Category Archives: Uncategorized

NDPers petition to remove Ontario Leader Horwath

Andrea-Horwath-photoMore and more New Democratic Party activists are signing a petition initiated by the NDP Socialist Caucus to demand that Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath resign.
 
Horwath waged the worst NDP campaign since Bob Rae attempted to defend his infamous Social Contract in 1995. She had no mandate to veer to the right of the Liberal Party in a vain attempt to appeal to Conservative supporters and the business class. She had no mandate to abandon the fight for social justice in favour of a crass appeal to consumerism.
 
The NDP platform emphasized “making life more affordable” by removing the HST from electricity bills, reducing car insurance rates by 15%, opening up a few more child care spaces, shortening hospital wait times, and offering a mere $1 increase in the hourly minimum wage. At the same time, Horwath pledged to continue the practice of bribing big private corporations to create jobs – without demanding any public ownership or democratic control of state investment.
 
Horwath projected a small increase in corporate taxation, but no plan to conscript the hidden, un-taxed billions of dollars – what a former head of the Bank of Canada calls ‘dead Capital’. That means the NDP proposed no way to fund a serious attack on poverty, on homelessness, or to end the deepening crises in public transit, education and health care.
 
Horwath and her strategists said nothing about phasing out nuclear power plants, stopping Line 9, satisfying the just claims of indigenous peoples, curtailing state surveillance, and terminating police repression of the kind that was unleashed during the G-20 Summit in Toronto. There was not even a hint that the problems faced today by the vast majority of Ontarions are rooted in the decaying and increasingly destructive capitalist system.
 
The ONDP Leader campaigned on ‘integrity’. But she ignored a party convention decision to be tougher on the Ontario Liberal budget of 2012/13. On her watch, party conventions provide less and less time for policy debate. And Horwath’s Election Planning Committee undemocratically prevents leftists from being NDP candidates.
 
As big business pressure mounts on the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne to reduce the provincial deficit by cutting public services and jobs, the NDP is hamstrung by its regressive election platform, epitomized by its gravely wounded Leader. The clear choice now is for New Democrats, labour unionists, feminists, LGBTQ folks, environmentalists, socialists and social justice advocates to take the NDP away from the latter-day Blairites, and re-direct the party to lead the battle against capitalist austerity, and for socialist solutions to the mounting problems we face.
 
That course starts with the demand that Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath resign immediately. It is time for a full review of the party’s leadership and political direction, leading up to its November 14-16 convention in Toronto.
 
But how do we make that happen? It’s simple. A full review is triggered by a vote of non-confidence in the leader. A confidence vote occurs at every party convention. If even 35% of the delegates vote for a leadership review (that is, if less than 65% vote to support the current leader), a leadership race will begin.
 
It is clear that such a vote would open up a period of intense discussion about the future of the NDP.
 
So, what should socialists and labour activists do?
 
This is where bold initiative is needed – to galvanize the widespread discontent in the party and its voter base by posing a concrete course of action: Demand that Andrea resign, and insist that a full review of the political direction of the party take place, starting now.
 
To sign the petition, follow the link here.

A manifesto: Feminism is ‘pro-life’

By SANDRA EZQUERRA

Nov.-2013-Barcelona-582x297

— BARCELONA — The debate in political circles and in the media in recent decades around the question of abortion has been accompanied by a growing monopoly ownership of the defense of the right to life by the Right, in a way that skillfully counter-poses it to the feminist demand of the right to choose.

Although we as feminists have defended ourselves against these Sibylline accusations of egoism and/or infanticide, coming from the propaganda machine of the Catholic Church and its secular followers, we should recognize that our attempts at questioning the defense of life as the exclusive instrument of the Right have so far produced very few results. As “anti-choice” as they may be, the anti-choice activists are known by everyone as “pro-life,” and as pro-life as it may be, the feminist movement is still identified as “pro-abortion.”

However, apart from its calculated polarization, this logic is wrong. Feminism defends life. And it always has done. And that is why at a time when the paragons of traditional morality come out of their burrows to attack once again freedom and the right to decide, in a context where the cuts and the caverns combine to resurrect the vision of women as submissive and full of abnegation, it is more than ever necessary from a strategic perspective to assert feminism as being profoundly pro-life and to get rid of the semantic corset that is being imposed on us from outside.

