Category Archives: Anti-War

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The Relevance of the Russian Revolution Today

Speakers:

  • Jeff Mackler, national secretary, SA USA
  • Barry Weisleder, federal secretary, SA Canada
  • Aurélien Perenna, teacher and union activist of the New Anti-capitalist Party, France.

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Millions on the Move: Behind the Refugee Crisis

Speakers:

  • Jaime Gonzales, LUS-Mexico
  • Sharmeen Khan, No One Is Illegal
  • Yasin Kaya, SA-Canada
  • Nikolas Skoufoglu, a leader of OKDE, section of the Fourth International in Greece.

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Basic Income or Raise the Rates?

Speakers:

  • John Clarke, provincial organizer, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
  • Sharon Anderson from Put Food In the Budget

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Fake News: Who’s the Real Culprit?

Speakers:

  • Yves Engler (author of 8 books on Canadian foreign policy, including “Propaganda System”)
  • Jeff Mackler, national secretary, SA USA
  • John Wunderlich, Toronto Danforth NDP executive member and privacy issues consultant.

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Labour Revivial: What will it take?

Speakers:

  • Sid Ryan, past-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour
  • Julius Arscott, Executive Board member of OPSEU
  • Aurélien Perenna, teacher and union activist of the New Anti-capitalist Party, France.

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For Trudeau Teletubbies, the jig is up!

by Barry Weisleder

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s protracted political honeymoon appears to be coming to a close. General irritation with his unctuous, almost unbearable lightness of being is taking hold – especially as his “sunny ways” imagery collides with the real actions of the Liberal government. One New Democrat MP scored media high fives when he compared Trudeau to the bright-colored characters in a British TV show for children who look like babies stuffed into cuddly animal costumes with TV antennae on their heads and screens on their bellies. “How do you wrestle with Teletubbies who want to keep hugging you?”

Well, the group hug is over, and the jig is up. It turns out that Trudeau’s agenda is not that different from his predecessor’s, the uber-Conservative PM Stephen Harper. What a rude awakening that must be for many of the folks who voted Liberal in October 2015, hoping and expecting to get something completely different.

A glance at just a few federal departments — environment, indigenous peoples, health care, and foreign affairs – is enough to see the trend.

On September 27 Ottawa gave the green light to a massive liquefied natural gas project on the coast of British Columbia. The Pacific Northwest LNG would involve a pipeline across the province and a terminal to export the liquefied gas from northern B.C. to Asian markets.

Touted as the largest private-sector development in Canada’s history, the megaproject is the first approved by Trudeau and provides a framework for upcoming decisions on the merits of pipelines designed to bring Alberta oil to eastern and southern ports. Absent is the agreement of several First Nations communities who have serious concerns, including over the health of wild salmon habitat. Environmentalists, from the Sierra Club to the David Suzuki Foundation to the Pembina Institute, oppose the plan despite the 190 conditions attached to it by the feds. Even with a cap on the project’s greenhouse gas emissions (one of the conditions), Pacific Northwest LNG would significantly raise B.C.’s greenhouse gas output. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency calculated that it would be “one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in Canada.”

How does that jibe with the promise by Catherine McKenna, the rookie environment minister, who proclaimed when she got her job last autumn that the carbon-reduction targets set by the Conservatives were a minimum. Now it’s clear that the Liberal government will be lucky to come anywhere near to meeting Harper’s low-bar targets.
In any case, shouldn’t Ottawa promote the spending of billions on making wind and sea wave turbines, solar panels and geothermal technology, rather than on conduits to increase the flow of climate-change-causing fossil fuels?

Instead of obtaining a “social license” from indigenous peoples, as he promised to do, Trudeau has been issuing construction permits for BC Hydro’s Site C dam, over the objection of First Nations that have taken the government to court. An article in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper referred to Trudeau’s “lofty rhetoric” on indigenous rights as “a cheap simulation of justice.”

Health-care funding is another credibility loser for Trudeau. The issue is transfer payments from Ottawa to the provinces. After growing at 6 per cent a year for a decade, subject to the terms Liberal PM Paul Martin reached with the provinces in 2005, which Stephen Harper upheld, transfers are scheduled to grow only about 3 per cent annually, starting in 2017. Harper built in that drop in funding. It made the provincial governments very angry. In the 2015 election, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair promised to restore the growth rate to 6 per cent, at a cost of $36 billion over ten years. The Liberals under Justin Trudeau were deliberately vague. Then in late September 2016, federal health Minister Jane Philpott admitted that Harper’s plan for transfers is Trudeau’s too.

