Toronto van attack, toxic masculinity, and the Canadian forces

By Yves Engler

Progressive on-line commentary about the April 23 van attack in Toronto has focused on the influence of “toxic masculinity.” The analyses should be expanded to include the alleged perpetrator’s ties to a powerful patriarchal institution that is Canada’s biggest purveyor of violence.

Early reports suggest alleged mass murderer Alek Minassian may have targeted women and been motivated by sexism. Before carrying out his horrific attack he posted on Facebook about the “Incel Rebellion,” a community of “involuntarily celibate” men who hate women and praised misogynistic U.S. mass murderer Elliot Rodger.

Minassian reportedly wrote: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

It should surprise no one that alongside his call for an “Incel Rebellion” the misogynist Minassian cited his (short) military service. Last fall he joined the Canadian Forces (CF), which has 100,000 active members and 300,000 retired members. A 2015 investigation led by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps found a “culture of misogyny” in the CF “hostile to women and LGTBQ members.” While women now represent 15 per cent of military personnel, the Deschamps report concluded that “the overall perception is that a ‘boy’s club’ culture still prevails in the armed forces.”

Until 1979 women were excluded from the Royal Military College. Until 1989 women were excluded from combat roles in the CF. In 2000 the submarine service finally opened to women.

A 1992 Department of National Defence survey found that 26.2 per cent of female CF respondents were sexually harassed in the previous 12 months. Subsequent investigations have shown steady improvements, but 27.3 per cent of women in 2016 still reported having been victims of sexual assault at least once since joining the CF. The Deschamps review found that there is an undeniable problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the [Canadian Armed Forces].” In 2017 plaintiffs in five separate cities united to sue over sexual assault, harassment and gender-based discrimination in the CF.

When Nichola Goddard became the first female CF member to die in Afghanistan it came to light that she wrote her husband about sexual violence on the base. Goddard wrote about “the tension of living in a fortress where men outnumbered women 10 to one” and “there were six rapes in the camp last week, so we have to work out an escort at night.” But, the CF only admits to investigating five reports of sexual harassment or assault in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2010. Valerie Fortney, author of “Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard,“ said she “hit a brick wall” when seeking to investigate sexual harassment in Afghanistan.

Male veterans have repeatedly engaged in gender-based violence. Last year Lionel Desmond killed his wife, daughter, mother and himself while Robert Giblin stabbed andthrew his pregnant wife off a building before killing himself in 2015.

After the worst incident of patriarchal violence in Canadian history, members of the elite Airborne Regiment reportedly held a celebratory dinner to honour Marc Lepine. In 1989 Lepine massacred 14 women at the Université de Montréal while shouting, “you’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!”

Not only is the CF a patriarchal social force, it is the country’s greatest purveyor of violence. The Canadian military spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year promoting militarism and during the past quarter century it has fought wars of aggression in Libya, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, and Iraq (not to mention helping to overthrow an elected government in Haiti and engaging in gunboat diplomacy in a number of locations).

To a large extent the CF is the institutional embodiment of toxic masculinity, and therefore it’s not surprising that Minassian was drawn to it. His connection to an organization that receives over $20 billion a year in public funds while upholding patriarchy and promoting violence ought to be part of the discussion of this horrible act.

The Winnipeg General strike in the Context of the Bolshevik Revolution

The Winnipeg General Strike began on the 15th of May 1919 and ended on the 25th of June. During that time, the strike  Committee, set up by the unions, ran the city. It was the first worker run city in Canada, brief though it was. For 42 days, 6 weeks, the workers ran the City of Winnipeg and the bosses and politicians could do nothing about it.

A year and a half earlier on Nov 7 1917, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks led primarily by Lenin And  Trotsky, the workers had seized power in Petrograd establishing the very first workers state in history These two events were closely related

Both of  these events rose out of the massive imperialist convulsion pf blood and gore and disease and destruction known as World War I. The 4 long years of mud and blood and artillery fire and machine guns and rain and cold had been a hell none of the soldiers could have imagined.

Repeated, uncaring orders from aristocratic officers on both sides for hundreds of thousands of soldiers to go over the top into the teeth of merciless machine gun fire had resulted in slaughter and mountains of corpses with the maggots and rats they inevitably draw.

When these workers in uniform recoiled and refused to continue such insane and suicidal behaviour they were summarily court marshalled and shot dead.

This was brutal imperialist competition in its most basic and bloody form.

