Category Archives: Canada

Where Science and Socialism Intersect

A book review by Barry Weisleder

I strongly recommend the latest book by Ian Angus, “A Redder Shade of Green”.  This anthology, published by Monthly Review Press (New York, 2017, 198 pages), contains well-written articles, very accessible to non-experts, that first appeared between 2009 and 2017.  They summarize the latest scientific findings on the state of the environment and provide cogent arguments against climate change deniers and environmental reformists.  Between the covers is a compelling case made for involvement in existing social movements that are doing what can be done right now to reduce carbon emissions. Opposition to the construction of oil pipelines, to fracking for gas, and to military operations (all of which consume inordinate levels of carbon-based energy) are the leading examples.

This book is a fitting companion piece to Angus’ prodigious work “Facing the Anthropocene” (2016) which adduces a sweeping political economy of carbon capitalism, from its origins to today.

The author roots eco-socialism, the programme for system change to avoid catastrophic climate change, in the seminal work of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and their Red Chemist colleague Carl Schorlemmer.  Angus not only explains the “metabolic rift” between capitalist production and nature, but documents how the “Great Acceleration” of fossil fuel usage post-WW2 defines a new fraught epoch, the Anthropocene.  The insatiable drive of global capitalism to grow and profit, at any cost, threatens to disrupt the “Earth System” irreparably, portending the end of human civilization.

“A Redder Shade of Green” correctly targets the system of irrational growth and waste, and it identifies the tiny class that rules over it.  Redder rejects the claims of liberal Greens and pro-capitalist conservationists that all or most of humanity is fundamentally to blame for excessively eating, clothing, sheltering itself, and reproducing.

The sub-title of the book, “Intersections of Science and Socialism”, signifies its strength, and affirms its commitment to build mass movements in the streets to challenge the powers that be.  Effectiveness can be achieved by collaborating with everyone willing to fight for a better future, regardless of differences on social class and ultimate political goals.  At the same time, Angus insists, eco-socialists should relentlessly advance a scientific critique of the fundamental enemy.

Unfortunately, the intersection of Socialism, as a philosophy or programme, with the revolutionary vanguard of the working class, is entirely missing.  The paramount need to create a political party, one that is capable of leading the struggle against the toxic mode of production to a socialist and democratic conclusion, is conspicuous by its absence.

Angus seems to try to justify postponement, or abandonment of the project of building a revolutionary workers’ party with the comment “we have to accept that the socialist movement is not going to triumph in the immediate future.” (page 163)

Just as it is foolhardy to try to predict when the Earth System, an incredibly complex and unpredictable matrix, will go beyond ‘the tipping point’, it has been repeatedly proven wrong to exclude the outbreak of socialist revolution.  After all, as Redder demonstrates, the world is dominated by a global socio-economic system riddled with deep and explosive contradictions.  Indeed, no workers’ revolution that did take place actually happened as predicted.  And those upheavals that were first predicted did not occur when or where they were anticipated.

Furthermore, when revolutionary conditions arise, it is usually too late to start building a party; it is then too late to get it sufficiently rooted to be able to lead insurgent masses to a decisive victory.  Given the dire fate of the environment today, humanity can ill afford to squander any opportunity to make radical change.

Finally, doesn’t it beg the question:  Where are the eco-socialists going to find the most like-minded comrades?  Where will they find the very best builders of broad, mass movements now needed, if not in a revolutionary workers’ party or pre-party formation?  That recognition is actually the Reddest Shade of Green.

The Discreet Charm of Big Oil

by Gary Porter

“Oil lobby targeted 13 Ontario swing ridings in ‘unprecedented’ pipeline campaign” read the headline in the Toronto Star on July 5, 2018.  From their investigation into the political influence of the oil business, the Star reported that the Canadian Petroleum Producers Association (“CAPP”), and three organizations controlled by CAPP, executed an intense and expensive campaign clearly aimed at electing Doug Ford, the newly minted Tory leader as Premier of Canada’s largest and most influential province.

Although CAPP claims the campaign was not intended to influence the Ontario election, it ran from April 8 to May 29. The Ontario election was held on June 7. Voters were targeted in 13 Ontario swing ridings with rallies, high visibility billboards, and 400,000 pieces of pro-pipeline literature.  24,000 letters were sent to influential people across Canada urging support for the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion to move bitumen to Canada’s west coast for export. If built, the pipeline will triple tanker traffic through busy shipping lanes, and will be loaded with the dirtiest oil in the world.  If this stuff leaks, or pours into the ocean, it will not float. It will sink and leech toxins into the marine biosphere for decades.