Sadly, for the provinces, the Canada Institute for Health Information reports that total health spending in Canada “has fallen gradually in the past few years” as a share of GDP. “Since 2011, health spending has decreased by an average of 0.6 per cent per year.”
On the foreign affairs front, notwithstanding his canola summit in China, and restored diplomatic relations with Iran, Trudeau pursues a course bent on aggression and military weapons sales abroad. The Canadian military is gearing up to support a major French “counterterrorism” operation in northern Africa. This occurs in the wake of NATO’s obliteration of Libya’s secular Gadhafi regime. A Canadian air force general commanded the NATO bombing campaign, which quickly opened up political space for al Qaeda-linked fighters there and across the region. The Liberal government has said it will commit up to 600 troops to UN “peacekeeping” duties. Without saying where the soldiers will be deployed, National Defence, Global Affairs and the RCMP conducted a “reconnaissance mission” to Mali in August. Canadian military aircraft carried nearly 40 tonnes of equipment between France and Africa last year.

Notably, Canadian “aid” is not going to countries where Canadian-supported coups resulted in devastating human rights abuses, such as Honduras or Egypt. But why Mali? Does it have anything to do with Trudeau’s bid for a United Nations Security Council seat? Or could it be because Mali is a major supplier of uranium, or because Canadian gold mining operations at Nampala, which recently reported positive cash flow for Canadian firm Robex, got Ottawa’s attention. Mali happens to be the third-largest gold-producing country in Africa.

Sometimes the prospect of immediate profits from mineral resources take a back seat to larger considerations of geo-political power. Canada is sending an additional 500 troops to Latvia for an open-ended mission to help its imperialist allies to scare the Russians. It’s a move so provocative that Mikhail Gorbachev (former top bureaucrat of the USSR, and a strong critic of Vladimir Putin) warned: “NATO has begun preparations for escalating the Cold War into a hot one. All the rhetoric in Warsaw just yells of a desire almost to declare war on Russia. They only talk about defence, but actually they are preparing for offensive operations.”

This deployment adds to the hundreds of Canadian troops already playing war games in the Ukraine, where Trudeau took his nine-year-old son in July.
The Liberals kept their promise to remove Canada’s fighter planes from the war in Iraq, but compensated by tripling the number of Canadian “military advisers” on the ground there.

When Trudeau spoke to the United Nations Assembly in September he sweetly intoned “We’re Canadian and we’re here to help.” He showed what he meant by that, in practice, when he recently approved the export of $15 billion worth of armed vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country which is occupying parts of Yemen, and is the be-heading capital of the world widely condemned for its horrible human rights record.

Not to be outdone by Harper, Justin Trudeau’s Canada now ranks second in arms exports to the Middle East for the first time in history, behind only the United States.

But why stop there? We could examine the government’s failure to amend, let alone rescind the intrusive and repressive Bill C-51 that gives Canada’s spies and police unprecedented powers, money and resources. We could look to Trudeau’s broken promise to restore home mail delivery where it was curtailed. We can reflect on Ottawa’s paltry planned increase in Canada Pension Plan payments to seniors, or its undiminished allegiance to the so-called free trade deals, the TPP and CETA. The list seems almost endless. But the point is this. When the fresh coat of paint called Justin Trudeau is stripped away, one sees basically the same austerity agenda designed to perpetuate capitalist rule, to maintain the dominion of the 0.1 per cent over the rest of us.
To end the pernicious cycle of capitalist political fakery and abuse, it is necessary to terminate the socio-economic system itself. The break up of the Liberal political honeymoon is a welcome step in that direction.

