Category Archives: Analysis

CAW needs action plan to Stop Concessions to Detroit 3

by Bruce Allen, Vice-President of CAW Local 199, and V.P. Niagara Regional Labour Council (writing in a personal capacity)


     Just prior to the start of the 2012 Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) Collective Bargaining and Constitutional Convention, held in Toronto August 20-24, the Chrysler Corporation sent the CAW a clear and unequivocal message concerning this year’s contract negotiations with the Detroit 3 (which includes Ford and General Motors). Chrysler tabled the demand that the CAW give up ’30 and out’. This means that Chrysler demands that the CAW give up autoworkers’ right to retire with a full pension regardless of their age after 30 years of credited service.

     This is particularly significant because nothing better exemplifies the historic gains achieved by North American autoworkers over the last century than this contractual right. Chrysler’s position attests to its audacity and boldness going into this year’s negotiations. It shows the aggressive stance being taken by the Detroit 3 towards the CAW.

     Prior to 2012 none of the Detroit 3 would have dared to table such a demand. Furthermore the tabling of it illustrates the self-confidence of the auto bosses and their sense of a new found ability to attack workers’ pensions. Clearly Chrysler has noted the recent successes of Vale Inco and U.S. Steel in rolling back pensions in their collective agreements with the United Steelworkers’ union and wants to follow suit. Regardless whether Chrysler actually succeeds in eliminating ’30 and out’, the very attempt to do so constitutes a watershed development. But should Chrysler actually have any success in this regard it will give added momentum to the onslaught against pensions, not only at companies like Vale Inco and U.S. Steel, but also by the Stephen Harper Conservative federal government’s move to raise the eligibility age for Old Age Security from 65 to 67.

     Thus it is imperative that the CAW beat back the demand to end ’30 and out’ by any means necessary, including by industry-wide strike action. Moreover, such action by the CAW should be couple with a serious campaign of mass action to halt the Harper government’s raising of the age of eligibility for OAS, since it will hit autoworkers especially hard. This is because the supplements to their pensions which are integral to their retirement income, end at age 65, because the current eligibility age for Old Age Security is 65. Raising the eligibility age to 67 will cost retired autoworkers thousands of dollars in lost income between the ages of 65 and 67.

     These developments put the proceedings of the Collective Bargaining Convention into perspective. The convention was bathed in militant rhetoric and good policy papers detailing the breadth and depth of the attacks CAW members are facing. But the proceedings were detached from the everyday realities faced by CAW members who are being relentlessly attacked with no clear prospect of a serious fightback in response. Indeed the deliberations at the convention marked no significant shift in direction for a union that has been in retreat for many years, particularly in the all important auto industry. The CAW has allowed the auto bosses to set the trajectory of contract negotiations by permitting them to impose concessions in exchange for promises of new investment. As long as this approach continues, autoworkers will endure the effects of taking ever more contract concessions.

Indeed, the top CAW leadership stubbornly refuses to acknowlege this trajectory, never mind put a halt to it. The outcome of the convention effectively reinforced this recipe for continuing retreat.

     Finally, the CAW’s planned merger with the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers, sealed by unanimous vote of the nearly 1,000 delegates, promises more of the same. It will produce a larger, better-resourced labour organization. But those advantages will be of little consequence unless there is a decisive shift to the left in both the collective bargaining and political strategies of the CAW. Neither is on offer with this merger. The very few critical voices on the left in the CAW are consequently tasked with relentlessly making the case that more of the same is not acceptable and will lead to even greater retreats.

The Un-taxed $21 Trillion

(This article is drawn from information at, compiled and edited by Barry Weisleder.)


     The world’s richest people are hiding $21 Trillion in offshore tax havens worldwide. Actually, it may be as much as $32 trillion.
     While governments slash spending and lay off workers, citing a need for “austerity” due to the recession/depression, the ultra-rich—fewer than 10 million of the seven billion people on Earth—have stashed away an amount equal to the entire US and Japanese economies – beyond the reach of the tax man. This is according to a new report by the Tax Justice Network, an independent organisation of economists, accountants, lawyers and other professionals launched in the British Houses of Parliament in March 2003. The lost tax revenue from offshore tax shelters, the report notes, “is large enough to make a significant difference to all of our conventional measures of inequality. Since most of the missing financial wealth belongs to a tiny elite, the impact is staggering.”
     James S. Henry was former Chief Economist for McKinsey & Co. He is the author of the book The Blood Bankers as well as articles for publications including The Nation and The New York Times.Henry obtained information from the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations, central banks, and private sector analysts and found the outlines of the giant pool of cash floating in that nebulous space known as “offshore”. (Keep in mind this refers to money only—the report ommits real estate, yachts, race horses, art, and other forms of wealth the super-rich are hiding, untaxed, in offshore tax havens.) Henry refers to it as a “black hole” in the world economy and notes that, “despite taking pains to err on the conservative side, the results are astonishing.”
Meet The Top .001%
     “By our estimates, at least a third of all private financial wealth, and nearly half of all offshore wealth, is now owned by world’s richest 91,000 people– just 0.001% of the world’s population,” the report says. Those top 91,000 have about $9.8 trillion of the total estimated in this report—and fewer than ten million people account for the whole mountain of cash.
     Who are those people? The report mentions “30-year-old Chinese real estate speculators and Silicon Valley software tycoons,” and those whose wealth comes from oil, and from the drug trade.
     Drug lords, understandably, need to hide their ill-gotten gains, but plenty of the other ultra-rich are simply avoiding paying taxes by constructing complicated trusts and other investments just to shave a few more points off the bill they owe in their home country.
Where’s the Cash?
     “Offshore,” according to Henry, isn’t a physical location anymore—though plenty of places like Singapore and Switzerland, he notes, still specialize in providing “secure, low-tax physical residences” to the world’s rich.
     But today, “offshore” wealth is virtual—Henry describes “nominal, hyper-portable, multi-jurisdictional, often quite temporary locations of networks of legal and quasi-legal entities and arrangements.” A company may be located in one jurisdiction, but it is owned by a trust located elsewhere, and administered by trustees in a third location. “Ultimately, then, the term ‘offshore’ refers to a set of capabilities,” rather than to a place or multiple places.
     It’s also important, the report notes, to distinguish between the “intermediary havens”–the places most people think of when they think of tax havens, like Mitt Romney’s Cayman Islands, Bermuda, or Switzerland—and the “destination havens,” which include the US, the UK, and even Germany. Those destinations are desirable because they provide “relatively efficient, regulated securities markets, banks backstopped by large populations of taxpayers, and insurance companies; well-developed legal codes, competent attorneys, independent judiciaries, and the rule of law.”
     Thus, the people who avoid paying taxes by moving their money around are taking advantage of taxpayer-funded services to do so.
Big Bailed-Out Banks Run This Business
     Just who is facilitating this process? Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Credit Suisse are the top three, with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan Chase all in the top ten. “We can now add this to their list of distinctions: they are key players in many havens around the globe, and key enablers of the global tax injustice system,” the report notes.
     By the end of 2010, the top 50 private banks alone were managing some $12.1 trillion in “cross-border invested” assets for their clients. That’s more than twice what it was in 2005, representing an average annual growth rate of over 16 percent.
     “From banks to accountancy firms and corporate lawyers, some of the biggest businesses in the world are part of the fabric of global tax avoidance,” writes financial researcher (and former Goldman Sachs trader) Lydia Prieg in The Guardian. “These companies are not moral entities that we can shame into paying their fair share; they exist to maximize their profits and those of their clients.”
     “Until the late 2000s,” Henry notes, “the conventional wisdom among flight capitalists was ‘What could be safer than ‘too big to fail’ US, Swiss and UK banks?’” Without the bailouts that followed the 2008 financial crisis, he adds, many of the banks that are stashing cash for the ultra-rich wouldn’t exist anymore. The assumption of government backing is the very reason why those uber-rich are banking with the big guys from the start.
Inequality Is Worse Than We Thought
     Inequality has already been skyrocketing around the world, by all the conventional measures. If the top 1 percent in the United States own not just 35.6 percent of the wealth, for instance, but a much larger portion that’s hidden, what does that mean for the rest of the population? An incredibly shrinking share of the wealth.
     In any case, as the report argues, “inequality is a political choice”. (Or, it is the consequence of the capitalist system of producation. – BW) The amount of inequality is what the rich can get away with, and what society will tolerate. Many North Americans are grossly misinformed about the present level of inequality. The report shows that even the ‘experts’ massively underestimated the problem.
Indebted” Countries Aren’t in Debt After All
     Henry’s report breaks out a subgroup of 139 countries, mostly lower or middle-income ones, for further study, noting that by most calculations, those 139 countries had a combined debt of over $4 trillion at the end of 2010. But if you take into account all that money being held offshore, those countries actually had negative $10 trillion in debt—or as Henry writes, “[O]nce we take these hidden offshore assets and the earnings they produce into account, many erstwhile ‘debtor’ countries are in fact revealed to be wealthy. But the problem is, their wealth is now offshore, in the hands of their own elites and their private bankers.”
     Henry further notes that the developing world as a whole turns out to be a creditor of the developed world, rather than a borrower. “That means this is really a tax justice problem, not simply a ‘debt’ problem.”
     But those debts, as we’ve noted, fall on the shoulders of the ordinary working people of those countries, those who can’t take advantage of sophisticated tax shelters.
How Much are We Losing?
     If the unreported $21 trillion earned a rate of return of 3 percent, and that income was taxed at 30 percent, that alone would generate income tax revenues of around $190 billion. If the total amount of money in tax havens is closer to Henry’s higher estimate, $32 trillion, it’d bring in closer to $280 billion—which is about twice the amount OECD countries spend on development assistance. And that’s just income taxes. Capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and other taxes would bring in even more.
A Matter of Strategy
     The problem with seeking a tax solution to systemic inequality is clear. The super-rich control governments, armies and states – which are dedicated to preserving their power and wealth. They have shown great capacity and a ruthless will to crush any serious challenge to their accumulated privileges. Even the most radical tax reforms can be reversed… by electoral fraud, a Capital strike, a military coup, etc. So, if fighters for social justice are in for a penny, we may as well be in for a pound. It’s the system that must be replaced. Thus, if lasting social justice and genuine economic democracy is your goal, better prepare to expropriate the bourgeoisie and build the institutions of workers’ power, from the bottom-up.

