Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Politics Initiative at 10: Time to look forward

By Mel Watkins
November 30, 2011

Mel Watkins (left) and Cy Gonick at the
1969 NDP National Convention
There have been times in the past when there was a call for the NDP to move left: from the Waffle 40 plus years ago, to the New Politics Initiative in the more recent past. The times today, however, are different, perhaps radically so. Let us look forward rather than backward, uncertain as the exercise inherently is.

On the one hand, while unemployment and inequality are hardly new, these are truly tough times for far too many people. To paraphrase the great economist John Maynard Keynes, capitalism, never a thing of beauty, is no longer delivering the goods to most people.

Occupy, the New Politics Initiative and reclaiming the commons

By Murray Dobbin
November 29, 2011

My nearly 30 years of experience as a social activist in Saskatchewan immediately attracted me to the NPI 10 years ago: I had despaired for years over the deep and irrational divide between NDP party politics and the active social movements which characterized Saskatchewan political culture. The two should have been working together -- at least informally -- yet they existed as two solitudes. The NDP establishment detested social movements (and distrusted the labour movement) as naive and uncontrollable troublemakers because when the NDP was in power they persisted in criticizing the NDP government and making things uncomfortable for the ministers. Roy Romanow once told me he thought social movements were "totally useless."

Social movement organizations saw the NDP almost as an alien entity -- closed to any dialogue about policy or politics and weak and meek when it came to taking risks and pushing the policy envelope. Even at the individual membership level many NDPers could barely hide their disdain for any progressives not dedicated completely (and exclusively) to the party. And so when out of power there was virtually no conversation between the two sides -- there were parallel universes of opposition to the various reactionary parties (like the Grant Devine Conservative government in the 80s). The NDP fought them exclusively in the legislature and the movements fought them on the ground.

Foreign Hackers Target Potash Corp. of Sask.

By Greg Weston
CBC News

A leading cyber-crime expert says foreign hackers who launched a massive attack on Canadian government computers last fall also broke into the data systems of prominent Bay Street law firms and other companies to get insider information on an attempted $38-billion corporate takeover.

Daniel Tobok, whose international cyber-sleuthing company was called in by a number of the firms hit by the attacks, says the hacking spree from computers in China were all connected to last year's ultimately unsuccessful takeover bid for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

"All those different attacks on companies, law firms and government were all interconnected -- they weren't isolated incidents," he said in an interview with CBC News.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Farewell comrades: Obituary for Lucio Magri

By Chris Bambery
29 November 2011
Also read - The Tailor of Ulm

Lucio Magri, one of the founder’s of the Italian Marxist daily, Il Manifesto, has died at the age of 79. Chris Bambery looks at his life and legacy.

 Lucio Magri

One of the founder’s of the Italian Marxist daily, ‘Il Manifesto,’ Lucio Magri, has died at the age of 79. Magri chose an assisted death in a Swiss clinic.

Together with Rossana Rossanda, Luigi Pintor and Valentino Parlato he founded the paper in 1969 and was consequently expelled from the Italian Communist Party (PCI). The group had urged the party to connect to the growing student rebellion which would quickly translate into workplaces with the mass strikes of late 1969, the ‘Hot Autumn.’

Already, in 1968, Rossando had published an essay, L'anno degli studenti ("The Year of the students"), in which she declared her support for the youth rebellion. She was a link to the wartime generation of the party having joined it and the resistance to fascism and going on to become an MP and a member of the party’s central leadership.

Ten Days That Shook the World (full movie)

October (Ten Days that Shook the World) (1927)
Director: Sergei Eisenstein

Eisenstein: October

“We have the right to be proud that to us fell the good fortune of beginning the building of the Soviet State and by doing so, opening a new chapter in the history of the world.”
- Vladimir Lenin

Commissioned by the Soviet Central Committee in 1927 to commemorate the ten year anniversary of the October Revolution, October (also known as Ten Days that Shook the World) is the last significant silent film of legendary director Sergei Eisenstein. The Russian government desired the finest documentary possible, so they assigned their finest director the task of re-creating the Russian Revolution, and gave him immense resources to create his film. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Eisenstein's films conform to the party line. Yet, the great director is still able to find enough artistic license to experiment:

"In the light of the resolutions of the Central Committee, all workers in art must...fully subordinate our creative work to the interests of the education of the Soviet people. From this aim we must not take one step aside nor deviate a single iota. We must master the Lenin-Stalin method of perceiving reality and history... This is a guarantee that our cinematography will be able to surmount all the ideological and artistic failures...and will again begin to create pictures of high quality, worthy of the Stalinist epoch."

The New Politics Initiative: Ahead of its time?

By Judy Rebick
November 29, 2011

When I told my brother that we were at the 10th anniversary of the New Politics Initiative, he replied, "Really only 10 years ago? It seems much longer." When the co-founder of the NPI Jim Stanford suggested to me that we write a look back at the NPI, my first reaction was not overly positive.

It seems like another era when he and I were so enthusiastic about the anti-globalization movement that we thought it was worth a try to convince the NDP to open its arms not only to that movement but to other forces on the Left and start a new united party based on different principles.

So I went back not only to the Statement of Principles of the NPI but to an article:

"Contrary to what you have seen in the media, the NPI is not primarily about moving the NDP to the left.

"The NPI is about a new kind of politics -- it's about being more participatory, more engaging, more open and more diverse.

The Tailor of Ulm: Communism in the Twentieth Century

By Lucio Magri
9781844676989-tailor-of-ulm-A fascinating analysis and account of the decline and fall of Western communism by a participant observer.