Canada does not normally allow such wild west campaign spending. In Ontario, anyone spending over $500 in the 6 months leading up to a fixed date campaign must register and adhere to campaign finance restrictions. CAPP did not register.  Its claims that the campaign was national, not provincial, seem disingenuous at best. How much did it cost? Millions for sure. The actual amount remains hidden because CAPP did not register — presumably, to avoid public reporting.

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government, elected on July 7, immediately terminated Ontario’s Cap and Trade ‘pay to pollute’ oil use plan, and is joining Alberta in suing the federal government over Ottawa’s insistence that provinces implement their own petroleum reduction scheme, or face federal imposition.  Ford is also pulling out of a joint programme with the province of Quebec and the state of California to cooperate on petroleum reduction.

It is important to note that this powerful lobby of polluters does not merely buy off politicians.  It wages its own direct campaigns to stampede ordinary workers and other voters to support the political stooges loyal to Big Oil. This very expensive CAPP campaign stressed jobs and “prosperity”. One TV ad showed a young black woman holding a sign: “Is Canada closed for business?” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently paid $4.5 billion to Kinder Morgan to buy its pipeline assets in Canada, appears to be always open for the oil business. The purchase price gave Kinder Morgan shareholders a scandalous profit of 637% on the current market value of the assets.

If you are wondering why gas prices seem high these days, in part it is because your hard earned wages are subsidizing this kind of slick, expensive propaganda at the pump. Consumers are paying for the oil lobby to undermine our limited democracy. Who can afford to answer such high priced campaigns with the facts? Seriously folks, this should be illegal. And to those who cry ‘free speech’, we say free speech is a reality only when everybody is on an equal footing – not perched on a field treacherously tilted in favour of rich and powerful polluters.

Ford Begins

By Mitchell Shore

Socialist Action – Toronto members proudly joined the June 13 People’s Rally at Queen’s Park to protest some of the first actions of the Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservative Party government.  On June 7, the Tories won 76 of the 124 seats in the Ontario Legislature — securing 61 per cent of the seats with only 40 per cent of the votes cast, equaling about a quarter of the electorate.

Despite the hard work of the organizers, the turnout was poor. Only about 200 people attended. While the extreme heat of the day served as an excuse, the primary reason was the absence of an organized union presence. Besides a handful of individual union and community activists, a solid presence by the $15 and Fairness coalition, and three or four socialist groups, there was no sign of coordinated union participation. There was no OPSEU, no AMAPCEO, no CUPE, no ETFO, OSSTF or OECTA, no UNIFOR, no UFCW, no ATU, no Steelworkers’ Union — the list goes on.

Likewise, there was no sign of the New Democratic Party. The NDP, Canada’s only labour-based political party, now holds official opposition status in Ontario.  Sadly, its leaders seem comfortable confining their meager resistance efforts to the chambers of the Legislature — an approach that is bound to fail. The Tories hold a majority of seats and the NDP can only slow the torrent of reactionary laws.  NDP MPPs are powerless to actually to stop any Conservative party legislation. They ought to join us on the streets to amplify their voices and educate for change. And where were the supposedly brave activists of the NDP who are calling for action immediately following the election? Ford is not taking the summer off. Before we know it, much more will be stripped away in the name of “saving taxpayers money”.

Premier Doug Ford has already put in place a hiring freeze and has frozen the pay of all Ontario public service mangers. He fired Ontario’s Chief Scientist, sacked the government’s investment czar, terminated its top business adviser, and decimated Hydro One’s leadership. The promise that “no one is getting laid off” under a Ford administration is quickly exposed as a lie. The Tories then awarded a plush patronage position to Rueben Devlin, a former hospital president, a former president of the Progressive Conservative party, and a close friend of Doug Ford. This is a three year contract that comes with $348,000 annual salary — on top of his existing, six-figure, public pension!  His role will be to think about new ways to end “hallway medicine”. Again, this cynical appointment exposes the falsehood behind the promise about putting “an end to the government’s party with your money”. Over three years that’s $1 million — money which could be better used to employ unionized nurses to try to help deal with treatment delays in our hospital hallway medicine crisis.

At a time of dramatic climate change and extreme global warming, the Tories have rolled back most of the mild green energy efforts of the previous Liberal Ontario government. The new Minister of the Environment, Rod Phillips, stated that government will come up with its own plan to fight climate change that does not put an “onerous burden on the economy”. What do these plans entail?  To start, they cut government subsidies and supports for green energy technologies and appliances.  They cancelled 758 renewable energy contracts in an effort to save $790 million.  Soon the government will table legislation to kill the White Pines wind turbine project on Lake Ontario, south of Belleville, which is anticipated to leave taxpayers on the hook for about $100 million.