The International Socialists and the Labour Movement A Study in Opportunism

Barry Weisleder

by Barry Weisleder

If you disdain debates on the left, if you abhor pointed polemics, please don’t read this article. If you think arguments between leftists are more crippling than clarifying, just stop right now.
O.K. Now this article is for the rest of you. Still, I hasten to add this. We in Socialist Action devote only the tiniest portion of our energy to criticism of other leftist tendencies. We would rather organize mass political actions of working people against war, cutbacks, pollution, or for human rights. But once in a long while, chiefly in response to questions put to us by supporters and friends, we strive to clarify where we stand in relation to the practice of other small leftist organizations.This particular occasion arises from the publication of an unusually frank and revealing article in the newspaper of the International Socialists, “Socialist Worker” (March 2012 edition). The author of “What Would it Take to Stop Austerity”, Ritch Wyman, is a leading member of the I.S. There can be no doubt that he is presenting the official I.S. perspective and policy on the labour movement today.

The article cites the defeats suffered by the working class at London, Ontario over the closure of the CAW-organized Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) plant, the defeat in Toronto where CUPE Local 416 accepted a concessionary deal with the Rob Ford municipal administration (and now we can add CUPE Local 79 to the sorry list), the setback at U.S. Steel in Hamilton, and likewise at the mining operation of Vale (formerly Inco) in Sudbury. To a greater or lesser extent, the unions involved gave way without a serious, generalized fight back against the bosses’ austerity agenda.

The article expresses dismay at the squandering of the potential of these labour disputes “to turn back the defeats”, and in the case of EDM, the failure to “take inspiration from the Occupy movement and take over their plant”, instead of reducing the fight to one of “gaining more favourable severance terms”.

Wyman correctly defends the importance and relevance of unions against various ultra-left critics. The latter often demand, from the outside, more militant action without challenging the union leadership from inside the labour movement.

Unfortunately, Wyman goes on to argue against ‘exposing’ and challenging the labour leadership inside the unions. Indeed, he presents a rationale, one that is not based on facts, to support the existing union tops. Those are the people who are, to a greater or lesser extent, responsible for curbing workers’ resistance to the current capitalist offensive.

Sure, it’s easy to fall into a kind of fatalism about the present situation in the labour movement – a situation marked by decades of concessions to the bosses. Likewise, one can cling to the view that today’s labour leaders simply reflect what is possible right now – that they are the best of what’s available. Opportunists on the left try to dress up this mistaken view with phrases like: the union leadership reflects the relationship of forces between rank and file workers and the bureaucracy inside the unions. But our question is this: Have the opportunists tested the relationship of forces?

While there is some truth to the observation that the union brass has the consent of the ranks, it is important to remember that the power of the bureaucrats derives also from the superior resources at their disposal, compared to what rank and file workers have. So it begs the question: Is the current relationship of forces immutable? The answer is clear: Things were not always as they are now, and certainly, they won’t always be as they are now. An ancient Greek philosopher wrote “Nothing is permanent, except change.” Heraclitus was right.

Can the bottom affect the top? It always has. Is organizing at the base just a matter of “shouting at union leaders”, just increasing the volume? Or is it about politically educating and organizing workers to take control of their own organizations, to steer the unions and other popular bodies away from integration into the capitalist state? We say it is the latter.

Demands cannot be imposed from the outside, it’s true. Demands should be put to the leadership, particularly by union members. They should challenge leaders to lead the members in standing up to the bosses and their wretched system. But how should demands be put, and to what end? Should demands be posed merely as a pressure tactic to get leaders to adapt, temporarily, to the wishes of the rank and file? Or should we go beyond mere pressure, and seek to actually change the direction and leadership of the unions?