Twenty years have passed since the Italian Communists' last Congress in 1991, in which the death of their party was decreed. It was a deliberate death, accelerated by the desire for a “new beginning.” That new beginning never came. in its place is the loss of one of the world's most complex political, organizational and theoretical heritages.

In this detailed and probing work, Lucio Magri, one of the towering intellectual figures of the Italian Left, assesses the causes for the demise of what was once one of the most powerful and vibrant communist parties of the West. The PCI marked almost a century of Italian history, from its founding in 1921 to the partisan resistance, the turning point of Salerno in 1944 to the de-Stalinization of 1956, the long '68 to the historic compromise, and to the opportunity—missed forever—of democratic transformation.

With rigor and passion, The Tailor of Ulm merges an original and enlightening interpretation of Italian communism with the experience of a militant “heretic” into a riveting read-capable of broadening our insights into contemporary Italy, and the twentieth-century communist experience.

The Tailor of Ulm
Hardback, 432 pages
ISBN: 9781844676989
November 2011
$59.95 / $75.00CAN



  • “How should the Left think about the Communist experience today? A founding theorist of Il manifesto reflects on the need for critical examination of the past-and the lessons to be drawn for the future from the Italian Communist Party's trajectory.”
  • “The decline and fall [of Italian Communism] is the subject of Magri's extremely shrewd and despondent book ... the final cry of someone whose life belongs to a world that has gone for ever.”      – Eric Hobsbawm, London Review of Books

The New Politics Initiative: Reflections on the 10th anniversary

By Marc Lee
November 29, 2011

Marc Lee
When I first read the New Politics Initiative's manifesto I thought it was one of the most visionary and exciting things I had read in a long time. Re-reading it a decade later, the NPI's vision of a more fundamentally democratic society and its ideas for a new type of politics still ring true. They also have a tremendous resonance with the current political moment, though in ways not intended by the drafters.

As a call to action to progressives inside and outside the NDP to transform into a new kind of political party, the NPI was a failure. While Jack Layton's campaign for leader resonated the most with that sentiment, and he became the candidate of NPI supporters, the Layton decade made little progress towards the NPI vision. Layton did make some early attempts to build party linkages to social movements, but before long the party fell back into its more traditional mode of legislative battle.

Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil?

By Derrick O'Keefe
Verso Books
Purchase book HERE.

9781844676156-michael-ignatieffA forensic critique of the influential liberal explores his opposition to fundamental human rights, the extension of democracy and the pursuit of economic equality.

One of the most influential intellectuals in the English-speaking world, Michael Ignatieff’s story is generally understood to be that of an ambitious, accomplished progressive politician and writer, whose work and thought fit within an enlightened political tradition valuing human rights and diversity. Here, journalist Derrick O’Keefe argues otherwise. In this scrupulous assessment of Ignatieff’s life and politics, he reveals that Ignatieff’s human rights discourse has served to mask his identification with political and economic elites.

Tracing the course of his career over the last thirty years, from his involvement with the battles between Thatcher and the coal miners in the 1980s to the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza, O’Keefe proposes that Ignatieff and his political tradition have in fact stood in opposition to the extension of democracy and the pursuit of economic equality. Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? is a timely assessment of the Ignatieff phenomenon, and of what it tells us about the politics of the English-speaking West today.

Learning from Ignatieff's #fail

By Derrick O'Keefe
November 29, 2011

I was in Toronto and Ottawa last week to launch my book critiquing Michael Ignatieff's career as a public intellectual. Coincidentally, Peter C. Newman's book on Ignatieff's disastrous tenure as Liberal leader was also released last week. Much of the media discussion has focused on Newman's pronouncement about the "death" of the Liberal Party.

From the Party of European Socialists Convention

By Shayn McCallum 
Social Europe Journal

The PES convention, a historic gathering of socialist/social democratic activists and leaders, is over. At the end of it all, the feeling is both one of hope and of urgency at the enormity and difficulty of the task ahead. The testimony of fallen leaders such as George Papandreou underlines the desperation of the times we are living in and forces even the most complacent among us to sit up in alarm and acknowledge that we are entering the last stages of a long counter-revolution against the achievements of post-war social democracy.

However, we need to be honest and start with a big “mea culpa” before proceeding. The truth is, social democrats have not just been the victims of a creeping coup by the markets against the efficacy of democracy, they (we) have, at times, been active collaborators in this process of marketization.

I hesitate to throw accusations of betrayal or stick “Quisling” labels on the foreheads of past leaders or call for some cathartic act of repudiation, this would be unfair. After the conservative (really free-market radical) onslaught of the 1980’s and the ideological confusion brought on in the liberal intellectual war on socialism after the collapse of the counterfeit “real” socialism of Eastern Europe and the USSR, the belief, that so many of our comrades took on, that all illusions in an alternative society must be shelved is absolutely understandable even if tragically mistaken.

Two million state workers to strike in Britain

Tuesday 29 Nov 2011

More than two million public sector workers are expected to go on strike on Wednesday in protest at changes to their pensions in the biggest industrial action in Britain for three decades. Thousands of schools will be closed, refuse will remain uncollected and hospitals will have skeleton staffing.

This is an historic week for our union.

From the Shetland Isles to Southampton, nurses, social workers, PCSOs, librarians, dinner ladies, teaching assistants, bin men and paramedics - among many other public sector workers - will be standing shoulder to shoulder and marching, demonstrating, holding rallies, and even painting children’s faces, as millions strike to protect public sector pensions.

And poll after poll shows that our message is getting through to the public, with the latest showing 60% support our day of action.