In what came as a shock to many people working in the Ontario Public Service (OPS), immediately after the election and following the Speech from the Throne, congratulatory messages were sent to the Tories by two major public sector unions, OPSEU and AMAPECO. This is a betrayal of working class resistance and solidarity. Instead of ‘cutting Ford some slack’, these organizations should be gearing up to defend the jobs and rights of all union members and stand up to defend the services of the people of Ontario.

The first thing on his legislative agenda is busting the four months-long strike of teaching and graduate assistants at York University. CUPE Local 3903 members walked off the job on March 5 seeking improved job security as well as better funding for the university. It is now the longest academic strike in Canadian history. Not surprisingly, rather than using their authority to encourage York U to go back to the bargaining table, to come to a negotiated settlement, the Tories have chosen to make one of their first legislative initiatives an attack on workers, and ultimately an attack on the quality of education at Ontario universities. After four and a half months on the picket line, the courageous workers of CUPE 3903 now have to deal with the harsh reality that they will be unjustly, and unconstitutionally, legislated back to work. And at this critical time, the mis-leaders of two major public service unions should be ashamed of themselves for offering the government congratulations. CUPE 3903 deserves union solidarity, not offers of collaboration with the political thugs who aim to force them back to work.

The Tories also plan to repeal the 2015 sexual education curriculum. In its place, the Tory homophobes have promised to bring back the 1998 curriculum! This is a highly sanitized version of curriculum that preceded high-speed internet and Google, a time before cyber bullying and the dangers of sexting, a time before open and honest discussions about consent, sexuality, gender identity, and same-sex relationships. The Tories are doing this, it seems, largely to appease a tiny minority of social conservatives in their ranks, such as the religious-nut Charles McVety, right-wing newspaper columnist Barbara Kay, national president of the anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition, Jim Hughes, and the newly appointed Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education, the home-schooled 20 year old, Sam Oosterhoff, all of whom backed Doug Ford in his bid to become leader of the party.

The Tory thugs have also announced they will cut essential curriculum development, which was started on recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  They put a stop to the development of an American Sign Language (ASL) curriculum, and they have cut all funding for crucial school repairs.

Next, it is likely they will repeal Bill 148, the labour law reforms that include a $15/hour minimum wage set for 2019. This will probably be followed by a tax cut of 20 per cent that will most benefit the rich. His tax credit for child care costs will not create more spaces, raise or enforce standards, or boost pay for low wage workers. No steps to build social housing, and no significant increase in health care funding are in store. The Ford government has also postponed implementation of the Ontario Special Investigations Unit Act aimed at improving police oversight. Ontario is headed towards a return to carding – a practice that disproportionately targets black and brown people. Carding is a racist practice that stigmatises minorities, but does nothing to stop crime. This decision was made just days before Michael Tibollo, the Minister of Community Safety and Corrections, the man tasked with heading up the Anti-Racism Directorate, said in the Ontario Legislature that he wore a bulletproof vest when visiting Toronto’s largely poor and racialized neighborhood of Jane and Finch. The Tories seem uninhibited when it comes to revealing their racist bigotry. This kind of frenzied, toxic atmosphere is what the Tories are rapidly fostering.

On June 17, Doug Ford’s office announced the creation of an Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry into Ontario’s past spending and accounting practices. This inquiry will be under the direction of former Liberal Premier of British Columbia Gordon Campbell. It’s another indication that Tories and Liberals are cut from the same cloth. The $6 billion that Ford promised to find in “efficiencies” translates to firing thousands of teachers, health workers and others in the public sector. Cuts in services will be staggering and bloody, impacting most harshly on the impoverished. Ford is a job killer, and a servant to his corporate buddies whose taxes he will greatly reduce, putting the province deeper in the hole.

So what can we do? We need more than just talk about recreating the Days of Action which challenged Ontario Premier Mike Harris in the mid-1990s. In fact, a better action model is needed to avoid a repeat of what happened then. Leaders of the Ontario Federation of Labour and its major affiliates terminated the momentum-gathering Days of Action before they risked losing control of the movement. The result was massive demoralization of the labour movement and ultimately the re-election of Mike Harris in 1999. And if you think things were bad during the Mike Harris years, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Urgently needed is real, unlimited, militant action. But so far, we have seen very little coordinated resistance. Socialist Action is circulating widely a resolution to encourage all unions, every NDP electoral district association, social justice movements and working class organizations to discuss and adopt a plan in favour of coordinated mass action.