A feminist pro-life manifesto does not only strengthen the demand for women’s freedom and autonomy as key elements of women’s struggle: it also allows us, at a time when the Right is back on the offensive, criminalizing us and robbing us of our rights, to assert and substantiate our re-appropriation of life as emancipatory path and guiding principle. Here is a first draft:

A question of rights…

1) Feminism defends the right of women to terminate their pregnancies in a safe manner. As the World Health Organization stresses, the prohibition of abortion only serves to increase maternal mortality; today, on a world scale, 47,000 women die each year because they terminate their pregnancy in a clandestine way. Thirteen percent of maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortions, and the majority of cases occur in countries with restrictive legislation on abortion.

The number of voluntary terminations of pregnancy does not diminish when legislation is harsh; on the other hand, the number of dangerous abortions increases. It is out of respect for the memory of all those women who, while trying to exercise their right not to have a child, have found themselves in unsanitary situations, have risked their lives or indeed died, that feminism is pro-life.

2) According to the UN, the term “clandestine and unsafe abortion” refers not only to risks to the health and the lives of women, but also to the negation of their right to information, to life and to freedom. Thus, this type of abortion does not just represent a health problem; it is first and foremost a question of human, social, and economic rights.

The many obstacles that prevent women from accessing abortion in a free and equal way—for example, the fact of having the means necessary to travel and/or pay for a discreet private clinic, their age, place of residence, country of origin or administrative position—are not only patently hypocritical, they are also discriminatory. If all of these barriers still exist in the present legislation of the Spanish state concerning abortion, they will increase if the Popular Party carries out its threat to reform that legislation. It is because it is determined to eliminate these barriers that feminism is pro-life.

3) The main factors that promote the reduction of unwanted pregnancies and abortions among young women are the increased use of contraceptives, better access to information and better sexual and relationship education: all that has been demanded for years by the feminist movement.

In spite of the fact that this same Right that calls us “anti- life” is opposed to our young people having safe, free, and intelligent sexual relations, it is necessary and urgent to create and transmit a model of sexuality that is rewarding, mature, and safe. We will not succeed in doing that by hypocritically advocating abstinence or by silence, but rather by ensuring that young people’s choices are increasingly based on information, freedom, and mutual respect. It is by its firm defense of the prevention of unwanted pregnancies—and therefore, of abortions—on the basis of the transmission of values of equality and autonomy that feminism is pro-life.

… for everyone, men and women!

4) In his delusional crusade against women’s right to choose, the minister Gallardón threatens to make the present legislation even more restrictive than it was in 1985, and he proposes suppressing the criterion of fetus malformation as a reason for abortion. He does so with the argument that all those people who have been born or are “about to be born” with any kind of disability must have the same rights as other citizens.

As feminists, we can already wonder how the right-wing forces at the head of and in the shadow of the government have the impudence to proclaim themselves heroic saviors of a section of society to which they deny any kind of dignified existence through their measures of austerity and privatization in the services, programs and other forms of support to people with limited autonomy.

Is the Popular Party not rather seeking to create a situation where it is families, and women in particular, who take sole responsibility for those that the PP forces to be born, but in whom it loses interest from the very first minute of their lives?

The same families and the same women that they drive into poverty because of their fraudulent rescue of the banks and their destruction of the Welfare State?

It is by its firm denunciation of this imposture, which pretends to defend social rights from Monday to Thursday while destroying them by their decrees just before the weekend, that feminism asserts itself, today more than ever, as pro-life.

5) The Popular Party not only forces women to become mothers against their will, it also prevents many other women, who want to be mothers and feel prepared for it, to actually become mothers. It does this through the defense of forced sterilization of people with psychic disabilities, despite the opposition of social organizations and the recommendations of the UN. It does so by opposing before the Constitutional Tribunal marriage between people of the same sex, because it considers that only the heterosexual family is the “natural” framework for raising children.

And it does so by preventing women living alone and lesbians from having access to public services of medically assisted reproduction in order to have a child without the direct intervention of a man.