We in Socialist Action argue for a bottom-up strategy, based on awakening and mobilizing the rank and file. Our strategy does not focus “solely on the leadership”. Wyman is right to decry a fixation on the leadership. But our strategy does include challenging reformist and reactionary labour leaders in union elections by fighting for key elements of a class struggle programme and by developing and presenting a team of workers willing to carry out a class struggle programme.

At this point Wyman tosses a smelly red herring onto the table. He writes to remind us that labour leaders cannot, and should not, play the role of a revolutionary organization. Unions are defensive organizations of the working class under capitalism. True, again. But what role should revolutionary workers, and their revolutionary organizations play when labour leaders and unions fail to do their duty to the working class as a whole?

What should workers do when their unions provide a very porous defense, or none at all?

Gratuitously, Wyman lectures us, “Trade unions exist to mitigate exploitation, not end it altogether”. So, what should workers do when their unions work hand in glove with the employers to mitigate, if not squelch, workers’ resistence?

While it is a mistake to rely on the tactic of seeking to elect more left wing leaders, does that imply the opposite policy? Does that justify abstention from union elections, or worse, providing cover for feckless, former-left bureaucrats?

No, there is an alternative to reliance on electing union leftists (who can easily become isolated in office), and there is an alternative to covering up for, or collaborating with union bureaucrats. The alternative is simple — though admitedly not easy to implement. It is to build a caucus in each union, and a network of caucuses across all unions, based on a concrete programme of class struggle politics. Only such a radical, independent formation can educate and organize our class, from the bottom up, to challenge and take control of our own organizations, to turn them into powerful weapons against the bosses and their system.
Wyman writes, “Without pressure from an organized and active rank and file base, union leaders (whether left or right) almost always succumb to the pressure of the employers.” That’s true. Well then, why does the I.S. not try to build such a movement to resist the pressure to succumb? Why does it oppose the efforts of others not only to build an ‘active base’ (which is a rather vague term), but to build an actual rank and file workers’ opposition, that is, an organization of rank and file workers based on an actual Workers’ Agenda?The evolution of Buzz Hargrove from left wing social democrat in the NDP to a right wing social democrat outside the NDP who pushes a pro-Liberal populist perspective shows the need for independent, radical, rank and file organization inside the unions. It also shows you cannot dodge the fight for a Workers’ Agenda inside the NDP if you are serious about winning and sustaining a class struggle majority in the workers’ movement as a whole.Wyman’s article reveals that the I.S. is caught in a contradiction of its own making. While rejecting a focus on the top labour echelon, the I.S. advocates defending “left wing leaders” who are not left wing — except perhaps in their rhetoric. To justify their defense of labour bureaucrats, the I.S. argues that a bloc with the bureaucrats must be made in response to a threat from “the right”. But that right wing threat is exaggerated, if not imaginary, inside our unions today.

The Unity slate led by Sid Ryan at the 2011 Ontario Federation of Labour convention is cited by Wyman as an example. But Ryan’s slate did not face an organized electoral challenge from the right wing. Ryan and most of his slate were acclaimed. The misguided boycott by Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU) of the OFL convention, wrong as it was, does not represent a right wing move by a right wing-dominated union. Rather, it was a case of personality politics gone mad, at the top of the OFL. But guess what? There is an equal number of class collaborationists on both sides of this dispute. At the same time, OPSEU is fighting the Ontario Liberal government, the Drummond Commission report, and the latest Premier Dalton McGuinty budget. Of course, OPSEU should fight in concert with the OFL while pushing for more democracy and fair representation in the Federation. SA members, together with other leftist and progressive forces in OPSEU, are now working to keep OPSEU in the OFL, and to step up the fight against the ‘austerity’ agenda.

It seems that the I.S.-promoted myth of a right wing challenge inside the OFL, and beyond, serves a purpose. It serves as an excuse to maintain its longstanding policy of cheerleading for ‘left’, or ex-left bureaucrats. It goes along with I.S. opposition to most examples of an articulated fight from below, from the left, against the existing union leadership and against its demonstrably class collaborationist course.

The I.S. tries to mask its craven policy with the rhetoric of ‘mobilization’ of the rank and file, of “building the confidence of ordinary workers”. It offers such boiler plate phrases aplenty. But when rank and file opposition actually occurs, the I.S. is nowhere in sight, or it has often been on the wrong side.
Here are a few examples: When SA members who were delegates to an OFL Convention in the 1980s won a huge vote for a general strike to defeat Brian Mulroney’s GST, I.S.ers were, along with the Communist Party of Canada and its so-called OFL Action Caucus, on the other side. They were on the right wing minority side, the defeated side of the vote.

When SA members who were delegates to Toronto Labour Council in 1990, 1991, and 1992 fought for a campaign to oppose Bob Rae’s retreat on public auto insurance, to oppose Sunday shopping, more gambling casinos, privatized highways, and eventually the infamous Social Contract, I.S.ers hid behind, at least initially, labour bureaucrats who said ‘let’s give Bob Rae more time and let’s go easy on the Ontario NDP government’. The demoralization that resulted from the lack of a real fight against Rae and his NDP government’s rotten policies cost the working class valuable time. It helped to pave the way for the Mike Harris Common Sense Revolution.

During the reactionary term of the Harris Conservative government in Ontario, the I.S. never joined the call for a province-wide General Strike to kick out the Tories. During the period of individual city-wide strikes in ten Ontario cities, 1995-97, the Socialist Worker limited itself to promoting the local city walk-outs. The I.S. posed the need for ‘socialism from below’ totally in the abstract.Years later, a very progressive, international solidarity campaign came along. It championed the rights of the Palestinian people. It fought against the occupation and brutality meted out daily by the racist Zionist state. Members of several tendencies on the left, including SA and the I.S., joined the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel. But the BDS policy conflicted with the line of the United Steelworkers’ bureaucracy. Why should that be a problem? Well, the USW was and still is the union on which the I.S. depends for resources and favours. A battle raged inside the I.S. over this conflict, and over whether to participate in the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. It led to the ouster of the Socialist Worker editor from his position, and the marginalization of he and his partner in the I.S. leadership.An older example is the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, perhaps the most militant, independent, democratic, grass roots protest movement in the province. The I.S. has boycotted OCAP for decades. Why? Because it lost a vote that pitted class conscious feminists and workers against a radical bourgeois feminist minority. The I.S. lost the vote at a large OCAP members’ assembly in the late 1990s. The fact is, before and since then, the I.S. has rarely worked in a left-based, grass roots coalition — unless it has the numbers to control it.

The I.S. dominates the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War. Much of the work the TCSW does is good. But the I.S.ers who lead it can be very manipulative. They control the timing and the agenda of its meetings so as to forestall, or block, unity in action with other anti-war forces that they do not control. The latest case in point arose in the summer of 2011. Not only did the I.S. prevent the TCSW from discussing and endorsing a U.S. anti-war movement appeal for an international October 15 day of action against the war in Afghanistan, which led to protests in several cities across the USA on that date. In addition, the I.S. made sure that forty Canadian Peace Alliance convention-goers took a circuitous street route, from Ryerson University, just to avoid a convergence with over a hundred anti-war folks, summoned by 11 organizations. The latter rallied at Dundas and Yonge and then walked to the Occupy Toronto site at St. James Park that afternoon. Earlier that day, I.S. members, acting as security staff for the CPA convention, tried to stop SA comrades from displaying anti-war and socialist literature on site; they even called the campus police to have our table removed, while just down the hall there was an I.S. display table!

