Category Archives: Analysis

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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Horgan’s BC NDP sells out to LNG Canada

By Gary Porter

A massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project in Canada received final approval by LNG Canada and its partners on October 2, making it the first major new project for the fuel to win approval in recent years.

TransCanada (pipeline) Corporation also announced that it will proceed with construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project after the decision to go ahead by LNG Canada. The $6.2 billion project is a 670-kilometre (420 mile) pipeline that would transport natural gas from the Montney gas-producing region near Dawson Creek, B.C. to the LNG Canada facility in Kitimat on BC’s Pacific coast. First gas from the project is expected by 2024. The complex course through rocky islands out to sea was a factor in the cancellation of a planned oil pipeline to Kitimat, with delivery to awaiting huge oil tankers.

The total project is estimated to cost $40 billion. Stakeholders in the project are Shell, Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), PetroChina Co Ltd, Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS) and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp.

The BC Premier, John Horgan of the labour-based New Democratic Party (NDP) government, enthused about this new massive commitment to a hydrocarbon future. “We welcome the unprecedented commitment shown by the LNG Canada partners to work within our province’s ambitious climate goals,” he said in the same statement. “The critical importance of this project is what it represents — the intersecting of economic development, jobs for local workers, partnerships with Indigenous communities and forward-looking climate leadership.”

Provincial Green party Leader Andrew Weaver called the announcement a “profound disappointment.” Countering Horgan’s list of “advantages” to Canadians on a point by point basis, Weaver said, “Adding such a massive new source of GHGs (greenhouse gases) means that the rest of our economy will have to make even more sacrifices to meet our climate targets. A significant portion of the LNG Canada investment will be spent on a plant manufactured overseas, with steel sourced from other countries.”

“B.C. taxpayers will subsidize its power by paying rates twice as high and taking on the enormous public debt required to build Site C. (The massive power dam on the Peace River approved by Horgan last December, will serve the LNG development, which is a big user of electrical power.) There may be as little as 100 permanent jobs at LNG Canada.”

“I believe we can create far more jobs in other industries that won’t drastically increase our emissions.”, added Weaver.

Still, Weaver’s Green Party does not challenge capitalism. Weaver wants to manage capitalism better, not get rid of the system that puts profits before survival. He does not advocate nationalizing and rapidly phasing out hydrocarbons, as the NDP Socialist Caucus does. Nor does he advocate a publicly owned massive green energy system which could create tens of thousands of jobs and dramatically cut GHGs in short order.

Horgan’s enthusiasm for the massive LNG project, matches NDP Premier Rachel Notley’s shrill advocacy of tar sands and pipelines in Alberta. Both demonstrate that the NDP leadership is deeply committed to the profits of the oil barons more than to the environment on which we depend for life.

There is no word yet from Jagmeet Singh, Federal NDP leader currently running in Burnaby South for a seat in parliament. The electoral district is a centre of Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion opposition. Singh may find himself in a very uncomfortable position. His inept leadership over his first year in office does not portend a nimble response from him

In its own statement, Mitsubishi said the total estimated development cost of the planned Kitimat LNG plant is about US $14 billion. The cost of the liquefaction plant and a 670-kilometre pipeline to connect gas to the plant will exceed 2 trillion yen (US $17.6 billion), a company official said. The project will create of a lot of jobs in Japan, apparently.

The construction decision also comes amid a Sino-U.S. trade spat that has led to tariffs being imposed by China on LNG shipments from the United States, threatening U.S. President Donald Trump’s energy dominance plan. This project could bypass the Chinese tariffs.

Premier John Horgan says his government is mulling ways to implement all of the tax giveaways and relief for the LNG Canada project without a vote in the legislature, a scenario that would avoid a showdown with the NDP’s power-sharing partner, the B.C. Green Party.

In March, Horgan’s government promised LNG Canada about $5.3 billion in tax breaks. This leaves BC workers and the poor to carry the tax load while global capitalist corporations pay little or no tax.

As expected, Wilkinson’s right wing Liberals issued a statement saying they have supported LNG from the outset and are looking forward to backing any legislation concerning the Kitimat project.

