School Support Staff Rock the Casbah in Ontario

by Barry Weisleder — This socialist digest was presented to the central committee of Socialist Action on Nov. 16.

On the domestic landscape, the biggest development in November 2022 was the two-day walkout by CUPE-Ontario education support workers. They defied a law that pre-emptively banned strike action. CUPE and allies, including OPSEU, forced the Thug Ford Conservative government to rescind Bill 28 and its use of the notwithstanding clause to violate the federal Charter of Rights. CUPE school workers still do not have a deal to enable them to rise above poverty wages. But everyone knows that Ontario was, as Socialist Action labour leader Julius Arscott put it, 30 minutes away from a general strike. 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 49,000 votes, and the MSA garnered nearly 15,000. At its next convention, on November 21, the MSA will consider the formation of a “Shadow Council” to track the elected politicians and to press locally for a socialist working class agenda.

Across the so-called Canadian state, on November 5, actions in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people took place. Outside branches of the Royal Bank in Toronto, Socialist Action and allies blocked busy intersections to demand Indigenous Land Back Now and a halt to the construction of oil and gas pipelines. On November 27, SA will be part of a Climate Justice Convergence. What a stark contrast to the COP 27 meeting in Egypt where hundreds of lobbyists for big carbon polluters trolled the bourgeois politicos. Those are the vile characters who prefer to fiddle while the world burns.

In British Columbia the NDP establishment disqualified the momentous leadership bid of Eco-socialist Anjali Appadurai. Her inspiring, insurgent campaign more than doubled the membership of the BC NDP. That is why the right wing party brass moved to block Anjali on a bogus basis. Socialists say stay and fight, in opposition to the promoters of the bourgeois Green Party. In Ontario, the NDP provincial leadership race is a farce in progress, with only one candidate, MPP Marit Stiles. She is a facsimile of failed former leader Andrea Horwath. It costs $55,000 just to enter the race for Leader. No lowly worker need apply to head the workers’ party. In addition, ONDP tops are threatening punitive action against prominent NDP leftist Jessa McLean, falsely accused of anti-Semitism. The Socialist Caucus plans to host an online conference to respond to these disturbing developments, and to plan its intervention into the federal NDP convention, which will occur in Winnipeg starting on June 13, 2023. Dates under consideration for the SC zoom are December 4 or 10.

In Iran, the 40+ year rule of the reactionary clergy is being challenged by a relentless wave of demonstrations led by women and youths. Two months have passed since the detention of Mahsa Amini on Sept. 13 for not following the strict dress code for women, and her death three days later. Uprisings have continued in several cities. More than 233 people, including 32 under the age of 18, have been killed so far. Tens of thousands of Iranian ex-pats have rallied in Richmond Hill, and across Toronto, in solidarity with the protests. As revolutionary socialists, we recognize that Iran is both a prison house of nations, a state dominated by a repressive capitalist regime, and at the same time, Iran is a country oppressed by imperialism. The major powers covet Iran’s energy resources. We fully support the uprising of women and youths. We hope for the formation of workers’ councils, to constitute a dual power situation. With revolutionary leadership fundamental change is possible. But change in Iran is the task of women and the entire working class, not outside forces. It is disturbing to see Iranians wave the flag of the monarchy, the flag of the murderous Shah of Iran, in recent rallies. Canada, the USA, and the EU promote restoration of the monarchy and other imperialist designs. They should have no role to play in the country’s future. 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. Ottawa sent armoured vehicles and weapons to support the Haitian National Police. Why not send food, medicine, water purification kits, agricultural implements, and housing construction equipment? Yes, police are battling armed gangs. It is a situation fostered by the overthrow of the last democratically elected leader of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was kidnapped and shipped to Africa by Canadian and US forces in 2004. Recall that the United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. It installed serial puppet governments; ran the economy, military, and police; terrorized citizens; and exercised economic control over Haiti that continued after they withdrew troops in the 1940s. Now the imperialists, under the auspices of the United Nations, are planning to occupy Haiti again. Socialists say “No to military intervention. We affirm Haiti’s right to self-determination. Canada Out of the Core Group. Imperialist Hands-off Haiti.”

In Russia, hundreds of thousands of young men have sought refuge abroad to avoid Putin’s military draft. Although provoked by NATO expansion and Kyiv’s 8-year bombardment of the Donbas region, 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 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. We echo Lenin and Trotsky who said turn the imperialist war into class war. We will be demonstrating at every opportunity to make this point, and to demand Canada Out of NATO, Hands off Haiti.

Socialist Action is affiliated to the Tendency for a Revolutionary International. The TRI, which includes comrades in France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Asia and Latin America, has been inactive. The Greek section of the Fourth International, O.K.D.E., recently proposed that the TRI convene to discuss policy, consider the inclusion of additional parties in its coordinating body, and prepare for an upcoming F.I. summit. Political differences exist within the TIR. We need to determine whether there is a principled basis of unity for our political collaboration as the FI continues to decline and degenerate. The rise of the far right, the upsurge in militarism, growing economic crisis and environmental catastrophe, make this challenge more urgent than ever. SA Canada endorsed the call of the comrades in Greece.

Our comrades in the United States, SA-USA, will host their biennial convention online on Sunday, November 20 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. SA Canada members are welcome to observe.

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 now in the home stretch. The ostensible target of the law, the so-called “Freedom Convoy,” had nothing to do with freedom. The Convoy was a reactionary anti-science, anti-vaccination, anti-mask, anti-immigrant, white supremacist enterprise. Had it been a general strike or a mass protest action to advance a Workers’ Agenda, the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police and Ottawa police would have removed protesters and their vehicles on Day One! Why did the cops do nothing for weeks, while Ottawa residents suffered severe air and noise pollution, and plenty of verbal abuse? It was not incompetence, nor was it a “lack of coordination.” Police simply refused to act. Many of the Ottawa cops sympathized with the alt-right, racist occupiers. Testimony at the Inquiry revealed that members of the RCMP and CSIS frequently leaked security personnel deployment information to Convoy leaders.

When debate of the law hit the floor of the Ontario NDP Convention in early February 2022, socialist delegates spoke against invocation of the Emergencies Act. They warned that it would be used against labour and the left. We counter-posed union and community self-mobilization to block newly arriving Convoy supporters. And that is what happened at Billings Bridge on February 16. We have no illusions in the capitalist, racist, homophobic state, but we do note that police already had all the tools needed to remove the 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 to conduct a dress rehearsal against pipeline protesters, Indigenous Land Back advocates, and other dissidents. We denounce Trudeau’s sleazy political maneuver for what it is. We demand Abolition of the Emergencies Act.

The Fall SA Education Conference, online on November 26, promises to be outstanding. Cliff Conner will make the opening presentation on Science and Militarism at 1 p.m. Yasin Kaya, Emily Steers, and Gary Porter will speak on Eco-socialism, Marxism and Political Action at 4 p.m. Daniel Tarade, Yvonne Hanson, and Chris Zapisocky will present on the topic “Building Mass Movements and the Revolutionary Party” at the 7 p.m. session. Please invite your co-workers, friends, family, and neighbors to tune in.