Welcome to Class War Canada!

by Barry Weisleder

At the threshold of winter, class conflict is heating up the Pan-Canadian landscape. Parliament rendered rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers illegal on November 27. Nonetheless, on December 1, thousands of members of allied unions and social movements picketed and blockaded postal facilities in over a dozen cities across the country. For ten hours no trucks entered or left the giant Gateway mail processing plant in Mississauga, which handles two-thirds of Canada’s mail. So far, unions have pledged over $5 million to CUPW for its constitutional challenge to Justin Trudeau’s strikebreaking law, and potentially for costs related to future protests. The possibility of more disruptive mass pickets, even a cross-country wildcat strike by postal workers, looms. Meanwhile, the one-day walkout by GM workers in Oshawa did not quell the anger of auto workers, their families, and employees in related industries, at the prospect of a massive plant closure within a year. Rumours of shut downs in the food sector in southern Ontario stoke fears of huge job losses and de-industrialization woes.

Add to this the brutal attacks on labour and low-wage workers by the arch-Conservative Doug Ford provincial government and it is evident that the elements for a major class confrontation seem to be accumulating.

On November 28 about one hundred people answered the call of the Workers’ Action Movement to protest at the doorstep of the Liberal Finance Minister’s constituency office in Toronto Centre. Speaking for Socialist Action, which helped to organize the event, I made the following remarks:

“Welcome to Class War Canada! Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, General Motors, the Big Banks and Big Oil are stepping up their war on us all. For too long the working class has been fighting with our hands tied. This must change now.

Today, we are at Bill Morneau’s office on Parliament Street. How fitting! Parliament is the place where capitalist politicians pay lip service to civil rights, and where they trample those rights, like the right to strike and the right to free collective bargaining, at will.

How can you tell when a bourgeois politician is lying? When his lips are moving. The Liberals lied about the crisis in the post office. The crisis is about under staffing, forced overtime and gender pay inequality; it’s not about rotating strikes that brought these issues to public attention. They lied about Management’s willingness to negotiate. When the industry got a $10.7 billion bailout from Ottawa, the government and GM lied when they promised that GM would continue to produce vehicles in Oshawa through 2020. They lied about how the big banks and the rich would be forced to pay more taxes. The big 5 banks record billions in profit, while continuing to gouge their customers. Recently, Ottawa gave $16 billion in tax breaks to big business. They lie about protecting the environment and honouring Indigenous people’s rights, while they spend billions to buy a leaky, fifty-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline. They allow for-profit medical firms to implant untested devices in people that caused 1,400 deaths in Canada since 2008. That is the price for putting profits before people.

Sisters and brothers, the real disease is the profit system. The main culprit is corporate capitalism. That is what should be buried today, not the right to strike.

We are here to support postal workers, not to tell them what to do. But if they decide to defy an unjust law, we pledge to support them 100 per cent. If they boycott overtime, occupy plants and depots, and ask us to cross-picket postal facilities, we will support them 100 per cent.

When auto workers remind us that they built GM, that their labour created a century of fabulous private profits, we say they deserve good jobs and benefits. They, and we all, deserve a transportation industry with a green energy future. How? There is only one way to harness the resources needed to make that happen: Nationalize GM, without compensation, under workers’ control!

In Class War Canada it’s time to unchain the power of the working class. It’s time to turn our unions into weapons of class war, in the interests of the majority, both the organized and the not-yet-organized. It’s time for an emergency convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour to decide on a plan to remove Thug Ford and his P.C. pirates at Queen’s Park. If we don’t show leadership in the fight against the attacks on the poor, on women, on immigrants, on racialized minorities, on Indigenous people, then the racists and fascists will attract many of the angry and frustrated who are victims of decaying, crisis-wracked capitalism.

I urge everyone here to join the Workers’ Action Movement, to join Socialist Action, to fight for a Workers’ Government, and to settle for nothing less than a socialist revolution.”

GM shareholders get a boost. Workers get the boot.

by Gary Porter

On November 29, analysts making 12-month price forecasts for General Motors Co. projected $45.16 per share — an increase of almost 23 per cent over the current $36.76. This is great holiday news, if you are shareholder. That includes the GM Directors who receive 60 per cent of their compensation in stock options. It is critical, according to business schools, to tie the interests of your Directors to the interests of the shareholder owners. But the interests of the workers are not considered so tenderly.