Our members are not asking for more – they just want the pension benefits they signed up for to stand.

I know there will be many first time strikers - and most people taking action are women, many work in caring roles in our society, so they don’t take action lightly. They don’t want to inconvenience people – this really is the last resort.

We have said to government ministers that we are willing to negotiate anyplace, anytime. But there has been no approach for last minute talks – making strike action a certainty.

So on Wednesday, let's make our voices heard loud and clear, and show ministers that we will not take this pensions tax lying down.

Dave Prentis
General Secretary

Monday, November 28, 2011

The New Politics Initiative vision statement of 2001: Open, sustainable, democratic

By The Cofounders of the New Politics Initiative
November 28, 2011

This month marks the 10th Anniversary of the New Politics Initiative, a coalition of individuals and organizations that called for the formation of a new and more activist progressive political party in Canada.

The NPI was concerned with the relationship between progressive social movements and progressive parties, trying to better understand and strengthen the links between electoral and extra-parliamentary left activism.

In light of the Occupy movement and the NDP leadership race, we at rabble thought this was a good time to review the themes and lessons of the NPI, and consider their relevance for the future directions of the left. We begin today by re-posting the NPI's founding document. We have also invited several activists who were involved in the initiative to share their reflections with us in the coming days.

Additional contributions to this dialogue are also welcome, please send them to

The left is at a crossroads. Conservatives and business leaders trumpet a new era in which the supremacy of the market and corporate power are as natural and self-evident as they are irresistible. We have supposedly reached the "end of history", the "end of ideology": an era of apparent consensus in policy and politics, a universally accepted reality in which business calls the shots and the rest of society adjusts itself accordingly.

Despite this, however, vast numbers of people insist on continuing to fight for their basic rights to security, dignity, freedom, and environmental sustainability. They insist on continuing to make their own history, even as the spin doctors claim that history is over -- that there are no longer any alternatives. These grassroots struggles for a better world show no sign of letting up, despite the daunting power of the corporations and pro-corporate governments they confront.

Read more HERE.

Video: Tommy Douglas, Saskatchewan Premier


21st Century Socialism: Reinventing the Project

Fernwood Books
Edited by Henry Veltmeyer
Paperback Price: $24.95 CAD
Publication Date: Oct 2011

The growing polarization between the rich and powerful and the poor and powerless, the yawning social and developmental divide and the multidimensional systemic crisis of capitalism have given rise to a fundamental problem of our times: barbarism or socialism? Will we continue on the path of capitalist barbarism or move to a more just socialist system?

Bringing together a passionate group of socialists, 21st Century Socialism participates in the emerging and critical debate concerned with reinventing and rebuilding socialism. Revisiting concepts of class and capital, reinventing Marx, problematizing party politics, re-examining alternative forms of socialist politics and learning lessons from Venezula’s Bolivarian Revolution, 21st Century Socialism explores how socialism needs to be re-imagined to make it relevant to 21st-century.


Preface • Why Socialism? • Introduction • Socialisms of the 20th and 21st Centuries (James Petras) Part 1 – Reinventing Socialism: Reinventing Socialism and Recovering Marx (Michael Lebowitz) • Cloistering Criticism or Breaking Bonds? (Errol Sharpe) • Western Ideology: Modernisms and the Attack on Marxism (Thom Workman) • Crisis, Movements, Counter-Hegemony: In Search of the New (Bill Carroll) Part 2 – Organization and Strategy: The Political Instrument for Socialist Transformation (Marta Harnecker) • Class Organization (Mauro Casadio & Luciano Vasapollo) • Socialist Strategy, Yesterday and Today (Murray E. G. Smith & Josh Dumont) Part 3 – Prospects and Limitations • The Prospects for Socialism: A Question of Capital and Class (Hugo Radice) • Venezuela Under Chavez: Prospects and Limitations for Socialism (Jeffrey Webber) • Conclusion: Socialism or Barbarism? (James Petras & Henry Veltmeyer)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

F. R. Scott: Notes from the 1933 CCF founding convention in Regina


Frank R. Scott was a founder of the League for Social Reconstruction and an influential founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in Regina at it's 1933 convention.

Below are Scott's summary statements for this convention that adopted the Regina Manifesto.

CCF Founding Convention, Regina 1944 - click to enlarge

Law, Order and Democracy: An Analysis of the Judiciary in a Progressive State -- The Saskatchewan Experience

By David S. Cohen
Saskatchewan Law Review

We do not know a great deal about Adolphe Poirier. What we do know from his experience with the legal system during the Great Depression in Saskatchewan is not pleasant.

In 1935, Adolphe Poirier, a Saskatchewan farmer, was in danger of losing his farm. In the late fall of that year, Poirier sought protection from his creditor's claims, under the recently enacted Farmers' Creditors Arrangement Act, 1934.' Under the Act, his remaining funds were deposited with an Official Receiver, but his application to the Board of Review established under the Act was refused.

As a result of the rejected proposal, on January 3, 1936, the District Court of Saskatchewan ordered the money held by the Official Receiver to be distributed to his creditors, including the Banque Canadienne Nationale.

Read more HERE.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wall brings 'Harpertism' to the provinces

By Michael Taube
Postmedia News
November 26, 2011

Is Saskatchewan the new Alberta Premier Brad Wall's massive recent re-election victory seems to indicate that conservatism - in particular, populist conservatism - has found a new home in what used to be left-leaning Tommy Douglas country.