Working class Canadians had signed up en mass in a wave of enthusiasm for the flag waving, the parades, the chance to go overseas and do something exciting and heroic. Their drab lives in the forests, mines, factories and grain fields did little to hold them back.

Their introduction to the reality of modern war came quickly and roughly. These young Canadians adapted to it, and became among the toughest soldiers on the allied side. German officers would watch where Canadian troops were sent and send in reinforcements. Partly this was because of the grit shown by these kids from the Canadian wilderness and partly it was the greater willingness of British officers to send in the colonials to try to reduce the long casualty lists of dead and wounded being sent home to Britain.

But at least this was the war to end all wars, the war to make the world safe for democracy. Or at least that was what the ruling class said it was.

At the end of it all, demobilization was slow. Canadian troops were left in camps in England in mud and rain, often without pay and even short of food. No longer the naïve patriotic kids who volunteered, Canadian soldiers rioted repeatedly. There was talk of using Canadian troops to fight to red army in the Soviet Union. The mood among the men was against this. They were sick of war and wanted to go home. Many of them felt a strong sympathy with the new workers government in Russia.

A contingent was sent from Canada to Vladivostok on the east coast of the Soviet Union. They were sent through Victoria. During a march through the city to the ships, they mutinied. The mutiny was quelled and they sailed with the mutineers in irons. They got to Vladivostok, but never fired at shot at the Red Army. The Red Army won against the Aristocratic Russian generals and their foreign allied imperialist troops.

How had such a thing happened? Why were the workers ruling Russia? Such a thing had never happened before.

The overthrow of the Tsarist regime and then the Kerensky government was precipitated by the horror of the war. Bolsheviks, who had opposed the war from the outset, entered the army to be with the worker and peasant soldiers, share their fate and agitate against the war.

As the death toll skyrocketed and arrogant aristocratic officers treated the soldiers as valueless pawns the soldiers began to rebel. The bolsheviks were informing them of the uprisings in Petrograd and elsewhere. The soldiers began simply to shoot their officers and head back home. At home they overwhelmingly supported the workers and the revolution.

This was the revolution the imperialists including Canada’s ruling class feared and loathed. They saw bolshevism in every workers action, every workers meeting and every whisper of unionism.

Canadian workers, after the profound and sobering experience of the war were far less naïve as the war ground to an end. Their leaders knew about the revolution and many supported it. There was no communist party in Canada in 1919. It would be formed in a barn in Guelph Ontario in 1921. But there were class conscious leaders, socialists, anarchists and syndicalists, many of whom would later become members of the early Communist party. Labour conferences in Canada in this period overwhelmingly expressed solidarity with the new Soviet Union and passed resolutions demanding that The Canadian soldiers in Vladivostok be brought home.

Immediate Causes of the Strike

Soldiers returned home desiring jobs and a normal lifestyle again only to find factories shutting down, soaring unemployment rates, increasing bankruptcies and immigrants taking over the veterans’ former job. The cost of living was raised due to the inflation caused by World War I, making it hard for families to live above poverty.

Another component which caused the strike was the working conditions of many factories that upset the employees, thus pushing them to make the changes that would benefit them.

After three months of unproductive negotiations between the employers of the Winnipeg builders exchange and the union, worker frustration grew. The city council’s new proposal to the workers was unsatisfactory to the four departments, electrical workers took action and a strike was established. Waterworks and fire department employees joined a few days later.

Strikers were labelled as Bolsheviks who were attempting to undermine Canada. The city council viewed the strike as utterly unacceptable and thus dismissed the striking workers. This did not discourage the workers; instead, other civic unions joined the strike out of sympathy, which was an important feature of twentieth century social history.

On May 13, City Council gathered again to review and look over the proposed agreement issued by the strikers and their leaders. Once again, City Council did not accept the proposal without their own amendments, specifically the Fowler Amendment, which read that “all persons employed by the City should express their willingness to execute an agreement, undertaking that they will not either collectively or individually at any time go on strike but will resort to arbitration as a means of settlement of all grievances and differences which may not be capable of amicable settlement.”

This amendment incensed the civic employees further, and by Friday, May 24, an estimated total of 6,800 strikers from thirteen trades had joined the strike.