Guarding what it regards as its ‘own turf’ took priority for the I.S. over democracy in the movement. It took priority over joint action with a small but exemplary anti-war united front that developed outside its orbit. Why did the October 15 Coalition develop outside the TCSW? Because the I.S. refused to organize an anti-war street action for nearly three years, and it refused for two months to discuss the proposal for unity in action prior to October 15, 2011.The global International Socialist Tendency, led by the British SWP, was born in a right wing split from the Fourth International during the 1940s Cold War. Seeking a ‘third camp’ position between Moscow and Washington, the IST adapted to pressure from imperialism, refusing to defend any of the bureaucratic workers’ states against capitalist counter-revolution. A vestige of I.S. cold war politics is its ongoing condemnation of Cuba as a ‘state capitalist’ society. That means the I.S. favours a revolution in Cuba to overturn what is, by all accounts, the healthiest workers’ state and government on the planet. At the same time, the I.S. provides no active support for the Cuban Five, the Cuban patriots who have been jailed in the USA since 1998 for exposing terrorist threats against their country and against the Cuban Revolution. You will never see the I.S. officially participate in a pro-Cuba event.Its position on the Quebec national question is no better. The I.S. supported the federalist Meech Lake Accord and a Yes vote in the Charlottetown Accord referendum – thus mimicking the line of the United Steelworkers’ top brass. In this way, the I.S. stood in opposition to the stance of most Quebec unions, the Quebec nationalist left, aboriginal women and the National Action Committe on the Status of Women – all of which rejected the federalist accords. For most of its existence, the I.S. has consistently stood against Quebec independence, the concrete expression of Quebec self-determination. As a result, the I.S.ers in Quebec are to be found in the anti-sovereignty right wing of Quebec Solidaire.

Typically, at election time, the I.S. urges a vote for the NDP. You may even find I.S. members working for local NDP provincial and federal election candidates. But you will never find the I.S. joining the fight for socialist policies inside the NDP. Neither will you find them trying to hold NDP officials accountable for their actions inside the party or the labour movement. What’s wrong with that? Well, that policy is the equivalent of giving the NDP and labour bureaucrats a blank cheque. It’s the worst kind of electoralism in which a leftist can engage – giving support without utilizing any resulting credibility to make one’s criticisms known, and to organize for change. What’s the point of helping to elect the NDP if you don’t advance socialist policies and the vital principle of democratic accountability inside the only mass, labour-based political party in North America?

Now, here’s a related scenario. What should socialists do when the NDP does not run candidates as a party, such as at the municipal level, where independent labour political action is the weakest? The record of the I.S. here is pretty shameful. It failed to fight for a labour City Hall in Toronto in 2011. Instead, it backed the candidacy of Joe Pantalone, who was part of the David Miller Liberal-NDP administration, heavily identified with user fee hikes, service cuts and the first wave of attacks on 30,000 city workers, which precipitated the infamous ‘garbage strike’ in the summer of 2010. So, why did the I.S. back the hapless, cutbacks-tainted Pantalone? Because that was the line of the labour bureaucracy, including the reformist cabal that runs the Toronto Labour Council, in which a leading member of the I.S. has participated uncritically for decades.

SA took a different tack. We campaigned to get labour and the Toronto NDP jointly to convene an open Toronto municipal convention. Its purpose would be to debate and adopt a programme and to select workers’ candidates for a Workers’ Agenda and a Labour City Hall. Had the I.S., the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly, and other tendencies on the left worked together in that effort, it might have counteracted some of the demoralization engendered by the Miller disaster. It might have laid the basis for an earlier and stronger fight against the reactionary Rob Ford regime.Further on the topic of independent labour political action, the I.S. does not support the effort inside OPSEU to affiliate the union to the NDP. There is an ongoing effort by socialists in that union, which over the past six years has twice come close to capturing a majority at the OPSEU convention. So, the I.S. does not try to dis-affiliate unions already linked to the NDP. And it does not try to affiliate other unions. It just sits on the fence, when it comes to the issue of independent labour political action.Very telling is the vacillating stance of the I.S. on coalition with capitalist parties. The I.S. took an ambiguous political line at rallies in support of the NDP-Liberal coalition seeking to unseat the Harper government in 2009. Its members were seen at Toronto City Hall waving CLC placards in favour of that coalition, at the very rally when Stephane Dion and Jack Layton spoke side by side. Later, the I.S. wrote articles critical of the bourgeois pact, but it never accounted for its initial soft line, which treacherously tried to identify with populist opposition to Harper’s governing minority, and tried to dance on both sides of the class line, on that issue.

Socialist Action argues for, and works to build a programmatically-based class struggle cross-union movement that fights in union elections and challenges labour sell-outs every step of the way. The I.S. opposes such efforts.

I.S. members participate in the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly (a clutch of leftists, with very few rank and file workers involved). The GTWA has done some good work, promoting union solidarity and propagandizing for ‘free public transit’. But the reformist GTWA (whose leaders believe it is possible to ‘reform’ the capitalist state from within, and whose policies include favouring more regressive taxes and user fees, for example, to discourage the use of cars) is no substitute for a body committed to promoting class struggle unionism. It is dominated by ex-labour bureaucrats and academics who have yet to challenge the bureaucracy, concretely, in any union in Canada.

As Wyman wrote, “Only the mass activity of the working class itself can make radical, sweeping change.” We think, however, that mass activity must be linked to a transitional programme for workers’ liberation. Mass sentiment for change can be harnessed by a class struggle leadership, from below, to resist reformist and bureaucratic diversions, and to strike the blows that can win concrete gains and ultimately smash the system of capitalist rule.

The I.S. asserts the need for a revolutionary workers’ organization in society. Good. But why not help to constitute an organized class struggle left wing in the unions? That’s exactly what the early Communists in Canada did when they launched the Trade Union Education League (TUEL) in the 1920s. And why not, as we insist, foster a class struggle left wing in the labour-based NDP as well?

Why not, indeed! Could it be because having a revolutionary organization active in the field of political practice would be a block to career advancement up the bureaucratic ladder? Yes, class struggle politics should be an impediment to opportunism in practice. As the I.S. demonstrates, in a negative way, the formation of a class struggle left wing is exactly what is needed, not only to engage the independent and ‘sideline’ abstaining left to work together to transform our unions, but also to keep everyone so engaged loyal to socialist principles. Now that would be a worthwhile contribution to “what it will take to stop austerity”.

If you are interested in making such a contribution, in the best possible way, we invite you to join Socialist Action. If you are not presently prepared to join a revolutionary organization, then make common cause with those who are working to build a principled, united left in the unions and in the labour-based NDP.

The point is not to depend on winning the NDP or the unions to socialism. It is very unlikely, if not impossible, for those bodies to be radically transformed. The point is to win their ranks, to win their voters, to win their supporters, their co-workers and family members to the class struggle, to socialism. Why? Because unless we do so, there will be no socialism. And to give up on the socialist goal is to condemn civilization and nature to destruction.

