anonymous people standing on street among smoke during protests at night

Socialist Action Digest, December 2022

By Barry Weisleder. Presented to Socialist Action Canada Central Committee on Dec. 14, 2022.

On the domestic political landscape, the biggest development in the Fall was the two-day walkout by CUPE-Ontario education workers. They boldly defied a law pre-emptively banning strike action. CUPE and allies, including the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, forced the Thug Ford Conservative government to rescind Bill 28 and its use of the notwithstanding clause to violate the Charter of Rights. 

Then, following two weeks of online voting that ended on December 5, the education workers ratified a four-year deal with the Ontario Conservative government that provides a modest wage rise, but no sorely needed increase in staffing.  Even the union’s top negotiators declared the agreement inadequate, but cynically asked their low wage members to approve it.  Of the 55,000 workers in the sector, 41,559 voted.  30,330 of them (73 percent) accepted the deal that will keep them over-worked and their families scrambling to cope with the scourge of hyper-inflation.

The two-day walkout by CUPE school custodians, educational assistants, early childhood educators and library technicians – who were joined by thousands of OPSEU school support workers – elicited significant support from private and public sector unions.  Just minutes before the Ontario Federation of Labour was set to announce a general strike, CUPE agreed to return to work and to the bargaining table.  This move drained the momentum to Dump Thug Ford, and blunted efforts to unite vast numbers outraged by other laws designed to undermine local democracy, harm seniors, and ravage farmland while enriching wealthy land speculators.

In many schools there is only one adult in a classroom of 30 children.  Kids with special needs will still go wanting.  Staff will continue to suffer burnout.  Moreover, the resulting $1 an hour raise each year, 15.2 per cent on average over four years, may now become the ceiling of settlements for teachers and other public sector workers who have lost purchasing power due to decades of stagnant wages, and current high inflation.

So, what is the task now facing the workers’ movement? 

It is to appeal to the 27 per cent of CUPE Ontario school workers who voted NO, and to the many others who, discouraged by inadequate leadership at the top, accepted an inferior result.  Now is the time to draw the lessons, regroup forces, and organize to replace cynical leaders with bold, militant and grassroots workers’ action.

The bosses got a small taste of the resistance to come. Keep the fires burning.  The struggle continues! 

The Vote Socialist campaign in Vancouver, and the Municipal Socialist Alliance candidates across southern Ontario, tapped a growing appetite for radical change.  The VSV obtained more than 45,000 votes, and the Municipal Socialist Alliance garnered nearly 15,000.  The Municipal Socialist Alliance has formed a “Shadow Council”, and Vote Socialist Vancouver may follow suit, to track the elected politicians and to press for a socialist working class agenda.

Coast to Coast Struggle In The NDP’s No-Democracy Party

The disqualification of the momentous leadership bid of Eco-socialist Anjali Appadurai by the BC NDP executive continues to reverberate across the labour-based party.  Emerging is a theme, Fight for Democracy, that may dominate the NDP federal convention set for Hamilton, Ontario in October 2023. 

Marit Stiles, the NDP MPP for Davenport, won the uncontested race to lead the ONDP on December 5.  She succeeds Andrea Horwath, who had led the NDP since 2009.

Several New Democrat MPPs had pondered a run, including Chris Glover (Spadina—Fort York), who reportedly tried to raise the required $55,000 entry fee as late as December 4.  Five other MPPs considered running as well.

How long interim ONDP leader Peter Tabuns will stay on the job is unclear, but the plan for a March 4 vote is now gone with the wind.

The corporate media and other parties at Queen’s Park are having a field day with the non-race and its meagre result.  No one is interested in leading the NDP, they say.  Was a lack of ideas and a dearth of talent the cause of a contest with only one contestant?

The truth is that there is an abundance of critical ideas, contentious debate, and deep interest in the labour-based party.  The problem is a lack of democracy.

In recent years, all it took to run for Leader was the collection of a few dozen signatures – no need to mortgage your home or pawn the family jewels.  But the NDP brass fixed that.  They stacked exorbitant fees (exorbitant for a worker, that is) on top of onerous nomination rules to form a barrier against unwanted contenders.  Perhaps they did not reckon on how effective their socially and politically exclusionary regulations would prove to be.

Normally, the NDP Socialist Caucus fields a candidate for leader if it has the material means to do so.  The leftist caucus typically receives 15 to 40 percent of the votes cast at conventions for its candidates for party executive.  And its socialist policy resolutions often pass, that is, when they are not prevented from reaching the convention floor.

Increasingly, those radical, Eco-socialist, anti-war, and pro-Palestine NDPers who strive to be the party’s candidate at federal and provincial elections are blocked from seeking nomination or are subsequently disqualified.  Ontario party tops cast another deep chill into the proceedings by pressing unjust claims of anti-Semitism against Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden and past York-Simcoe candidate Jessa McLean.

Add to that what B.C. NDP officials did to Anjali Appadurai.  So, it is not a lack of interest or talent, but a lack of party democracy that limited the Ontario NDP leadership race.

