Labour should Probe G20 crimes, dispel anarchist delusions

On August 23, seventy-three of the 304 people facing charges at the Ontario Court of Justice in connection with the G20 summit protests had their cases either settled or dismissed. It appears that many of the other charges will be dropped, simply because the cops have no case – proving they never did have a legal basis for detaining more than 1000 people and stuffing them into wire cages for much of the weekend of June 26 and 27. The agenda of the police and their political overlords was to paralyze and criminalize dissent against the global corporate agenda. For that reason, socialists demand that all the charges be dropped, including against the 17 alleged ‘ringleaders’ of the vandalism that occurred on the fringes of the locked-down core of Toronto.

But there is much more to be said and done about this situation.

In the first place, a broad, independent, public enquiry is still needed. It should look into the decision to turn the city into an armed camp, into police actions that ranged from passively watching (and perhaps covertly instigating) property damage to sudden mass arrests, and most importantly, look into the harmful G20 agenda itself.

The labour movement is the social force that can and should conduct such an open enquiry. It would be foolish to rely on Ottawa, Queen’s Park or the police to investigate themselves and tell the truth. At least unions can be held accountable to their members, who constitute a large section of the working class, the progressive majority class in society.

A labour probe into G20 crimes against civil liberties, against working people and the global environment, will not only have the power to put the spotlight on the most important issues; it will dispel the delusions of anarchist sympathizers. Spokespersons for the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, the body that endorsed the opportunist ‘diversity of tactics’ that shielded the vandals of the Black Bloc, told a public meeting of 160 on August 17 that “we showed we could shut down the city”. “The resistence is now stronger than ever” said the TCMN’s Syed Hussan.

The truth is that ‘the resistence’ is now burdened with enormously debilitating legal expenses. Opposition to the global capitalist agenda has largely been diverted into a defence of liberal democracy. And the corporate elite is proceeding with attacks on working people and the environment at full speed. ‘Propaganda of the deed’ by a self-appointed group of privileged, mostly white male youths did not electrify the masses into anti-capitalist action. It did temporarily hike the popularity of the police, and it provided an apparent, albeit false, justification for Stephen Harper’s obscene expenditure of over $1.5 billion for ‘security’, preparing the ground for more repressive measures to come.

The Tamil community’s non-violent occupation of a downtown Toronto expressway in May 2009, and the year-long miners’ strike at Vale S.A. in Sudbury, did more to disrupt the capitalist economy than the actions of the anarcho-vanguardist Black Bloc could ever do.

The real power to shut down the city was demonstrated on October 25, 1996. That’s when a general strike by unions protesting the Mike Harris Ontario Conservative government kept a million workers at home or on picket lines, and mobilized over a quarter million people who marched and swarmed the Legislature at Queen’s Park the next day. (Even then, black-clad youths tried unsuccessfully to split off a segment of the huge protest march.)

The second, equally important task facing the workers’ movement today is to re-focus and step up the fight against the bosses’ austerity drive. A good place to start is the battle against Ontario Liberal Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s attempt to impose a two-year wage freeze on over a million public service workers. Punitive legislation should be met with mass job action. But we have yet to see any resolve from the labour leadership to move in that direction.

The widely read leftist monthly magazine Canadian Dimension summarized the post-G20 situation aptly with these words in its September-October 2010 editorial:

“While the Black Bloc eschews mass organization and accountability, organized labour is abdicating any leadership role in political struggle. That will change only by building mass organizations inside and outside the unions that can exert pressure on them and provide ideological leadership.”

We agree. -Barry Weisleder

CPC’s ‘Peoples Recovery Plan’ is a dead end

The Communist Party of Canada distributed a tabloid during and after the G20 Summit protests titled “United to demand a People’s Recovery”. It bears close scrutiny.

The question arises, if the CPC is a radical workers’ party, and given that working people constitute the vast majority of society, why doesn’t it propose a “Workers” Recovery? The answer is simple: The CPC advocates a multi-class strategy of alliance with the liberal or ‘patriotic’ Canadian bourgeoisie. While this is completely contrary to socialism, which strives for independent working class political action against the capitalist rulers and their system, it is an old story for this party that broke with revolutionary politics over 80 years ago.