The class struggle left wing in the unions is still at an embryonic stage. Socialist Action, along with our friends in OCAP, in anarcho-syndicalist circles, and some independent radical unionists made a start on this road by launching the Workers’ Solidarity and Union Democracy Coalition about seven years ago. It has held forums regularly at OFL and CLC convention sites, sponsored militant resolutions, and appeared at important labour struggles.

The Workers’ Solidarity basis of unity is the following:
1. Resist labour concessions and social cutbacks.
2. Support struggles for union democracy, to make unions more accessible, accountable, transparent and participatory.
3. Take back our unions and turn them into fighting organizations.
4. Rely on our own strength, and renew or create our own organizations, from the bottom up, to fight for the interests of working people and against corporate profit and power.
For more background on Workers’ Solidarity, see Appendix 1 below. We invite you to join the WS&UDC. Help us to make it a revolutionary factor in the life of every union.Inside the NDP, the class struggle left wing is more fully developed. It is well known across the country, thanks to its audacious tactics, its outspokenness, and its high visibility in the media. The NDP Socialist Caucus is based on its Manifesto for a Socialist Canada. It publishes an attractive magazine, Turn Left, and it hosts one of the most popular web sites on the Canadian It is a prominent force in opposition to capitalist ‘austerity’, and in demanding that the richest 1% pay for the crisis of their system. The SC played an important role in winning the NDP to a ‘Canada Out of Afghanistan’ policy in 2006, and succeeded in keeping ‘socialism’ in the party constitution preamble in 2011.

Here are some of the policies advocated by the NDP Socialist Caucus:
Put people, and the preservation of nature, before profits. Nationalize the banks, mining companies, Big Oil and Big Auto. Create jobs through public investment, public ownership, democratic planning and workers’ control. Convert industry, transportation, and homes to green energy efficiency. Rapidly phase-out nuclear power and tar sands development. Repair our disintegrating roads, bridges, railways and port facilities. Make Employment Insurance more generous and accessible. Raise the minimum wage to $17/hour. Shorten the work week to 30 hours without loss of pay or benefits. Double the benefits in the Canada Pension Plan and Guaranteed Income Supplement. Abolish student debt. Make all education free. Fund health care and the arts. No corporate bail-out. Open the company books. Steeply tax corporations, speculators, and the rich. Abolish the HST. Uphold aboriginal land claims and local self-governance. Abolish the Senate and institute direct Proportional Representation in Parliament. Stop the deportations, full rights for migrant workers. Impose boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid. End the occupation of Afghanistan and Haiti. Hands off Libya. Reduce the Canadian military to a disaster-relief and rescue force. Get Canada out of NATO now!
Capitalists complain about low productivity. It’s a lie, and a diversion. It is also a delusion to think that economic expansion will fix everything, that there is a market solution to the recurring crises of capitalism. There is no market solution. The capitalist market created the problem. Only by taking control of the major means of production, only by instituting broadly participatory, democratic planning, only by effecting a rapid green conversion to meet human needs, fully in tune with nature, does humanity have a hope of survival.
That means challenging the pro-capitalist direction of the labour and NDP leadership. It means fighting for an NDP government committed to socialist policies. It means opposing an NDP coalition with the Liberal Party or with any capitalist party. It means fighting for a Workers’ Agenda and a Workers’ Government, and organizing to win that programme inside the unions and the NDP. It means fighting for freedom for oppressed nations, for eco-socialism, feminism and LGBT liberation.
None of that is possible without a leadership committed to doing it. Central to that is the forging of a new leadership of the working class and oppressed nations that can win.
For a full exposition of SC policies and perspectives, see the Manifesto for a Socialist Canada, and visit the archive of SC resolutions submitted to past NDP federal and provincial conventions on the SC web site. Most importantly, join the NDP Socialist Caucus today.By joining democratic, rank and file-driven, radical policy and action coalitions, like Workers’ Solidarity and the NDP Socialist Caucus, you encourage other leftists, including I.S. members, to do likewise. Moreover, your decision to join will strengthen the effort to push unions and the NDP towards a workers’ agenda.
Once again, while these bodies are unlikely to transform the NDP and the unions, they can and ultimately will enable the working class to take up class struggle politics.
That will permit rank and file workers to settle accounts with decaying capitalism, as well as with the bureaucratic misleaders of our class. It will hasten the construction of a revolutionary workers’ party capable of leading the way to a cooperative commonwealth for all.
(This article was written April 2012, in Toronto)
Appendix 1:
Workers’ Solidarity and Union Democracy – Basis of Unity Statement
Urgently Needed: Workers’ Solidarity
To Resist Concessions and Win Union Democracy
A very disturbing pattern of union concessions to the bosses’ agenda has taken hold of the labour movement across the Canadian state. Even unions with a ‘progressive’ reputation have reached contract settlements that erode or utterly abandon job security, wage protection, health benefits, and severance pay, while sacrificing equal rights for new hires. Increasingly union officials are teaming up with management. Both in the public and private sectors, they are working together to impose bad deals on workers, and to cripple or crush workers’ resistance to the corporate agenda by curtailing union democracy and local autonomy.
When union leaders refuse to advance legitimate grievances, when they turn a blind eye to employer discrimination and unsafe working conditions, when they seize control of local bargaining units to remove democratically-elected local leaders and then give away decades of hard-won union gains, they show which side they have chosen.
Workers know that it is we who built our unions, and it is the rank and file which must reclaim the unions to fight for all workers’ needs — for the unionized and non-union, employed and unemployed. In 1991 over twenty labour and community organizations joined together to launch a Workers’ Solidarity Coalition in Toronto. Its initial purpose was to organize support for key public sector strikes involving postal workers and federal public service employees. These were strikes which challenged a major Tory initiative to attack labour and public services. We were relatively successful in that fight. Now the stakes are higher. The global neo-liberal agenda is more extensive, more intensive, and it is relentless. And increasingly, union officials are caving in to it, and turning their fire on union members who resist concessions. That is why we need Workers’ Solidarity more than ever.
We have taken the initiative to launch a militant cross-union movement, in alliance with community-based groups and local activists.
Our aim is to:
1. Resist labour concessions and social cutbacks.
2. Support struggles for union democracy, to make unions more accessible, accountable, transparent and participatory.
3. Take back our unions and turn them into fighting organizations.
4. Rely on our own strength, and renew or create our own organizations, from the bottom up, to fight for the interests of working people and against corporate profit and power.
The Workers’ Solidarity and Union Democracy Coalition, launched at a conference held in Toronto on October 16, 2004 made its debut at the CLC Convention in Montreal, June 13-17, 2005, and at the OFL Convention in November 2005. Currently we are campaigning for public ownership of basic industry and energy resources, in support of OCAP’s Raise the Rates campaign, and for greater democracy in the unions. We invite you to attend our public forum for OFL delegates/observers. It is open to all interested persons. To join and/or endorse the Coalition, please contact us at: 416 – 588-9090 and/or e-mail to:

Cheerleading for Social Democracy — a critique of Fightback (IMT)

Barry Weisleder

This article is a response to misrepresentations by Fightback leaders, in the Fightback magazine and on the Toronto Young New Democrats Facebook page, committed against the NDP Socialist Caucus and members of Socialist Action. In the history of the international workers’ movement there is an honoured place for serious polemics between tendencies where the argumentation is based on actual political practice in the real world of mass politics. That is our aim here. We hope you find this contribution both interesting and enlightening.