Organization

In Winnipeg, workers within the building and metal industries attempted to strengthen their bargaining ability by creating umbrella unions, the Building Trade Council and Metal Trade Council respectively, to encompass all metal and building unions. Although employers were willing to negotiate with each union separately, they refused to bargain with the Building and Metal Trade Councils, because the solidarity of the unions greatly strengthened the workers bargaining position

Restrictive labour policy in the 1900s meant that a union could be recognized voluntarily by employers, or through strike action, but in no other way. Workers from both industrial groupings therefore struck to gain union recognition and to compel recognition of their collective bargaining rights.

The Building and Metal Trade Councils appealed to the Trades and Labour Union, the central union body representing the interests of many of Winnipeg’s workers, for support in their endeavours. The Trades and Labour Union, in a spirit of solidarity, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a sympathetic strike in support of the Building and Metal Trade Councils.

Ernest Robinson, secretary of the Winnipeg Trade and Labour Union, issued a statement that “every organization but one has voted in favour of the general strike” and that “all public utilities will be tied-up in order to enforce the principle of collective bargaining”.By suspending all public utilities, the strikers hoped to shut down the city, effectively forcing the strikers’ demands to be met. The complete suspension of public utilities, however, would prove impossible. The Winnipeg police, for example, had voted in favour of striking but remained on duty at the request of the strike committee to prevent the city from being placed under martial law. Other exceptions would follow.

At 11:00 a.m. on Thursday May 15, 1919, virtually the entire working population of Winnipeg had gone on strike. About half of these workers were not even union members. Somewhere around 30,000 workers in the public and private sectors walked off their jobs. Even essential public employees such as firefighters went on strike, but returned midway through the strike with the approval of the Strike Committee.

Although relations with the police and City Council were tense, the strike was non-violent in its beginning stages until the confrontation on Bloody Saturday.

Sympathetic Strikes

General strikes broke out in other cities, in solidarity with the Winnipeg strikers and in part as protest against local conditions. Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Amherst (Nova Scotia) and several other cities were locations of these sympathy strikes. Thirteen sympathy strikes in 13 cities have been recorded, some nearly as big as the Winnipeg strike

When Winnipeg strike leaders were arrested in June, Toronto streetcar drivers went on strike.

Victoria, BC held a general strike in protest at the police repression on Bloody Saturday and to show local labour strength.

Opposition

The local newspapers, the Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Tribune, had lost the majority of their employees due to the strike and took a decidedly anti-strike stance. The New York Times front page proclaimed “Bolshevism Invades Canada.” The Winnipeg Free Press called the strikers “bohunks,” “aliens,” and “anarchists” and ran cartoons depicting radicals throwing bombs.

These anti-strike views greatly influenced the opinions of Winnipeg residents. However, the majority of the strikers were not revolutionary. The winnipeg strike and the huge symparht strike could not have ended up in a workers Canada. There was no centralized leadership like the bolsheviks in Russia which could tackle the problem f state power.

When certain unions refused to comply with various boss and City Council demands their members were dismissed and replaced without any second chances. In regards to this, the Federal government opposed the dismissal of the Winnipeg police force and afterwards refused to step in when the police force was dismissed by the city thus creating the workforce called the “specials”.

Most opposed to the strike was the state including three levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal. The opposition could have been more efficient if they coordinated their policies and deals with each other rather than gradually working into the agreement and not being the total opposition that they were labelled in the first place.

At a local level, politicians showed sympathy for the strikers making them neither a monolith nor unalterably an enemy. The federal government’s only direct interest in the general strike other than calls from the local authorities was keeping the railroads and post office running.

A counter-strike committee, the “Citizens’ Committee of One Thousand”, was created by Winnipeg’s elite, among whom were A. J. Andrews, James Coyne, Isaac Pitblado, and Travers Sweatman, all four of whom would later co-prosecute the sedition cases

The Committee falsely declared the strike to be a violent, revolutionary conspiracy by a small group of foreigners also known as “alien scum”. On June 9, at the behest of the Committee, the City of Winnipeg Police Commission dismissed almost the entire city police force for refusing to sign a pledge promising to neither belong to a union nor participate in a sympathetic strike. The City replaced them with a large body of untrained but better paid special constables who sided with the employers.

Within hours, one of the special constables, a “hero”World War I veteran Frederick Coppins, charged his horse into a gathering of strikers and was dragged off his horse and severely pummelled.

As the situation spiralled out of control, the City of Winnipeg appealed for federal help and received extra reinforcements through the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. Despite these drastic measures, control of the streets was beyond the capacity of the city in the period between Tuesday June 9 and Bloody Saturday, June 21.