The joyous forecast coincides with announced plans by the auto giant to halt production at five factories in North America and cut about 14,000 jobs in the company’s most significant restructuring since its bankruptcy and taxpayer bailout in 2008 by Stephen Harper and Barack Obama.

GM warned last summer that the trade war instigated by President Donald Trump could force job cuts in the United States. Trump was irate with GM, tweeting that he was “very disappointed” with the company and CEO Mary Barra for plans to idle plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland.

“Nothing being closed in Mexico & China. The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get,” Trump wrote. But the Donald misses the point. Just like him, GM does what makes the most profit. It is moving to production of autonomous EV vehicles.

GM has a plan for the estimated $6 billion to be gleaned annually from the plant closures. The all-electric, fully automatic, no steering wheel, no-pedals version of The Bolt is supposed to be on public highways by 2019.

However, what the world really needs is non-polluting buses, street cars, trains and ships. Mass public transportation and shipping. Left to private, profit-motivated companies, the massive waste embodied in private cars will continue. GM makes more money that way. The only way to get the efficient public transportation systems we need is to nationalize the vehicle business and retool the existing hi-tech, modern plants. That way workers can be retrained, not scrapped. Workers know everything about building cars. They can manage the factories. The owners’ skill is in siphoning off profits and spiriting them away to low tax havens. We simply do not need that skill. Let’s throw the bosses on the scrap heap.

GM, over its history, has a long, very shabby, anti social record. It has been a leader in some pretty bad causes. They include: the fight against regulations to enforce auto safety for consumers, the battle against safety for its employees, and against environmental safety for the human race. GM led the resistance to greater fuel efficiency laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gasses emitted from engine exhaust pipes. Generations ago GM led a consortium that bought street car lines, ripped out the tracks, set up bus systems and sold them. It also bought the rights to an electric car and stifled it decades ago. GM, quite simply, is a capitalist corporation that operates exclusively for private profit. It has committed crime after crime to that end.

Under capitalism, the doctrine of individual ‘liberty’ asserts the absolute right of capitalists to make ‘free’ decisions about their property, entirely in their own interests, even when it throws thousands out of work, leaves children without support, and causes the collapse of whole communities. Their liberty is simply imposed on workers and their families without their consent.

What about our ‘liberty’ as workers? Up to November 27, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers conducted rotating strikes against Canada Post, a Crown Corporation, opposing management-imposed speed up, compulsory overtime and pay discrimination against rural, mostly female mail carriers. The Liberal Government of Justin Trudeau and the ‘opposition’ Conservative Party worked smoothly together to violate the workers’ ‘liberty’ to withdraw their labour, their right to free collective bargaining, including the right to strike, and ordered the workers to end their job actions or face stiff fines.

Bosses can impoverish thousands of workers, but workers can’t even slow down the mail, including the packages shipped by brutally low-wage employers like Amazon. Only the labour-based New Democratic Party spoke loudly against the move. NDP MPs walked out of the House of Commons in protest. So much for workers’ ‘liberty’.

The Conservative government in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, under Premier Doug Ford, a hard-right winger and scion of a rich family, has moved quickly since June 7 when it was elected. His Progressive Conservative Party attained 61% of the seats with only 40.5% of the votes cast in the first-past-the-post electoral system. The voter turnout was only 58 per cent.

Ford has stripped many rights and statutory benefits from Ontario workers, cancelled the planned increase to a $15/hour minimum wage, cut welfare increases and made disability benefits harder to obtain. Under his slogan “Ontario is Open for Business” he is forcing workers to labour under deteriorating wages, benefits and working conditions, fostering a level of desperation most convenient for the Walmart and Amazon tycoons. He seems to think he has every right to destroy the hard-won gains of workers.

But he says he can do nothing about the GM plant closures and accuses federal politicians and union leaders of peddling false hope to the workers.

UNIFOR, Canada’s largest private sector union with 315,000 members, represents about 25,000 autoworkers including the 2,500 in the GM Oshawa plant. Jerry Dias, UNIFOR President, demands that Trump and Trudeau impose a 40 per cent tariff on GM cars made in Mexico. His line is to support his Canadian members by imposing cuts on the lower paid Mexican workers. A spokesman for Trudeau said Dias’ proposal was not discussed with Trump.

