All posts by YK

Socialist Action remarks to September 18 rally against Bill C-27

Good afternoon.  My name is Elizabeth Byce and I am speaking to you on behalf of Socialist Action.  I am a retired member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and a past Secretary of the Toronto Labour Council.

Socialist Action is here to support this protest, initiated by the National Organization of Retired Postal Workers and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, against government Bill C-27.  C-27 would allow Canada Post and other federal employers that established defined-benefit (DB) pension plans, to get rid of their legal obligations to pay promised and already-earned pensions benefits to federal employees, past and present.  If the Defined Benefits Plan is replaced with a Target Benefit Pension Plan, the amount paid to retirees would be geared to the stock market.  If the market goes down, money invested in it would go down too, leaving pensioners with a very insecure retirement.  So, let’s be clear.  Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are out to rob pensioners in order to support the dying capitalist system.  They promised to improve and stabilize pensions.  They lied!  They promised meaningful consultation with everyone affected.  They lied!  And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Trudeau promised electoral reform.  He lied!

Trudeau promised no pipelines without the consent of indigenous peoples.  He lied!

He promised action on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.  He lied!

He promised thousands of good, new jobs through massive investment in public works.  He lied!

Trudeau promised to reverse Stephen Harper’s pro-war policies.  Then he sent more soldiers to Eastern Europe, Iraq and Africa, and he increased the military budget by 70%.  So, he lied about all that too!

Should we be surprised?  Heck no!  Bill Morneau doesn’t have to worry about a pension.  He’s a very rich man.

Bill Morneau’s father, Frank Morneau, founded the benefit consulting firm W.F. Morneau & Associates in 1966.  By 1985, the firm had an annual revenue of $5 million. Bill Morneau joined the company in 1987. He was appointed president in 1992, chief executive officer in 1998, and then chair and chief executive officer in 2008.

Morneau Shepell, the largest Canadian human resources services organization, with offices across North America, went from about 200 employees in 1992 to almost 4000 in 2015. The firm bought Sobeco from Ernst & Young in 1997, going public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2005, and acquired Shepell-FGI in 2008.

So where do you think Bill Morneau’s loyalties lie?  With Main Street, or with Bay Street?

Morneau and the Liberal Party are tools of the capitalist class, which sets out to rob the working class every minute of every day.  Their job is to maximize private profit and minimize social benefits.

But it is labour and nature that create all the wealth.  Socialists say that workers make the country run, so workers should run the country.

When the bosses say they can’t afford to pay Defined Pension Benefits, they are lying.  Socialists say Tax the Rich, tax the giant corporations, seize those hidden offshore bank accounts, nationalize the banks and big oil, cut the war budget, and Hands off our pensions!

The answer to capitalist austerity is socialist revolution.  If you want to see real change in Canada, don’t rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.  Fight for socialism.  Join Socialist Action!

Hey, hey, ho, ho.  C-27 has got to go!

Hey, hey, ho, ho.  Bill Morneau has got to go!

Rebel Films: Fall 2017

Toronto Socialist Action Presents

REBEL FILMS

OISE, 252 Bloor Street West [at the St. George Station]

Everyone is welcome. $4 Donation Requested

 

Friday, September 22, 7 p.m. @ OISE 5-280

I Am Not Your Negro

1h 33 min | 2017

Writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America with his unfinished novel, Remember This House. Norman Otis Richmond, producer of Diasporic Music on Black Rock, will open the discussion.

Friday, September 29, 7 p.m. @ OISE 5-150

Ukraine on Fire

1h 35 min | 2016 | Documentary

New perspectives on 2014’s Maidan Massacre and the overthrow of Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. Konstantin Goulich, Russian community activist and long-time observer of events in Ukraine, will lead off the discussion.

Friday, October 6, 7 p.m. @ OISE 5-150

13th

1h 40 min | 2016 | Crime Film/Documentary

Explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that its prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.

Friday, October 13, 7 p.m. @ OISE 5-150

Angry Inuk

1h 25 min | 2016 | Documentary

A Canadian feature-length documentary film that defends the Inuit seal hunt, arguing the hunt is a vital means for Inuit peoples to sustain themselves.