The Citizens’ Committee saw the strike as a breakdown of public authority and worried that the Strike Committee was attempting to overthrow the Canadian government.

The Citizens’ Committee met with federal Minister of Labour Gideon Decker Robertson and Minister of the Interior (and acting Minister of Justice) Arthur Meighen, warning them that the leaders of the general strike were revolutionists. Meighen issued a statement May 24 that he viewed the strike as “a cloak for something far deeper–an effort to ‘overturn’ the proper authority”. In response, he supplemented the army with local militia, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and special constables. Legislation quickly passed to allow for the instant deportation of any foreign-born radicals who advocated revolution or belonged to any organization opposed to organized government.

Robertson ordered federal government employees back to work, threatening them with dismissal if they refused. The two ministers refused to meet the Central Strike Committee to consider its grievances.

Bloody Saturday

On June 10 the federal government ordered the arrest of eight strike leaders (including J. S. Woodsworth and Abraham Albert Heaps). On June 21, about 30,000 strikers assembled for a demonstration at Market Square, where Winnipeg Mayor Charles Frederick Gray read the Riot Act. Troubled by the growing number of protestors and fearing violence, Mayor Gray called in the Royal Northwest Mounted police, who rode in on horseback charging into the crowd of strikers, beating them with clubs and firing weapons. This violent action resulted in the death of two strikers Mike Sokowolski (shot in the heart) and Mike Schezerbanowicz (shot in the legs, later dying of gangrene infection), 35 to 45 people injured (police, telephone operators, firemen, utility workers and laborers) and numerous arrests.

Four Eastern European immigrants were rounded up at this time (two of them were deported, one voluntarily to the United States and the other to Eastern Europe). This day, which came to be known as “Bloody Saturday”, ended with Winnipeg virtually under military occupation. Interacting with other prisoners that consisted of editors and strikers, police shut down the striker’s paper called the Western Labour News and arrested the editors for commentating on the event.

At 11:00 a.m. on June 25, 1919, the Central Strike Committee officially called off the strike and the strikers returned to work.

Aftermath

Eight of the strike leaders arrested on June 18 were eventually brought to trial in what were called “state trials” of political crimes. Five were found guilty of the charges laid against them. Their jail sentences ranged from six months to two years.

Sam Blumenberg and M. Charitonoff were scheduled for deportation. Only Blumenberg was deported, having left for the United States. Charitonoff appealed to Parliament in Ottawa and was eventually released without deportation. The lack of criminal proceedings taken against them was taken as evidence that their arrests were part of a government ruse so as to continue the fiction that foreigners, not British born, were the “agitators” of the strike.

A jury acquitted strike leader Fred Dixon.

The government dropped charges of seditious libel against J. S. Woodsworth, whose “crime” was quoting in the strike bulletin from the Bible. Woodsworth was elected MP in the next federal election as a Labour MP and went on to found and lead the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, a forerunner of the New Democratic Party.

A Settlement

Fearing that the strike would spread to other cities, the Federal Government ordered Senator Gideon Decker Robertson to mediate the dispute. After hearing both sides, Robertson settled in favour of the strikers and encouraged Council to accept the civic employee’s proposal. Bolstered by their success, the labour unions would use the strike weapon again and again to gain other labour and union reforms.

After the strike many employees had mixed emotions about the solution the mayor provided agreed to. The metal workers received a reduction from their working week of five hours but did not receive a pay increase. Many of workers lost their pension rights and a deeper division between the working class and the capitalist class persisted.

Civic employees were obligated to sign an oath promising not to partake in any sympathetic strikes in their future. Among the Bloody Saturday participants, many lost their jobs and others resumed their previous jobs but were placed at the bottom of the seniority level. This was in spite of the fact that the violence was caused by the specials and the RCMP.

The Royal Commission which investigated the strike concluded that the strike was not a criminal conspiracy by foreigners and suggested that “if Capital does not provide enough to assure Labour a contented existence … then the Government might find it necessary to step in and let the state do these things at the expense of Capital.”

Organized labour thereafter was hostile towards the Conservatives, particularly Meighen and Robertson, for their forceful role in putting down the strike. Combined with high tariffs in the federal budget passed in the same year (which farmers disliked), the state security forces’ heavy-handed action against the strikers contributed to the Conservatives’ heavy defeat in the 1921 election – they lost every one of their seats on the Prairies.

