Canada joins war in Mali

By Roger Annis, from A Socialist In Canada

On June 24, the first significant components of Canada’s military mission to Mali in north-central Africa touched down. The presence will eventually count 250 soldiers.

Although operating under the aegis of the United Nations Security Council’s ‘MINUSMA’ mission (The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), the Canadian intervention is “not necessarily a peacekeeping mission” according to General Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of defence staff.

There was no vote in Parliament on the intervention into Mali, but a vote would have been moot. The intervention enjoys cross-party support. Indeed, the soft-left, labour-based New Democratic Party has criticized the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not acting more decisively to send more Canadian soldiers abroad.

Canada’s recent history in Africa is scarred by two military interventions. In 2011, the Canadian government and military participated in the violent overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi and his government. The overthrow caused the dismemberment of Libyan society.

Twenty years before that, the Canadian military disgraced itself in Somalia. In 1992, it sent its crack Canadian Airborne Regiment into the country alongside its U.S. partner. The regiment earned infamy when later revelations showed many of its members to be racists and extreme rightists. They engaged in abuse, torture and even murder of Somali detainees. The scandal led to the dismemberment of the regiment and the resignations of two successive chiefs of staff of the Canada armed forces.

The Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien elected in 1993 was obliged to convene a formal inquiry into the affair, but it was cancelled in mid-stream soon after Chrétien and the Liberals won re-election in 1997. The government did not pay a high political price for the cancellation, but the affair contributed to Canada’s decision to limit to a support role its participation in the U.S. attack against Iraq in 2003.

Western intervention into Africa

As with the Security Council’s ongoing, 14-year-old military mission in Haiti, the purpose of the Security Council mission in Mali is to ‘stabilize’ the country in favour of foreign investors and the military. Established in 2013, MINUSMA numbers some 11,000 soldiers, most of whom are drawn from African countries. Some 150 MINUSMA soldiers have been killed in action.

France is the largest foreign military presence in Mali as part of its ‘Operation Barkhane’ across northern Africa. That mission aims to maintain the imperialist stranglehold over the region which contains valuable gold and uranium deposits.

France does not operate under the UN ‘peacekeeping’ fig leaf in Mali, instead calling its own shots. It invaded Mali in January 2013, seizing on the chaos created when the Mali military overthrew the country’s elected president in April 2012. The coup aimed to forestall peace talks with the ethnic Saharan minorities that live in the north of the country. They have long sought autonomy amidst Mali’s majority Black population.

The United States is the largest imperialist military presence in Africa. For more on that story, read:

*  America’s war-fighting footprint in Africa, by Nick Turse, published in Tom Dispatch, April 27, 2018

*  The US military is conducting secret missions all over Africa, by Nick Turse, VICE News, Oct 24, 2017

France’s military adventuring in Africa enjoys broad domestic support, including from the moderate political left in that country. Much of the radical left issues rather tame critiques of the mission, accepting the premise that ‘something’ needs to be done about the problem of ‘jihadism’ in Mali and north Africa. In Canada, the broad political left is largely silent on Canada’s military adventuring in Mali and elsewhere in the world.  Critical journalists merely argue that Mali is too dangerous and too chaotic to be worth the demise of any Canadian soldiers.

The deployment into Mali follows Canada’s disastrous military intervention into Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014, and its ongoing, military/political intervention into Haiti. The Haiti mission began in February 2004 when Canada joined in assisting the overthrow of Haiti’s elected president of the day. The Security Council’s ‘MINUSTAH’ mission in Haiti began in June 2004 and is ongoing. (The name of the mission was recently changed to ‘United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti’).

In Afghanistan, 158 Canadian soldiers died. The prestige of Canada’s military suffered greatly following revelations of participation in routine practices of torture and abuse by the Afghan police and army. Growing numbers of Canadians began to see that the U.S.-led Western intervention into Afghanistan, now dating back nearly 20 years, has had nothing to do with human development for the country and everything to do with projecting imperialist power and diktat. The 2013 book Empire’s Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan tells this story.

The Liberal Party federal government elected in October 2015 cancelled a formal investigation into Canada’s role in detainee torture and abuse in Afghanistan.