Fightback is the section in Canada of the International Marxist Tendency. The IMT originated in the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) and The Militant Tendency* in Britain. The CWI split from the Fourth International in the early 1960s over the issue of ‘entryism’, that is, the policy of working exclusively inside the British Labour Party and similar labour and social democratic parties around the world. A number of FI sections (and pro-FI groups like Socialist Action in English Canada) work inside such parties. At the same time, they are active on a daily basis outside the mass labour parties and have an independent press, self-sponsored events and a very visible public presence. Thus, they are not ‘entryist’.

When Militant quit the British Labour Party in the 1980s (after a number of its leading members were expelled), the minority faction of Militant split away, stayed within the LP, and published the newspaper Socialist Appeal. They launched an ‘entryist’ international, the IMT.

Both factions of the CWI, although they went their separate ways, were marked by policies which showed a political adaptation to imperialism, adaptation to great nation chauvinism, and to sexism. They tend to treat struggles for national liberation, women’s and gay rights as divisive of the working class. And they foster illusions that socialism can be established chiefly by parliamentary legislation, that is, by the nationalization of the top business monopolies. Accompanying this view, not surprisingly, is the idea that fundamental change can occur top-down via the existing bourgeois state apparatus. The CWI and the IMT even argued that Syria and Burma became workers’ states in the 1960s because important parts of their economies were nationalized by the state. (Nationalizations did occur there, temporarily, and merely as concessions in the interest of Capital recovery and survival, while the state remained firmly in the hands of the property-owning ruling classes.)

This top-down concept of change, accompanied by the fostering of illusions in social democracy and the bourgeois state, is linked to defending the ‘unity’ of capitalist states against ‘separatist’ movements of oppressed nations. Such erroneous ideas are all too evident in the politics and practice of Fightback in the Canadian state today.

Fightback is staunchly Canadian-federalist. While it claims to defend Quebec’s right to self-determination, it stands opposed to the struggle for an Independent Socialist Quebec. It lines up with pro-federalist, anti-independence forces (that is, it stands with the right wing) inside the new leftist party Quebec Solidaire. Fightbackseeks repeal of Law 101, the French language law that enjoys the support of the overwhelming majority of the francophone working class, and for which the entire Quebec labour movement fought hard. It calls Law 101 ‘reverse discrimination’ — even though the law asserts the rights of the oppressed French-speaking majority against the privileged English minority! This is reminiscent of American racists and sexists who call affirmative action for Blacks and women an example of ‘reverse discrimination’ against whites and males.

Fightback puts imperialist countries and oppressed countries on the same economic-political level. Following this logic, they are indifferent to Washington’s threats against Iran, concentrating exclusively on opposition to the current Iranian government. This goes even to the extent of fostering illusions in the bourgeois liberal Iranian opposition.

The same applies to the Palestine and Ireland questions. Fightback opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions global campaign against the Zionist state as ‘divisive’. In effect, it calls on Palestinian workers and farmers to subordinate their independent struggles for liberation from occupation and oppression until ‘unity’ can be achieved with Israeli Jewish workers. The latter, in their majority, identify with the chauvinist Israeli ruling class and facilitate the oppression of the Palestinian masses, like many southern U.S. whites once backed Jim Crow laws. Should Palestinians delay their struggle until Israeli workers ‘catch up’? In Ireland, once again, the IMT upholds the ‘rights’ of the Ulster Protestants against the age-old struggle of the Irish working class for genuine self-determination and a united socialist republic. The IMT campaigned against IRA ‘terrorists’, rather than against the terrorist British imperialist state and its continuing occupation of the north of Ireland.

Ironically, for all its emphasis on the need for working class political independence, IMT sections in third world countries join and advocate voting for bourgeois populist parties. Their members actually belong to the corrupt ruling PPP in Pakistan, and urge a vote for the bourgeois PRD in Mexico (the bourgeois faction that split from the PRI, the party that ruled Mexico for over 70 years) and for other bourgeois populist parties.

The top-down approach is reflected in other important ways too. Fightback does not subscribe to the principle of cooperation on the left, or unity in action of different tendencies in the workers’ movement. It rejects coalition-building and spurns the united front approach.

‘Hands off Venezuela’ is a good slogan. But the body that operates under that name is not a genuine democratic coalition or alliance. It is merely a fake-front forFightback. No other organizations belong to it, even though HOV postures as a broad campaign, touting its labour and other endorsements.

Fightback, despite repeated invitations over the past six years, stubbornly refuses to join the NDP Socialist Caucus. The SC is open to every NDP member who wishes to turn the NDP to the left. It is open and welcoming to all groups, as well as to all individuals who share that goal. Tendencies and currents that join the SC retain their identity and autonomy, while pledging to work together when possible. Weak excuses do not explain Fightback’s non-participation in the SC. Least of all do they explain efforts by Fb to persuade those whom they influence to boycott Socialist Caucus events. Even when SC organizers schedule an Fb leader to speak at an SC conference, there is typically a ‘no-show’ and a too-late apology (e.g. Camilo C. in Spring 2010 committed to be a speaker, but failed to appear at the SC federal conference, sent no substitute, and communicated his ‘regrets’ a day later).

Some members of Fb will tell you that they prefer a ‘broader approach’, or ‘a less confrontational’ stance than that practiced by the Socialist Caucus. They also insist that each group should just be left alone ‘to do its own thing’.

We have come to understand what a ‘broader approach’ means. For Fb, apparently, it meant supporting Joe Pantalone for Toronto mayor, and supporting other ‘independent’ pro-business candidates for Toronto city council who had participated in, or endorsed, the Liberal-NDP regime of David Miller. That capitalist city administration raised taxes and user fees on working people. It cut services and forced 30,000 civic workers to go on strike just to defend their benefits and pensions. Fb did not campaign, as Socialist Action and the SC did, for an NDP-Labour slate of candidates based on a Workers’ Agenda, nor for a democratic mechanism to select candidates and to hold them accountable to the working class. For Fb, a ‘broader approach’ also meant hailing Andrea Horwath as the most leftist candidate for ONDP Leader in 2008 (rather than the actually more progressive, more democratic Michael Prue). To make matters worse, Fb proclaimed that the Ontario NDP emerged from that leadership race having ‘shifted to the left’. How laughable is that claim now?

In early 2010, when the ONDP tops undemocratically postponed the Ontario party convention to 2012, a Fb leader signed the SC-initiated petition against the move. But an Fb leader who was present for the debate on this very issue at ONDP Provincial Council refused to get up and speak to it — despite being strongly urged to do so. Incidentally, past Toronto-Centre NDP federal candidate Susan Wallace, with whom Fb has worked closely, played a leading role in that debate at provincial council. So did other prominent figures on the party center and left. But Fb sat on its hands. Why?