If working class organizations go on record now in favour of mass action opposition to the Ford/Conservative agenda in Ontario, and for a democratic united front of resistance to capitalist austerity, it will help to prepare and coordinate the next phase of struggle. It can also be a very useful item in our tool kit to connect with rank and file workers, fighters against oppression of every kind, and social justice movements.

The resolution, presented below, calls for a democratic united front of resistance to capitalist austerity and it will help to prepare and coordinate the next phase of what is going to be a very long struggle.

“Be it resolved that ……. (fill in your union, NDP association and/or community organization) request that the Ontario Federation of Labour hold an emergency convention to adopt an action plan to confront and defeat the Doug Ford – Progressive Conservative government agenda.

Be it further resolved that …….. (your union, etc.) commits to respond with mass protests, including rallies, demonstrations and job actions,up to and including sectoral and general strikes, against Doug Ford – PC government attacks on public services, civil liberties, equity seeking groups, unions and non-organized workers in this province. We believe that all unions and social justice partners, in anticipation of serious cuts to jobs and services, should go on immediate strike alert and build a broad, democratic united front of resistance.”

The only way to stop the Ford-nado that is about to ravage the province is to shut it down before the mix of hot air and cold hearts gains too much strength and power. We can do this only by building an impenetrable wall of resistance and opposition, which could be a vital step towards a Workers’ Agenda for Ontario.

For an Emergency Convention of the OFL – For a Mass Action plan to Stop the Doug Ford/PC gov’t agenda

Below is a resolution that unions, NDP electoral district associations, social justice movements and all working class organizations can discuss and adopt.

Why now?  If working class organizations go on record now in favour of mass action opposition to the Ford/Conservative agenda in Ontario, and for a democratic united front of resistance to capitalist austerity, it will help to prepare and coordinate the next phase of struggle.

Do you agree that this can be a useful tool in our tool kit — to connect with rank and file workers, fighters against oppression of every kind, and social justice movements?


Be it resolved that (…fill in your union, NDP association and/or community organization) request that the Ontario Federation of Labour hold an emergency convention to adopt an action plan to confront and defeat the Doug Ford – Progressive Conservative government agenda.

Be it further resolved that (your union, etc.) commits to respond with mass protests, including rallies, demonstrations and job actions, up to and including sectoral and general strikes, against Doug Ford – PC government attacks on public services, civil liberties, equity seeking groups, unions and non-organized workers in this province.  We believe that all unions and social justice partners, in anticipation of serious cuts to jobs and services, should go on immediate strike alert and build a broad, democratic united front of resistance.

For information, call:  647-986-1917,

e-mail:  socialistactioncanada@gmail.com

No to Trump’s Trade War!

A joint statement by Socialist Action, Canada and Socialist Action, United States of America

The recent imposition of a 25% tariff on steel imports to the United States and a 10% tariff on aluminum from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union follow the earlier imposition of these tariffs on the rest of the world, and even earlier tariffs on solar panels and washing machines aimed at China and South Korea—all by the U.S. Donald Trump administration.

Trump has also threatened to place heavy tariffs on automobiles and parts imported from abroad, and on numerous industrial and technological products from China. He has also re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran and put new sanctions on Russia.

Understanding Trump’s intentions is no easy matter.  He seems motivated more by sheer bravado than rational thought. Trump’s rhetoric often appears to be aimed at playing to his base rather than reflecting any meaningful thoughts about the future. “Make America Great Again” and “America First” are the shibboleths that appeal to his populist supporters.

At the same time, these notions do speak to the interests of a section of the U.S. capitalist class that is falling behind in global capitalist competition. They are supported by a layer of trade-union leaders who hanker for a return of smokestack America with its millions of well-paid manufacturing jobs. These bureaucrats seek to tie the future of U.S. workers to the “success” of their “own” capitalist corporations and their twin parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, as opposed to furthering the independent organization of workers to challenge the root cause of the problem—the fundamental, for-profit-only operations of the capitalist system.

The United States no longer has the only powerful economy in the world. As global competition relentlessly heats up, and the rate of profit tends to fall, the methods of past times don’t work. For many years after World War II—years of American economic hegemony—free trade was the battering ram to force open foreign markets to cheaper U.S. goods. This was likewise the policy of the U.K. during the height of the British Empire, before World War I. In general, capitalist nations operating with the highest, or most advanced levels of technology tend to be “free-traders” while their weaker competitors are “protectionists.”

Trump’s repeated reference to “many jobs, good jobs” appears to mean the re-creation of jobs that have largely disappeared in the United States, such as coal mining, steel making, and auto manufacturing jobs. Most of these have been lost to automation in auto and steel plants. The U.S. makes about as much steel now as in 1960, but with 20% of the previous labor force. Car manufacturing automation is similar.