On Nov. 7, Wall's Saskatchewan Party won 49 of 58 seats in the provincial legislature. They earned an astonishing 64 per cent of the popular vote (no Saskatchewan-based party has ever earned a higher percentage), made significant inroads in Regina and Saskatoon (traditional NDP strongholds), and unseated NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter, who then resigned. That's a rather remarkable achievement, considering Saskatchewan's long infatuation with socialism, co-operative programs and universal health care.

How could Wall have achieved so much success in a province that has only had two other right-leaning premiers (James T.M. Anderson and Grant Devine) since 1905? Here's the answer: he's more of a populist conservative than a fiscal conservative.

The Hypocrisy of Arab League and the West

By Kourosh Ziabari
Dissident Voice
November 26th, 2011

Syria crisis: Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora (C) meets
with members of the Arab League delegation.
After the Arab League hypocritically suspended the membership of Syria amid the mounting pressures of NATO and the United States, the resurgence of violence in Egypt and the increasing use of excessive force in Bahrain and Yemen, and the unrelenting massacre of innocent civilians by the barbaric regime of Al Khalifa and Ali Abdullah Saleh once again attracted the attention of conscientious observers in the international community.

According to official figures released by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights website, so far 44 Bahraini citizens were killed at the hands of the mercenaries of Al Khalifa regime. The Bahraini martyrs include the 6-year-old Mohammed Farhan, 14-year-old Ali Jawad Alshaikh and 15-year-old Sayed Ahmad Saeed Shams. The Bahraini organization has reported that many of these martyrs were killed while in custody. The Center has also published documents indicating that more than 1,500 Bahrainis, including about 100 women, were incarcerated since the eruption of turmoil in the Persian Gulf country on February 14, 2011 and that more that 90 journalists face life threat.

Brazil: woman's work vs men's mess

By Arthur Ituassu
Open Democracy
23 November 2011

Dilma Rousseff approaches the anniversary of her inauguration as Brazil's president at the beginning of 2012 following a year when policy advances and political setbacks have tumbled into one another. Among the most spectacular of the latter is a series of corruption scandals which has led to the fall of no less than five of her ministers. The president personally has not been touched by any of these scandals, and her speed and firmness in insisting on the departure of those responsible are to her credit. But the catalogue of incidents - all of which involve male ministers - has to a degree overshadowed her first year in office.

It could even get worse. A sixth target is the minister of labour, Carlos Lupi, who is accused of demanding payoffs from NGOs in receipt of government contracts. Similar charges forced Orlando Silva from the ministry of sports in October, in the midst of preparations for the football world cup (2014) and the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro (2016). His loss was preceded by that of Dilma's influential chief-of-staff and ex-campaign manager, Antonio Palocci, over allegations of illicit enrichment, in June; Alfredo Nascimento (ministry of transport), in July; Wagner Rossi (ministry of agriculture), in August; and Pedro Novais (ministry of tourism), in September.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Next Year Country (1975)

Next Year Country

More retro socialism from NYC, the magazine published by the Saskatchewan Waffle Movement. In this February/March, 1975 issue:
  • Struggle in northern Saskatchewan
  • Divisions in SCAPO/Briarpatch
  • Sask Power Corporation
  • Grains Group 11
  • Legal Aid Bureaucracy
  • Norman Bethune reviewed
  • Labour

Click image above to enlarge

Social Democracy and the Economic Crisis

By John W. Warnock 
Act Up in Sask
24 November 2011

In the Spanish general election last Sunday, the Socialist Party government was soundly defeated. The rightist Peoples Party won the election but only increased their vote by a very small margin. The Indignatos, the people who staged mass street mobilizations, asked the voters to stay home, spoil their ballot or vote for the numerous smaller parties. Neither of the two major parties were deemed fit to govern, they argued. The Socialists lost three million votes.

The Spanish economy is in the tank with unemployment at 22% and youth unemployment over 40%. Personal and government debt is huge, and investors fear they will default on their bonds. As in the United States, the crisis is the fallout from the collapse of the housing bubble, created by the unregulated finance industry supported by low interest rates and neoliberal government policies.

Inspiration South of the Border

By Eva Golinger 
Postcards from the Revolutions
Friday, November 25, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street protests spreading across the United States have finally garnered the attention of national and international public opinion. The prolonged economic crisis and exclusionary political structure have propelled thousands of people in the United States to step out of their comfort zones, take to the streets and demand change. Brutal police repression in response to peaceful demonstrations in cities throughout the US has made international headlines, evidencing the hypocrisy of a government quick to accuse and criticize others for human rights violations, while perpetuating the same, if not worse, nasty behavior at home.

Many analysts and commentators have attributed the protests in the US to the so-called “Arab Spring” taking place in Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern and African nations. The movements in the US and Arab world have shared similar tactics and characteristics, including the use of social media such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to mobilize demonstrations and publicize protest activities and state repression. The protagonists of these revolts have been primarily young people and those outraged and disgruntled at systems that have failed them and left millions impoverished with no opportunities.

WAL-TOWN: The Film

National Film Board of Canada

Battleship Potemkin (full movie)

Directed by Sergei Eisenstein
1925, 75 mins., Not Rated
Also see  Potemkin”: One of the greatest films of all time

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Privatization: the wrong direction


The Saskatchewan government's risky decision to contract-out surgeries to private for-profit clinics was supposed expand surgical capacity.

But one year later, surgical data for the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region show that is not what happened.

The most recent information available on the government's surgical website shows 20,452 surgeries were performed in the health region between September 2010 and July 2011, while 20,463 surgeries were done over the same period a year before.

