Category Archives: Statements

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

It’s War

The June 7 election of the Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservative Party to government in Ontario means an escalation of the class war against working people, visible minorities and impoverished social layers.

The former right wing Toronto city councilor and brother of deceased Mayor Rob Ford cloaked his fiercely anti-labour agenda in populist rhetoric pitched against ‘the establishment, the downtown elites’.  This allowed Doug Ford to channel mass discontent with 15 years of Liberal government cutbacks and corruption.  Premier Kathleen Wynne tried to save the furniture from the fire with a late shift to the left (e.g. increasing the minimum hourly wage, promising more spending to improve health services).  But her Liberal Party lost half its voters and is now reduced to a rump of seven seats in the Ontario Legislature, one shy of official party status.

The labour-based New Democratic Party, running on a mildly left-reform platform, surged to 33.6 per cent and nearly doubled its seat total to 40.  Several of its best policies (re-nationalize Hydro One, free university, drug and dental care, raise taxes on the rich, build social housing and public transit) came straight from the NDP Socialist Caucus playbook.

Andrea Horwath was over-the-top ecstatic at becoming Leader of the Official Opposition, pledging to hold Ford “to account”.  But this won’t do.  The Tory agenda today is much more aggressive than that of right wing Premier Mike Harris in the mid-1990s.  The horror show must be confronted and stopped by mass protest in the streets and work places, not by reliance on polite parliamentary criticism.

NDP and union leaders should be challenged to lead the fight outside the Legislature. In fact, the labour tops should have mobilized the ranks to campaign for the NDP, to counter the threat of the rampant anti-worker agenda of Ford and his conservative hate mongers. A serious effort to expose Ford’s populist propaganda might well have won the election for the NDP. Instead many labour officials sat on their asses; some even urged ‘strategic’ voting, which meant a vote for the Liberal Party. Unforgivable. This shows why union leaders should be paid no more than the average wage of their union collective agreement. Privileges and fat expense accounts be gone! Replace the conservative bureaucrats with rank and file militants and turn the unions into instruments of class struggle.

Still, one thing is very clear:  Doug Ford’s victory does not signal a unilateral shift to the right. The election rather reflects a polarization to both the left and the right.  The highly disproportionate first-past-the-post electoral system perpetuates capitalist rule by usually delivering a majority of seats to parties that gain a minority of votes. On June 7 the Conservatives captured 61 per cent of the seats (76 in total) with only 40.5 per cent of the votes cast.  In other words, nearly 60 per cent of those who cast ballots supported parties ostensibly to the left of the Tories. That includes the Green Party which won 4.6 per cent and (for the first time in Ontario) one seat. Taking into account a voter turnout of 58 per cent (up from 51 per cent in 2014), it is evident that only about a quarter of the electorate backed Ford Nation.

But Ford says he has a mandate to implement his policies, swiftly.  What are they?  He will probably begin by breaking the strike of teaching assistants at York University, CUPE Local 3903, and then repeal Bill 148, the labour law reforms that include a $15/hour minimum wage set for 2019.  Next will be 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.  On transportation, Ford pledged to take ownership of Toronto’s subway system, which could be the fast track to privatization — while bus service remains woefully inadequate.

Jobs?  The $6 billion Ford says he will find in “efficiencies” translates to firing thousands of teachers, health workers and others in the public sector.  Scores of schools and hospitals will be shuttered.  Cuts in services will be staggering and bloody, impacting most harshly on the impoverished.  Welfare rates will be rolled back and frozen.  Will hydro bills shrink by 12 per cent as promised?  Not likely as the private investors in Hydro One, sold off by Wynne’s Liberals, demand profit dividends.  Most workers won’t miss the demise of the regressive cap-and-trade taxes, a license to pollute, but there is no climate justice plan in its stead.  Hostile to indigenous people’s needs, Ford boasted he’d personally drive the bulldozer to exploit rapidly the Ring of Fire resources in Northern Ontario, with or without local consent.

On education, the Tories promised to repeal the new sex-ed curriculum but earmarked no new funds to repair crumbling school infrastructure.

Surprisingly, Ford never presented a fully costed platform. Economists estimate that the changes he promised, including tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, will create a $20 billion budget hole.  The shortfall is sure to come out of the hide of the working class.

Many workers who voted for Ford expect him to put money in their pocket and deliver $1 beer.  Imagine the disillusionment, indeed the raw anger, that will be felt when they realize they’re less well off.

As Karl Marx observed over 150 years ago, “The point is not to interpret the world, it is to change it.”  Today, the task is not to wait for unfocussed anger at Ford to swell; it is to fan the flames of discontent, build a broad, democratic, united front against capitalist austerity. It is to provide leadership in the struggle for a Workers’ Agenda.  The municipal elections in October offer an opportunity for the left to unite and confront the Ford agenda with a socialist platform. In any case, the road to effective action at all levels will entail replacing the leaders of the mainstream workers’ organizations with radical grassroots activists.