Unnamed government officials said B.C.’s proposed climate plan will be designed to meet legislated targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent (or 13 mega tonnes) by 2050.

Much of the reduction, they claim, will be achieved by B.C. moving towards electrification, primarily in the transportation and industrial sectors. The officials said the plan will offer industry rebates on carbon tax payments if they meet global clean-energy targets.

But B.C. government staff are working based on LNG Canada’s claim that the project is forecast to emit 3.45 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

By contrast, a Maclean’s magazine editorial stated that LNG Canada represents roughly 10 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year. This is one quarter of B.C.’s entire greenhouse-gas budget for 2030, or two-thirds of B.C.’s 2050 target. In other words, to meet B.C.’s emissions targets and serve LNG Canada, the rest of the province will need largely to decarbonize. So, the LNG development seems inconsistent with Canada’s commitment to climate action. How will a government that caves in to the hydro carbon giants, have the guts to force through such a massive change?

Like virtually all GHG reduction targets set under capitalism, they come a distant second to the priorities of profit and accumulation of vast wealth by the capitalist class.  Horgan in BC, the NDP government under Rachel Notley in Alberta, and Liberal Justin Trudeau in Ottawa will strive to ensure that this continues.

Along with the massive Site C power dam decision, this LNG betrayal makes clear that the struggle to defend Indigenous rights and the environment is not centred in parliament. It should be powered by united mass action in the streets.

The Caravan that Defies Borders

by Elena Zeledon

San Jose, Costa Rica – The 8,000 poor people marching together through the states of Central America towards the United States, are another sign that the pillars of imperialist domination, already weakened by the blows of the global recession in 2008, are now shaken by the exploding social contradictions of this organic crisis.

The caravan participants, marching together as a precaution against attacks from both human traffickers (coyotes) and the drug gangs linked to the forces of state repression, are primarily from Honduras, the geographic keystone in the military and intelligence networks of US imperialism in Central America.

It was there that the mildly reformist liberal Mel Zelaya, the elected president, was expelled in a coup sponsored by the US intelligence community, and carried out by its surrogates in the Honduran military and Congress under the direction of Hillary Clinton. But it is not the first caravan from Central America which has fought its way northward.

In March of this year, a smaller caravan of 4,000 people from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala made its way to the US-Mexican border, despite threats from the racist and xenophobic regime of Donald Trump to send troops to the border to confront the refugees.

Why This Caravan, Why Now

It is hard to comprehend the hardships that these poor people are enduring in their flight to what they believe will be a better life. What drives them forward? The overarching reason is to try to escape a life of grinding poverty which afflicts the whole region, a condition of existence directly linked to the domination of the economic life of these countries by foreign, primarily US-based multi-national corporations (MNCs).

Those firms, working in conjunction with the ruling capitalist oligarchies and their repressive state apparatuses, act as a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking up massive amounts of surplus value created by the super-exploited working masses of the region. This leaves a portion for the oligarchs, who in general act as service and financial facilitators for this exploitation.  The sums are not insignificant, given the population of these semi-colonial countries which, if Mexico is included, exceeds that of France and Germany combined.

It has also resulted in a permanent fiscal crisis of the state, both because of outright looting of the treasuries (the wife of the former president of Honduras has been charged with stealing $40,000,000 USD from the social security fund, for example).  Indeed, the lack of a permanent tax regime upon which a robust social security program can be based, has worsened conditions over the past 10 years in the countries of the region.

Despite the states of Central America receiving above average rates of Foreign Direct Investment flows in the years immediately preceding the 2008 Great Recession, that rate was cut by 30 per cent after 2008. Now, with the US central bank raising interest rates, we witness direct capital outflows from the region (and likewise from many of the weaker developed capitalist economies, like Turkey and Argentina).

This has meant a rising unemployment and underemployment rate for the young people of Central America, and an attendant rise in the proliferation of gangs and illegal activities, especially working in the trans-national drug trade, where money is easy and life is short. These mass migration caravans are primarily made up of young people, many fleeing the threats of violence and death from gang members, and whose sole wish is to escape this poverty.