The data also suggest the use of private surgical clinics has harmed the capacity of the public health system. The region's hospitals performed 576 fewer surgeries in the 11 months after Omni Surgery Centre began operations. Omni performed a total of 565 surgeries over the same period.

"Instead of expanding surgical capacity, the region has transferred the surgical work to the private sector," said Gordon Campbell, President of the CUPE Health Care Council, which represents health care providers in the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region.

Instead of paying more to profit-clinics for fewer surgeries, Campbell said the government and health region should restore funding for the public day surgery centre in Regina. The Saskatchewan government postponed funding for the $14 million centre in 2009, when it announced plans to invest in private for-profit clinics.

'Committing Theatre' revisits Canada's radical theatre roots

How theatre artists have intervened in and engaged with political struggle from the mid-19th century to the present 

November 24, 2011
Committing Theatre
Committing Theatre -- Theatre Radicalism and Political Intervention in Canada
By Alan Filewod
(Between The Lines,2011;$29.95)

Alan Filewod's Committing Theatre begins with a single event from June 1919. Unable to get a response from his government about how the upkeep of city properties are impacting his private garden, a man goes to City Hall and presents the Mayor of Vancouver's secretary with a bouquet of flowers picked from properties that adjoin his. The bouquet is covered with caterpillars.

This is an important refrain throughout the book. Filewod starts before the 1920s radio sermons of Social Credit founder and eventual Alberta Premier William Aberhart, and takes us all the way to the current Toronto-based practices of Mammalian Diving Reflex's Darren O'Donnell. Throughout, Filewod keeps returning to the caterpillar episode he considers an example of what Bertolt Brecht would later call gest, "a theatricalised action that embodies, enacts and watches a social critique."

CEP, Council of Canadians demand answers to RCMP spying on activists

By Council of Canadians
November 24, 2011

RCMP records obtained under freedom of information legislation reveal a disturbing relationship between the national police force and corporations.

According to a CBC news report, the Joint Intelligence Group, an RCMP-led intelligence team that has extensively spied on community organizations and activists, "made a series of presentations to private-sector corporations, including one to 'energy sector stakeholders' in November 2011. Other corporations that received intelligence from police included Canada's major banks, telecom firms, airlines, downtown property companies and other businesses seen to be vulnerable to the effects of summit protests."

A social-democratic response to the Eurocrisis

By Jamie
New Left Project
24 November 2011

I went to a talk last night, organised by the Cambridge University Labour Club, discussing European centre-left responses to the eurozone crisis, which yesterday spread to Germany. The panellists were Emma Reynolds MP, Labour shadow minister for Europe; Axelle Lemaire, a parliamentary candidate for the French Parti Socialiste; Carsten Sieling, SDP MP for Bremen, who had just flown in from working in the Bundestag's budget and financing committee; and Prof. Andrew Gamble, head of politics and international studies at Cambridge and author of, among other things, The Spectre at the Feast: Capitalist Crisis and the Politics of Recession.

In their analysis of the crisis and its implications, Gamble's comments were the most interesting. We'll get to them below. But it was also useful to compare how the British, German and French centre-left currents are developing their responses. There was, as you might expect, a lot of overlap in their presentations. All expressed concern that the crisis would provoke a "populist" anti-Europe backlash. Emma Reynolds noted that the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders has started blaming Greeks as well Muslims for the Netherlands' problems. In this context Axelle Lemaire was keen to stress that the crisis was not a European one, but was a product of "national" policies: it is a debt crisis, not a 'euro crisis'.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CUPW Speaks Out on Cuba Issues

November 23, 2011

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers adopted a resolution at their national convention to support the cause of the Cuban Five, call for an end to the US embargo on Cuba and its travel ban on the island.

The union represents 56,000 postal workers across Canada. The convention took place on October 27.

The following is the full text of the union’s resolution regarding Cuba.

Cuban 5, the U.S. Embargo and the Travel Ban

WHEREAS Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Geraldo Hernandez, known as ‘Cuban Five’, were arrested in Miami, Florida in September 1997 and charged with 26 counts of violating federal laws of the US, 24 of those charges were technical and minor offences, none of the charges reflected violence against the US, use of weapons, property damage, nor threatened or killed any person or transferred US government documents or classified material, they are serving four lifetime sentences and 77 years in US prisons collectively;

Mowed Down: Dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board - Who will really reap the benefits?

November 23, 2011

Did you eat any bread today? Maybe a sandwich at lunch? How about a beer after work? If so, you can thank the Canadian Wheat Board.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) launched a new publication highlighting the importance of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) to Canadian farmers and to the entire country.

Mowed Down: Dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, Who will really reap the rewards outlines the many collective benefits Canadians receive through the CWB, from helping family farmers make a decent living to a reduced environmental footprint to food safety.

Mowed Down provides a history of the CWB and clearly shows how it has stood up for working farmers against big grain operators for decades. The CWB acts as a bargaining unit, representing 75,000 Western wheat and barley growers. It negotiates on their behalf the best price for their product as well as favourable storage and transportation rates to hold and deliver it. Neither a government agency, nor a crown corporation, the CWB is fully funded by farmers. The profit that it makes each year from grain sales is returned to farmers.

The Attack on the Canadian Wheat Board: Seven Reasons Non-Farmers Should Care … and Act

By Paul S. Graham
Communications, politics, peace and justice
November 11, 2011

On October 18th, Prime Minister Harper introduced legislation, Bill C-18, to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. The majority of farmers oppose the Prime Minister’s plan—farmers have repeatedly voted for a strong, effective CWB. Farmers are organizing and protesting. But to save our democratically controlled marketing agency, farm families need your help, and the help of the organizations with which you work.

