Category Archives: Analysis

Ottawa ignores Kyoto

A previous Liberal government cynically entered into it, and systematically violated it. The present Conservative government thumbed its nose at it from the start, and unceremoniously quit the treaty on Dec. 12. Despite its abject weaknesses, including low targets and unenforcability, the Kyoto Protocol still signifies the need to address escalating carbon emissions, climate change, and the dire threat they pose to civilization.

A previous Liberal government cynically entered into it, and systematically violated it. The present Conservative government thumbed its nose at it from the start, and unceremoniously quit the treaty on Dec. 12. Despite its abject weaknesses, including low targets and unenforcability, the Kyoto Protocol still signifies the need to address escalating carbon emissions, climate change, and the dire threat they pose to civilization.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries spent two weeks in Durban, South Africa trying to reach an agreement on a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.
The original treaty was a concession to the mobilizing power of the global environmental movement. Its limitations reflect the class nature of that movement, its failure to collectively articulate a socialist agenda—the prerequisite to democratic control and economic planning in harmony with nature.
The Harper Conservatives seem not to be troubled that their unilateral exit of Kyoto violates domestic law. The Kyoto Implementation Act, adopted by Parliament in June 2007, remains on the books. It was not rescinded. The latest Tory decision was not even debated. The law still requires Canada’s environment commissioner, Scott Vaughan, to inform Parliament annually of the government’s progress in meeting its targets under the climate accord. That is bound to be a bitter pill the government will want to ditch a.s.a.p.
After six years of Conservative rule and $9 billion budgeted to curb green house gases Canada’s output remains very high. Even if Prime Minister Harper keeps his promise to cut emissions by 2020 in lock step with the U.S., by 17 per cent from 2005 levels, Canada will continue to generate some 600 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. That is the same as in 1990, the Kyoto benchmark year.
Skepticism about the pledges made at the United Nations conference in Durban is no excuse for inaction at home. The United States, China, and India, the world’s biggest carbon spewers, pledged to negotiate a common binding agreement in the next few years. Even if they do, it won’t have much impact until 2020, which means another wasted decade in the drive to cap the rise in Earth’s temperature to a barely tolerable 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era, instead of a disastrous 3.5 degrees.
But at least those governments acknowledge the problem and set themselves a target. Ottawa, on the other hand, closes its eyes and sticks its head into the dirty oil sands, failing even to provide tax incentives for renewable energy, or measures to curb coal-fired electricity, and car and truck emissions.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau was certainly justified in denouncing Tory Environment Minister Peter Kent when Kent blamed an NDP MP for not attending the Durban conference. It was Kent who had barred opposition MPs from the Canadian delegation to Durban.

So, Trudeau was right to call Kent “a piece of shit.” But the same can be said for the whole Canadian establishment, from the hypocritical eco-posturers to the climate change deniers. The world is in a soggy mess, and time is running out, not only on capitalism but on the human species. 

> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.

Will 2012 be year for Labour fightback?

The big business Conference Board of Canada predicts that 2012 will be a year of major labour-management strife across the Canadian state. 
The big business Conference Board of Canada predicts that 2012 will be a year of major labour-management strife across the Canadian state.