The class war is escalating.  There is no denying it.  The point is to wage it and to win it through mass protests, up to and including sectoral and general strikes with the aim of replacing the Ford regime with a Workers’ Government.

On the 107th Anniversary of IWD For Feminism and Socialism!

A women’s conference of the Socialist International in Copenhagen in 1910 launched International Women’s Day globally in 1911.  Trotskyist parties, including the predecessor organization of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste in the Canadian state, re-launched the modern IWD in Canada forty years ago, in 1978.

We did this for good reason.  Women’s oppression is rooted in the capitalist system.  As with heterosexism, racism, environmental destruction and war, capitalism profits from discrimination, dispossession and wasteful plunder of natural resources.

We march for bread… and for roses too!  We do so in the face of escalating attacks on basic human needs – a vicious austerity drive linked to an unstable, unequal and unsustainable economy.

Establishment claims that women have ‘achieved equality’ are nothing but a sick joke.

• On average, women are paid 18 per cent less than men – $8000/year less than males.

• 27 per cent of employed women work fewer than 30 hours per week, more than double the 12 per cent of men who work part-time.  7 out of 10 part-time workers are female.

• Low paid women increasingly hold more than one job to survive.  56 per cent of multiple job holders are women.

• Aboriginal women and girls suffer shameful economic and social conditions.  They are systemic victims of racism, inequality, physical assault, disappearance and murder.

• Most women still bear the double burden of doing most of the domestic labour, in addition to work outside the home.

While trillions of dollars are wasted globally on corporate bail-outs and militarism, women and girls are denied adequate education, economic opportunities, clean water, health care, reproductive choice and personal security.  From Palestine to Haiti, from Libya and Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to Colombia, women and children are disproportionately the casualties of wars and military occupation in which Ottawa is directly involved or complicit.  Millions of women and men have demonstrated against the Trump agenda which threatens to increase sexism, racism, homophobia and exploitation on all levels.

The #MeToo and It’s Time! movements have shaken the world.

To transform society our demands must be clear:

• No money for war.  Imperialist hands off Ukraine, Syria and Venezuela.

• End all subsidies to Capital.  Tax big business and the rich. Fund health care, education and social services. Provide universal, free, quality child care.

• Enforce equal pay and equal access to good jobs. No two-tier wages/benefits.

• Restore funding to women’s social justice organizations, emergency shelters and legal aid.

• Build quality social housing.

• Raise E.I. rates and ensure real access for part-time workers.

• Legislate an $18/hour minimum wage.  End precarious employment.

• Phase out the Alberta Tar Sands development.  No new pipelines.

• Conscript corporate profits to fund the conversion of industry, business, homes and schools to green energy power.

• For public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under workers’ and community control.

• For a Workers’ Government.  Fight for working class political independence and for socialist policies in labour unions and the NDP.

• Women’s Liberation through Socialist Revolution.  No socialism without Women’s Liberation.

If you agree, join Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste today.

Pour le féminisme et le socialisme!

À l’occasion du 107e  anniversaire de la Journée internationale des Femmes

Pour le féminisme et le socialisme!

Une conférence des femmes de l’Internationale Socialiste à Copenhague de 1910 lança la Journée Internationale des Femmes à travers le monde en 1911.En 1978, il y a de cela quarante ans, les partis trotskystes, dont l’organisation qui a précédé la Ligue pour l’action socialiste/Socialist action dans l’État canadien, relancèrent au Canada  la JIF qu’on connait aujourd’hui.

Nous l’avons fait pour de bonnes raisons. L’oppression des femmes est enracinée dans le système capitaliste. Comme il le fait avec l’hétérosexisme, le racisme, la destruction de l’environnement et la guerre, le capitalisme tire profit de la discrimination, de la dépossession et du gaspillage des ressources naturelles.

Nous manifestons pour du pain… Mais aussi pour des roses! Nous le faisons face à l’escalade des attaques contre les besoins humains fondamentaux – une tendance vicieuse à l’austérité liée à une économie instable, inégale et insoutenable.

Les affirmations du pouvoir en place qui prétendent que les femmes ont atteint l’égalité ne sont qu’une plaisanterie de très mauvais goût.

  • En moyenne, les femmes touchent 18% de moins que les hommes, soit 8 000 $ de moins.
  • 27% des femmes employées travaillent moins de 30 heures par semaine, soit plus du double des 12% d’hommes qui travaillent à temps partiel. 7 emplois à temps partiel sur 10 sont occupés par des femmes.
  • De plus en plus de femmes à faible revenu multiplient les emplois pour survivre. 56 % des détenteurs d’emplois multiples sont des femmes.
  • Les femmes et les jeunes filles autochtones souffrent de conditions économiques et sociales honteuses. Elles sont les victimes systémiques du racisme, de l’inégalité, de l’agression physique, de la disparition et du meurtre.
  • La plupart des femmes portent encore le double fardeau du travail domestique et du travail à l’extérieur de la maison.

