2017 NDP Socialist Caucus National Conference

2017 NDP Socialist Caucus National Conference Agenda – December 2, 2017
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.    Registration: $5.00 (or PWYC)
Location:   Woodsworth Residence, University of Toronto, 321 BLOOR ST. WEST, Room 25, at St. George Street
10 a.m.   Left activism in European soc dem parties
Reports from Richard Margerison, member of Momentum and the Jeremy Corbyn leadership campaign in the British Labour Party; and Walid Malik, member of the Socialist Caucus in the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
Noon – Lunch break
1 p.m.
Policies, tactics and strategy for the Federal NDP Convention in Ottawa, February 16-18, 2018
Barry Weisleder, chair, Socialist Caucus, will lead off a discussion on how to advance socialist policies prior to, and at the February 2018 NDP federal convention, including via resolutions, SC display table and meetings at meal breaks, Turn Left magazine, plus a team of socialist candidates for federal NDP Executive.
3:00 p.m.
Turn Left Magazine – Sean Cain, Editor
3:30 p.m.
Selecting our Socialist Caucus Candidates for Federal NDP Executive
The NDP Executive is elected at the Federal NDP Convention, Feb. 16-18.
4:15 p.m.
Welcoming new members to the Socialist Caucus Steering Committee.
5 p.m.
Adjournment. Social at a nearby pub.
For more information, e-mail info@ndpsocialists.ca   or call 416.535.8779

GLOBAL CONFERENCE IN PARIS

The Platform for a Revolutionary International convened its first global conference on November 10-12 in Paris.  The interesting and constructive meeting attracted socialists from a number of countries, including France, Spanish State, Greece, USA, Canada, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland and Denmark. Comrades from six other countries communicated their solidarity and a strong desire to participate, but were finally not able to attend. 
Discussions at the conference focused on:
-the current international economic and political situation, which is characterized by the deep crisis of the imperialist system, which produces growing poverty, unemployment and misery for the working class worldwide, aggravates harm to the environment, and causes more and more geostrategic instability and military interventions in many regions of the world.
-the level of the workers’ movement resistance, the development of struggles in recent years, and the prospects for the working class and socialist intervention.
-the tasks of revolutionaries, especially concerning the need for an alternative orientation for the FI looking to the World Congress in March 2018, and beyond, which involves bringing together different revolutionary organizations, political currents and active comrades.
-the text proposed by the Platform for adoption at the World Congress, which was amended on the basis of a thorough debate among the participants in Paris.
 
In the course of the conference it became quite clear that, despite certain different shades of opinion and points of emphasis, there is a vast common ground concerning analysis of the overall political situation, the urgency of change in the orientation of the FI leadership, the possibility and actuality of socialist revolution in our time, and the indispensability of our strategy for building revolutionary working class parties on that basis.  Grounds for optimism spring from the fact that, in addition to the organizers of the meeting, practically all participants pledged to be even more engaged in the Platform for a Revolutionary International going forward.  This is reflected in an expanding new list of signatures, drawn from around the world, for the edited version of the text produced at the Paris conference.
 
On the Friday evening prior to the start of the conference, an inspiring rally to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution took place at a meeting hall in central Paris.  Five speakers and one presiding comrade, coming from six different countries (France, Greece, Spanish State, USA, Italy, and Canada) addressed the relevance of the October Revolution in terms of today’s strategic debates and actual struggles.  The meeting ended with the audience of close to one hundred singing the Internationale in several languages and with great emotion and enthusiasm.

Lives in the Revolution – Trotsky Conference 2017

The theme was “Lives in the Revolution”.  The tenth annual Socialist Action Trotsky School, held at OISE University of Toronto, made the case that while social classes fundamentally determine the course of history, individuals lead the social classes, and can inspire us all to fulfill our potential to transform ourselves and the world.  Over eighty people attended all or part of the two-day educational conference.  Participants came from as far away as Victoria, B.C. and Saint John, New Brunswick, and included a delegation from Montreal, Quebec.
 
