Rousseff came very close to winning in the first round of voting in Brazil, she ended up on the threshold of the government currently led by Lula de Silva. Lula, the most popular president Brazil has ever had, is stepping down after eight years that changed the face of the country and transformed its place in the world.

How can it be that a nearly unknown woman, who barely had 8.4% of projected votes two years ago, is about to become the next president of Brazil? Lula’s role, along with his 80% approval rating, has undoubtedly been a key factor. But Lula achieved his phenomenal backing for a number of internal and external reasons that merit close analysis. A phenomenon called lulismo was born during his eight-year presidency that explains Dilma’s success.

Electio results show that Rousseff, candidate for the ruling PT (Worker’s Party), got 46.9% of the vote, followed by social democrat José Serra of the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) with 32.6% and the ecologist Marina Silva (Lula’s former minister) with 19.3%. On October 31, the day of the second round of votes, Dilma will need four million more votes to become president.

Read more HERE.

Court of Appeal upholds union certification of a Walmart store in Saskatchewan

The Court’s ruling is the latest chapter in legal process Walmart has dragged out since 2004

Saskatoon (19 October 2010) – The highest court in Saskatchewan has upheld a decision to certify a union at a Walmart in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

In a unanimous decision released last week the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal upheld the certification of a United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada) Local 1400 bargaining unit at the Weyburn store. The certification had originally been issued by the Saskatchewan Labour Board in December 2008.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has worked with the UFCW Canada for many years to support the drive to organize Wal-Mart workers.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Global Crisis, The Role and Meaning of Art in Society

By Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Global Research

The more horrifying the world becomes, the more art becomes abstract. - Paul Klee

As the current world economic crisis deepens, the role and meaning of art in society changes as more and more people are dragged down by the weight of personal debt, unemployment and poverty. Galleries close and less people can afford to buy art creating a new awareness among artists of the fragility of the art market and the economic system behind it that creates an increasingly alienated and elitist exclusivism.

The beneficial effects of new radical-democratic global solidarity movements coming together to seek alternatives to this crisis in capitalist globalization may be to reinvigorate the long-standing, though weakened, connection between artists and the people (as opposed to the economic elites who have been the artists’ lifeblood in the past but who are now also in crisis).

While artists have depicted ordinary people since the Middle Ages, it was a past crisis that firmly established a mutually respectful relationship between the artist and the people. As Linda Nochlin writes in Realism:

“[I]t was not until the 1848 Revolution which raised the dignity of labour to official status and the grandeur of le people to an article of faith, that artists turned to a serious and consistent confrontation of the life of the poor and humble: to the depiction of work and its concrete setting as a major subject for art - as a possible subject even for an artistic masterpiece on a monumental scale.”

Read more HERE.

Living for the City

Protests in France

I just liked this pic.

Source: New Left Project

What is the Left to Do?

A Permanent Economic Emergency


During this year’s protests against the Eurozone’s austerity measures—in Greece and, on a smaller scale, Ireland, Italy and Spain—two stories have imposed themselves. The predominant, establishment story proposes a de-politicized naturalization of the crisis: the regulatory measures are presented not as decisions grounded in political choices, but as the imperatives of a neutral financial logic—if we want our economies to stabilize, we simply have to swallow the bitter pill.

The other story, that of the protesting workers, students and pensioners, would see the austerity measures as yet another attempt by international financial capital to dismantle the last remainders of the welfare state. The imf thus appears from one perspective as a neutral agent of discipline and order, and from the other as the oppressive agent of global capital.

Read more HERE.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Somebody to Love

Jefferson Airplane

When the truth is found to be lies
and all the joy within you dies
don't you want somebody to love

Jack Vicq Rides Again

By Erin Weir
The Progressive Economics Forum

Jack Vicq is Saskatchewan’s answer to Jack Mintz, a relentless advocate of lower taxes for high-income individuals and profitable corporations. His first report for the provincial government presaged massive personal income tax cuts in 2000 (which soon pushed the province into deficit). His second report for the provincial government presaged massive corporate tax cuts.

Saskatchewan business organizations just released a third Vicq report, calling for yet more personal and business tax cuts. As usual, lower taxes are supposedly needed for “competitiveness,” a term repeated 58 times in the report.

The executive summary claims, “The challenge of a competitive tax system hits hard in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is neighbour to British Columbia and Alberta - the two jurisdictions in Canada with some of the lowest tax rates.” Of course, Saskatchewan actually neighbours Manitoba and Alberta. But since Manitoba has higher taxes, Vicq prefers BC as a comparator.

Either way, we should question the premise that Saskatchewan is uncompetitive. The first two Vicq reports were released in a very different context. Despite a decent provincial economy, Saskatchewan was experiencing out-migration and arguably not getting its rightful share of business investment. While these shortcomings had little to do with taxes, there was at least a case to be made.

Things have changed. Since Vicq’s last report in 2005, business investment in Saskatchewan increased by 55% through 2008. During the same period, investment rose by only 27% in Alberta and 32% in BC.

Statistics Canada has not yet released this provincial data for 2009. But by all accounts, Saskatchewan weathered the recession better than uber-competitive Alberta and BC.

Statistics Canada’s latest population estimate indicates that Saskatchewan had the fastest population growth of any province over the past year. So, where is the evidence of people and businesses fleeing allegedly high taxes? Where is Saskatchewan’s presumed competitiveness problem?