Youth for Socialist Action
– presents a public forum –
DISARM THE COPS!
The July 27 police killing of 18-year old Sammy Yatim, another in a long string of unarmed victims shot to death by Toronto cops, raises questions: What is the root cause of these murders, often of immigrant, working class, and visible minority youths? Should street patrol cops be disarmed? Can police in capitalist society ever be held accountable to the majority? Whose interests are served by the cops, the courts, the military and the entire capitalist state apparatus? What should youths, racialized minorities and working people do about this? Join us for a panel of speakers, followed by an open discussion.
Tyler Mackinnon, YSA chairperson, Ryerson U. student, recently returned from Greece where he visited a ‘cops-free’ neighborhood in central Athens.
Ben Rostoker, YSA secretary-treasurer and U of Toronto student activist.
Wangui Kimari is an organizer with the Network for Pan-African Solidarity and the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence.
An open Q & A, and discussion period will follow the presentations.
Thursday, August 29 7 p.m.
OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Room 2-211
(above the St. George Subway Station)
Everyone is welcome. $2 donation requested, or PWYC.
This event is endorsed by Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste. For more information,
visit the SA web site at: http://www.socialistaction.ca
or call 647-986-1917 or 416-461-6942
Photo (the featured picture): Tony Smith / CBC.ca
by Bruce Allen
At the end of August 2013 a new union, called Unifor, will be launched in Canada with a membership of over 300,000 workers. At a convention in Toronto, the Canadian Autoworkers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP), will officially merge, creating the largest private sector union in the country.
Ostensibly, Unifor will be more powerful and influential than either of its founding parts. It will have more members and more resources at its disposal. But that means only that it has potentially greater power and influence. The merger in no way guarantees that these qualities will be fully realized. Size is certainly not synonymous with effectiveness. In fact, increasingly there are compelling reasons to view this merger with considerable apprehension. In fact, the more one sees of this merger and the process giving rise to it, the more there is cause for concern.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the merger process. A short time ago CAW National President Ken Lewenza, when interviewed by the Windsor Star, had the audacity to claim the merger process could not be more open and transparent. If he actually believes that, he has a unique concept of openness and transparency. CAW rank and file members have next to no idea what is going on. Even local CAW leaders have largely been left in the dark until very recently. Many readily acknowledge this.
The merger process has in fact been driven from the very top of the two unions downwards and effectively shaped behind closed doors. Few even know who are the people on the committees which have been assembling the terms of merger of the two unions. Certainly the rank and file have not in any way shaped the process, nor have local union leaders. The bureaucracies of the two unions have exclusively shaped the process. Only now are they engaging, in a very limited and controlled way, local union leaders and members via a series of information meetings and a conference call. The membership has essentially been told they can’t just show up at a meeting of their own union to discuss the new union they are about to become members of, and pay union dues to, and be profoundly affected by.
Consider the following. Initially, fourteen information meetings about the merger were scheduled to take place across Canada. Half were in Ontario. Only one meeting each was held in the provinces of B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. None was held in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. This was hardly conducive to accessibility and transparency.
But the most damning thing is that neither individual members nor local unions can send resolutions to the founding convention of the new union. What this effectively means is that the bureaucracy of these two unions is going to present a complete merger package to the delegates to the founding convention. Basically, the delegates will be told to take it, in its entirety, or leave it. Thus, the delegates chosen by the membership will have a choice between rubber stamping the entire merger package, or voting against it and effectively scuttling the merger.
This is not the worst of it. When the critical vote is held, if brutal past experience is indicative, there will be an element of intimidation at work. The person chairing the convention will likely make it a standing vote. Delegates vote by standing up to vote, rather than by raising a hand — never mind having a secret ballot. Thus, delegates who want to vote against the merger package will find themselves having to stand up with the eyes of everyone in the room glaring at them.
These things must be stressed because the process reveals that there will be a real absence of democracy in the new union which structurally, and in practice, will perpetuate the absence of meaningful democracy — which has been absent in the CAW at the national level since its inception, exemplified by the fact that, at the CAW’s national council meetings, not one recommendation of the national president has been voted down since 1992.
Consistent with all of this, another thing is noteworthy. Back in 1985, when the then Canadian Region of the UAW broke from the UAW to form the CAW, large general membership meetings were held where the union’s rank and file could go to microphones and express their views without facing a wall of intimidation. They actually debated the issue of forming a new union, and then voted on it. The vote was by a show of hands, not forcing people to stand up to vote. Nothing comparable is happening this time around.
What this reveals is a considerable regression in terms of there being democracy within the union. What this shows is that rather than moving towards a stronger, more influential and democratic organization, what is emerging is one big unaccountable, self-perpetuating, privileged bureaucracy over which the rank and file will have very little control.
Despite this generally bleak picture, there is some reason for hope. That hope lies in the fact that this union is being arbitrarily cobbled together by the bureaucracies of the two unions with huge unresolved issues.
Foremost among these is the question of political action, which centres on the future relationship to the NDP. They have no answer for this question and it is certain to spark intense debate.
I am hoping this debate will lead to what veteran CAW and socialist militant Joe Flexer used to call “an outbreak of democracy.” The task then will be to pour gasoline on the fire and break things wide open. That opening should include challenging the longstanding embrace of contract concessions by both organizations, and the tepid, selective support given to social movements resisting the austerity agenda.