The loss of the CWB will hurt every Canadian family. Here are seven reasons why non-farmer Canadian citizens should act to help protect the Wheat Board:

1. Privatization and Loss of Economic Control

Few sectors of the Canadian economy are 100% owned and controlled by Canadians. But one is: our multibillion-dollar western wheat and barley marketing system. If the Harper government destroys the CWB, it will turn over to transnational corporations (most of them foreign) a critical sector of our economy that is now owned and controlled by Canadian citizens. What C-18 takes away from farmers and other Canadians, it gives to grain giants such as Cargill.

NATO's Great Victory...Destroying Libya’s Welfare State

November 23, 2011

Rescuers work at the site of a health clinic destroyed by NATO air strikes
The other day, I was listening to the voice of “liberal” radio, NPR, and was surprised to hear its bizarre, and yet quite candid, report on what it apparently views to be one of the more hideous aspects of the Gadhafi years – a modern welfare state which looked after working people.

Thus, without tongue in cheek, or any note of irony, NPR, in its November 14 report, entitled, “Libya’s Economy Faces New Tests After Gadhafi Era,” explained that the biggest impediment to the new economic era is the Libyan worker who was simply too coddled by Gaddafi.

Portugal’s general strike. Why workers are back on the streets again

Revolting Europe 
November 23, 2011

Portugal’s premier Passos Coelho was elected in June promising that deep and rapid spending cuts would turn things around for Portugal. The chances of him delivering were slim. The people had chucked out the Socialists because they had promised the same miraculous recovery through the same austere economic medicine, and failed to cure the ailing patient. The EU/IMF bailout package that Coelho and his right-wing coalition government swallowed hook and line five months back dictated economically suicidal deficit reduction targets, and as has been the case in Greece, Portugal is now in a bigger mess than ever.

Coelho’s promises of an export surge have evaporated along with growth across Europe. Spending in the local economy – internal demand – has collapsed. This is expected to shrink the economy by 1.9 percent this year and at 3 percent in 2012, in what is likely to be Portugal’s worst recession since the 1974 ‘Carnation’ revolution, according to forecasts. This in turn means Portugal has been missing deficit reduction targets – as tax receipts fall and because of simple statistics – the targets are expressed as a ratio of economic growth.

Working Lives in Debt

By Eli Jelly-Schapiro
September 13, 2011

How does debt act as a tool of labor discipline? As a catalyst of capitalist accumulation? As a method of labor degradation? I want to approach these questions by imagining a series of three lives, working lives, working lives in debt.

Though nominally fictional, this inter-generational story is rooted in actual places, and in actual historical moments–spaces and times of significant import to the twentieth-century history of debt and credit in particular, and capitalism in general. Our first fictional life–let’s give it a name: Davis Johnson–begins in the Caribbean, in the Bahamas, around the turn of the century.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The pain in Spain falls mostly like the rain

By revoltingeurope
November 22, 2011

Yet another European government has been claimed by the bankers’ crisis on the continent. This time it was the turn of Spanish prime minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialists.

The landslide victory of the Popular Party was widely predicted in polls – as was the devastating defeat of the Socialists.

The Socialists’ 110 seats was their worst result since democracy was restored to Spain at elections in 1977.

The Popular Party, with 186 out of 350 seats, will have an absolute majority.

New campaign planning handbook for Canadian union activists 
November 22, 2011

The Toronto and York Region Labour Council has just published Mike Balkwill and Rob Fairley's campaign planning guide for activist leaders and union organizers.

Written by and for activists, the beautifully designed and pragmatic 32-page guide contains many useful tools and tips.

Download Mike and Rob's "The Campaign Planning Handbook". [1]

The tools and tips I appreciated from the guide, include:

 Facilitation techniques, such as setting ground rules, (strategic planning sessions help when folks listen to each other), and posting a campaign event calendar on the wall so participants can add information as they go;
  1. A summary of effective campaign planning tools, like the forcefield analysis which helps activists assess their political landscape in order to identify threats and opportunities;
  2. A summary of elicitive questions to help you assess your progress throughout the campaign (which is nice as I don't know of many resources out there that help activists re-assess and re-evaluate their progress mid-way through the campaign); and
  3. A tool to assess member support, as in which union members are with, neutral, or against you.

Are we really living in a "New Saskatchewan"?

By Jim Harding
No Nukes
November 22, 2011

I had a pre-arranged trip out of province just two days after the Sask Party’s pummeling of the NDP. I didn’t take the trip to escape the one-party bubble that seems to be forming here. I went to speak at a Trans-Atlantic Forum on Nuclear Energy and then took side trips to visit family.

But the diversity of views in Ontario and Quebec did rekindle a deeper perspective that was wearing thin as I watched the Sask Party juggernaut win 49 of 58 seats. The overwhelming electoral victory makes perfect sense only in the short term; it presents no long-term viable vision of sustainability. The election reminds me of the car oil filter ad “you can pay me now or pay me later”.

Blogger and activist Joe Kuchta dies

David Hutton
Star Pheonix
November 22, 2011

Joe Kuchta, Owls and Roosters blogger and the province’s most frequent user of access to information, has died. He was 50. He always held government and the media’s feet to the fire and was a frequent contributor to the SP’s editorial pages. He was an outspoken critic of River Landing, the demolition of the Traffic Bridge, and the move of the Mendel Art Gallery to River Landing. His wife, Georgie Davis, a disability advocate and activist, died in September.