A sad example of the so-called ‘broader approach’ of Fb is the way Fb dominates the Toronto Young New Democrats. While the TYND has done some commendable grass roots organizing in the Esplanade Community and beyond, and has recruited dozens of young people to the TYND club and to the NDP, it is increasingly clear that the TYND operates to a large extent as a front for Fightback. This made the TYND vulnerable to attack by the right wing social democratic leaders of the ONDY. And it made defense of the TYND, and defense of the leftist victory at the ONDY Convention in Hamilton in early November 2010, difficult. Fb persuaded the TYND and most members of the successful slate for an Activist and Democratic ONDY to decline a common effort with the SC, SA and potentially other forces to defend the leftist electoral win against right wingers in the Youth and senior NDP officials. The party bureaucracy imposed a ‘re-vote’ on November 28. The right wing stole the ONDY election by packing the ’emergency’ convention, which was ‘conveniently’ held at the site of the next ONDP provincial council. Many of the newly registered ONDY delegates were the sons and daughters of ONDP provincial councillors; they had never before attended an ONDY event, and have not done so since then.

‘Doing its own thing’ is exactly what isolated the TYND in the party. That made it easier for the right wing to carry out a coup in the ONDY.

Fb rhetoric about how the TYND “listens to the people” is not only disingenuous; it belies its actual practice of non-collaboration with other leftists inside and outside the NDP. In other words, it belies its sectarianism. The rhetoric seeks to cover up Fb’s not-so-hidden agenda of insisting on control in any area of political work in which it is engaged.

Fightback has a number of energetic and talented members. They attract youth interest and involvement. But all the energy and talent in the world cannot erase or overcome policies that undermine principled left unity, that capitulate to the labour and NDP bureaucracy, that make concessions to national chauvinism, or that downplay the importance of opposing our own imperialist ruling class and its designs on intervention and domination of Iran and of other oppressed countries in Asia and the Middle East.

As for being ‘confrontational’, the Socialist Caucus pleads guilty, with pride. As the stakes for working people rise in the fourth year of the global capitalist Great Recession, and as the capitulation of labour and social democratic leaders to the corporate agenda increases, the need is for more ‘confrontation’ by the ranks against their mis-leaders. Even to defend the last vestiges of socialism and democracy in the NDP, the working class base of the party must be better organized to ‘confront’ the wrong direction imposed by the party tops. That is how the Socialist Caucus acted, in concert with many other New Democrats, to keep ‘socialism’ in the federal NDP constitution preamble at the June 2011 convention in Vancouver. That is one reason why SC co-chair Barry Weisleder was able to win the NDP nomination in Thornhill provincial riding in September 2011. But when the party brass rescinded the local democratic nomination and the SC launched a campaign to restore party democracy, Fb refused to join the effort, and persuaded the TYND to likewise refrain. That’s one way to avoid ‘confrontation’ — and to avoid the fight for transparency, accountability and democracy in the NDP.

The latest incidents giving rise to this article occurred at the Ontario NDP Convention held in Hamilton, April 13-15, 2012. In Fightback magazine leaders of that group wrote that, although the Socialist Caucus did some good work, the SC played a divisive role in relation to the defense of the interests of Labour and the working class. To argue thusly, and to try to defend Fb’s sectarian stance, the Fb leaders misrepresented what really took place at the convention, especially with regard to the actions of the Socialist Caucus.

SC and SA comrades answered the false claims and omissions of Fb on the latter’s Facebook page. Here are the salient points:

1. The OFL did not designate a slate of candidates for the Ontario NDP Executive. But to the extent that some OFL officers personally indicated support for Andrew Mackenzie, Michael Seaward, etc., they did not in the process back candidates who openly challenged the Ontario Liberal minority government austerity budget. It is for that very reason, the refusal of Mackenzie, etc., to speak openly against Andrea’s soft line on the budget, that led OFL President Sid Ryan to approach Socialist Caucus chair Barry Weisleder to write a referral motion and jointly to wage a floor fight against the brass’ self-congratulatory resolution “Support ONDP Caucus”.
The fact is, except for Sid and CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn, the “labour leaders” at the convention refused to lead a fight against the party brass – just likeFightback usually refuses to do. That’s why we call Fb a group of cheer leaders for the NDP and Labour tops, or cheer leaders for a faction of the top brass.
2. There is a move to the left within the ranks of labour, but Farshad and Fb confuse the labour ranks with the labour bureaucracy. Of course the labour ranks do, at times, propel segments of the bureaucracy, and propel specific personalities within the bureaucracy into pro-worker action. The rally of 15,000 workers on April 21 in front of the Ontario Legislature is one example. Sid’s approach to the Socialist Caucus is a small and limited example of that too. We do not exaggerate the importance of the latter; we simply note its occurrence and we envision the possibility of future such actions. And we do so, by the way, without any illusions that this might be the way to make the transformation so desperately needed in our unions and the labour-based NDP.
3. It is true that, as Fb writes, “labour leaders have traditionally been on the right wing of the NDP and have been used to attack the left wing”. The point is that those labour leaders are still right wing. They will be only dragged into a fight against austerity ‘kicking and screaming’. Mackenzie and company, members of the out-going ONDP Executive, voted to uphold the rescission of the nomination won by Barry Weisleder in Thornhill NDP, and they blocked the Black, lesbian, elementary school teacher Diana Andrews from seeking the nomination in Etobicoke North. They voted to cancel the ONDP convention in 2010, and voted to overturn the ONDY convention results in 2010. A Marxist knows not to rely on folks like them. Moreover, we know that in engaging any of them in a principled struggle against the bosses, including against austerity measures, that the socialists and the left must maintain our independence from the bureaucracy. The Socialist Caucus slate of candidates (the slate as a whole, mind you, not just one or two individuals on it) represented class independence, a real Workers’ Agenda, against austerity and the labour fakers, against all the anti-democratic elements in the unions and the NDP. By urging a vote for Mackenzie, etc., Fb aligned itself with the opponents of socialism. Fb aligned itself with labour fakers who refused openly to fight Andrea’s soft line on the budget, which ultimately led to supporting the Liberal minority government (on April 24, 2012) which is carrying out the most severe attacks on working people and the poor in Ontario since the dark days of Mike Harris. Are you proud of that, Fb writer and comrade Farshad?
4. How can you argue that the SC claims to have had “secret dealings with Sid Ryan”? There was nothing secret about it. It was an alliance openly made and conducted on the convention floor in front of hundreds of delegates and the mass media. Sid opened the debate at a CON mic on the regressive resolution. Barry moved the referral with instructions a few minutes later, supplying extensive pro-labour, anti-cutbacks arguments. Sid Ryan seconded Barry’s motion of referral. Then, when the convention chair ruled the motion defeated, it was Barry, not “the floor” in general, who demanded a formal vote count – which we won, thus sending the bad resolution to committee for a re-write. Sadly, the article in Fb tries to conceal all this from its readers. In our view, that cannot be an oversight. It is no more an oversight than the Fb failure to report the fact that Barry and the SC led the successful battle at the mics in Vancouver, June 2011, to keep ‘socialism’ in the federal NDP Constitution. When it concerns the Socialist Caucus and its leaders, Fb seems to be allergic to telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
5. It is never justified to urge a vote for anti-democratic bureaucrats when it is possible to support a class struggle team of candidates. Fb tries to justify its sectarianism towards the organized left in the party by arguing “that generally, but NOT in all positions, the Socialist Caucus slate served to divide the anti-austerity vote.” That is just plain nonsense.
If that was true, why did the SC resolution “for the unfettered right to strike for all workers” pass unanimously on day two of the convention? And why did Sid Ryan continue to work with the SC on the issue of the successful referral right through the third day of the convention?
What role did Fb play on the convention floor (not in the corridors, thank you very much)? Zero. Nada. Zip.
What role could Fb have played, as part of the SC, or as part of CREDO (the Campaign to Restore Democracy in the Ontario NDP), or as part of a new, open, united front of the party left (if it wished to propose such a thing)? It could have strengthened the struggle for democracy and socialism in the labour-based party. That’s what it could have done.
Instead, Fb puts sectarian considerations ahead of the interests of the working class, ahead of needed unity in action of the left. It makes ridiculous excuses, like this one: “Fb would have to dissolve, or cease doing most of its work, in order to join the SC.”
Everyone knows that there are different currents active in the SC now, along with many unaffiliated individuals. Socialist Action is one such current, although SA supporters are a minority of the SC federal and Ontario steering committees. None of the currents in the SC have dissolved in order to work as part of a diverse and democratic Socialist Caucus. Fb is not expected or required to lower its profile one bit to work with the SC. It is welcome to contribute its time, energy and skills to a joint struggle against capitalist austerity and the labour/party tops. But Fb has refused, refused, refused for six, seven, going on eight years now. It has presented over time a long parade of excuses (“we’re too busy”, “we have different priorities”), but in reality it comes down to political differences: Fb is soft and unprincipled in relation to the labour/NDP bureaucracy (not to mention treacherous on the national question in the Canadian state and abroad). Its IMT sister groups violate working class political independence around the world, from Pakistan to Mexico, which Fb refuses to discuss, no doubt due to its embarrassment and its lack of a coherent socialist argument in support of such misdeeds.
6. Fb argues, no doubt in frustration with its critics on the left, “Just leave us alone. You do your thing, and we’ll do ours.”
Well, that just won’t cut it. As Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “We disdain to conceal our views” on matters of principle, tactics and strategy. So, we will not ‘just leave you alone’ because the alignment of Fb with the labour/NDP bureaucracy is an obstacle, however tiny, to unity on the left. And it is an obstacle to the struggle against austerity and for socialism. Therefore, a very small part of our duty is to wage an unremitting effort to build unity on the left and against capitalist austerity, and therefore we will continue to expose and challenge the unprincipled policies and actions of Fb in our common areas of work.
7. Since it would be better to discuss the above issues openly, honestly and directly, we challenged comrade Farshad, and the Fightback group, to a public debate. Any time, any place that is mutually agreeable, is what we proposed. Fb comrade Arash responded favourably on the TYND Facebook page to the invitation to debate these issues openly and in public. Then Fb ‘leader’ Alex Grant quashed that idea. No way, says he. (By the way, is it up to him, alone, to decide?)