To dispel any doubt about our claim, the CPC literature makes clear its embrace of bourgeois liberal values. It calls for a “foreign policy based on peace and disarmament”, even though this is impossible short of the socialist transformation of society, and only fosters illusions in the present state.

Of course, the workers’ movement can win temporary reforms, even a reduction in arms expenditures, or a withdrawal from an imperialist war of occupation (like the current one in Afghanistan). But a “foreign policy based on peace and disarmament” can occur only when the working class takes control of the economy and state, and re-organizes society for production to meet human needs rather than serve private profit. When capitalism has been eradicated on a world scale, and only then, will we have genuine peace and disarmament.

The CPC statement goes on to call for a “People’s Coalition of labour and democratic forces which can press for even more substantial social and economic transformation”. This signals the CPC commitment to a government coalition with bourgeois Liberals, Greens, so-called Red Tories, and other representatives of the putative ‘progressive’ wing of the Canadian business class. Indeed, the CPC endorsed the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition (backed by the bourgeois nationalist Parti Quebecois) in the winter of 2008-2009, pining only to be a part of it.

Such a coalition would be a death trap for the working class movement. It would undermine the independence of the unions and the labour-based New Democratic Party, subordinating the entire workers’ movement to a section of the Canadian capitalist class. It would lead to a huge defeat, not to any kind of progressive transformation of society.

Workers have seen such treacherous coalitions operate in Chile in 1973, and more recently in France and Italy. The CPs in those countries participated in politically disarming the working class. They enabled Capital to re-organize its forces and to impose its reactionary agenda against working people. The CPC has been wedded to this rotten ‘strategy’ since the 1940s, which included its “no strike pledge” in Canada during WW2. That is why it declined from a mass party to the tiny, aged, dogmatic, reformist sect it is today.

The Stalinist movement worldwide has the blood of millions of communists on its hands. It betrayed scores of real revolutions (from Spain in the 1930s, Greece in the 1940s, Indonesia in the 1960s, to Chile in the 1970s). It was an obstacle to the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and today it betrays the Palestinian people by advocating the completely discredited “two-state solution”, thus defending the continued existence of the apartheid Zionist state of Israel.

The CPC has never broken with Stalinism, the theory and practice of the criminal mis-leadership of the former degenerated workers’ state in Russia. The CPC is still stuck in the rut of liberal ‘popular-frontism’, the distopia of ‘socialism in one country’, and the totalitarian nightmare of bureaucratic-centralism. (To learn more about these ideas, please visit: )

Why dredge up this sad past? As we know, those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. Remember the hit song tag line: We won’t be fooled again.

Socialist Action represents the revolutionary continuity of the first communists in Canada, from the period of the early 1920s, before the degeneration of the Comintern under Stalin, before the CPC expelled its revolutionary leaders Jack MacDonald and Maurice Spector. We advance a Transitional Programme, or Workers’ Agenda, consistent with the method of Lenin, Trotsky and the early, healthy years of the Communist International.

We invite serious activists to take the revolutionary path forward — the fight for socialism and working class independence from the parties of Capital. -Barry Weisleder

Census ‘reform’ aims to disappear the poor

The federal Conservative government took much heat this summer for its decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census, and replace it with a voluntary survey. Hitherto, twenty per cent of the adult population was required to complete the long-form.

Statisticians agree, starting with Statistics Canada head Munir A. Sheikh who resigned on July 21 in protest, that a voluntary survey will result in less reliable data collection because it is less likely to be filled out by poor Canadians, immigrants and Aboriginal peoples.

And that suits the Tories just fine. If people are unaware of the extent of poverty, they may be less concerned about policies that fail to address the problem, or that make it worse.

The census ‘reform’ has nothing to do with “protecting privacy”, contrary to what Industry Minister Tony Clement claims. It has everything to do with implementing the G20 austerity agenda. For the ideologically-driven Stephen Harper it is also an extension of the 1990s campaign of the ultra-right wing Fraser Institute which sought to discredit the way StatsCan calculates poverty, arguing that children are not poor as long as they have food and shelter, even if they lack books, toys and school supplies.

