Sunday, March 31, 2013

Free ebook - Working People in Alberta: A History


Alvin Finkel, with contributions by Jason Foster, Winston Gereluk, Jennifer Kelly and Dan Cui, James Muir, Joan Schiebelbein, Jim Selby, and Eric Strikwerda

Working People in Alberta traces the history of labour in Alberta from the period of First Nations occupation to the present. Drawing on over two hundred interviews with labour leaders, activists, and ordinary working people, as well as on archival records, the volume gives voice to the people who have toiled in Alberta over the centuries. In so doing, it seeks to counter the view of Alberta as a one-class, one-party, one-ideology province, in which distinctions between those who work and those who own are irrelevant. 

Workers from across the generations tell another tale, of an ongoing collective struggle to improve their economic and social circumstances in the face of a dominant, exploitative elite. Their stories are set within a sequential analysis of provincial politics and economics, supplemented by chapters on women and the labour movement and on minority workers of colour and their quest for social justice.

Published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Alberta Federation of Labour, Working People in Albertacontrasts the stories of workers who were union members and those who were not. In its depictions of union organizing drives, strikes, and working-class life in cities and towns, this lavishly illustrated volume creates a composite portrait of the men and women who have worked to build and sustain the province of Alberta.

ISBN: 978-1-926836-58-4, paperback, 360 pp, View online version

Friday, March 29, 2013

Film: The Most Secret Place on Earth

March 2013

The Most Secret Place on Earth is a 2008 film by German director Marc Eberle.

After 30 years of conspiracy theories and myth making, this film uncovers the story of the CIA’s most extensive clandestine operation in the history of modern warfare: The Secret War in Laos, which was conducted alongside the Vietnam War from 1964 -1973. While the world’s attention was caught by the conflict in Vietnam, the CIA built the busiest military airport in the world in neighboring and neutral Laos and recruited humanitarian aid personnel, Special Forces agents and civilian pilots to undertake what would become the most effective operation of counterinsurgency warfare.

As the conflict in Vietnam grew, the objective in Laos changed from a cost effective low-key involvement to save the country from becoming communist into an all-out air war to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail and bomb Laos back into the Stone Age that it had never really left in the first place. Conventional bombs equivalent to the destructive power of 20 Hiroshima-type weapons fell on Laos each year – 2 million tons of bombs, more than on Europe and the Pacific theatre combined during World War II. Until today much of the countryside is poisoned by Agent Orange and littered with unexploded ordnance.

In “The most secret place on earth” key players of the secret war – CIA agents, pilots, Laotian and Thai fighters -take us on a journey into the physical heart of the conflict: Top secret Long Tieng. Long Tieng was often described as “The Most Secret Place on Earth”. It was located in a valley at 3,100 feet elevation, high enough to have chilly nights and cold fogs. It was surrounded by mountains and on the northwest side of the runway were karst outcrops several hundred feet high. In the shadow of the Karst outcrops was “Sky” the CIA headquarters in Long Tieng. Jerry Daniels, a CIA officer codenamed “Hog,” is said to have named Sky after his home state of Montana, known as “Big Sky Country.” Long Tieng was protected on three sides by limestone mountains.

The story is told with archival images, interviews and contemporary shots of both Laos and the US. Some of the archive footage is previously unpublished and comes from private collections of former US personnel stationed in Laos, and from the Lao Film Archives – these had never before been screened. The interviews are conducted in a way to characterize the interviewees in their respective roles within the film. A voice over narration is sparsely applied where necessary. The investigative story telling is rendered by declassified documents, maps and newspaper clippings. Contemporary shots of both US government bodies (Congress, CIA Headquarters, the White House) and Laotian sceneries drive at a metaphoric visual rendering and connect the aftermath of the secret war in Laos to the machinations in the jungles of Washington 30 years ago. Americas Secret war in Laos tells of the absurd brutality of a conflict, that has barely been documented in it’s full extent and yet cost up to hundreds of thousand lives.

Full film below.

From Corporation to Crisis: A Landmark Work of Historical Materialism

A Review by Mel Watkins
March 29th 2013

The Making Of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy Of American Empire
Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin
Verso Books, October 2012

The authors tell us this book has been “a long time in the making.” It has been well worth the wait.