Mali is scheduled to hold a presidential election on July 29, 2018. But the vote may not proceed, considering the volatile political and military situation in the country. This writer published extensive reports on the situation in Mali between 2012 and 2015.  One is titled Mali war and occupation, which is in the archive of articles by Roger Annis and other writers on the April 2012 military coup d’etat in Mali and its aftermath. One of the feature articles in that archive is: The political left in France and in Mali assess the French military intervention and its aftermath, by Roger Annis, March 30, 2013.

One of the foremost writers in English on the history of northern Africa is Jeremy Keenan. He is a professor of anthropology at the University of London and author of the 2012 book The Dying Sahara: U.S. Imperialism and Terror In Africa. In 2012, he wrote this article, ‘Algerian state terrorism and atrocities in northern Mali‘.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in Africa. It sits on the periphery of the Sahara Desert, whose boundary is moving steadily south as global warming increases. Mali desperately needs social, economic and environmental assistance. The last thing it needs is more imperialist military intervention and foreign exploitation of mineral and other natural resources.

The working class movement in Canada should speak out and demand ‘Canada Out of Mali’.

Mainstream news reports:

*  Canadian peacekeepers begin arrival in Mali as yearlong mission begins, by Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press, June 24 2018

*  Mali ‘far messier’ than other peacekeeping missions, says Canada’s defence chief, CBC News, June 24, 2018

Related news:

*  36 civilians dead in militia attack on village in central Mali, reports Fulani ethnic group, The Associated Press, June 25, 2018  Attack took place in area populated by ethnic Fulani, accused of al-Qaeda ties

*  Mass grave in Mali holds 25 bodies tortured and murdered by Mali army, Reuters, June 19, 2018

*  Twenty-five bodies found in central Mali after army sweep, Agence France presse, June 18, 2018

*  Executions by Malian government troops highlight human-rights challenges for Canadian soldiers, by Geoffrey York, Globe and Mail, June 22, 2018*  Bomb attack against UN military base in central Mali kills six, Deutsche Welle, June 29, 2018

*  UN Security Council approves Sahel counterterrorism force, Deutsche Welle, June 21, 2018

[The UN Security Council has approved an African counterterrorism force in the Sahel region of central Africa. The resolution creating the force was introduced by France. Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – known as the G5 – agreed in March to deploy a counterterrorism force in the region alongside the African Union and sought UN backing.

[The force is under a separate command but will complement the UN’s 15,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali and the 4,000-strong French troop presence in the region, known as Barkhane. Germany participates in an EU training mission in southern Mali and has a mandate to contribute up to 1,000 troops in support of the UN mission.]

For an Emergency Convention of the OFL – For a Mass Action plan to Stop the Doug Ford/PC gov’t agenda

Below is a resolution that unions, NDP electoral district associations, social justice movements and all working class organizations can discuss and adopt.

Why now?  If working class organizations go on record now in favour of mass action opposition to the Ford/Conservative agenda in Ontario, and for a democratic united front of resistance to capitalist austerity, it will help to prepare and coordinate the next phase of struggle.

Do you agree that this can be a useful tool in our tool kit — to connect with rank and file workers, fighters against oppression of every kind, and social justice movements?


Be it resolved that (…fill in your union, NDP association and/or community organization) request that the Ontario Federation of Labour hold an emergency convention to adopt an action plan to confront and defeat the Doug Ford – Progressive Conservative government agenda.

Be it further resolved that (your union, etc.) commits to respond with mass protests, including rallies, demonstrations and job actions, up to and including sectoral and general strikes, against Doug Ford – PC government attacks on public services, civil liberties, equity seeking groups, unions and non-organized workers in this province.  We believe that all unions and social justice partners, in anticipation of serious cuts to jobs and services, should go on immediate strike alert and build a broad, democratic united front of resistance.

For information, call:  647-986-1917,

e-mail:  socialistactioncanada@gmail.com

No to Trump’s Trade War!

A joint statement by Socialist Action, Canada and Socialist Action, United States of America

The recent imposition of a 25% tariff on steel imports to the United States and a 10% tariff on aluminum from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union follow the earlier imposition of these tariffs on the rest of the world, and even earlier tariffs on solar panels and washing machines aimed at China and South Korea—all by the U.S. Donald Trump administration.