This latest gambit to disappear the poor is marketed by the Tories as a way to reduce the heavy hand of the state — even though no one has ever gone to jail for refusing to fill out the long census. The ruse of promoting freedom from intrusion and punishment is merely a cover for enforcing economic repression and the tyranny of the market. The discreet charms of late capitalism seem to require such camouflage. -Barry Weisleder

Cancel F-35 jet fighters! Money for human needs, not war

In a summer of abnormally high temperatures, a season hot with federal scandals (the Census form dispute, G20 policing issues, the ongoing Afghan prisoner torture cover-up) a big controversy surrounds the Harper government’s plan to purchase 65 new F-35 jet fighters from Lockheed Martin. Buying these “flying cadillacs” would make the acquisition of the CF-18 fighter jets by the Trudeau government, and the EH-101 helicopter procurement by Brian Mulroney (subsequently reversed by Jean Chretien), look prudent by comparison – though all are a horrendous waste.

The price tag for the F-35s is $9 billion, plus $7 billion in maintenance over a 20 year period – without competing bids. That happens to be four times what the government is spending in its infrastructure stimulus fund. That fund was designed to cushion the blows of the economic crash and the ongoing global recession. Now federal spending is being curbed in compliance with the G20 Summit prescription. It’s called ‘recovery through austerity’. (Kind of reminiscent of “Arbeit macht frei”, minus the ‘arbeit’.)

For Canada’s rulers and their military apparatus the new jets are integral to playing a role in ongoing foreign wars of intervention. What about the present war in Afghanistan? Its economic price tag, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report, will reach up to $18.1 billion by 2011 — excluding the cost of diplomatic efforts, danger pay for soldiers, and military equipment bought under accelerated procurement. This places the financial cost to Canadian taxpayers for the ‘mission’ extension past February 2009 at up to $6.8 billion. The $10 billion Ottawa expends every year on the military could otherwise make post-secondary education free and it could eradicate student debt. It could house the homeless, eliminate child poverty, and provide free public transit in the largest urban areas. Given a choice, what do you think most people would prefer?

In the eight years the Canadian state has been part of the imperialist occupation of the mineral-rich country, home to a potential gas pipeline route, over 27,000 Canadians have been deployed, and 151 have died. This is the most of any Canadian intervention since the Korean War, the highest in Afghanistan for foreign troops, proportionately greater than U.S. and U.K. fatalities there. More than 400 have been injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mines, rocket attacks and direct combat. At least 1000 have suffered severe psychological trauma.

More than one in five Canadian soldiers and police officers who spend time in Afghanistan leave the force with psychiatric problems, a number that has rapidly risen in the last 24 months.

And this is to say nothing about the devastation caused to Afghanistan and its people. Nearly eight thousand Afghan civilians have died from insurgent and foreign military action, 50 to 60 per cent killed directly by NATO forces. In addition, up to 20,000 Afghan civilians died as a consequence of displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, crime and lawlessness resulting from the war.

Presently, Canadian Forces are so stretched that many of its soldiers have done four and five tours of duty in Kandahar. Canadian Generals are now begging for a one-year hiatus to follow the 2011 announced withdrawal date. But the hiatus will not be forthcoming because the ruling Conservatives, pushed by the opposition Liberal Party, are looking for excuses to extend the ‘mission’. What is the alternative? It is for the anti-war movement to get back into the streets to force the government to stick to the 2011 evacuation plan, if not exit sooner, and immediately cancel the purchase of the F-35 jet fighters. -Barry Weisleder

Smash the G20 agenda! Demand Labour enquiry into police repression

The mass movement for an independent, full-spectrum, public enquiry into G20 Summit policing continues. About 3,000 rallied at Queen’s Park on Saturday, July 10, then they marched and held a rally beside the CBC building, right across from the Metro Convention Centre, scene of the G20 elite gabfest two weeks earlier. On July 17 up to a thousand gathered again in front of the Ontario Legislature. Many blew bubbles and otherwise mocked some of the behaviour that prompted police to arrest 1070 people.