In addition, the increase in the present number of highly politicized migration incidents, despite a longer-term decrease in the trend of refugee applications, there is an increasingly tighter labour market in the United States itself. Tighter market conditions mean more jobs are available in the poorest paid sectors of the service industry, like migrant farm labour and household workers, not subject to minimum wage and working conditions laws. Undocumented immigrant workers make up almost 80% of these workers, a labour pool which is routinely doubly exploited.

Finally, in the specific instance of this caravan from Honduras, the increasing repression of the Honduran state against young people and a wide-open neo-liberal program of investments freed from any regulations and restraint, is a result of the December 2017 election.

The election, which even the normally docile lap dog of US imperialism, the Organization of American States (OAS) deemed to be fraudulent, was stolen by the oligarchy headed by Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) in broad daylight. The Popular Front candidate had a seemingly unsurmountable lead when the Election Tribunal called a halt to the counting, claiming a computer glitch. When the counting resumed, the lead slowly disappeared and JOH was declared re-elected (itself a violation of the Honduran constitution).

The reaction of the Honduran working class was a massive show of force repudiating the election result. In many of the poorer barrios of the country, and especially in the north part of the country. The uprising took on a semi-insurrectional character. Barricades were erected and the National Police were chased from the neighborhoods. In several cases involving los Tigres, a special anti-insurrectional police unit formed for that specific purpose, it refused to repress the mass movement and publicly declared its neutrality, saying it was a political, not a police problem.

However, since the ebb of this wave of protest, largely due to the tail-ist position of much of the left to the electoralist orientation of the bourgeois leadership of the Popular Front known as LIBRE, the government has increased its repression, taking the form of assassination of social movement leaders, particularly indigenous and trade union activists, beatings, threats and jailing of suspected neighborhood militants, and the firing of those with steady employment. This government is being advised by Alvaro Uribe, the death squad former president of Colombia.

Trump and the Politics of Immigration

As across Europe, immigration has become a rallying point for the right and the neo-Nazis in the United States. Trump, who now declares he is a nationalist, not unlike Viktor Orban, Marie Le Pen, and Nigel Farage, and has been busy pumping his political base with a series of rallies prior to the mid-term US elections on November 6.

Trump’s political repertoire portrays immigrants with the most vile, racist and xenophobic images: Mexicans are rapists and criminals; Central Americans are all members of MS 13, the Mara Salvatruchas, heavily tattooed young gang members active in El Salvador and Honduras.  Ironically, the name derives from a Salvadoran general whose exploits in 1858, as part of the United Army of Central America, helped in the defeat of William Walker and the Filibusters, a US mercenary force that tried to conquer Central America.

According to Trump and the Republicans, members of the caravans are being funded by billionaire Democratic Party contributor George Soros and criminals, many from the Middle East.  For Trump and his ilk, no epithet is too demeaning or too filthy. Soros, of course, is the primary initiator behind the university in Hungary, which anti-Semite Viktor Orban is trying to close. This International of Scum knows no limits.

The Democrats, fearing anything which might upset their perceived best chances in the election, have remained mute in the face of this onslaught. They know that any highlighting the plight of these poor people from Honduras will immediately raise the question of their complicity in creating the conditions causing this movement.

The racist, imperialist social culture of the United States is being used as a hammer against the poor working classes of its own “back yard”. Faced with this situation, what should the left do?

The first response from the militant Left should be to raise the demand “Open the Borders”, and “No One is Illegal”. This slogan cuts across the entire ideological construct of “US exceptionalism” — a constant smokescreen for the activities of North American imperialism.

The second is to find ways of mobilizing the populations of the border states of California, Texas, and Arizona. This area of the United States is heavily Latino. In fact, the majority of working class Californians have Latino roots. (The GDP of California is the 6th largest in the world, which underlines its importance). Already efforts are being made to organize actions to raise the need for cross-border solidarity in places like Los Angeles.  How wonderful it would be if the North American Left united in common actions to help mobilize those with the power to open the borders to desperate Mexican and Central American workers.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!

OPEN THE BORDER! TEAR DOWN THE WALLS!