Alors que des milliards de dollars sont gaspillés à l’échelle mondiale pour le renflouement des coffres des entreprises et les dépenses militaires, les femmes et les jeunes filles se voient refuser l’accès à  l’éducation, aux opportunités économiques, à l’eau potable, aux soins de santé, le choix en matière de reproduction et la sécurité personnelle. De la Palestine à Haïti, de la Libye ,l’Irak, la Syrie et l’Afghanistan à la Colombie, un nombre disproportionné de femmes et d’ enfants est victime de guerres et d’occupation militaire dans lesquelles Ottawa est directement impliqué ou en est complice. Des millions de femmes et d’hommes ont manifesté contre le programme de Trump qui menace d’accroître le sexisme, le racisme, l’homophobie et l’exploitation à tous les niveaux.

Les mouvements #MeToo et It’s time! ont ébranlé le monde.

Pour transformer la société, nos revendications doivent être claires: pas d’argent pour la guerre. Impérialisme hors d’Ukraine et de Syrie. Fin de toute subvention au capital. Taxer les grandes entreprises et les riches. Financer les soins de santé, l’éducation et les services sociaux. Offrir un service de garde d’enfants universel, gratuit et de qualité. Faire respecter l’égalité des salaires et l’égalité d’accès à de bons emplois. Pas de salaires / avantages deux poids deux mesures. Rétablir le financement des organisations de justice sociale pour les femmes, des refuges d’urgence et de l’aide juridique. Construire des logements sociaux de qualité. Augmenter l’assurance emploi et en garantir l’accès réel aux travailleurs à temps partiel. Légiférer un salaire minimum de 18 $ / heure. En finir avec la précarité d’emploi.

Élimination progressive des sables bitumineux de l’Alberta. Saisir les profits des entreprises pour financer la conversion de l’industrie, des affaires, des maisons et des écoles à énergie verte.

Pour la propriété publique des hautes sphères de l’économie sous le contrôle des travailleurs et de la communauté. Pour un gouvernement des travailleurs. Lutter pour l’indépendance politique de la classe ouvrière et pour des politiques socialistes dans les syndicats et le NPD.

La libération des femmes à travers la révolution socialiste. Pas de socialisme sans libération des femmes.

Si vous êtes d’accord, rejoignez la Ligue pour l’action socialiste /Socialist Action aujourd’hui. http://www.socialistaction.ca .

Appelez le: 514 737-7645.

Courriel : socialistactioncanada@gmail.com ou rmahoo3@gmail.com

Solidarity with Kurdish Workers’ uprising

Socialist Action stands firmly in solidarity with Kurdistan workers who are demonstrating en masse for payment of long-delayed wages, for freedom of political prisoners, for an end to vicious repression, and for dissolution of the corrupt Kurdistan Regional Government.

In recent days, tens of thousands of people in Sulaimaniyah and Halabja provinces of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq filled the streets to demand the dissolution of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) due to 26 years reckless, corrupt, and authoritarian practices. KRG security forces responded to the protests by arresting demonstrators and journalists, seizing TV stations, including the independently-owned NRT, and firing into the crowds of unarmed protestors with heavy weapons supplied to KRG forces by the Global Coalition Against Daesh.  The Canadian state is a participant in the GCAD.  The number of reported deaths has reached 20, and injuries at least 70.  Those numbers will rise as the massacre of demonstrators continues. The use of violence against innocent civilians is a grave violation of human rights.  It is incumbent on Ottawa and its Coalition partners in Iraq to take immediate action to prevent additional injuries and deaths. The dominant parties in the KRG, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), have ruled the Kurdistan Region as a private fiefdom for 26 years. Since 2003, the United States has supplied the militias commanded by these two parties with weapons, training, and financial support. The Canadian Ministry of Defense and the Liberal government looked the other way as partisan militias shuttered the Region’s democratic institutions and party elites enriched themselves — while failing to provide citizens with basic services like water and electricity. The KDP and the PUK squandered the Region’s budget through their corruption and mismanagement, and failed to pay the salaries of 1.4 million public service workers and retirees –over 75% of the KRG’s population– causing deep and widespread poverty. Journalists and activists who expressed dissatisfaction with the reckless abuses of power, were harassed, kidnapped, tortured, and killed. The ruling parties relied on external support to sustain their “legitimacy”.

As a result, Canada is directly responsible for the corruption, the private accumulation of power, wealth, and weapons which they now use against their own people.

We call on the Government of Canada to demand that the KDP and PUK:

  1. Immediately cease attacks on civilians;
  2. End military operations in the cities of the Kurdistan Region;
  3. Release political prisoners and detainees;
  4. Re-open the NRT TV station in Sulaimaniyah.

We urge the organizations of the working class across the Canadian state to demonstrate solidarity with the mass protests and just demands of our sisters and brothers in Kurdistan.

Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste

Photo Credits: Reuters/Stringer