The succeeding Liberal government, fearing the growing support for hard left elements, pledged to enact the labour reforms proposed by the Commission. The strike leaders who had at least faced charges if not served time in prison (such as Woodsworth mentioned above) were applauded as labor’s champion and many were elected to serve in provincial and federal governments.

Role of women

The role of women during that time period played an influential part when dealing with the strike. As active citizens, various women were among the crowds joining the bystanders, sightseers and victims at major rallies and demonstrations. The division of women in the province included the strikers and women called “scabs” that were against the strike and tried every way to end it. Striking women would unplug the telephone operators and the scabs would plug them back in. It was especially hard for the women at home due to the low income and absence of goods and services to survive weekly as well as fully depending on their own salary.

By 1919, women constituted roughly one-quarter of that labour force, mainly working in the service, clerical and retail parts of the economy. Around 500 women workers walked off after the first call of the strike, followed by hundreds more days later. The Young Women’s Christian Association provided emergency accommodations to women who lived far away from their job. They accepted women strikers and non-strikers to get through the strike with ease. A major figure rose named Helen Armstrong, who was head of the local branch of the women’s labour league, accompanying husband George Armstrong, who was one of the strike leaders. Helen was responsible for the women’s kitchen maintained by the women’s league to feed the striking women. Male strikers were allowed to come to the kitchen to eat but had to provide a good reason as well as sometimes even paying for their meal.

Being arrested and put in jail, Helen made the media with names like “the wild women of the west” and “business manager for the women’s union”.

Among many other women who were sent to jail, Helen was granted a substantial bail of $1,000. When newspapers and articles commented on the strike and the women involved, the Winnipeg Tribune referred to many of the militant women as having accents thus labelling them as foreigners whenever something was published.

After the strike concluded many women came out for “ladies day” at Victoria park on June 12 and occupied seats of honour near the front cheering along with J. S. Woodsworth promoting emancipation of women and the equality of the sexes. This event was a catalyst for the equality of women and soon after leading to women being able to vote.

Lasting Lessons

What for us are the lasting lessons of the Winnipeg General strike.

First, it was based on strong solidarity among the unions and the willingness of leaders of various unions to subordinate their differences in the interests of solidarity and the needs of the workers as a whole. We could use a lot more of that today, witness the destructive withdrawal of Unifor from the Canadian Labour Congress which has nothing to do with worker needs and everything to do with the interests and bloated egos of the trade union bureaucrats.

Secondly, it demonstrated that the workers could set up a leadership, allocate and carry out responsibilities and ensure peace, security, distribution of food, operation of basic services and even opening of cinemas under authority of the strike committee. It was possible over 6 full weeks to run the city without the bosses and their crooked politicians.

Thirdly, although brutally suppressed, this massive and impressive action brought the bosses to concede, greater union rights, better pay, shorter hours in many cases and women’s suffrage shortly after.

Fourthly, it showed the possibility of Canada wide action by workers as demonstrated by the size and number of sympathy strikes from Halifax to Victoria.

Finally, it was a strike not only for wages and working condition but for rights. It was not merely economic but political in scope and contributed to the subsequent establishment of worker based parties such as the early communist party formed in 1921 in Ontario and in Calgary in 1932 the CCF.

The Farcical May Day March in Toronto

Around the world, millions demonstrated for workers’ rights and socialism in the main city squares.  It was the continuation of a proud revolutionary tradition that began 132 years ago.  But in Toronto, fewer than two hundred people met in a muddy field at the corner of Keele Street and Four Winds Drive.  After a much-delayed rally on the soggy grass, featuring excellent socialist hip-hop rapper Mohammad Ali Aumeer, and a good opening statement from the organizers, the gathering of far-left factions walked for an hour south to a desolate Downsview Park.  There the event ended in disarray.

Now is the time for some accountability on the part of ‘organizers’ of one of the most farcical gatherings for May 1 in the modern history of the day in Toronto.

At the terminus, there was no concluding statement from the organizers.  The saving grace was a circle dance led by Kurdish women, and a rendition of the Internationale led by Socialist Action.  SA hosted a lively contingent, walking and chanting at the front of the parade.  Other organizations on the left, ostensibly socialist, anarchist and left social democratic, were conspicuous by their absence.

The purported reason for holding this virtually hidden display of workers’ solidarity, far from the eyes and ears of working people concentrated in the busy downtown districts, was to bring the celebration closer to teaching assistants on strike at York University, to indigenous people and environmentalists fighting Line 9, and to the victims of Ottawa’s imperialist war policies.  These were good goals.  But, sadly and predictably, this plan failed on all fronts.  The demonstration did not approach the site of the strike.  It attracted almost no friendly onlookers en route, and obtained zero mass media coverage.