Friday, October 20, 7 p.m. @ OISE 5-280

Migrant Dreams

1h 28 min | 2016 | Documentary

The untold story of migrant agricultural workers who are struggling under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The film examines the lives of a group of resisting migrant women.

Friday, October 27, 7 p.m. @ OISE 5-150

Every Cook Can Govern: The Life, Impact & Work of CLR James

2h 1 min | 2016 | Documentary

This historical tour-de-force interweaves never-before-seen footage of C.L.R. James and astute analysis from leading scholars of his work.

Friday, November 3, 7 p.m. @ OISE 5-150

From Czar to Lenin

1h 8 min | 1937 | Documentary

A cinematic account of the Russian Revolution. A classic. Barry Weisleder, co-editor of Socialist Action newspaper, will will make a presentation to mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

Socialist Action walks in solidarity with striking Pearson International Airport workers

Teamsters Local 419 represents 700 workers employed by Swissport, a multinational company subcontracted to handle baggage for several airlines at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ). The workers have been on strike since July 27. Their demands are:  wage increases that will be only slightly above the proposed increases to the Ontario minimum wage, and keeping benefits for part-time workers.

The workers have overwhelmingly voted down two proposed deals because the employer insists upon concessions. In the second vote, it was 98 per cent NO.  The protracted strike will soon create greater problems for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA).  The strike has implications for airport industrial relations and its 50,000 workers.

Socialist Action is proud to express its solidarity for workers on strike, especially for the members of Local 419 who demonstrate the courage to stand up to the bosses’ demands for concessions, and fight back for gains.

¡Heather Heyer, presente!

On Sunday August 13, Socialist Action members gathered in solemn solidarity with about 200 like-minded people outside of the United States Consulate to participate in a "Vigil for Charlottesville Anti-Fascists". The event was hosted by the Toronto International Workers of the World General Defence Committee. The group listened to a few short speeches and sang "The Red Flag" and "Solidarity Forever" before marching off to City Hall while angrily chanting "Whose Streets – Our Streets", "Refugees In, Fascist Out", and "Nazi Scum Off Our Streets".

The event was a memorial for Heather Heyer, the young woman who was murdered by an ultra-right terrorist, who drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters during an August 12 counter-demonstration against the “Unite the Right” rally. In addition to Heather being fatally run-down, more than 30 anti-racist protesters also sustained serious injuries during the course of the day. This attack was preceded by an August 11 torchlight march on the campus of the University of Virginia. The white supremacists and fascists chanted: “White Lives Matter,” “You Will Not Replace Us,” “Jews Will Not Replace Us,” and “Blood and Soil.” The fascists also attacked a smaller group of counter-protesters,using the torches, sticks, pipes, and brass knuckles, while police stood by and just watched.

This terrorist violence and murder is the latest in a series of violent acts from the far-right. In cities across North America, Nazis, white supremacists, and fascists have been going on a violent offensive to attack Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, queer and trans people, as well as left-wing militants. These attacks have been emboldened by the hateful rhetoric spewed by President Donald Trump. All the while our own Prime Minister Trudeau just watches quietly on the sidelines. Enough is enough!

We say:

  • Fascism is not to be debated – it is to be smashed!
  • Build a United Front to stop and defeat the fascists!
  • Solidarity with the brave fighters in Charlottesville and all the victims of fascism!
  • An injury to one is an injury to all.

Heather Hayer, rest in power!

Supplementary items:

Reading recommendation: Socialist Action USA article by Steve Xavier.


On August 14, Socialist Action members attended an anti-fascist rally of about 60 people on University Avenue, across from the U.S. Consulate in Toronto. Many carried signs or wore T-shirts with slogans; and they chanted:

  • Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go.
  • Nazi scum off our streets.
  • Smash racism.
  • No Platform for Fascists.

 

Socialist Action Policy on Basic Income

We are seeing a revival of the concept of basic guaranteed income (BI or GAI), both in Canada and internationally. The Ontario Liberal government is about to launch a pilot project. Prince Edward Island will do likewise, while other provincial administrations have expressed interest. Finland initiated a basic income experiment in 2016, and The Netherlands is soon to follow.