Open the Border for the Migrant Caravan

About 10,000 people are in transit from the south of Mexico. They are fleeing poverty and violence in their countries of origin to try to reach the United States. While President Trump continues to spout xenophobic threats we must reach out in solidarity to our migrant brothers and sisters.

Movimiento de los Trabajadores Socialistas (Mexico)

Organización Socialista (Costa Rica)

Left Voice

October 26, 2018

Trump plans to cut “aid” from United States to the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. But the actual purpose of this “aid” is to fund the forces of repression, increase the fortunes of ruling politicians and businessmen and ensure “homeland security” in the United States.

It has been reported that 7,233 people registered for migrant services from the government of Mexico as of October 20. It has also been estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 people have crossed the Suchiate River at the Mexican-Guatemalan border.

This new wave of migration is made up of women, children, young people, adults and elderly people who are driven by despair. They can no longer live in their countries, without job opportunities and subject to the violence spread by organized crime and the forces of repression, which often work together. They have resisted the brutal repression by the Mexican federal police at the border and are continuing their march. Along the way, they have been supported by the solidarity of the Mexican people, who have given them words of encouragement and donated clothing, shoes and food.

We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis caused by the criminalization and repression of the migrants by the servile governments of Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. They are doing the dirty work for Trump, a xenophobic racist who built his fortune on the backs of migrant workers in the construction and hotel industries in the United States.

The Trump administration continues a long history of imperialist aggression against the Central American region, to the point that for all intents and purposes Central America is viewed as “imperialism’s backyard.” As a result, the region suffers the worst ills of U.S. capitalism.

The economic crisis of 2008 had a profound impact on the region, resulting in unemployment, repressive governments, increased capitalist barbarity as well as migration. The government of Juan Orlando Hernández in Honduras is a good example of what happened to the region after the 2008 crisis. The main causes of this migration wave are, therefore, both U.S. imperialism under the Trump administration and the Mexican and Central American governments, who are servile and submissive to imperialism but brutally repressive against their respective working classes and poor.

The repression unleashed by Mexican authorities is raising awareness among a sector of the migrants that is denouncing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s subordination to the imperialist Trump.

Mexico: One of the Most Dangerous Countries for Migrants

Year after year, migrants have embarked on one of the most dangerous journeys in the world to cross Mexico and reach U.S. soil with the hope of a better life. They take this risk to escape organized crime in their countries of origin, linked to parties representing corporate interests, and the extreme poverty in which these parties have submerged the countries of Central American.

On Mexican soil, the migrants are confronted with the brutality of immigration agents, the police, the army and navy, in addition to bad weather conditions. We will not forget cases such as the massacres of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, when the police handed over hundreds of migrants to the cartels, who executed them. Their hopes and dreams faded into the dismal mist of militarization and the spread of organized crime.

This caravan has brought together thousands who are trying to enter Mexico to cross the Rio Bravo, a perilous venture undertaken by thousands of Mexicans every day. They make this journey with no resources, with no money, with almost no luggage.

They are workers, poor peasants and their children, displaced by capitalist plunder, survivors of militarization. They are the brothers and sisters of the working class, communities, indigenous peoples, women and young people of Mexico, facing displacement in rural areas, drug trafficking and transnational projects for the extraction of natural resources. They also suffer extreme exploitation at the hands of multinationals operating in Mexico and have experienced firsthand the dire consequences of the “drug war” and militarization.

In 2017, other Central American migrants who were passing through stopped their march to support the rescue efforts after the earthquakes in September. The government and reactionary sectors of Mexico have forgotten this. We must fight against Peña Nieto’s wall and the xenophobia promoted by the government in mass media and social media.

Workers’ and People’s Solidarity With our Central American Brothers and Sisters

Today, they need the support of the workers and people of Mexico. We must take to the streets by the thousands to support full social and political rights for all migrants, for the free movement of people in the countries of the region. No human being is illegal!

We must spread effective solidarity with our migrant brothers. The trade unions and popular and left organizations must take the lead. We must collect food, clothing and first aid materials in every workplace, school and neighborhood. Proper accommodations must be provided in unions, schools and housing areas under the control of popular urban movement organizations. These places must offer migrants protection from deportation.