Apart from a dozen, stalwart, flag-waving members of CUPE Local 3903, there was no significant union participation visible, and no presence of indigenous people’s movements evident.

Instead of the 1,000+ folks who typically gather at Dundas Square or Toronto City Hall or Christie Park or Queen’s Park on the occasion, this effort of the so-called United May Day Committee was one of weakest displays of outreach, event planning and parade marshaling seen in decades.  Organizers did not inform SA, and others, of the meetings of the UMDC.  As a result, we are reduced to openly expressing our concerns post-facto.

Clearly, there are hard lessons to be drawn from this sad experience.  Just as importantly, activists in the unions, international solidarity campaigns, and on the left should strive to ensure that the May 1, 2019 march does not repeat the egregious errors of the rather pitiful one just held in 2018.

We can and must do better in the future.

Toronto’s 32nd Socialist May Day Celebration

The live broadcasting of the event on the Socialist Action’s Facebook page is now ended. In a couple of weeks, a high quality video of the speeches and performances will be posted here. Also on this page, a report on the event will be posted. Stay tuned. Below are some photos taken at the event. Further below is the full text of the speech delivered by Barry Weisleder.

Socialist Action Speech to May Day Celebration 2018

Good evening, sisters and brothers, comrades and friends. Are you familiar with the expression “the past is prologue to the present”?

50 years ago, millions of workers and students in France shook the foundations of capitalist rule with a general strike. But one party urged workers to abandon the strike in favour of an election. That betrayal by the Communist Party saved the Gaullists and French capitalism. Today railroad and airline workers, backed by the broader public sector, are in the streets of France battling the anti-labour policies of Emmanuel Macron. Students are occupying schools to protest rule changes by Macron to make college education less accessible. Will May 1st 2018 pick up where May-June 1968 left off?
46 years ago, thousands of Palestinians marched to the border of Israel to demand the right to return to their homes and to their occupied land. Six were killed in what became known as Land Day. Today, the Great Return March continues at the Gaza/Israel border. Dozens of Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli snipers. Meanwhile, the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Zionist apartheid state is growing.

22 years ago, Ontario was the scene of a series of one-day general strikes against the Mike Harris Tory government. The day after the biggest strike which paralyzed Toronto and Queen’s Park, union bureaucrats pulled the plug on the movement. That guaranteed the re-election of Harris. Today a provincial election campaign is underway, leading to a vote on June 7. The Conservative Party leader is Thug Ford. A Ford government at Queen’s Park would make Mike Harris look like Mother Teresa. The Kathleen Wynne Liberals, in a death bed conversion, are offering reforms that superficially look good. The labour-based NDP, led by Andrea Horwath, makes it easy for the Lyin’ Liberals by offering a similar platform of milquetoast policies. If Horwath does not turn sharply to the left to win, get ready for general strikes to confront a hard-right wing Doug Ford government.

The labour movement suffered a telling blow when UNIFOR quit the Canadian Labour Congress. It is sad, no, it is outrageous to see union leaders who embrace the Liberal Party turn their backs on the House of Labour, only to embark on a course of union raiding. This behaviour is symptomatic of the crisis of the workers’ movement. Decades of concessions bargaining and internal repression have weakened labour and emboldened Capital. Only an awakened rank and file can turn this around.

Today, the world is teetering on the brink of climate catastrophe and nuclear holocaust. Which one will destroy civilization first?
The New Cold War is getting hotter. Its front line stretches from the Baltic countries, through Ukraine, and Syria, to the Persian Gulf. Ironically, the cradle of civilization could become the grave yard of humanity if the Cold War goes nuclear.

We know that 1% of the global population controls over 50% of the world’s wealth. In the face of growing inequality and poverty, Canadian bank and mining CEOs reward themselves with multi-million-dollar salaries. The head of Ontario’s Hydro One, Mayo Schmidt, got a $1.7 million raise to boost his pay to $6.2 million. As an electricity user, did you get your bonus yet?