The dust jacket bears endorsements, fulsome even by the necessities of the medium, from four distinguished scholars and writers, David Harvey among them. Living next door to the United States, bearing the fullness of its embrace, can be an advantage in understanding global capitalism. Panitch and Gindin have understood the early intrusion of the American-based multinational corporation into the Canadian economy and polity as being the quintessence of subsequent American imperialism world-wide — American Manifest Destiny results in the Canadianization of the globe, which may or may not make you feel proud — and made of that insight, and all it contains, this excellent book.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Opposition growing to sale of Sask. community pastures

Cattle Roundup at a Sask. Community Pasture
MARCH 28, 2013 3:30 PM

A growing number of organizations are lining up to oppose the provincial government's plan to sell off all or part of the 1.6 million acres of community pastures that were transferred back to the province by the federal government in last year's budget.

And the group organizing that opposition, Public Pastures-Public Interest (PPPI), has come up with six principles to guide the management of the 62 federally managed pastures, including continued public ownership, livestock grazing under professional management, and preservation of what has been called "the largest blocks of native grassland" in the country.

"We've got 18 organizations from all across Canada and from Saskatchewan ... endorsing a set of basic principles that we hope can be used to guide Saskatchewan forward in the transition of these important grasslands in the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) pastures that have been transferred to Saskatchewan's responsibility,'' said Trevor Herriot, spokesperson for PPPI.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Reclaiming Public Ownership: A 21st-century vision

Reclaiming Public Ownership, by Andrew Cumbers, reviewed by Clifford Singer

Red Pepper
March 2013

Click HERE for book link
Last summer, a coalition of trade unions published Rebuilding Rail, a meticulously researched report calling for Britain’s railways to be brought back into public ownership. Labour responded positively, with transport spokeswoman Maria Eagle saying the report put forward a ‘coherent case for reform’. The Tories countered that Labour wanted to ‘take us back to the 1970s’, and Labour’s enthusiasm appeared to cool.

Few things seem guaranteed to get under Labour’s skin more than the accusation that the party will ‘take us back to the 1970s’. This is in part due to the prevalence of a neoliberal view that has demonised much of post-war Life Before Thatcher.

But it is also a reminder to anti‑privatisation campaigners that they must make the case for something better than has gone before, not a return to the past. As Andrew Cumbers points out, the post-1945 model of nationalisation was indeed bureaucratic and over-centralised, and it wasn’t just the followers of Friedrich Hayek who said this but those on the new left too.

B.C. NDP poised to regain power; no 'Allende of the North' in sight yet

MARCH 27, 2013

With the B.C. election now less than 50 days away, the NDP continues to maintain a wide lead in the polls. It's hard to imagine Adrian Dix not becoming premier May 14. But, since this is B.C. politics, nothing should be precluded.

The mainstream media and corporate elite appear to be much less alarmed about the prospect of a B.C. NDP win than in the past. This speaks, in part, to just how much Premier Christy Clark is loathed and distrusted. But it also speaks to the fact that this is an NDP government-in-waiting self-consciously non-threatening (to the corporate elite) in their rhetoric, style and program.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Roll on Saskatchewan



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Harper government in frenzy as doubts grow over Keystone XL pipeline

MARCH 19, 2013

"In a bad omen for his leadership, Broten responded to Premier Wall's pressure by telling reporters: "To clear the record ... I support the Keystone XL pipeline because of a triple bottom line assessment looking at environmental, economic and social reasons."

Stephen Harper's government and a big part of Canada's ruling establishment are in a frenzy over Keystone XL.

The Conservatives and their provincial allies have spent millions (probably tens of millions) of dollars in public money to push a pipeline that will export Canadian jobs, trample First Nations rights and, overall, be bad for the environment. But it'll be good for the profit margins of some of their oil industry friends.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Paul Rose’s tortuous path in search of Quebec liberation

By Richard Fidler
March 19, 2013

Paul Rose, Quebec sovereigntist and socialist, died March 14 in Montréal, following a stroke. He was 69.

Notorious for his participation in the 1970 kidnapping and death of a Quebec cabinet minister, for which he spent 13 years in prison, Rose went on to become a trade union activist, the leader of the Parti pour la démocratie socialiste (PDS) — formerly the Quebec wing of the New Democratic Party — and most recently a founder of the Union des forces progressistes (UFP), which became today’s Québec solidaire.