The working class is one, and has no boundaries!

A national conference of solidarity with migrant caravan must be organized during its passage through Mexico City, to create a national network to organize the reception of the caravan in the different states.

We must confront the xenophobia spewed by Trump, who separated thousands of migrant children from their families and is keeping them incarcerated. We are have had enough of his insults and threats, his wall and his private prisons. We must take to the streets, chanting “Down with the wall and all of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies!”

Against the servile subordination of the Mexican government, operating as an agent of the anti-immigrant offensive launched by U.S. imperialism, against the Central American governments that also follow its orders, we must build a continental movement against imperialist interference in the region, for full social and political for all migrants’ rights and for their free transit through the countries of the region.

Did you hear? It’s ok to smoke Pot. A politician told me so

by Corey David

Cannabis was made legal on October 17, 2018 across the Canadian state and if you listen to the mainstream media you might think it was a revolutionary move to end stigma and salvage the lives of tens of thousands who have been criminalized by the state for consuming this herb.  As a 10 years-plus pot smoker, I can truthfully say that is not the case.

The Justin Trudeau government, true to Liberal Party tradition, implemented a modest reform that enjoys broad popular support without rocking the boat very much. (Proportional representation was evidently far too radical). Former Toronto Police chief and current MP Bill Blair is in charge of the legalization process. Someone whose job it was to enforce laws that attacked poor and racialized communities while leaving more affluent neighbourhoods alone (if you think there aren’t drugs in the rich hoods you should talk to the dealers; if you don’t have a connection there are available studies).

It seems that while Blair and his team researched how to best introduce the bill they did not consult with a very important “partner”, First Nations. Indigenous main concerns with the Bill are how the law would override individual reservations’ by-laws, how it did not take into consideration the challenge of substance abuse facing these communities and did not consult on tax sharing where some of the revenue would go back into reserves.

There is a theme here and we will likely see it blatantly expressed in Ontario where the provincial government has decided to privatize cannabis sales starting in 2019 (maybe Premier Doug Ford will sponsor a ‘buck a beer’ combo to celebrate the occasion). So, what will happen when there are repercussions like increased addiction, or medicinal shortages because of consumer demand? Communities and the public sector will be burdened with the true cost, while companies and shareholders rake in profits. Some Ontario Public Service Employees Union members employed by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, building on the plans of the previous Kathleen Wynne Liberal government to sell through LCBO stores, wanted to see revenues go into public coffers, as is the case with alcohol.

In fact, the lead up to legalization many wealthy investors and ex-prohibitionists are benefiting, including former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney who tried to push through Bill C-85 that would have put weed in the same category as heroin under federal law. How can he reconcile his new investments with his previous support for criminalizing users? On a personal note, my father who was against weed when I started using has now invested tens of thousands of dollars in marijuana stocks. Just because a piece of paper was signed and there’s money to be made, now it’s a good thing.

That seems to be the real driver behind this push to legalize. At the end of a road of suffering, protest, and black-market business, there is an opportunity to make a lot of cash. Hand in hand, government and corporations have stumbled onto a booming industry.

Sadly, there is scarcely a mention of the lives that have been ruined by enforcement of the prohibition law, or the abuse inflicted in its name by a racist and classist legal system. A pardon process is limited to minor possession charges. So, should we thank the Feds for a thumbs up to start burning? I’m not satisfied with this token gesture that paints our country’s leaders as champions of liberty.  They give corporations the keys to produce, store, and sell as much as they can, while continuing a restrictive policy towards individuals. It offers no apology for the oppression it doled out, and the propaganda it published to misinform.  It promotes those who recently were at war with drugs into positions of mastery over the industry.  It exploits those most vulnerable, who are living precariously and maybe suffering from addiction, while providing no increase in treatment infrastructure, though nearly every political party demands better services.