In a report released in early December, the Board points to Toronto, where the right-wing administration of Mayor Rob Ford has been waging a war on workers to cut costs, and to privatize city services. The report also noted that the Toronto District School Board is set to negotiate a new collective agreement with teachers in 2012 “on a course of bargaining that is unlikely to be resolved peacefully.”
In 2011, Canada Post workers staged rotating strikes, got locked out by management, and were ordered back to work by the federal government, which imposed a wage rate lower than management’s last offer. The threat of legislation kept Air Canada workers from striking, despite workers voting twice to reject management’s position.
According to McMasterUniversity labour relations Professor Charlotte Yates, governments aren’t just trying to keep deficits in check; they are cutting for political reasons. Unions, per se, are the target. They believe they can succeed at this time knowing that the bosses are permitted to cut jobs without any real challenge from the working class, including its unionized sections. When postal workers challenged the Stephen Harper Conservative government agenda, the labour movement across the country failed to back them up with job action. The NDP filibuster in the House of Commons made many workers feel good, but it did not threaten to deter the government’s course of action.
The Conference Board is now worried that the potential for strikes in the public sector will be greater in 2012 because those workers gave concessions at the outset of the recession/depression in 2008. Rank-and-file frustration is rising. The average public sector raise will be 1.5 per cent in 2012—below the predicted inflation rate of 2 per cent. In contrast, private sector workers will earn an average raise of 2.3 per cent. Overall, workers’ wages have been falling or stagnant for over 30 years.
Health care workers in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba will be negotiating new collective agreements in 2012, as will employees at the Canada Revenue Agency.
By alerting its well-heeled members to potential labour conflict, and by countering the arguments that unions make (for example, that government revenues are down due to corporate tax cuts and concessions to the rich), the Conference Board is helping to get the Canadian capitalist class ready for the big fight ahead. But what is the labour leadership doing to get workers ready for this fight?
The Ontario Federation of Labour, at its November biennial convention in Toronto, promised to expose the one-sided class war being waged by bosses and their governments. But OFL leaders have no plan to challenge the rulers’ agenda with mass action in the streets and work places.
There is talk about a possible merger of the Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers’ Union. A democratically conducted merger would be good. Much better than a raid, which too often is the resort of shrinking unions. But a merger is no substitute for organizing the unorganized, much less for an anti-concessions strategy.
Can workers fight back? Transit workers in York Region, north of Toronto, show that we can. Those employees of private bus companies that pay $7 an hour less than what Toronto transit workers earn, are in the third month of a strike for a wage and benefits catch-up. Their weekly mass pickets and bus occupations are attracting tremendous attention and inspiring considerable hope in broad sections of the working class.
They show the way forward—to a coordinated labour struggle against the bosses’ “austerity” agenda.
If 2012 is to be the year for a labour fight back, now is the time to start talking up the idea of a general strike. Nothing less than escalating, mass job actions are needed to stop the attacks on jobs, public services, and workers’ rights. And that’s what we need to win nationalization of the banks and big business under workers’ democratic control—to lay the basis for an economy that serves the majority.> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.

The Future of the Occupy Movement

On November 23 police enforced an Ontario Superior Court order to Occupy Toronto to vacate St. James Park, a few blocks from Canada’s corporate financial hub. Occupy camps around the world, from Oakland, California, to London, England, from New York to Vancouver, are also under seige. Whether re-locating, or clinging to home turf, the physical encampments inspired a mass movement against social inequality and injustice. They put proponents of the dysfunctional capitalist system on the defensive.

Whatever happens next, the challenge is clear: Spread this movement from the parks and city squares to the sites of social production, distribution and exchange.

On November 13, I spoke to a rally at Occupy Toronto on this theme:

“I’ve been asked to describe how the work of Socialist Action relates to the Occupy movement, and how we can grow and develop our work together.

“The first order of business is: congratulations! Congratulations to everyone who initiated the Occupy movement. From Tahrir Square in Cairo, to our sisters and brothers in Athens, and in Wisconsin. From Wall Street to London to Madrid to Toronto. What began with the Arab Spring, and spread like wild fire to over 1400 cities worldwide, cannot be extinguished. It is the voice of the voiceless. It is the cry of unemployed youth. It is the cry of dispossessed aboriginal peoples. It is a beacon of hope for the victims of ethnic cleansing, women’s oppression, class exploitation and environmental plunder. No matter what the clowns at City Hall may do, Occupation is here to stay. Dismantle it in one place, and it will sprout again, like a sea of dandelions.

“That’s because Occupy expresses a seismic shift. It is the shift from ignorance and complacency, to awareness and action. It points not only to gross economic inequality and injustice. It points not only to the greed and malfeasance of the ruling 1 per cent. It points to the need to rid this planet of capitalism — the toxic system responsible for the social ills that ail humanity.

“Socialist Action is proud to have been part of this movement from the beginning. Our comrades in the U.S., in New York, in Hartford, Conn., in Boston, in Philadelphia, in Chicago, in Minneapolis, in Phoenix, in Oakland, and many other cities are participants and advocates. Have a look at our newspaper, Socialist Action, and see how we work to win support in the labour movement, and to defend Occupy against police repression.

