Dudley Laws, 1934-2011, leading Toronto anti-racist fighter

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–> by Norman ‘Otis’ Richmond, radio broadcaster for 25 years, Black community activist

Dudley Laws was known as a fear-free activist who would stand up to police brutality when many of us were too afraid to step up to the plate.

Laws joined the ancestors on March 24th after battling kidney disease. The Jamaican born Laws had stared death in the face many times. It is amazing the he lived 76 years. I always said “
Dudley was like a cat, He had nine lives.”  He was born in St. Thomas Parish, Jamaica on May 7, 1934 to Ezekiel and Agatha Laws, and was a brother to three siblings. A welder and mechanic by trade, he worked at Standard Engineering Works until he emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1955 and became involved in defending the Caribbean community. In 1965, he relocated to Toronto, Canada, where he worked as a welder and taxi driver.

Laws was most known for founding the Black Action Defence Committee in 1988 following the
Toronto police shooting of Lester Donaldson. He was once the head of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a Marcus Garvey-inspired organization. Under his leadership its name was changed to the Universal African Improvement Association. He was deeply concerned with the education of youth and helped many young people, including my son.

Laws became prominent in the 1970s and 1980s as a critic of the then Metro Toronto Police Force, due to a number of young black men being shot by police constables, as well as leveling other allegations of racist practices against the police. He has also been prominent as an advocate for immigrants and refugees, and worked as an immigration consultant in the 1990s. He was able to travel to
Cuba and spoke highly of what he saw in that society.

Socialism 2011: Their Crisis, Our Solutions

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Socialism 2011: Their Crisis, Our Solutions

An International Educational Conference May 19, 20, 21, 22, 2011
at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, U of Toronto,
252 Bloor Street West
co-sponsored by: Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste – Canadian state, Socialist Action –
USA, and the Socialist Unity League (Liga Unidad Socialista) – Mexico

Thursday, May 19

5:30 p.m. registration opens

7 p.m. End the Occupations! Permanent War or Permanent Revolution
Christine Gauvreau, leading member of SA-USA, United National Anti-war Committee, and Connecticut United for Peace; and Khaled Mouammar, President of the Canadian Arab Federation.

Friday, May 20

5:30 p.m. registration, literature sale

7 p.m. Civil Liberties Under Attack – Fight Back!
Barbara Jackman, renowned Canadian lawyer who led the successful fights to lift the border entry ban on George Galloway, and to free tortured Muslim Canadians; Jeff Mackler, National Secretary, SA-USA, coordinator of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal campaign, of the Free Lynne Stewart campaign, and a leading opponent of the FBI raids against anti-war activists; plus Jaime Gonzalez, Organization Secretary of the LUS-Mexico.

Saturday, May 21

10 a.m. After Cancun, the Fight for Climate Justice
Terisa Turner, participant in the Cochabamba (Bolivia) Conference, and Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at U of Guelph; Jaime Gonzalez Organization Secretary of the LUS-Mexico; and Dan Piper, a member of the SA-USA National Committee.

12 noon Lunch break

1 p.m. What’s Wrong with our Workers’ Movement?
Barry Weisleder, Federal Secretary, SA/LAS Canada, and organizer of Toronto Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus; Bruce Allen, V.P. of CAW Local 199 and V.P. of Niagara District Labour Council; Ajamu Nangwaya, member of CUPE 3907 and former V.P. of CUPE Ontario.

4 p.m. Origins of Sexism and the fight for Women’s Liberation Today
Christine Gauvreau, leading member of SA-USA, based in Connecticutt; and Cheri MacDonald, veteran socialist-feminist and campaigner for Ontario Coalition of Abortion Clinics.

6 p.m. Supper break

7 p.m. Marx was Right: Capitalism doesn’t work. Deepen the Global Resistance!
Jeff Mackler, National Secretary SA –
USA, based in San Francisco; with supplementary remarks by Tom Baker, SA/LAS Canada.

Sunday, May 22

11 a.m. Aboriginal and Quebecois aspirations – National liberation in the Canadian state
Roger Obonsawin, President of the Aboriginal Peoples Council of Toronto, a veteran campaigner for aboriginal treaty rights; and Dr. Robbie Mahood, Montreal, SA-LAS, and past election candidate for Quebec Solidaire.

1 p.m. Lunch break, with film “Toronto G20 Exposed”

2 p.m. Closed session for SA members and invited guests. SA/LAS Convention.

4 p.m. Founding Convention of Youth for Socialist Action.