Please, comrade Grant, do not think for a moment that refusal to debate, openly and in public, will enable you to avoid the issues we have addressed. One way or another, the struggle for political clarity and for socialist principles will continue.

While Socialist Action does not focus on the shortcomings and errors of other small tendencies on the radical left, it is important to understand where we do differ. It is important to educate ourselves and others in the Marxist method of strategy, tactics and programme. By engaging in the actual class struggle, where masses of working people are involved, the correctness of our policies and practices will be tested. That is where our differences with other tendencies will become evident, and relevent, and hopefully where they will be resolved in a positive way.

The following is a description of the Militant Tendency found in Wikipedia:

* The Militant tendency was an entryist group within the British Labour Party based around the Militant newspaper that was first published in 1964. It described its politics as descended from Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky .

In 1972, Labour Party conference passed a Militant tendency resolution which committed the next Labour government to introduce “a socialist plan of production based on public ownership”. In 1975, widespread press coverage of the Militant tendency resulted from a Labour Party report of Militant’s entrist tactics. Between 1975 and 1980, attempts by Reg Underhill and others within the leadership of the Labour Party to expel the Militant were rejected by the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, which appointed a Militant member to the position of National Youth Organiser in 1976.

In 1982, a Labour Party commission found Militant in contravention of clause II, section 3 of the party’s constitution, and declared it ineligible for affiliation to the Labour Party. In 1983, the five members of the ‘Editorial Board’ of the Militant newspaper were expelled from the Labour Party. In 1986, the journalist Michael Crickargued that the Militant was effectively Britain’s fifth biggest party (after Labour, Conservative, Liberal and the SDP) in the early to mid 1980s.

Between 1983 and 1987, the Militant played a leading role in the Liverpool City Council‘s struggle against the Conservative government, which initially won concessions from the government, but ended with the banning and surcharging of 47 Liverpool City Councillors, including up to sixteen Militant supporting councillors, in 1987. From 1985 onwards, a series of moves led by Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock against the Militant ended its influence in the Labour Party, and the loss of its three Militant supporting Labour MPs.

Between 1989 and 1991 the Militant formed and led the All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation in a non-payment campaign against the Conservative government’sCommunity Charge (‘poll tax’) legislation. This is widely thought to have led to the downfall of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. After a conference decision in 1991, the Militant tendency decided by a large majority to abandon the Labour Party, arguing that the Labour Party had lost its working class base and become a wholly capitalist party. A minority of the tendency stayed in the Labour Party. The majority first changed its name to Militant Labour and then in 1997 to the Socialist Party. The minority faction formed Socialist Appeal.

Zellers workers on Target for their rights

by Evan Engering (member of the YSA and UFCW)
Scores of labour activists converged on a quiet business park in Mississauga (west of Toronto) on August 22 to deliver a message to Target Stores CEO Gregg Steinhafel. The American retail giant recently bought out more than 100 former Zellers stores in a takeover deal leaving at least 12,000 jobless.
The Stephen Harper Conservative federal government approved the takeover this year without ensuring that any of those workers would keep their jobs, much less retain their hard-earned benefits and seniority.
“What they’re saying to you is this is going to be the fate of all workers in this country and this province in the years to come” said Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan, “This is what we can expect, unless of course, the Labour movement gets it’s act together.”
Ryan’s dire warning could not be more pertinent. This predatory takeover, just like the flight of a Caterpillar diesel engine plant from London, Ontario to union-busting Indiana earlier this year, is a reminder of the increasingly precarious nature of work in the capitalist system.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union is challenging the dismissal of the few unionized workers in this sector, trying to invoke ‘successor rights’ as Target takes control of the Zellers chain. But employers’ more frequent use of strike-breaking legislation and other anti-union laws are making the legal system less and less a recourse for pursuing any justice for workers.
Militant talk must be matched by more militant action, including mass pickets that shut down anti-worker enterprises. Only then will workers realize their power.