Paul Rose was part of a generation of Québécois who radicalized in the wake of the Cuban revolution, African colonial liberation, the Vietnam war and the Afro-American upsurge, and who sought to apply the lessons of these liberation struggles to the reality of Quebec’s national oppression. But Paul Rose was most remarkable because in later years — in contrast to many of his former comrades — he sought above all to develop a political strategy that could fuse the cause of national liberation with that of proletarian emancipation independently of the Parti québécois, in a period when seeking to change the world usually meant swimming against the current.

In the war on the poor, Pope Francis is on the wrong side

In Latin America a new Inquisition has betrayed Catholic priests who risk their lives to stand up to tyrants – as I've witnessed

By George Monbiot
The Guardian,
Tuesday 19 March 2013

'Whatever the stated intentions of [the Catholic factions] who attacked and suppressed liberation theology, in practical terms they were the allies of tyrants, land grabbers, debt slavers and death squads.' Illustration by Daniel Pudles.

'When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." So said the Brazilian archbishop Dom Hélder Câmara. His adage exposes one of the great fissures in the Catholic church, and the emptiness of the new pope's claim to be on the side of the poor.

The bravest people I have met are all Catholic priests. Working in West Papua and then in Brazil, I met men who were prepared repeatedly to risk death for the sake of others. When I first knocked on the door of the friary in Bacabal, in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, the priest who opened it thought I had been sent to kill him. That morning he had received the latest in a series of death threats from the local ranchers' union. Yet still he opened the door.

Inside the friary was a group of peasants – some crying and trembling – whose bodies were covered in bruises made by rifle butts, and whose wrists bore the marks of rope burns. They were among thousands of people the priests were trying to protect, as expansionist landlords – supported by police, local politicians and a corrupt judiciary – burned their houses, drove them off their land, and tortured or killed those who resisted.

Doctor Who - Fifty Years of Nasty Things and Groovy Monsters

By Andrew Cartmel, Carl Rowlands
New Left Project
March 19, 2013

Andrew Cartmel, script editor of Doctor Who from 1986 to 1989, takes a look back at Doctor Who’s nonconformist history, in conversation with Carl Rowlands.

I love the quote from Sydney Newman, one of the creators of Doctor Who, back in 1963. He once described science fiction stories as "a marvellous way—and a safe way, I might add—of saying nasty things about our own society." Though Newman was the son of a Jewish émigré in Canada, I don't see the Doctor as a refugee or a nomad, but purely as an enigma. I'm a bit of a bore on this subject, but I think the show's creators had a similar idea—they wanted a mysterious character and probably just saw him as a blank slate.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hugo Chavez, Brazil and the History of Social Exclusion

By Carl Bloice
Black Commentator
March 14, 2013

Dilma Rousseff

Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff raised the monthly stipend of 2.5 million people in the country currently living below the poverty line and, according to Reuters, she did it “to make good on her promise to eradicate extreme poverty in Brazil, a nation with enormous income gaps between rich and poor.” Starting this week, she said, 2.5 million poor people would see their monthly income rise through the Bolsa Familia, or Family Grant program to the equivalent of $35. In making the announcement she said an interesting thing:"We are turning the page on our long history of social exclusion that had perverse roots in slavery.”

That statement is important for two reasons.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saskatchewan government urged to bring proposed labour law changes into line with accepted Canadian standards

By James Clancy
March 13, 2013

“There is no reason that Saskatchewan labour law needs to be so radically different than the Canadian legislative norm in the treatment of supervisory employees,” says Clancy.

The Saskatchewan government’s proposed labour law changes are a radical departure from accepted norms across Canada and violate standards set by Canadian and international law, according to the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

“The proposed Saskatchewan Employment Act deviates from long-established labour law principles in many areas, including unilaterally excluding workers from union membership and taking away workers’ rights to belong to the union of their choice,” says NUPGE National President James Clancy.

After close leadership race, which way forward for the Saskatchewan NDP?

MARCH 14, 2013

On March 9, Cam Broten narrowly defeated Ryan Meili, winning the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP. This is the first of two opinion pieces on this result and what direction the party should take with their new leader. Tomorrow we'll feature an article by Saskatchewan NDP member Jaime Garcia.

The snow has still to settle after Ryan Meili's 44 vote loss for the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP on the weekend.

The win of Cam Broten indicates that NDP in Saskatchewan will take a middle of the road course in Saskatchewan, vying for the votes of the centre to somehow achieve power -- a sort of liberal NDP approach.