Proof of the still-mounting public pressure for government and police accountability, and the dropping of all charges, are the four enquiries reluctantly launched. Unfortunately, none of them is full, open and independent. The Toronto Police Services Board, which includes the police chief alongside appointed city councillors and civilians, will operate within narrow and establishment-controlled confines. (Note: Toronto City Council voted unanimously on July 7 to “commend the outstanding work” of Chief Bill Blair and his force. Rather than stand up against this outrage, cowardly social democratic councillors abstained or were absent.) The Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin promises an enquiry, but only into the additional police powers secretly granted by the Ontario Liberal Cabinet prior to the G20 Summit. The Toronto Police and Ontario Provincial Police are conducting their own investigations — need we say more? And Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty have both rejected calls for a public inquiry.

Our view is that the labour organizations that endorsed the “July 10 Day of Action for Civil Liberties”, including the Canadian Labour Congress, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Steelworkers’ Toronto Area Council, and the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, should initiate a truly full, open and independent enquiry. It should be designed to get to the bottom of the wasteful expenditures on ‘security’ and the arbitrary and excessive use of force by police, as well as to expose the anti-human, eco-cidal agenda of the G20 political and corporate elites.

The crowd that coursed through Toronto’s downtown on July 10, under brilliant sunshine, was lively, boisterous – and yearning for truth and accountability. Thousands chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!”, “This is what democracy looks like”, “No more police over-time. No more police state”, “No justice, no peace”, and “Wasted, wasted. One billion dollars”.

Union flags and banners bobbed in the demonstration amongst anti-war, community and socialist banners. Ten individuals carried giant white letters to spell out “G20 ENQUIRY”. Huge walking puppets caricatured Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Horns, drums, and megaphones kept up a steady cadence of slogans. Marchers seemed to notice the intense heat only when pausing. One pause lasted fifteen minutes or more as hundreds of protesters sat down at the intersection of Queen and Spadina. There, on June 27, police kettled 300 innocent people during a two-hour driving rainstorm, arresting scores of them — just to show who’s boss.

Notwithstanding bitter recollections of police-state tactics, let’s not forget the global capitalist agenda that is the reason for all the G20-related deceit and repression. The richest countries’ bosses promised to cut their budgetary deficits in half by 2013, and to cap their cumulative debt as a proportion of GDP by 2016. If attempted, without taxing big corporations and the super-rich, such actions would choke off jobs, services and investment in production. They would plunge economies into crisis, and billions into misery – which is to say nothing of the consequences of worsening pollution, climate change, and ongoing brutal wars of occupation. The only way for humanity to change course, to avoid deeper catastrophes, is for the working class, in each country, to expropriate industry and plan the economy democratically, and ecologically. Instead of cutting vital services, increasing the age of retirement, slashing pensions, freezing wages, reducing supports for farmers, and hiking sales taxes, socialists say: Tax big business and the rich. Nationalize the banks. Rescind the war budget.

Socialist Action participated in all the pre- and post-summit protests, and once again had a prominent presence at Queen’s Park on July 10 and 17. A colourful literature display attracted a steady stream of interest. Many people signed up to receive more information. SA members greeted rally participants with leaflets, newspapers and buttons.

Dozens joined the SA contingent during the two-hour walk-a-thon on July 10. SA youths and supporters carried their own handmade signs that read: Resign Chief BLiar! For a FULL, independent, public enquiry! Repeal the Public Works Protection Act! Smash G20 agenda of Social Cuts! Money for Jobs and Education, not war and police repression! Fight for Socialism!

The NDP Socialist Caucus marched too with its banner held high. Supporters distributed copies of the SC tabloid “Turn Left”. Its headline proclaims “Time to put Capitalism on trial”. What a contrast to the many NDP politicians and labour leaders who wrung their hands over petty property damage for a fortnight, and now merely echo the cry for civil liberties and police accountability. Still, it is good that Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath backed the call for a full, open public enquiry at the July 10 gathering. Likewise, that federal New Democrats are pushing for the House of Commons committee on public safety and national security to hold public hearings on a wide range of issues.

What’s next?

Continue to build the mass movement for civil liberties. Challenge Labour and the NDP to fight the neo-liberal agenda of social cuts, privatization and environmental abuse, as well as state attacks on human rights. This struggle is far from over.
Alone, one cannot do very much. But united we can move mountains. Together we can win a world fit for humanity, in harmony with nature. -Barry Weisleder

Ligue pour L'Action Socialiste