Basic income has its supporters and detractors on both left and right. Free-market and libertarian ideologues like Milton Friedman and Charles Murray see the possibility of eliminating publicly funded entitlements in favour of impoverished members of the working class having to purchase those services in the market. On the other hand, many conservatives fear a disincentive to work.

Positions on the left also vary. Basic income has been promoted as a solution to precarious work in the gig economy, as a way of liberating impoverished people from an oppressive welfare bureaucracy and as a panacea for the work-less world that some predict will result from robotization. But there are many who believe basic income in the current context is illusory.

Some on the left propose a ‘progressive’ version of basic income that would provide a net advance over existing benefits. No one wants to defend the current system of social assistance with its paternalistic bureaucracy and grossly inadequate level of support. A socialist society would guarantee decent social provision for all. The question of what form this should take remains hypothetical at this point.

Those advocating a ‘progressive’ version of basic income are acting from genuine concern for the impoverished, and frustration with the injustices of the current social welfare system. But in the harsh world of actually existing capitalism, basic income schemes offer the illusion of improvement in the lot of marginalized people while streamlining the existing social welfare system so as to diminish state responsibility and push individuals to purchase their needs privately.

Absent a socialist transformation, basic income schemes will reflect the priorities of capitalist governments. They will be grafted on to an austerity and privatization agenda. The aim is to move the impoverished into low wage precarious employment, provide a wage top-up to employers and give governments an exit route from services they currently provide. Ontario Liberal Premier, Kathleen Wynne sees basic income as a way of reducing government expenditures in housing, health care and other supports for the poor. Finland’s centre-right wing government will judge its basic income experiment on whether it moves the chronically unemployed into taking low wage jobs.

Labour has been on the defensive for almost 50 years. The relationship of class forces does not favour significant democratic or egalitarian policies orchestrated from above.

Labour’s traditional approach has been to fight for full employment at union rates, for a significant rise in the minimum wage, for adequate social assistance and unemployment benefits and for social entitlements that apply to the whole working class including impoverished and marginalized people. The labour movement has recognized the danger in means tested programs that break with the principle of universality.

It is naive to think that basic income can circumvent the capitalist labour market or transform the use of leisure time.  The real transitional demand here is for a reduction in the work week with no loss of pay and a sharing of work. Within that framework, massive retraining and expansion of unionized employment in green and socially useful occupations is the route to go.

Some sort of income guarantee would be integral to a socialist society. But this would not be the principal mechanism for social provision. Cuba gives us a glimpse. Basic needs such as housing, transport, health care and education are provided out of central state revenues and are free for every Cuban at the point of use or in some cases as a subsidy. There is a big difference between social programs as universal entitlements provided out of a collective pooling of resources, and services obtained by individuals from private providers as a market transaction. Both may exist, but any aspiring socialist society would and must try to limit the commodification of basic services.

If introduced by capitalist governments, as looks increasingly likely, basic income schemes will require the labour movement and socialists to respond.  Socialist Action will evaluate any specific basic income program according to:

  1. whether it lifts the beneficiaries out of poverty representing a net gain over existing social assistance benefits;
  2. whether it will have a positive effect on wages and job quality not acting as a wage subsidy to employers and accelerating the trend to bad jobs at low pay and
  3. whether it will protect existing services to which the impoverished are entitled, and provide the scope to expand access.

In formulating its position. Socialist Action should not lag behind the most advanced elements in the labour movement who are highly critical of basic income (see John Clarke’s and David Bush’s arguments and the positions adopted by CUPE Ontario and OPSEU).

To summarize, for the foreseeable, basic income will be initiated from above by capitalist governments requiring a response on our part. But we believe the main battles lie elsewhere.  What the working class gains, it has to fight for. We look to advances in the class struggle to better conditions for the impoverished. Battles for unionization, higher wages and benefits, mobilizing to obtain decent social housing, to abolish barriers to higher education, to win free public transit and defend the most vulnerable and exploited workers – that is the way to strengthen the confidence, self-organization and unity of working people and change the balance of forces in society.

July 2017