Underground coal mining is foul, lung-destroying work that hopefully will never return. But the jobs have disappeared only because they are less profitable in the U.S. and worldwide, and not out of any concern on the part of the coal magnates for the health of the miners. Unfortunately, the labor bureaucracy, tied to capitalism hand and foot, prefers to advocate for capitalism’s most polluting jobs rather than challenge the entire deadly energy system in a fight for a just transition that would guarantee all fossil-fuel workers new jobs at union wages in a 100 percent sustainable and nationalized energy system.

Working people have no interest in trade wars. We simply end up bearing the cost.

The United States produces just below 60% of the steel it uses, while importing the rest from 85 other countries. Canada provides 17% of the imports. Other sources of steel to the U.S. include Brazil 14%, South Korea 10%, Mexico 9%, Russia 8%, Germany 4%, and China 2%. If foreign steel and aluminum become much more expensive as a result of the tariffs, U.S. manufacturers who use such materials will no doubt respond in order to protect their profits. Their options include striving even harder to keep wages low, passing on the price rises to consumers, or even closing down U.S.-based manufacturing plants.

Of course, Canadian, Mexican, and European capitalists have all responded with tariffs on American goods. In this way, too, U.S. workers lose jobs. But workers in Canada, Mexico, and Europe will likely face similar problems—higher prices and the loss of more jobs than tariffs can possibly create.

Global capitalist competition is a completely unavoidable aspect of the system of private profit. As competition results in new innovation, and automation increases the rate of profit for the innovator temporarily, these gains are offset again by the rapid adoption of the new technology by competitors and the resulting fall of profit rates.

In their desperate struggle to fight the falling rate of profit, capitalists try to reduce costs by attacking trade unions and workers’ rights, by attacking pay and benefit levels, by attacking general social benefits such as education, medical, and pension benefits, by refusing to accept any responsibility for the massive environmental damage caused by cutthroat capitalist competition, and by transferring production to low-wage, unregulated areas both within and outside their own countries.

In decades past, the volatile world capitalist system sought to mitigate its inherent contradictions through organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this context, the leading representatives of the world’s most important corporations hammered out comprehensive agreements that sought to meet the needs of all the ever-competing capitalists. The stronger capitalists, like the ruling rich in the United States, always had the upper hand because the U.S. market was the largest in the world.

Nevertheless, each sector of capital understood that one or another competitor had an edge in specific commodities that were traded on the world market. Their objective was to balance their various needs with deals. A modicum of French wine was allowed into the United States, for example, while a certain amount of U.S. products was allowed into France under reciprocal conditions.

NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) was in truth, despite its name, a mass of literally thousands of separate negotiated agreements between the ruling elite of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. These include all kinds of protectionist measures for weaker U.S. corporations, and the same for those in Mexico and Canada.

In the face of intensified cutthroat competition between capitalist powers, the old rules of the game are incapable of resolving the growing contradictions of the system. Trump sounded the alarm for the wing of the U.S. capitalist class whose interests he thinks he represents. Ignoring the delicate or fragile balance that has been hitherto established by his predecessors, he proposes to upset the world capitalist system’s apple cart to advance the interests of his favored elites.

When Trump gifted $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the entire ruling class, there were no complaints. But when Trump departed from measures that benefit the broad sectors of the ruling rich, he faced serious opposition internally, not to mention from the potentially wounded lesser capitalist nations. Hence Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, cried foul and collectively threatened to retaliate.

The world’s working people have no interest in this potential world conflagration. In the end, when capitalists win, workers lose—a fundamental law of the capitalist system that has been verified many times. The common interest of workers lies in defending working people everywhere against all the onslaughts of capital. This means international solidarity on every front, from united worldwide efforts to organize workers into powerful unions, to united opposition to capitalist wars and capitalist destruction of the environment.

There is no such thing as peaceful and/or regulated competition among capitalist nations. No self-respecting capitalist is in business to be the world’s “nice guy.” There are only winners and losers in this deadly game of production for private profit. Donald Trump simply tore the mask off the brute face of a predatory system in decline. Justin Trudeau plays the same game as Trump on the world scene and makes sure that everyone knows that Canadian capitalism can bare its own claws in the profit game.

Reliance on any of these representatives of the world’s elite to advance the interests of working people is sheer folly. Breaking with their corporate parties in the political arena is the beginning of a serious challenge to capitalist prerogatives. But only the abolition of the capitalist system itself by the direct action of the vast majority of working people can ensure a permanent end to capitalism’s endless trade wars and its actual military wars that plague humanity.

www.socialistaction.ca   647-986-1917