“The focus is to protect kids” — but not those in poverty who seek an escape route through the drug trade, in the absence of other options, not for those stuck in generational cycles of trauma caused by substance abuse, and not for those who had their parents taken away by this same system. Bill C-45 is a white wash.  It ignores the issues and the realities of the drug question as it’s poised to gouge users who will have to pay more for legal weed than the stuff they get around the corner. It is one more thing to be commercialized and controlled by the capitalist elite, not the groups that fought for change, and who were harassed for almost a century for smoking a plant they could grow in the backyard.

Where is the effort to deal with the fentanyl crisis, the housing crisis, the environmental crisis, the lack of clean drinking water on reserves and the murdered and missing indigenous people? Profit is king, the only thing worth striving for under our current system, it seems.

Quebecois go to the polls

by Robbie Mahood
October 1 is election day in Quebec, the first under a new law that requires a new mandate every 4 years.

As the population wearies of cutbacks in health care, education and social services, the Liberal Party government of Philippe Couillard is facing defeat. But this will not be at the hands of their traditional rival, the Parti Quebecois (PQ).

The bourgeois nationalist PQ is in crisis. It was responsible for calling Quebec’s two referenda on independence in 1980 and 1995. But it has consigned another referendum to the indefinite future, if ever. Losing its raison d’être as the party of sovereignty, it is bleeding support mainly to the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), a populist right of centre party, now poised to oust the Liberals. Under former PQ Minister, Francois Legault, a CAQ government would deepen austerity while scapegoating immigrants and posing as the best defender of Quebec’s “interests” in negotiations with Ottawa.

That leaves the small ‘left’ party, Quebec Solidaire (QS). By pushing a pro-independence and anti-austerity agenda, QS hopes to win over sovereigntist and working class voters from the PQ. But at 10% in the polls, the most that can be expected is adding a few more deputies to its current roster of 3 out of 125 in the National Assembly.

This election testifies to the stagnation of bourgeois parliamentary politics in Quebec. A stifling ideological consensus envelops the Liberals, the CAQ and the PQ. For most voters the choice is whether to toss out one band of corrupt reactionary politicians and replace them with another. Only QS provides some measure of relief.

This reflects the current lull in social and class struggles in Quebec. That is the price for the dead weight of the bureaucratic leadership of Quebec’s unions. Having thrown their weight behind the PQ’s bourgeois nationalist project in the 1970’s, they now find themselves in a greatly weakened position after years of concessions and retreat. Union leaders have confined their intervention in this election to ‘interrogating’ the three parties that might win. Their strategic horizon is limited to securing a seat at the table when neo-liberal politicians sit down with Quebec’s business class.

The union brass is still not willing to countenance a definitive break with the PQ, only signalling to vote against the Liberals and the CAQ.

This is despite a QS election programme that the unions can certainly support: public dental care, ending public funding of private schools, free education from pre-school to university, re-orienting primary health care to the public sector, abolishing the fees families must pay to place their children in the province’s daycare centers, a promise to invest in mass transit and a quick transition to a $15 per hour minimum wage.
QS embodies contradictory elements. It is a progressive or ‘left’ party, but far from a labour or socialist party. Its evolution is increasingly determined by electoral calculations. The sometimes-radical party programme is often trimmed by the leadership so as to stay within Quebec’s liberal capitalist consensus. For example, a commitment to the COP 21 target of a 2/3’s cut in carbon emissions by 2030, was scaled back so as to close the gap with the position of the neo-liberal parties.

On the other hand, QS decisively rejected an electoral pact with the PQ. And its programme tilts leftwards, demarcating it from its rivals. It represents a partial break with the ruling class parties and there is potential for it to become a class alternative, by seeking union affiliation to the party and advancing a clear working class agenda.
That is the perspective the Ligue pour l’Action socialiste fights for within and outside of QS and the basis for our call for a critical vote for QS. We deplore the decision of the newly relaunched provincial NDP to put up candidates against QS in this election. This will divide the pro-working class electorate. The rationale for this decision can only spring from a sectarian and nationalist reflex based on loyalty to the federal Anglo-Canadian state. The provincial NDP seeks to take votes away from another much more established party of the reform-minded left just because it offers a progressive (yet, like the NDP, hardly socialist) vision and platform in the framework of an independent Quebec.