Trump has also threatened to place heavy tariffs on automobiles and parts imported from abroad, and on numerous industrial and technological products from China. He has also re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran and put new sanctions on Russia.

Understanding Trump’s intentions is no easy matter.  He seems motivated more by sheer bravado than rational thought. Trump’s rhetoric often appears to be aimed at playing to his base rather than reflecting any meaningful thoughts about the future. “Make America Great Again” and “America First” are the shibboleths that appeal to his populist supporters.

At the same time, these notions do speak to the interests of a section of the U.S. capitalist class that is falling behind in global capitalist competition. They are supported by a layer of trade-union leaders who hanker for a return of smokestack America with its millions of well-paid manufacturing jobs. These bureaucrats seek to tie the future of U.S. workers to the “success” of their “own” capitalist corporations and their twin parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, as opposed to furthering the independent organization of workers to challenge the root cause of the problem—the fundamental, for-profit-only operations of the capitalist system.

The United States no longer has the only powerful economy in the world. As global competition relentlessly heats up, and the rate of profit tends to fall, the methods of past times don’t work. For many years after World War II—years of American economic hegemony—free trade was the battering ram to force open foreign markets to cheaper U.S. goods. This was likewise the policy of the U.K. during the height of the British Empire, before World War I. In general, capitalist nations operating with the highest, or most advanced levels of technology tend to be “free-traders” while their weaker competitors are “protectionists.”

Trump’s repeated reference to “many jobs, good jobs” appears to mean the re-creation of jobs that have largely disappeared in the United States, such as coal mining, steel making, and auto manufacturing jobs. Most of these have been lost to automation in auto and steel plants. The U.S. makes about as much steel now as in 1960, but with 20% of the previous labor force. Car manufacturing automation is similar.

Underground coal mining is foul, lung-destroying work that hopefully will never return. But the jobs have disappeared only because they are less profitable in the U.S. and worldwide, and not out of any concern on the part of the coal magnates for the health of the miners. Unfortunately, the labor bureaucracy, tied to capitalism hand and foot, prefers to advocate for capitalism’s most polluting jobs rather than challenge the entire deadly energy system in a fight for a just transition that would guarantee all fossil-fuel workers new jobs at union wages in a 100 percent sustainable and nationalized energy system.

Working people have no interest in trade wars. We simply end up bearing the cost.

The United States produces just below 60% of the steel it uses, while importing the rest from 85 other countries. Canada provides 17% of the imports. Other sources of steel to the U.S. include Brazil 14%, South Korea 10%, Mexico 9%, Russia 8%, Germany 4%, and China 2%. If foreign steel and aluminum become much more expensive as a result of the tariffs, U.S. manufacturers who use such materials will no doubt respond in order to protect their profits. Their options include striving even harder to keep wages low, passing on the price rises to consumers, or even closing down U.S.-based manufacturing plants.

Of course, Canadian, Mexican, and European capitalists have all responded with tariffs on American goods. In this way, too, U.S. workers lose jobs. But workers in Canada, Mexico, and Europe will likely face similar problems—higher prices and the loss of more jobs than tariffs can possibly create.

Global capitalist competition is a completely unavoidable aspect of the system of private profit. As competition results in new innovation, and automation increases the rate of profit for the innovator temporarily, these gains are offset again by the rapid adoption of the new technology by competitors and the resulting fall of profit rates.

In their desperate struggle to fight the falling rate of profit, capitalists try to reduce costs by attacking trade unions and workers’ rights, by attacking pay and benefit levels, by attacking general social benefits such as education, medical, and pension benefits, by refusing to accept any responsibility for the massive environmental damage caused by cutthroat capitalist competition, and by transferring production to low-wage, unregulated areas both within and outside their own countries.

In decades past, the volatile world capitalist system sought to mitigate its inherent contradictions through organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this context, the leading representatives of the world’s most important corporations hammered out comprehensive agreements that sought to meet the needs of all the ever-competing capitalists. The stronger capitalists, like the ruling rich in the United States, always had the upper hand because the U.S. market was the largest in the world.