The government thus divides women into “good” and “bad” mothers, good and bad women, and it decides who can start a family and who cannot. Gallardón says that motherhood makes women really women, but he forgets to make it clear (such forgetfulness!) that he is only talking about those women who have an adequate sexual orientation, who want to form the correct type of family (nuclear, heterosexual, etc…), and who do not have any kind of mental disability.

Only the God of Rouco Varela (Archbishop of Madrid and president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference) knows what might happen if we allow children to be brought up among “queers” and “dykes” or if we guarantee that persons with physical handicaps will have full autonomy in decisions concerning their bodies and their sexuality. It is, finally, in its determination to defend the rights and freedoms of all people, and to do so from Monday to Sunday, that feminism is pro-life.

A more just and a freer society

Feminism is pro-life because its raison d’être is to build a more just and a freer society, one which places welfare and common good at the centre of everything; a society which does not condemn its poorest, youngest and most vulnerable women to bleed to death because of a clandestine abortion; a society which does not aspire to domesticate people’s bodies and their lives and to force them into moralistic little pigeon-holes; a society that educates its young people in principles of reason, responsibility and truth, so that their actions will not have negative impacts on themselves or on other people; a society that integrates, cares for and genuinely respects people with functional diversity: that accepts freedom for all human beings to make decisions concerning their feelings and their desires and that does not say one thing and are do another.

Nevertheless, it is the prohibitive and anti-choice discourse that has the advantage today. We do not have much time: new attacks are being prepared. Let us take to the streets, let us take back possession of what is ours and go on the offensive. Feminism, today and always, is pro-life.

Sandra Ezquerra is currently a sociology professor at the Universitat de Vic (Barcelona). She is also an active feminist participant in the !5-M movement of Barcelona. Photo: Barcelona anti-austerity protest on Oct. 15, 2011 / Emilio Morenatti.

Queer Rights Set Bar Higher – even in Baseball

by John Wilson
The recent furor over the Toronto Blue Jays baseball player Yunel Escobar’s anti-gay slur has subsided, but it demonstrates a number of things. (Escobar played through a game with the words “Tu Ere(sic) Maricon –“you’re a faggot” — outlined in his undereye shadowing. This was caught on camera by a fan and went viral.) Blue Jays honchos responded with a three day suspension and an obviously insincere apology by Escobar. The fact that a penalty was imposed at all tends to show that there is increased sensitivity even in the corporate media to homophobia. There were fewer than the expected phony excuses offered for Escobar’s conduct, and plenty of outrage at the slap-on-the-wrist penalty. (His financial penalty was less than $100,000 out of a multi-million dollar salary!)
The increased awareness of homophobia in Ontario has several sources. At its heart is the determined struggle by queer rights activists and their allies that resulted recently in victory on two major issues. The passage of “Toby’s Law” mandates inclusion in the Ontario Human Rights Act of gender identity and gender expression. The Accepting Schools Act addresses the issue of anti-gay bullying, specifying that students in Catholic schools have the right to form Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and to name them whatever they wish. (see Socialist Action, August 2011) Both these victories, and the more recent one of Quebec students on the tuition hikes issue, show that when you fight uncompromisingly for what you want you can win. That’s not guaranteed of course. What is guaranteed is that if you don’t fight, you lose.
Another victory is that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) marched in the 2012 Toronto Pride parade with a sizeable contingent. But the fight for free speech at Pride will continue. Pro-zionists at city hall recently pushed through a motion via the (mayor’s) executive committee instructing city staff to amend the city’s anti-discrimination policy to prohibit the phrase “Israeli apartheid”, ignoring advice that such a manoevre would not survive a legal challenge.
On the gay marriage front, the latest figures from Statistics Canada show the number of same-sex marriages rose 181% between 2006 and 2011, although overall not a large number. Of course these numbers are voluntarily provided and many folks do not trust any government agency to maintain their privacy, so the data should be taken with a large grain of salt. Commentators from the queer community made the point that large numbers of long term couples have not gone the marriage route. Nonetheless, it does demonstrate that there’s a demand. This is somewhat ironic considering that the institution of marriage is declining rapidly in most imperialist countries.