In doing this they will be missing the dynamic messaging and organizing that the Ryan Meili campaign embodied.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Building a healthy and sustainable future for Saskatchewan

MARCH 7, 2013

The Saskatchewan NDP meet this Saturday, March 9, to select a new leader. One of the contenders, physician and author Ryan Meili, describes his vision for a healthy and sustainable future for Saskatchewan. 

Saskatchewan has been blessed with incredible good fortune. We are rich in renewable and nonrenewable resources, and we have a proud legacy of independence and innovation, of meeting our challenges with made-in-Saskatchewan solutions.

Right now, however, we're being told a seductive story, one of endless growth in the New Saskatchewan. We're being told that so long as we're not tempted to channel that growth to meet our needs, all of our problems will magically be solved.

Pursuing the Pipeline Pipe-Dream

By Jim Harding
No Nukes
March 7, 2013

Prime Minister Harper’s view that Alberta’s tarsands will be the economic motor for the Canadian Energy Superpower is starting to unravel. Alberta faces a $6 billion revenue shortfall and will face a $4 billion deficit. Last year it predicted “only” an $800 million deficit. Premier Redford can’t displace responsibility on to a shortage of pipelines, for Alberta’s budgetary calculations can’t be based upon hypothetical scenarios. Norcan Saskatchewan’s, which projected a $95 million surplus, which has dropped to $9 million.

When the Keystone XL was put on hold before the US presidential election, Harper and Alberta quickly shifted their support to the Northern Gateway pipeline to the BC coast, to access the Asian market. But even if Harper could end-run environmental assessment and force en-route support, it would take up to 7 years to make the Asian market a reality. What might Alberta’s cumulative deficit look like then? What guarantees are there that the price of oil would stay the same? What if the price of carbon got added in, as it should? What guarantees are there that China won’t establish its own energy security plan, as is the US, which could be a net oil exporter by 2030?

International Women's Day, 2013

Chávez's Chief Legacy: Building, with People, an Alternative Society to Capitalism

By Marta Harnecker
March 6, 2013

When Hugo Chávez triumphed in the 1998 presidential elections, the neoliberal capitalist model was already floundering. The choice then was none other than whether to re-establish the neoliberal capitalist model -- clearly with some changes including greater concern for social issues, but still motivated by the same logic of profit seeking -- or to go ahead and try to build another model.

I believe that Chávez's chief legacy is having chosen the latter alternative. To name that alternative, he also chose to reclaim the word socialism, despite the negative baggage that the word had acquired, at the same time, however, clarifying that his was 21st-century socialism in order to distinguish it from Soviet socialism implemented during the 20th century, warning that we must not "fall into the errors of the past," into the "Stalinist deviation" that bureaucratized the party and ended up eliminating common people'sprotagonism, into state capitalism that put emphasis on state property rather than workers' own management of enterprises.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Regina Tenants Getting Screwed? A look at house prices, rents and wages

March 6, 2013

Media have been all over the story of the Regina tenants who are looking at a 77% rent increase after the building they live in now has a new owner from Calgary.

From the cbc

According to the residents, the typical rent for a unit was around $700. For some, the new rent was set at around $1,200.

Residents compared notes and estimate that, on average, rents were going up by about 77 per cent.
"I realize a rent increase is inevitable," Donna Kerr, who has lived in the building for 31 years, told CBC News Monday. "But they didn't have do it $520 in one foul swoop."

For some, the notice of a rent hike may as well have been an eviction notice as they can not afford the higher rent.

The increases, however, fall within what is allowed in Saskatchewan as residents were notified six months in advance.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hugo Chavez, undefeated

MARCH 5, 2013

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (July 28, 1954 – March 5, 2013). 

Hugo Chavez has died -- undefeated.

Yes, undefeated. Chavez, no matter how many times the corporate media and the cheerleaders of the status quo call him a dictator, was elected repeatedly with overwhelming majorities.

No matter how many times this slur is moronically or mendaciously repeated, people know the truth. No less than Jimmy Carter certified Venezuela's elections as amongst the most fair and transparent his organization has ever observed. And the voter turnouts that elected Chavez were usually far, far higher than those in the U.S.

Hugo Chavez Presente!

Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, dies in Caracas

Death comes 21 months after it was revealed he had a tumour, and he will be given a state funeral in the capital.