The conference began with a timely session titled Fascism: What it is and How to Fight It, with speakers Yasin Kaya, a leading member of Socialist Action Canada who joined the socialist movement in Turkey, and Steve Ellis, a pro-Palestine BDS activist and a veteran socialist.
On Saturday, November 18, the topic was Canadian Revolutionaries:  Papineau, Riel, Ginger Goodwin, Jack MacDonald, Maurice Spector, Ross Dowson, and 1980s Women into Industry, with speaker  Robbie Mahood, SA/Ligue pour l’Action socialiste leader and pro-choice physician based in Montreal.
Next up was the topic Rosa Luxemburg:  Revolutionary and Internationalist, featuring speaker Zarrin Mortezaian, a long time political activist from Iran, followed by Che Guevara: The enduring and inspiring revolutionary icon, 50 years after his murder, with presenter Bob Lyons, Socialist Action correspondent based in Central America, and former NDP MLA in Saskatchewan.

Balfour at 100: A Legacy of Racism and Propaganda

Dan Freeman-Maloy

The coming months mark the centennial of Palestine’s forcible incorporation into the British Empire. In November 1917, British foreign secretary Lord Arthur Balfour declared his government’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”; in December, Jerusalem fell to British troops. One hundred years later, the effects of these events continue to reverberate. This should be a time of sombre reflection about international responsibility for the unfolding tragedy in Palestine.
Balfour Declaration
This responsibility should weigh heavily on the West. Walid Khalidi put it well: “The Zionists were the initiators. But they were also, as they still are, the protégés of their Anglo–American sponsors and the emanations of their power, resources, and will.” The fact is that the Israeli state can’t be credited for much originality – either in its brutality or in the hypocrisy deployed to cover it. And it is all too fitting that it was British imperialism that propelled the Zionist movement onto the world stage.
Palestine was occupied, after all, amid one of the British Empire’s last great scrambles for territory in the Afro–Asian world. The scramble was pursued amid an outpouring of imperial self-adoration. Balfour was not alone in proclaiming, wherever and whenever he could, “the extraordinary novelty, the extraordinary greatness, and the extraordinary success” of the British Empire, a system drawn together, he insisted, not by “the bonds merely of crude self-interest, but the bonds of a common belief in a great ideal.” Freedom and justice marched with British troops. These may seem the banal platitudes of an imperial state. But during its “Great War,” the British state deployed them as never before. Its propaganda set a new world standard in its scale, its organization, and its impact.