From Kuchta’s obituary:

With grace, Joe passed away peacefully at home – now able to re-join his soul-mate and beloved wife, Georgie Davis. Joe will be very much missed by his brother, Jeff Kuchta and wife, Sandra Eisan, and their children, Liam and Wesley, along with his Aunt Carole Kuchta, Aunt Irene and Uncle Jake Fehr, and long-time friend, Charlie Sass whom he recently enjoyed visiting back in his home town of London, Ontario. Joe is predeceased by his parents Joseph and Lorraine Kuchta.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Six incredibly bad films inspired by the Cold War

By Chris Elliott
People's World
November 21 2011

After the end of World War II, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., former allies in the fight against fascism, confronted each other as opponents in a "Cold War." The world was seen to be more and more splitting into two rival camps. Berlin and Germany were divided into "East" and "West." The United States' use of nuclear weapons against Japan ignited the atomic age and began an "arms race" with the Soviet Union.

The apocalyptic power of nuclear weapons precluded their use in a "hot" war. Instead, the Cold War was fought mainly through espionage, proxies, and propaganda. McCarthyism infused American culture with conformity and paranoia. Reds were under every bed and rightwing politicians like Richard Nixon made careers of making a show of smoking them out. Nuclear war with Russia seemed imminent as personal bomb shelters became the rage and "duck and cover" became the catchphrase in schools.

Wake up and Listen to Occupiers

Their challenge to each of us is not to live in tents, but to resist, remake any way we can.

By Murray Dobbin
November 21, 2011

The amazingly resilient Occupy phenomenon is running up against the same ugly reality that so many social movements have encountered over the past 20 years: There is a world of difference between influence and power.

Governments and the corporations they serve have power -- that is, the power of money (and the law) to make decisions that can immediately and dramatically effect people's lives. Laying off thousands of people with no notice, cancelling or slashing social programs, building mines and oil pipelines, providing subsidies and tax breaks to private companies or refusing to build social housing or provide child care are all things governments and corporations do almost exclusively.

And, most important for the Occupy movement, the power to facilitate the creation of a super-rich class of feudal lords by re-writing rules, making laws, deregulating finance and establishing (and for the state, allowing) corporate practices that pay billions to the one per cent based on nothing more than their elite status.

Bye, Bye, Wheat Board?

Small farmers raise concern as Conservatives prepare to cut board's monopoly

By Sheldon Birnie
The Dominion
November 21, 2011

Stphen Harper’s Conservative government is preparing to pass legislation to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on exports and milling of prairie-grown wheat and barley.

“The Wheat Board was brought into place, basically, so that grain buyers wouldn’t take advantage of farmers,” explained Jo-Lene Gardiner of Manitoba Agriculture, Food, and Rural Initiatives, which is based out of Pilot Mound, MB.

From it's offices in Winnipeg, the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) markets Canadian grain to world markets and for domestic consumption.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Lessons of Europe

By Boaventura de Sousa Santos 
Greek Left Review
November 20, 2011

Europe is haunted by the ghost of historical exhaustion. Having ascribed to itself the mission of teaching the world for the past five centuries, it now appears to have very little to teach. Even more tragically, it appears to have no capacity to learn from the experience of the world as a whole.

The little European corner, albeit increasingly smaller in the larger world context, cannot grasp the wider world but by resorting to general concepts and universal principles, and does not even realize that, on its own grounds, loyalty to such concepts and principles is little more than a mirage. Assuming that the understanding of the world by far exceeds the European understanding of the world, the difficulties that Europe is undergoing may provide a fertile learning field for the whole world. Here are the main lessons.

The Brother From Another Planet (full movie)

An early classic from John Sayles...

REVIEW BY ROGER EBERT / January 1, 1984

When the movies started to talk, they began to lose the open-eyed simplicity with which they saw the world. THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET tells the story of a man who cannot talk, but who can read minds, listen carefully, look deep into eyes, and provide a sort of mirror for our society. That makes it sound serious, but like all the most serious movies, it's a comedy.

The film stars Joe Morton as a visitor from outer space, who looks like a black human being, unless you look carefully at the three funny toes on his feet. He arrives on Earth in a spaceship that looks borrowed from the cheapest B space operas from the 1950s, swims ashore, and finds himself on Manhattan Island. At first he is completely baffled. Before long, everyone he meets is just as baffled. It is strange to deal with people who confound all your expectations: It might even force you to reevaluate yourself.

Social Opposition in the Age of Internet: Desktop “Militants” and Public Intellectuals

By Prof. James Petras
Global Research
November 20, 2011

The relation of information technology (IT) and more specifically the internet, to politics is a central issue facing contemporary social movements. Like many previous scientific advances the IT innovations have a dual purpose: on the one hand, it has accelerated the global flow of capital, especially financial capital and facilitated imperialist ‘globalization’. On the other hand the internet has served to provide alternative critical sources of analysis as well as easy communication to mobilize popular movements.

The IT industry has created a new class of billionaires, from Silicon Valley in California to Bangalore , India . They have played a central role in the expansion of economic colonialism via their monopoly control in diverse spheres of information flows and entertainment.

To paraphrase Marx “the internet has become the opium of the people”. Young and old, employed and unemployed alike spend hours passively gazing at spectacles, pornography, video games, online consumerism and even “news” in isolation from other citizens, fellow workers and employees.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tony Judt: A Cooler Look

By Dylan Riley
New Left Review
Sept./Oct. 2011

Tony Judt (illus. Joe Ciardiello)
Accolades continue to be piled upon the historian Tony Judt, following his untimely death in August 2010. For the Guardian, he was ‘a fearless critic of narrow orthodoxies’, ‘a great historian’, ‘a brilliant political commentator’. For the New York Review of Books, ‘a source of inspiration’, who sought to ‘embrace difference’—‘like Isaiah Berlin’—within historical accounts that were ‘harmonious, convincing, and true’; like Camus, Blum and Aron, Judt knew what it was to bear the intellectual’s ‘burden of responsibility’. To the Economist, he was ‘erudite and far-sighted’, ‘a meticulous intellect’—‘an intellectual with a capital I’.