What should be done about that?  Youth, labour, equity seekers, and electoral district NDP members should demand a new leadership race now, with rules that make it accessible to all. 

And they should certainly vote NO on the upcoming Ontario leader “confirmation” ballot.  A well attended NDP Socialist Caucus Conference on December 10 voted unanimously to formulate socialist policy resolutions and to field socialist candidates for the NDP federal executive and to demand that the October 2023 convention be both online and in-person.  An SC conference will be held in February to advance those plans.

COP-27 Makes No Significant Difference In 2022

Socialist Action Digest, December 2022

Another UN climate meeting has come and gone. Once again, it will make no difference. The fossil fuel industry will continue to expand. Greenhouse gas emissions will increase.

The climate crisis will worsen.  COP27 did reach an agreement to set up a fund to compensate countries for the loss and damage caused by the climate crisis. But the details are hopelessly vague, or completely non-existent. Where the money is going to come from, and when, is anyone’s guess.

The governments taking part in COP27 did reach a decision “to establish new funding arrangements for assisting developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, in responding to loss and damage . . .”  They will set up a “Transitional Committee” with “a view to operationalizing the funding arrangements.” And they will invite “international financial institutions to consider, at the 2023 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, the potential for such institutions to contribute to funding arrangements, including new and innovative approaches, responding to loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.”

The idea of trusting the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund with “innovative approaches” to funding arrangements is a recipe for disaster.  It seems like a scheme to ensure that the governments and corporations responsible for the climate crisis will avoid paying reparations to the communities suffering the consequences of the climate crisis — while allowing the fossil fuel industry to continue profiting from pollution.

Governments also agreed that they will hold ministerial consultations before COP28 “to advance consideration and understanding of a possible outcome on this matter.”

The inclusion of loss and damage in the “Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan” is long overdue. But the text means nothing more than kicking the can as far down the road as possible.

Imperialist Wars Rage On Into 2023

In Iran, the 40+ year rule of the reactionary clergy still faces a relentless wave of demonstrations led by women and youths.  The regime has jailed thousands of protesters, and is now executing individual activists.  Canada, the USA, and the EU promote a neo-liberal agenda, even restoration of the monarchy.  They should have no role to play.  No sanctions, no embargo, no measures reminiscent of when Stephen Harper cut diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012.  Imperialist Hands-Off Iran.  Workers to power!

In Haiti, protests against fuel price hikes continue to shake the non-elected government of Ariel Henry.  Henry was appointed by the so-called Core Group consisting of Canada, Germany, Spain, the USA and France.  It seems that the imperialist scheme, under the auspices of the UN, to occupy Haiti again, has run aground.  Socialist Action says “No to military intervention.  Uphold Haiti’s right to self-determination.  Canada Out of the Core Group.  Imperialist Hands-off Haiti.”

In Russia, hundreds of thousands of young men sought refuge abroad to avoid Putin’s military draft.  Although provoked by NATO expansion and Kyiv’s 8-year bombardment of the Donbas, Russia’s faltering effort to seize most of Ukraine is proving disastrous for ordinary people on both sides. 

Russia’s retreat from Kherson fuels right wing nationalism and seems only to fortify NATO.  The Ukraine war is toxic for the environment, a boon to Big Oil and Gas, and it risks the nuclear annihilation of humanity.  Socialists support the anti-war movement on all sides.  Socialist Action echoes Lenin and Trotsky who said turn the imperialist war into class war.  Socialist Action will be demonstrating at every opportunity to make this point, and to demand Canada Out of NATO.

Socialist Action Canada Shows International Solidarity

Our comrades in the United States, Socialist Action USA, held their biennial convention online on November 20.  Socialist Action Canada transmitted greetings and best wishes.

At home, Canadian imperialism aims to increase its state repressive powers against Indigenous people and the entire working class.  The federal inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act is concluded.  Will the head of the inquiry absolve the Trudeau government? 

Police already had all the tools needed to remove the reactionary Convoy.  Trudeau engaged in a power play against local and provincial authorities, and against the federal Conservative Party.  He confronted contradictions within his own class.  Trudeau invoked a repressive law as a potential tool against pipeline protesters, and other dissidents.  Socialist Action denounces Trudeau’s sleazy political maneuver for what it is. Socialist Action demands immediate Abolition of the Emergencies Act.

Socialist Action Canada In 2023

Turning to Socialist Action Canada plans for the period that lies immediately ahead, Socialist Action begins with the Annual Socialist Action Fund Drive.  Its aim is to support production of more promotional materials and staffing needs.  The goal is $7,000 (which we reasonably ought to be able to exceed).  The drive runs from December 20 through February 28.

The Socialist Action Canada, Ligue pour L’Action Socialiste convention will take place on Sunday, June 11. The Pre-Convention Discussion period opens of March 1 and concludes on June 11.  The deadline for policy resolutions and constitution amendments occurs two weeks before convention, that is, May 28.

The Spring Socialist Action Education Conference, normally one week before convention, will be held on Sunday, June 5.

The convention will be a hybrid event, that is, both in-person and on-line.  The education conference is to be on-line only.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and revolutionary New Year!