Corbyn set to beat Labour right wing, again

by Barry Weisleder
British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn is on track to retain his job and defeat the right wing challenge to his leadership. The leftist Corbyn, 67 years old, campaigns for re-nationalization of public utilities and railways, and for unilateral disarmament of nuclear weapons. He beat out six other MPs to become Leader in October 2015, after attracting hundreds of thousands of new members to the party. Now he faces an all-members’ vote, with the result to be announced on September 21. The election was triggered by non-confidence expressed by about 70 per cent of the Labour MPs just after the Brexit referendum in late June. They accused Corbyn of failing to campaign for the ‘Remain in the EU’ side with sufficient enthusiasm. Now it is clear that it is the majority of LP MPs who are out of touch with the rank and file. As Corbyn speaks to huge support rallies across Britain, his remaining opponent, MP Owen Smith, is fading. Another adversary, MP Angela Eagle, pulled out of the race on July 19, and endorsed Smith.
In August, the British High Court ruled that people who joined the Labour Party after January 12 must now be permitted to vote for Leader. Labour officials were granted a right of appeal, but the court is unlikely to reverse its decision. More members with the right to vote is seen as a plus for Corbyn, who continues to attract new members who seek a radical political alternative to the Tory coalition government, now led by Theresa May, and to the Blairites.
Meanwhile, LP members elected a new National Executive Committee. All six pro-Corbyn, Momentum-backed candidates for the NEC won, thus making for a clean sweep. In addition, the vast majority of Constituency Labour Parties (local electoral district LP associations) voted to re-nominate Corbyn for Leader. Smith obtained the support of only 11 per cent, less than the number of CLPs that expressed no opinion.
In another development, Labour MP Sarah Champion, who was one of several who quit Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet right after the Brexit vote, has been reinstated after she “unresigned” back to her old post. Others who walked out on Corbyn are now rumoured to be looking for a way back. The tide is turning.
Supporters of the pro-war, austerity-friendly, ex-LP Leader and former Prime Minister Tony Blair have posted angry messages on the party’s official facebook page. Many threaten to stop their monthly automatic donations to the party. Their money may be missed more than their odious politics, but the swelling movement for a socialist, working class agenda can easily make up for all of it.
Speculation is rife that a split in the parliamentary caucus and the party as whole is imminent, especially as numerous MPs behind the failing coup against Corbyn face de-selection in their constituencies prior to the next general election. A split by the right wing, as in 1981, will produce a rump that will eventually seek refuge in the Liberal Democratic Party, perhaps even in Conservative ranks. Thus, this prospect opens up the possibility that the LP under Corbyn will move further to the left, posing a significant challenge, not only to capitalist austerity, but to capitalism itself.

Twin Blasts Kill Activists in Turkey

On 10 October, 97 peace activists were killed and over 400 were wounded in twin explosions near the Ankara central train station as tens of thousands gathered for the “Labour, Peace and Democracy Rally”. Several labour unions and mass organizations convened the event to urge an end to the violence between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Continue reading Twin Blasts Kill Activists in Turkey

War to end all Wars turns 100 – Nothing to celebrate.

Shell Shock victim in trenches
Shell Shock victim in trenches
( Published February 18, 2014 in Socialist Action ) by JOHN SCHRAUFNAGEL
 