Propaganda and Democracy

This is an appropriate time to look back to that propaganda and all that it revealed. The aspect of Britain’s wartime propaganda that has been most widely criticized is the manipulation of atrocity stories coming out of Belgium. That’s a reasonable place to start. The centerpiece of British atrocity propaganda was the “Bryce Report” of 1915, named after Viscount James Bryce. Bryce was chair of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages. As it happens, he was also a leading white supremacist and a pioneer of the kind of democracy that Britain helped Israel bring to the Middle East.
Those who know Israeli politics will find Bryce’s theories familiar. Democracy and self-government were, he insisted, the rightful preserve of civilized and conquering peoples. The key to democracy was therefore the establishment of a demographic basis for it. Africans, Asians, Indigenous peoples the world over – all were in Bryce’s judgement “subject races,” unfit for self-government. Only through colonial settlement and a restricted franchise could democracy flourish. Bryce lectured and wrote incessantly about “the risks a democracy runs when the suffrage is granted to a large mass of half-civilized men.” This great liberal’s theories were influential from Australia to the United States, and they attained near-biblical authority amongst settlers in South Africa.
Their application in Palestine, in turn, was made possible thanks to British power. This history was from the beginning steeped in propaganda. As the British war effort turned east, the Holy Land was a potent symbol. In the first instance it conjured images of the Crusades. Howevever, if the goal of Allied conquests was the defence of Christendom in the Levant, France had the stronger claim. British propaganda found a convenient alternative in support for Zionism. As Herbert Sidebotham, the Manchester Guardian’s military correspondent, explained, the Bryce Report didn’t have to do its work alone: “great as the ideal of relieving Belgium from the invader may be, the ideal of restoring the Jewish State to Palestine is comparably greater.” This could tap into deep public emotions, Sidebotham argued, and was another opportunity for Britain to deploy “ideal considerations as the allies of our military and political interests.”
No one did so with greater gusto than the Scottish writer John Buchan. Buchan is best remembered as the author of adventure novels, one of which, The Thirty-Nine Steps, was readapted for the screen in a feature film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. But he was also an accomplished propagandist. More even than Bryce, Buchan had built his public service around the imposition of white rule in South Africa. In early 1917 Britain’s Imperial War Cabinet selected him to direct the wartime propaganda service, with instructions to whip up public support for British war aims in the Middle East.
Buchan spun Britain’s eastern war as “the Last Crusade.” Tolerance and secular justice, oddly, were its supposed hallmarks. He assured his readers that the capture of Jerusalem by Allied troops was nothing less than “a parable of the cause for which they fought. They would recover and make free the sacred places of the human spirit which their enemies sought to profane and enslave, and in this task they walked reverently, as on hallowed ground.” Today we see what this freedom has brought to Jerusalem. Buchan’s propaganda itself suggested a politics that was far from ecumenical.
Where Buchan excelled, after all, was in channeling racism in service of state. This is what he had done for the Empire’s cause in South Africa, using a combination of nonfiction studies and novels. And it is what he did for the Great War. Some of his bigotry will ring familiar. So it is with his description of the menace of Islam, “a fighting creed,” Buchan warned, its fanatics taking to “the pulpit with the Koran in one hand and a drawn sword in the other.” Buchan’s racist depiction of Jews, on the other hand, have fallen out of favor in polite Western society. Here, for example, is his fictionalized image of who was pulling the strings in Germany: “a little white-faced Jew in a bath-chair with an eye like a rattlesnake. Yes, Sir, he is the man who is ruling the world just now, and he has his knife in the Empire of the Tzar, because his aunt was outraged and his father flogged in some one-horse location on the Volga.”
The antisemitism expressed by Buchan, and by the imperial establishment for which he acted as mouthpiece, squared more easily with support for Zionism than one might think. Jews were cast in various roles: as a subversive threat in Europe (Buchan did not forget the “Jew-anarchists”!); as a justification for Britain to hold Palestine; and as potential settlers, allies of the Empire in the east. These were not contradictions so much as a faithful expression of British settler colonialism. For Britain, colonial settlement was indeed a means of territorial expansion; but it was also a means of offloading the contradictions of industrial capitalism onto distant frontiers. Empire, as the Marxist literary critic Raymond Williams remarked, was represented in British culture as an “escape-route,” to which the ruined, the misunderstood, “the weak of every kind could be transferred.” This theme dovetailed with straight imperial calculations to structure British support for Zionism. A Jew settled in Palestine was a Jew not knocking on Britain’s doors. We would do well to remember that the first modern British statesman to clamp down on Jewish immigration, imposing the Aliens Act of 1905, was none other than Lord Balfour himself.
The worsening crisis in Palestine reflects more than a local record of colonial crimes, severe as these have been. Responsibility for it is global. Arundhati Roy was right to describe the Palestine tragedy as one of “imperial Britain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modern world.” It is also a product of a history of racism and empire that extended across most of the West. On this centennial of the Balfour Declaration, reflection on this shared culpability should serve as a reminder of the responsibility for the political action that comes with it.
Dan Freeman-Maloy is an activist and writer based in Montreal.

This article extends from a longer piece, entitled “Remembering Balfour: Empire, Race and Propaganda,” which the journal Race & Class is publishing to mark the centennial of the Balfour Declaration. The journal’s editors have lifted paywall restrictions to make that article widely accessible for the centennial, and it is available in full

Tough choices for low-wage families

A report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative found the richest half of Ontario families raising children took home 81 per cent of earnings in 2013-2015, leaving the bottom half to share 19 per cent.

The gap has widened from a 78-22 ratio, in 2000 to 2002.

For families in the bottom half, the rise in precarious and low wage work has meant touch choices.

“If your kids have a field trip, you’re in trouble, if your kids have a growth spurt, you’re in trouble,” said Isabella Daley, whose daughters are now 19 and 24 and living at home.

Even trips to the grocery store can mean choosing between shampoo and household cleaning supplies, said Daley, who advocates for living wages through the Hamilton Round-table for Poverty Reduction.

Bill 148, the so-called Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, proposes raising the minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 by 2019, along with changes supposedly to make it easier to join a union.  Socialists advocate $18 an hour minimum wage now, and automatic union certification in every work place where over 50 per cent of the employees sign up to join a union.

Ligue pour L'Action Socialiste