Nevertheless, each sector of capital understood that one or another competitor had an edge in specific commodities that were traded on the world market. Their objective was to balance their various needs with deals. A modicum of French wine was allowed into the United States, for example, while a certain amount of U.S. products was allowed into France under reciprocal conditions.

NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) was in truth, despite its name, a mass of literally thousands of separate negotiated agreements between the ruling elite of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. These include all kinds of protectionist measures for weaker U.S. corporations, and the same for those in Mexico and Canada.

In the face of intensified cutthroat competition between capitalist powers, the old rules of the game are incapable of resolving the growing contradictions of the system. Trump sounded the alarm for the wing of the U.S. capitalist class whose interests he thinks he represents. Ignoring the delicate or fragile balance that has been hitherto established by his predecessors, he proposes to upset the world capitalist system’s apple cart to advance the interests of his favored elites.

When Trump gifted $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the entire ruling class, there were no complaints. But when Trump departed from measures that benefit the broad sectors of the ruling rich, he faced serious opposition internally, not to mention from the potentially wounded lesser capitalist nations. Hence Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, cried foul and collectively threatened to retaliate.

The world’s working people have no interest in this potential world conflagration. In the end, when capitalists win, workers lose—a fundamental law of the capitalist system that has been verified many times. The common interest of workers lies in defending working people everywhere against all the onslaughts of capital. This means international solidarity on every front, from united worldwide efforts to organize workers into powerful unions, to united opposition to capitalist wars and capitalist destruction of the environment.

There is no such thing as peaceful and/or regulated competition among capitalist nations. No self-respecting capitalist is in business to be the world’s “nice guy.” There are only winners and losers in this deadly game of production for private profit. Donald Trump simply tore the mask off the brute face of a predatory system in decline. Justin Trudeau plays the same game as Trump on the world scene and makes sure that everyone knows that Canadian capitalism can bare its own claws in the profit game.

Reliance on any of these representatives of the world’s elite to advance the interests of working people is sheer folly. Breaking with their corporate parties in the political arena is the beginning of a serious challenge to capitalist prerogatives. But only the abolition of the capitalist system itself by the direct action of the vast majority of working people can ensure a permanent end to capitalism’s endless trade wars and its actual military wars that plague humanity.

www.socialistaction.ca   647-986-1917

It’s War

The June 7 election of the Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservative Party to government in Ontario means an escalation of the class war against working people, visible minorities and impoverished social layers.

The former right wing Toronto city councilor and brother of deceased Mayor Rob Ford cloaked his fiercely anti-labour agenda in populist rhetoric pitched against ‘the establishment, the downtown elites’.  This allowed Doug Ford to channel mass discontent with 15 years of Liberal government cutbacks and corruption.  Premier Kathleen Wynne tried to save the furniture from the fire with a late shift to the left (e.g. increasing the minimum hourly wage, promising more spending to improve health services).  But her Liberal Party lost half its voters and is now reduced to a rump of seven seats in the Ontario Legislature, one shy of official party status.

The labour-based New Democratic Party, running on a mildly left-reform platform, surged to 33.6 per cent and nearly doubled its seat total to 40.  Several of its best policies (re-nationalize Hydro One, free university, drug and dental care, raise taxes on the rich, build social housing and public transit) came straight from the NDP Socialist Caucus playbook.

Andrea Horwath was over-the-top ecstatic at becoming Leader of the Official Opposition, pledging to hold Ford “to account”.  But this won’t do.  The Tory agenda today is much more aggressive than that of right wing Premier Mike Harris in the mid-1990s.  The horror show must be confronted and stopped by mass protest in the streets and work places, not by reliance on polite parliamentary criticism.

NDP and union leaders should be challenged to lead the fight outside the Legislature. In fact, the labour tops should have mobilized the ranks to campaign for the NDP, to counter the threat of the rampant anti-worker agenda of Ford and his conservative hate mongers. A serious effort to expose Ford’s populist propaganda might well have won the election for the NDP. Instead many labour officials sat on their asses; some even urged ‘strategic’ voting, which meant a vote for the Liberal Party. Unforgivable. This shows why union leaders should be paid no more than the average wage of their union collective agreement. Privileges and fat expense accounts be gone! Replace the conservative bureaucrats with rank and file militants and turn the unions into instruments of class struggle.