Only if these things are done will the merger constitute a historic step forward for the labour movement. It is imperative that they are done.
The obvious lesson from the May 27 British Columbia provincial election is ‘don’t trust opinion polls’. But what can we learn from the NDP campaign, besides the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs is not the only team capable of blowing a huge lead late in the game? *
Consider the observation of Tara Ehrcke, president of the Victoria Teachers’ Association (affiliate of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation). “My greatest disappointment about this election was not the outcome, but the fact that not a single party stood up and spoke out for a radical re-evaluation of the massive inequity in our society. No political party really spoke to the need to tax the wealthy and to reinvest that money in services that benefit everyone, collectively. Like every election in my adult memory (back to the Premier Bill Vander Zalm days of the eighties), the debate was between a neo-liberal party of the right, and an NDP trying to be a Blairite party of the centre who speaks left to a left audience, right to a right audience, and promises nothing to anyone for fear someone might not like it.”
Reporter Justine Hunter wrote in the May 16 Globe and Mail (BC Edition): “Over his two years as leader, Mr. Dix developed an agenda that was designed not to spook voters. The slogan was change, “one practical step at a time.” He courted the business community with the promise that he would not try to move too fast.
“It was a bad campaign,” said Innovative Research pollster Greg Lyle, a former Liberal campaign manager. The New Democrats were offering incremental change that was hard for voters to get excited about, he said. “He could have built a movement for a compassionate revolution.” Instead, he mounted a defensive campaign aimed at holding a perceived lead in the polls.
“It was a fundamental error, believing that their vote was solid.”
Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star columnist, put it best on May 16. He wrote:
“British Columbia’s election was many things….it was also a test run for the new, moderate, incrementalist NDP — the NDP that, in its federal form, Jack Layton refashioned and Tom Mulcair inherited. Indeed, three members of Layton’s brain trust — Brian Topp, Brad Lavigne and Anne McGrath — held key positions in the campaign.
“So the fact that this new, moderate NDP managed to lose badly in B.C. — in spite of its early and overwhelming lead in the polls, in spite of voter fatigue with Clark’s Liberals — casts a long shadow.
“The NDP was determined to portray itself as bland. Dix may have been Glen Clark’s chief of staff during the tumultuous ’90s. But his campaign motto this time was minimalist: “one practical step at a time.”
“His promises — such as one to ensure that nursing home residents receive two rather than just one bath a week — were underwhelming. It was at its core a strangely defensive campaign, as if the NDP were saying to voters: “We know you’re sick of the Liberals and wary of us. But don’t be frightened. You can vote for us without fear of our doing much.”
“To that end, Dix presented himself in his stump speeches as softspoken, amiable and cautious. His message was: under the NDP, things will change but marginally. The strategy didn’t work.
“First, the NDP can’t escape its own past. By any reasonable standard, it ceased to be a socialist party long ago. But no matter how many times it tries to purge its constitution of anti-capitalist language, a good many voters still view it as a party of the left.
“Christy Clark’s Liberals seized on this… My guess is that the New Democrats nationally will run into the same problem during the 2015 federal election campaign. It will be difficult to convince those who mistrust left-wing parties that the new, moderate NDP has changed its spots.
“Second, by focusing on incrementalism, Dix gave B.C. voters few positive reasons to vote NDP. The centrepiece of the party platform was the worthy issue of skills training. But Clark’s Liberals offered education goodies, too.
“Andrea Horwath’s Ontario New Democrats, who prefer equally bite-size pieces of practical policy to broad vision might want to reflect on Dix’s failure here.”
That brings us to the budget of the Ontario Liberal minority government, which Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath decided to support in the third week of May.
Let’s be clear. Premier Kathryn Wynne’s budget is a capitalist austerity budget. There is a 1% cap in annual programme spending; a 3% allowable annual rise in tuition fees; zero growth in hospital base funding; 2% growth in annual health care spending; $100 increase in the monthly Ontario Child Benefit (instead of the $200 promised in the Liberal poverty reduction plan), and income testing of seniors’ drug costs. A 1% hike in social assistance rates; 0% increase in the minimum wage. And, of course, all of this is built on a 2 year wage freeze across the public service, and on the imposition of unjust terms and conditions forced on Ontario education workers, including suspension of collective bargaining and the right to strike. A working class party that supports such an agenda ends up paying a big political price. Just ask Bob Rae.
For what they’re worth, the latest opinion polls, following NDP endorsement of the buget, show the Liberals up, and the NDP dropping into third place, well behind the Tories. The NDP Socialist Caucus slogan sums it up best: To survive, the NDP must turn left.
* If the judicial recount confirms the NDP win in Coquitlam-Maillardville, the B.C. Liberals will end up with 49 seats in the legislature, the NDP 34, and the Greens and independent Vicki Huntington one each.
The result would be almost identical to 2009, when the B.C. Liberals won 49 seats, the NDP 35, and Huntington won in Delta South. The final popular vote breakdown was: B.C. Liberals 44.14 per cent; NDP 39.71 per cent; Greens 8.13 per cent and Conservatives 4.76 per cent.