“That’s what we must do here: Defend the Occupy movement. Defend it from bozo politicians, from police repression, from the commercial media which inflates the complaints of a few petty bourgeois restaurateurs into a social calamity — the only apparent solution for which is the suppression of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. We say: Hands off Occupy Toronto. It is the best thing that’s happened to this park and to this city in a long time.

“That brings us to a bigger challenge: how to extend the Occupy movement to the factories and offices, to the mines and mills, to the stores and schools, to work places and to communities across this city and across this country. We can draw a lesson from Quebec where, this past week, over 200,000 students shut down schools and occupied the streets to oppose tuition increases and to demand free, quality, public post-secondary education. We can take encouragement from the Orange Wave (NDP surge) last Spring that marginalized the discredited Liberal Party in its wake. We are inspired by environmental activists whose actions forced US President Obama to delay construction of the Keystone XE pipeline.

“These events underline a compelling truth: Occupy is a powerful symbol, a resilient rallying point. It has changed the channel. It has ignited a conversation of millions. But to win, to truly win human liberation and save civilization from the ravages of the profit system, we need to shut capitalism down. We need to re-boot production on a green, democratic basis, and build a cooperative commonwealth.

“That’s what we in SA mean by socialism, a democratic cooperative commonwealth, where production is wholly owned and controlled by working people, where the military is reduced to a rescue and disaster relief corps, where the 1% are expropriated, and where the state is transformed into the servant of the 99%. That’s what socialism will look like.

“What stands in our way? If it was just the 1 per cent, it would be easy, and it would have been done long ago. Standing in the way of economic democracy is a gigantic apparatus of minority rule. The cops, the courts, the bought-and-paid-for media, religious institutions, the managerial elite, and the capitalist political parties. How can we clear a path to majority rule? The same way we defend and spread the Occupy movement. We tell the truth, we build alliances, and we fight the forces that stand in the way of liberation.

“Before the workers’ and popular movements can go forward, we need to remove the obstacles within. I refer to the labour, NGO and NDP bureaucracies. Donations of food, tents and port-a-potties are good. But they are no substitute for organized resistence to labour concessions in the work place. They are no substitute for a battle over the lack of democracy in many unions and the NDP. Rather than walk away from the problem, we need to dig in and fight for socialist policies and democracy from the bottom up.

“That’s what Socialist Action does. We build support for Occupy Toronto, and we organize a fighting opposition to labour mis-leaders who go along with cutbacks, with privatization, with layoffs in the public service (such as advocated by the Drummond commission at Queen’s Park). We argue for a General Strike to stop the cuts. We oppose government contracts to build jet fighters and war ships, to construct pipelines for dirty oil, and to invest in nuclear energy. We demand a steeply progressive tax on big wealth, on inheritance, and on corporate profits – not just an end to recent corporate tax cuts, not just abolition of the HST, not just a Robin Hood tax, or a Tobin Tax. We demand public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under workers’ and community control.

“We don’t think that we, or any individual or small group can accomplish this alone. For that reason Socialist Action devotes most of our efforts to building coalitions, alliances, broad unity in action. That is why we play a leading role in the NDP Socialist Caucus, a broad alliance of anti-capitalist party members who seek to win the 4.5 million NDP voters to a Workers’ Agenda. That is why SA plays a leading role in the Workers’ Solidarity and Union Democracy Coalition, which is now fighting layoffs, and opposing OPSEU leaders’ threat to quit the Ontario Federation of Labour. That is why SA initiated the October 15 Coalition of 11 organizations that marked the 10th anniversary of the imperialist war and occupation of Afghanistan with a rally and march that concluded right here, in St. James Park. That is why we sponsor educational conferences, concerts to raise money for workers on strike, an annual May Day celebration, and Rebel Films, which attracted close to 500 people to the latest Rebel Film series at OISE.

“We don’t have all the answers. But we do know this: To win in the face of corporate state power requires a revolutionary perspective. It requires a conscious mass base in the working class. The revolutionary battle for hearts and minds takes place in the existing mass working class organizations. That is where we are fighting to build solidarity, to build the Occupy movement, to spread it to unions, to the NDP, to work places and communities, and to put an end to the cancer of capitalist minority rule.

“We are with you 100%. We invite you to work with us, to join SA and Youth for Socialist Action. Together we will win, much sooner than later.”

> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.