We have a severe housing crisis. Robots are replacing workers. Cops get away with murdering Black, brown and mentally ill people. We are inundated by a steady stream of lies from our saccharine Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. On climate change, indigenous rights, electoral reform, taxation, civil liberties and military spending, his is the Harper agenda – behind a cloud of cannabis smoke. On matters of imperialist war, pipelines and trade, Trudeau has been Trumped. Instead of dumping the Investor State Dispute Settlement court, Trudeau wants to preserve NAFTA. Instead of disarmament and development aid, he is sending choppers to Mali, in Central Africa, a country which just happens to be rich in gold and uranium. Justin Trudeau backs NATO ally Turkey, which is on a killing spree in the Kurdish region of Syria.

In contrast to these reactionary moves, we see a growing appetite for social and political change.

Millions of women and men marched on January 21 across North America against sexism and misogyny.

Millions more demonstrated on March 24 against gun violence. Millions are disgusted by the antics of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Campaigns to defend public postal services, to save public libraries, to make Ontario Hydro public again, and to raise the minimum wage are gaining ground.

Teaching assistants at York University, Carleton and Western are fighting for decent jobs and pensions.
In this situation, socialists are very active. We forced an end to the conservative leadership of federal NDP head Tom Mulcair in 2016, and we helped to defeat the right-wing leader of the CLC, Ken Georgetti, in 2014. But there’s much more to be done.

Let’s start with the housing crisis. Winter in Canada without housing is a death sentence. Scores die on the streets in this country every year; 100 died here in 2017. In Toronto, the waiting list for social housing is over 180,000 people. Community housing stock requires $2.6 Billion in repairs. The average home price in Greater Toronto is $916,000. Housing costs have outpaced wage increases for decades. Basically, wages have been frozen for 30 years. Instead of superficial measures like a tax on vacant condos and foreign investors, we need the government to build 500,000 housing units immediately, under public ownership and workers’ control.

Corporations and the rich should pay for improved train and bus service. Want to get cars off the road? Free mass public transit is the better way. Why are good jobs so scarce? Not because of immigration, but due to automation and capitalist greed. In a few years, robots will quadruple. In a rational society, this would not be something to fear. The elimination of boring and dangerous work would be a good thing – provided that the fruits of automation are shared. How can that be done? By shortening the work week, without loss of pay and benefits. Share the available work, increase the quality of work life and productivity – through democratic economic planning.
Sadly, capitalism is going in the opposite direction. Big companies are merging, killing thousands of jobs. The so-called ‘middle classes’ have been squeezed while the very rich get richer. Governments complain about revenues but tolerate secret tax havens.
The gap between economic growth and the well-being of Canadians widened considerably since the 2008 recession. Millions of people experience precarious work, longer commute times, rising rates of diabetes. Yet we feel none of the promised benefits of growth in the economy. Business hacks argue that governments cannot afford to worry about well-being.
The truth is that society cannot afford environmental degradation. It cannot afford the human and economic costs of poor health. And yet, what else does late capitalism have to offer? Many wonder: What will it take to change course? Well, isn’t it clear?

To save civilization, to save humanity, to save life on Earth, capitalism must go. And to do that it will take a revolution. History shows that there can be no revolution without a revolutionary party. A revolutionary party is not self-proclaimed. It must earn recognition in the eyes of millions. It takes more than slogans to change society. But slogans and a programme are necessary. Sustained revolutionary practice based on a revolutionary programme and strategy is absolutely required.

Central to our programme is the fight for Climate Justice and a decent, democratic and sustainable future for humanity.

We say it’s time to declare a Climate Emergency. A New Climate agenda would begin with nationalization of key sectors such as Finance, Energy, resource industries like Big Oil and Gas, Transportation, Agri-business and Auto.

The economy must be restructured radically, with planning by workers, scientists and environmentalists, and managed by elected worker reps. The top priority should be the rapid replacement of fossil and nuclear fuels with clean, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass. Reverse the privatization of Ontario Hydro. Phase out the Alberta Tar Sands. Cancel the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and abrogate the other ‘free trade’ deals. Dismantle the polluting, wasteful, and dangerous war machine used to support imperialism. Dismantle nuclear weapons, starting with the US arsenal. Close all foreign military bases. Send home all soldiers and military contractors. Get Canada out of NATO.

We demand nationalization of Big Oil and Gas –not to drill for fossil fuels, or to make pipelines ‘safe’. Our aim is to conscript the wealth accumulated by the energy pirates, and to devote it to rapid green energy conversion. It is the only way to fund the energy transition that is so urgently needed.

But what is the key to unlock the door to liberation? It is recognition of the fact that a socialist programme must be advanced and won inside the mass working class organizations. Why? Because that is where we can create the political basis for a Workers’ Agenda, a Workers’ Government, and a socialist revolution.