More circumspectly, the New York Times saluted his ‘deep suspicion of left-wing ideologues’. In June 2011 a Paris conference, jointly organized by the nyrb and ceri SciencesPo, celebrated Judt’s ‘scholarly rigour, elegance of style and acuteness of judgement’. Morally, he was ‘fearless’, ‘prophetic’, a new Orwell; intellectually, he was ‘formidable’, possessed of a ‘forceful lucidity’; as a historian of French political life, happily ‘inoculated against the revolutionary ideas that had been the stock in trade of the intellectual engagé’.

To what extent are these plaudits confirmed by a sober examination of Judt’s work, held to the normal scholarly standards of intellectual coherence and empirical plausibility? What follows will offer an evaluation of his writings, as the necessary precondition for an adequate assessment of his contribution as historian, publicist and scholar.

Read more HERE.

Inspired By Iceland… No, really!

By  Árni Daníel Júlíusson
Saving Iceland
Originally published in the Reykjavík Grapevine
October 7, 2011

It is funny how things can turn around. For decades, Iceland languished in neoliberal hell, with signs of opposition few and far between. Meanwhile the opposition to the neoliberal order of things grew all over the world—with massive protests in Seattle, Genoa and elsewhere—and the beginnings of a world-wide anti-globalisation movement represented by the World Social Forum, first held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001.

Almost nobody in Iceland did or said anything to support these powerful movements against the neoliberal order, with the exception of the brave Saving Iceland organisation. Even the considerable activism surrounding the anti-imperialist campaigns against American military presence in Iceland seemed to die completely down in around 1990. Neoliberalism reigned, Iceland supported the Iraq invasion in 2003 and nobody said or did anything.

NDP Leader race crowded, on the right

By Barry Weisleder
Socialist Action
November 19, 2011

Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister who takes pride in his role in early 'free trade' negotiations, brings a decidedly pro-capitalist, anti-Quebec self-determination perspective to the New Democratic Party leadership race. When Mulcair announced his candidacy, he had the backing of 15 MPs, soon likely 30, but few supporters outside of the ranks of strongly pro-federalist Quebecers.

British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen, another leadership contender, advocates a “non-compete agreement” with the Liberal and Green parties. While the stated aim is to unite anti-Conservative votes in the next federal election, such a move, welcomed by the pro-Liberal media as a step towards merger, would destroy the NDP as a party independent of the business class. It would drown generations of working class social gains.

Ottawa MP Paul Dewar promises that as NDP leader he would give city governments more say – even a seat at federal-provincial ministers' meetings. Dewar, until recently the NDP foreign affairs critic in Parliament, defended the bombing of Libya by Canadian Forces. He supports the Canada-U.N. occupation of Haiti, opposed the Canadian Boat to Gaza, and rejects boycott, sanctions and divestment aimed at the Zionist apartheid state.

Silver Linings: After Link, the NDP can rebuild

By John F. Conway
Planet S
November 17, 2011

The Nov. 7 election results are about what was expected since that suicidal day the NDP selected Dwain Lingenfelter as leader: a smashing victory for Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party (49 of 58 seats and 64 per cent) and a crushing defeat for Dwain Lingenfelter and the NDP (nine seats and 32 per cent).

No, that’s not quite true. Certainly, it was a crushing defeat for Lingenfelter, who lost his seat in traditional NDP territory, and many of his key caucus supporters went down with him — but the core of the party held firm, and the elected MLAs include some who represent the best traditions of the NDP. If the NDP had slipped below 30 per cent, the defeat would have been catastrophic. Now, the NDP can begin the serious rebuilding process that was postponed by the trip back to the Romanow/Lingenfelter past.

Friday, November 18, 2011

NATO beats the drums of war against Syria and Iran

By Jooneed Khan
November 18, 2011
If you thought the $4-trillion Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan quagmire, and the loss of standing and credibility that goes with it, would bring the declining West to its senses, well, think again.

Even as I write this, drums of war are beating in Israel and across Natodom to "bomb, bomb, bomb" Iran and Syria, and go "free" them with the drones and the missiles of "regime change."

With Libya in ruins, and its oil pledged to NATO multinationals, the screws are now tightening on Iran and Syria. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) is meeting in Vienna to discuss its latest report on Iran, while Israel openly threatens to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. And the Arab League (AL) has suspended Syria to force "regime change" in Damascus.

Challenging capitalism: a 12-step program

By Marc Lee 
Behind the Numbers, CCPA
November 18th, 2011

Over a year ago, I posted “What are the Game Changers?“, an attempt at sparking some strategic thinking for the broader left. Now that we’ve had a month of Occupation, building on the original Occupy Wall Street action, I’ve been wanting to put these ideas back on the table, so below I recycle much of that post and update it, plus adding some links for further reading.

Occupy has served notice to our elites (the top 1%) that people are not happy with an economic system that underpins enormous inequality of wealth and income, and is anchored in environmental destruction that is literally undermining the prospects for human civilization. But the movement is still one based on opposition rather than putting forward a common platform. So how do we move ahead to create a movement for change that will excite people about the world that could be, and put our ruling class on the defensive?