Dias also says he may urge a mass autoworker walkout from all Canadian and US plants, but a United Auto Workers union spokesman in the US says his union has no such plans. Actually, a walkout is an excellent idea. But the American labour brass is even more ossified that its Canadian counterpart. The UAW still supports the capitalist Democratic Party instead of setting up an independent labour-based political party like the NDP, which the Canadian union bureaucrats dominate (although Dias and UNIFOR have backed the Liberal Party of late, with bitter results).

Dias’ proposals simply have no weight unless he gets the backing of the workers themselves. The leaders of UNIFOR like to parade as the workers’ saviours. This highly paid, privileged layer of union bureaucrats can make a big noise; however, they bargained away hard-won worker gains like equal pay and good pensions. They accept the so-called rights of the owners to do as they please and fear the power of a mobilized union rank and file.

In the end, it is only the mobilized rank and file that can force action by GM and by the capitalist politicians. Mobilizing the mass power of the auto workers and of other unions in solidarity can bring home the point that workers together can stop production, choke profits, and force boss concessions — instead of making concessions themselves.

 

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Forum sur La Politique Quebecoise: “ECOSOCIALISME ET LUTTES DE CLASSE DANS LA PERIODE À VENIR”

Comment pouvons-nous construire une opposition efficace à la vandalisme climatique, à l’austérité et au bouc émissaire des immigrés et des réfugiés?

Rejoignez-nous pour une discussion avec MARC BONHOMME, blogueur prolifique et

socialiste dans les rangs de Quebec Solidaire, , et ROBERT MCBRYDE, activiste de la justice

climatique et fondateur de Leap Montréal.

JEUDI 13 DECEMBRE 19:00 h

CENTRE DES TRAVAILLEURS IMMIGRANTS,

4755 rue VAN HORNE, Suite 110,

Montreal, Quebec.

Organisée par la Ligue pour l’action socialiste

Tel : (514) 804-7645 Courriel: rmahoo3@gmail.com

Legault et Trudeau: co-gestionnaires du statu quo capitaliste au Québec.

Socialist Education Conference – 2018

Socialist Action presents: “How to Change the World”

  • November 16-17, 2018
  • Woodsworth Residence, 321 Bloor St. W., Room 25, lower level.

Friday, November 16

7 p.m.  How to Defeat Doug Ford, and contend with the NDP and Labour Bureaucracy

Speakers:

  • Julius Arscott, OPSEU Executive Board Member;
  • Pam Frache, provincial coordinator of $15 and Fairness;
  • Barry Weisleder, co-editor, S.A. newspaper;
  • Dirka Prout, Chair, Federal NDP Women’s Committee.

Saturday, November 17

1 p.m.  The Rise of Authoritarianism and the working class response

Speakers:

  • Yasin Kaya, leading member of SA Canada
  • Lisa Luinenberg, a leader of Socialist Action USA, based in Minneapolis, works in immigrant rights movement;
  • David Pijoan, a leader of New Anti-capitalist Party, France.

4 p.m.  Capitalism and Patriarchy – the Marxist alternative to identity politics

Speakers:

  • John Wilson, SA Canada, a pioneer of the gay liberation movement in Ontario;
  • Lisa Luinenberg, a leader of Socialist Action USA, based in Minneapolis;
  • Arielle Concilio, writer for Left Voice based in New York;
  • A video statement from OKDE, Fourth International section in Greece.

7 p.m.  Boycott Apartheid Israel – Is it time for a coordinated, Pan-Canadian, mass action movement? 

Speakers:

  • Gary Porter, leading member of SA Canada, based in Victoria, B.C.;
  • Michaela Lavis, recently detained in Israel for protesting demolition of Palestinian village;
  • Karen Rodman, director, Palestine Just Trade; and
  • Dimitri Lascaris, lawyer, 2015 Green Party candidate in London West, current target of a smear campaign by CIJA and B’nai B’ríth.

Admission:

  • $5 per session;
  • $10 for weekend pass,
  • or PWYC.

For more information:

Ligue pour L'Action Socialiste