Still, one thing is very clear:  Doug Ford’s victory does not signal a unilateral shift to the right. The election rather reflects a polarization to both the left and the right.  The highly disproportionate first-past-the-post electoral system perpetuates capitalist rule by usually delivering a majority of seats to parties that gain a minority of votes. On June 7 the Conservatives captured 61 per cent of the seats (76 in total) with only 40.5 per cent of the votes cast.  In other words, nearly 60 per cent of those who cast ballots supported parties ostensibly to the left of the Tories. That includes the Green Party which won 4.6 per cent and (for the first time in Ontario) one seat. Taking into account a voter turnout of 58 per cent (up from 51 per cent in 2014), it is evident that only about a quarter of the electorate backed Ford Nation.

But Ford says he has a mandate to implement his policies, swiftly.  What are they?  He will probably begin by breaking the strike of teaching assistants at York University, CUPE Local 3903, and then repeal Bill 148, the labour law reforms that include a $15/hour minimum wage set for 2019.  Next will be a tax cut of 20 per cent that will most benefit the rich.  His tax credit for child care costs will not create more spaces, raise or enforce standards, or boost pay for low wage workers.  No steps to build social housing, and no significant increase in health care funding are in store.  On transportation, Ford pledged to take ownership of Toronto’s subway system, which could be the fast track to privatization — while bus service remains woefully inadequate.

Jobs?  The $6 billion Ford says he will find in “efficiencies” translates to firing thousands of teachers, health workers and others in the public sector.  Scores of schools and hospitals will be shuttered.  Cuts in services will be staggering and bloody, impacting most harshly on the impoverished.  Welfare rates will be rolled back and frozen.  Will hydro bills shrink by 12 per cent as promised?  Not likely as the private investors in Hydro One, sold off by Wynne’s Liberals, demand profit dividends.  Most workers won’t miss the demise of the regressive cap-and-trade taxes, a license to pollute, but there is no climate justice plan in its stead.  Hostile to indigenous people’s needs, Ford boasted he’d personally drive the bulldozer to exploit rapidly the Ring of Fire resources in Northern Ontario, with or without local consent.

On education, the Tories promised to repeal the new sex-ed curriculum but earmarked no new funds to repair crumbling school infrastructure.

Surprisingly, Ford never presented a fully costed platform. Economists estimate that the changes he promised, including tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, will create a $20 billion budget hole.  The shortfall is sure to come out of the hide of the working class.

Many workers who voted for Ford expect him to put money in their pocket and deliver $1 beer.  Imagine the disillusionment, indeed the raw anger, that will be felt when they realize they’re less well off.

As Karl Marx observed over 150 years ago, “The point is not to interpret the world, it is to change it.”  Today, the task is not to wait for unfocussed anger at Ford to swell; it is to fan the flames of discontent, build a broad, democratic, united front against capitalist austerity. It is to provide leadership in the struggle for a Workers’ Agenda.  The municipal elections in October offer an opportunity for the left to unite and confront the Ford agenda with a socialist platform. In any case, the road to effective action at all levels will entail replacing the leaders of the mainstream workers’ organizations with radical grassroots activists.

The class war is escalating.  There is no denying it.  The point is to wage it and to win it through mass protests, up to and including sectoral and general strikes with the aim of replacing the Ford regime with a Workers’ Government.

Public Forum: Eyewitness report—Election in Venezuela and its aftermath

Socialist Action presents a public forum

Eyewitness report: Election in Venezuela and its aftermath

Speaker: Nety Maroquin, Guatemalan socialist just returned from one month stay in Caracas.  Her presentation will be in Spanish, with translation into English, plus a screening of her short videos of every day life in the Bolivarian Republic.

Introduction by Maria Paez Victor, a founding member and spokesperson of the Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle, and the Chair of the Board of the Canadian, Latin American and Caribbean Policy Centre.

Wednesday, June 20

7 p.m.

at OISE U of Toronto, room 5-160

252 Bloor St. West,above the St. George Subway Station

Everyone is welcome.  Donation $4, or PWYC.

For more information, e-mail:  socialistactioncanada@gmail. com

Visit the SA web site at: www.socialistaction.ca

or call 647-986-1917  or  647-728-9143 .

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