At this stage, activists are needed who understand the goal, and the means to get there. The fight to win anti-austerity and eco-socialist policies must take place inside the workers’ movement. It’s true that there we will find agents of the bourgeoisie, and they must be fought. We must remove the union and NDP bureaucrats who collaborate with the bosses, vote for cutbacks, vote for military spending, and prop up the rotten capitalist system. Look at the spectacle of the Alberta NDP government stabbing the B.C. NDP government in the back over a dirty oil pipeline.

Clearly, the bureaucrats put their personal careers within the state apparatus ahead of the interests of the working class as a whole. They undermine the political independence of workers at every step. Pro-business bureaucrats must be replaced by class conscious revolutionary workers. Workers will gain self-confidence in the fight against the bosses, and against the agents of the bosses in the workers’ movement.

That is why Socialist Action is engaged in struggles inside the mass working class organizations. You won’t find many groups that call themselves socialist doing that today. Most stand on the sidelines, talking to themselves, or acting as cheerleaders for the bureaucrats.

For Socialist Action, building a disciplined working class party inside our class is the heart of our strategy for revolutionary change. So, we fight for socialist policies and run candidates for executive office in unions and the NDP. We are leaders of the NDP Socialist Caucus. At the federal NDP convention in Ottawa in February we were in the forefront of those making demands for party democracy and for public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. Our candidates got between 16 and 33% of the votes cast, except for one, Dirka Prout, who was elected. Delegates snapped up over 1,000 copies of Turn Left magazine.

We helped to shape the NDP leadership debate on pipelines, education, childcare and taxation. And we will continue to push hard on freedom for Palestine and Kurdistan, for Hands Off Syria, Canada Out of NATO, for homes not bombs, and to tax the rich.

Here’s a question: Are you sick at the prospect of 4 more years of John Tory big business rule at City Hall? Should there be a challenge from the socialist left at the October municipal election? Well, Socialist Action is ready to step up – ready to battle the business elite. If the NDP won’t run, we will run candidates for city council and mayor if we can double our membership in the next two months. Sisters and brothers, comrades and friends, I urge you to join us in this effort. But let’s be very clear: There is no electoral solution. There is no market solution to the crisis of capitalism. The capitalist market created the problem. Only a social revolution can solve it. Only by taking control of the major means of production, like the Cubans did 58 years ago, only by instituting democratic planning, in harmony with nature, does humanity have any hope of survival.

That’s what Socialist Action is all about: educating, agitating and organizing for fundamental change. In this process, a mass revolutionary workers’ party will arise. Such a party is the key to a future of peace, freedom and prosperity.

But it cannot be built without you. So, please join Socialist Action today. Together we can make the world a place truly fit for human beings.

Long live the international working class. Long live the fight for socialism and feminism. Have a wonderful, festive, red May Day weekend!

Protest in Toronto against the U.S. Attack on Syria

On what seemed like the first mild, sunny day in Toronto in months, about two hundred people gathered across the street from the U.S. Consulate on April 22 to protest the recent missile attack on Syria by the United States, Britain and France. The protesters, including over a hundred refugees waving Syrian flags and carrying placards with the slogan “Hands Off Syria”, disputed the claim by Washington, Ottawa and allied forces that the government in Damascus rained chemical weapons on its own people.  Speakers at the Toronto rally noted that the missile strike against Syria took place just hours before international inspectors were to enter Douma to investigate whether poison gas was employed, and if so, by whom.

Organizers of the rally, primarily the Communist Party of Canada, the Canadian Peace Congress and associated groups, limited speaking rights to their political friends.  Thus, Socialist Action, which days earlier endorsed the Sunday protest, and which anchored a similar rally at the U.S. Consulate eight days before, held an impromptu speak out at the conclusion of the CP-backed event.

Socialist Action speakers emphasized the criminal role of the Canadian state in imperialist military interventions in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Libya. It condemned Justin Trudeau’s decision to maintain the stationing of Canadian troops to back the right wing regime in Ukraine and police to occupy Haiti, selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, and now sending war helicopters and soldiers to Mali.

Through the SA megaphone campaigners spoke for boycott of apartheid Israel, and for international human rights.  The crowd chanted at the finale “Canada Out of NATO, NATO out of the Middle East”, “Imperialist Hands Off Syria” and “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Trudeau, Trump have got to go.”

The SA statement and leaflet for the event can be found here.

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