The 100th anniversary of the great imperialist slaughter known as World War 1 takes place this year. With 37 million casualties, over 16 million dead, and 20 million wounded, it was one of the bloodiest chapters of history.
In the coming months the bourgeois press and historians will write about the causes and will give all the answers except the correct one, which is that the war was the logical outcome of capitalism’s relentless pursuit of profit, regardless of the consequences. The more honest bourgeois historians might say that nationalism, imperialism, and militarism caused the war, but these are merely effects of capitalism’s drive to “accumulate, accumulate, accumulate.” War has proven an excellent tool in the endless quest to accumulate.Skeleton in Trench During World War I
Prior to World War I, bourgeois apologists were pointing to the 100 years of relative “peace” that the rise of capitalism had brought—the last major European war had been the Napoleonic war, approximately 100 years earlier. But peace “at home” was bought with blood in the colonies and the mass murder of indigenous peoples throughout North America.
Capitalism was promising that everyone’s living standards would gradually rise without the ugly business of revolutions. Even many Marxist parties, including the largest—the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany—accepted this gradualist approach and reserved talk of workers’ control and a socialist economy for speeches at May Day parades and party rallies.
But beneath the surface, the internal contradictions inherent in capitalism continued to play out. What Marxists call “the crisis of overproduction” left many countries worried about opening new markets abroad because their own markets were saturated—hence the need to expand through imperialism and carve up the world into colonies. Germany got a late start and was busy scrambling for a foothold in Africa. There were diplomatic incidents in Morocco, adding to the tensions in Europe.
Competition with other colonial powers requires a military, support for which is won by fanning the flames of nationalism, which can get out of hand. Germany was building up its navy, to rival Great Britain on the high seas. And Tsarist Russia had its eyes on the Balkans and the rotting Ottoman Empire, specifically Turkey.
Shellshock-World-War-I-British-troops-Battle-of-Arras-631.jpg__800x600_q85_cropPrior to World War I, a massive arms race took place, and all the European countries were armed to the teeth—but there was no “peace through strength.” At the same time, socialist parties were gaining steam, and labor unrest was growing. One British officer summed up the situation: “A good big war just now might do a lot of good in killing Socialist nonsense and would probably put a stop to all this labor unrest.”
War has served capitalism well. The capitalists use militarism, national patriotism, and imperialism to distract people from the core exploitation that is the capitalist system. War takes peoples’ minds off the exploitation of the bosses and class conflict and focuses them instead on hating some “other”—the citizens of another capitalist state. The last phrase in the Communist Manifesto begins “workers of the world unite.” It is not “workers of the world, first help your capitalists slaughter other workers and then unite.” The SPD in Germany discarded this most basic tenet of Marxism—internationalism. The working class must not fight the working class of other countries but the ruling class of their own country.
V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky saw through the capitalist smokescreen and opposed the war throughout. When a comrade said to Lenin, “war is terrible” he replied, “Yes, it is terrible, terribly profitable.” The Bolshevik slogan “land, bread, and peace” and their continuous opposition to the war helped propel them to power.
But when a movement like the Bolsheviks in Russia rises up and questions the irrational nature of the capitalist war-making system, the capitalists will do everything in their power to quash or deform it. The capitalists will never forgive the Bolsheviks for publishing their secret treaties, pointing out the undemocratic nature of their governments and the stupidity of the slaughter that was occurring in World War I. Despite the Bolsheviks’ offering very favorable treaty terms to the capitalist nations, their governments insisted on trying to crush the Bolshevik revolution with an invasion force from at least 14 countries, material and financial support for the White armies, and blockades and sabotage of the devastated Russian economy.
In our time as well, capitalist governments, media, and bourgeois intellectuals continue to disparage and dismiss the Russian Revolution and communist ideals as if the inevitable outcome must be brutal dictatorship. If they were being honest, they would observe the more intimate and direct connections between capitalism, militarism, and war.
Capitalist dogma likewise lauds the maximization of private profits. Bourgeois economists repeatedly state, without any proof, that capitalism is the most rational and effective system for distributing “scarce” resources. If we assume (as economists love to do) that the system is capwr500wonderful and that war is terrible, defenders of capitalism are left with the unenviable task of explaining all the capitalist wars. They tie themselves in knots blaming such elements as human nature, misunderstandings, miscommunication, or the assassination of some worthless monarch.
The paradox that cannot be resolved is that capitalism requires an entire society to accept as its goal the maximization of profit by a few powerful individuals. While this outcome might make sense for the powerful individuals, it is illogical for society as a whole. Militarism and war become the method for solving this contradiction.
Capitalists do not want to pay the price for research and development; they only want the profits that result. Through the military budget (the U.S. spent $518 billion on the Pentagon in 2013), these costs are socialized. This massive distortion of spending priorities away from what “rational” people would collectively choose—tackling the climate crisis, producing clean energy, health care for all, education for all, eradicating poverty—cannot be accomplished in the presence of true democracy. Therefore, we have fake democracy and a population made irrational with fear of some mysterious other rather than the true enemy. The inevitable outcome is perpetual war.
History never repeats itself exactly, but the world today looks much like it did prior to World War I. China, the United States, and Europe are carving up Africa—AGAIN. The United States is scrambling to build military bases across the continent to bolster its ability to exploit the mineral and oil riches. But Canada, Europe and China are also interested in the vast wealth, making Africa a staging ground for a new round of imperial competition. The United States backs one repressive regime after another (Saudi Arabia, a medieval monarchy with vast oil reserves, being a shining example) to advance its own imperialist ends.
Recent and continuing revelations by Edward Snowden point to just how low the United States will sink to gain an upper hand over its competitors. Inter-imperialist squabbles are everywhere. Japan and China (and the U.S.) are engaged in territorial disputes over islands. A European financial crisis brought on by capitalist speculation threatens to tear Europe apart. The U.S. continues to flex its military muscle from Syria to Yemen to North Korea, needlessly provoking the citizens who would have no interest in hostilities.
Capitalist expansion will continue to inflame these underlying tensions until the people of the world unite to fight the only war worth fighting, the class war, and for the only goal worth fighting for — socialism.
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