Tickets: $20 in advance for weekend; $30 at door for wkend; $5 per session (or PWYC)
For more information: www.socialistaction-canada.blogspot.com    416 – 535-8779 barryaw@rogers.com

Imperialism, War and ‘National Security’

Three books in review

by Barry Weisleder
‘“Is there anybody who thinks we ought to leave Afghanistan?” the president asked.  Everyone in the room was quiet. They looked at him. No one said anything. “Okay,” he said, “now that we’ve dispensed with that, let’s get on.”’
One hundred and eighty-six into its 441 pages, the political framework of “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward (Simon and Schuster, New York, 2010) is clearly delimited.         There is no questioning of the ‘right’ of the United States of America to intervene in the affairs of countries and nations the world over. There is no elaboration on the admission that important energy resources are at stake. The vast and valuable mineral reserves of Afghanistan, its potential as a convenient corridor for oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean, and the array of Canadian, U.S. and other transnational mining and energy companies lining up for territorial concessions, do not merit even a footnote.     Concerning imperialism as an economic system, which the ideology of ‘national security’ dutifully serves, the book is mute.
But as a booster of the dominant ideology, like its namesake hero,“Obama’s Wars” is effusive. America is presented as the repository of world civilization and democracy, and its ‘resilient’ response to the 9-11 attacks at home is to wage wars abroad. How Obama squares that with his pre-election end-the-wars pledge, and how he takes on the vested military establishment, is Woodward’s literary spin. It is the stuff of his latest ‘instant-history’.
Along the way the reader is treated to a sweeping survey of the personalities and tactical conflicts at the summits of capitalist political and military power. One is offered an intimate portrait of the young president who strives to master ‘the game’. As a Who’s Who guide to D.C., this crisply written, very readable book is a useful reference. But that’s about it.
Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning associate editor at the Washington Post, has gained a reputation as gossipmonger to the governing elite. From his keyboard (or that of his much-praised, but little-credited chief researcher/writer Josh Boak), a rogues gallery of war criminals comes to life. Their interactions in Congressional hearing rooms, Pentagon offices, White House corridors, and the hallowed Situation Room appear to drive all that happens in the world. And, for what it’s worth, Woodward’s characters are more articulate and voluble than their counterparts on the TV drama 24.
Within a shared imperial framework, Vice-President Joe Biden (‘avoid the shame of another Vietnam defeat’) confronts gung-ho interventionist Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel calls the war “political flypaper”. An ominous review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy by Bruce Riedel, ex-CIA analyst, delivers a political hot potato: the central problem is Pakistan. Obama muses about taking civic measures to “reduce the appeal of violent extremism to young Muslims”.
However, “This sounded alarm bells for Gates, Mullen, Petraeus and McChrystal”, the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Navy Admiral, U.S. Military Commander, and U.S. Army General, respectively. A debate about ‘counter-terrorism’ versus ‘counter-insurgency’ ensued. The former course is remote-controlled and weapons intensive; the latter requires an extensive, endless occupation, to the tune of one soldier or police per 50 residents. Given the stratospheric rate of attrition from the Afghan Forces (over 25 per cent a year) such a ratio is surreal, short of a permanent U.S.-NATO occupation force of 500,000 plus.
Woodward uses his superior access to powerful people and his uncanny ability to acquire purloined classified documents and coveted private notes of participants, to reconstruct a chronology of debates, disputes and decisions made within the ruling circles. These he employs to illuminate a number of false dilemmas: Is the aim to defeat, or to disrupt the Taliban? Should the ‘surge’ be comprised of 30,000 or 40,000 additional U.S. troops? To what extent should the lethal drone attacks on insurgent forces in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) be escalated at the risk of further de-stabilizing the U.S. client regime in Islamabad?
It’s ten overlapping wars in one, says a circumspect Army Lieutenant Douglas Lute. There’s the NATO war (with a Canadian General in command), the CIA covert paramilitary war, and distinct wars being conducted by Green Berets and Joint Special Operations Command each tracking ‘high value’ targets. The training and equipment commands have their own operations. The Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Directorate for Security are also fighting separate wars.
So much money expended, yet so little popular support exists for the occupation, which (not surprisingly) is seen as foreign, and cruelly indifferent to massive Afghan casualties. This increasingly casts the austere, reactionary Taliban, most active in the mainly Pashtun eastern provinces, as well as other insurgent forces in a positive light. Woodward, who toured Helmand province with General James L. Jones, admits that without American billions, bombs, and economic conscripts on the ground, President Hamid Karzai would not even be mayor of a Kabul cul de sac.
Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, put the Afghanistan war in a political context. “If we don’t succeed here, organizations like NATO, by association the European Union, and the United Nations might be relegated to the dustbin of history.” Shorn of their fig leaf, the nakedness of the malefactors of global injustice would be more visible. Should we be worried?
Life can be hard on publishers. WikiLeaks stole the thunder of ‘Obama’s Wars’ by revealing Washington’s contempt for its allies/puppets in the region, and by exposing Obama’s order for a dramatic increase in the bombings of Pakistan’s untamed north-west.
At home, Obama’s hand-picked cabinet of militarists want ‘more boots on the ground’. As Petraeus and others kept agitating for further escalation, ignoring study after study of the deepening quagmire, the president took the unusual step of writing a six-page plan that defined goals and set limits. He fired McChrystal for disparaging its author. But no matter how lawyerly well-written, no president’s scheme can arrest the dynamic of imperialist intervention.
Fraught with terminal contradictions, Obama’s exit strategy resembles the plot line of a George Orwell novel. It starts with a military surge, and is tied to a shrinking social base dominated by some of the most corrupt, undemocratic politicians on Earth. Washington’s surge specialist, the ‘hero of Bagdad’, General Petraeus, confides “This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”
As in Vietnam, the reality is that there is no voluntary exit strategy for the U.S. in Afghanistan, nor in Iraq and Pakistan for that matter. The smoke and mirrors of politically embedded, award-winning journalists can buy only so much time for imperial ambition.
The inconvenient fact that 60 per cent of Americans polled, plus 80 per cent of Canadians, and untold majorities of peoples worldwide demand total withdrawal now of foreign military forces from the Middle East and South Asia is of no concern to the imperialist rulers – at least not until those popular majorities are mobilized in such a way as to threaten the profits and power of the classes that rule.
Barack Obama made his bed with the bourgeoisie long ago. The cerebral former community organizer pushes trillions of depreciating U.S. dollars to Wall Street and the Pentagon, while starving human needs. That, apparently, is the price of ‘greatness’ in the decadent capitalist game. ‘Change you can believe in’, from within the system, it turns out, is no change at all. From Palestine to Pakistan, these are truly now Obama’s wars.
But it doesn’t end there. Civil liberties, more precisely the basic rights of the working class majority of society, are another casualty of the wars abroad. Fortunately, there are some recently published books that do address this crucial human dimension.
One well worth reading is “Dark Days:  The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror” by Kerry Pither (Viking Canada, Toronto, 2008, 460 pages). It relates, with the narrative drive of a thriller, the harrowing experiences of four Canadian Muslim men who were intercepted abroad and sent by U.S. officials to Syria and/or Egypt for interrogation and torture, with full RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service collaboration. Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki, Maher Arar, and Muayyed Nureddin were eventually released without charge, after unspeakable sufferings, and only due to persistent public campaigning by their families, their lawyers and allied social movements.
Possession of a tourist map, a knowledge of electronics or of aviation, or simply being Arab or Muslim is enough for state authorities, keen to justify ‘security’ expenditures, to implicate innocent persons in terrorism. But behind the zealous cops, spies and torturers are the policies and interests of capital – the fountain of divide and rule tactics in the pursuit of war for profit.
Although “Dark Days” misses the forest for the trees, overlooks the system served by the lies, hubris and malfeasance it lays bare, the book rescues the humanity of some of the system’s victims. And it reminds us, in the words of Ahmad El Maati, that “Since 9/11, so many others have just disappeared, or are still in prisons, with no right to ask questions.”
National security, which is really about the security of capital from its critics, has been a tool of conformism long before post 9/11 trauma. “The Canadian War on Queers:  National Security as Sexual Regulation” by Gary Kinsman and Patrizia Gentile (UBCPress, Vancouver, 2010, 554 pages) provides a very well-researched history of the movements for gay/lesbian equality from the 1950s through the 1990s. The book vividly connects Canadian state discrimination against homosexuals, the spying on and interrogation of activists, and the disruption of grass roots human rights campaigns, directly to the imperatives of capitalist rule.    
Heterosexism, like sexism, racism and today’s top-down fostered Islamophobia, is a long-standing divide and rule prejudice. It is particularly useful to the state in the event of war, that is, all too often. The ongoing nature of the attack on democratic and human rights (from the incarceration or imposition of ultra-restrictive living conditions on Muslim and Tamil refugees in Canada, to the widespread violation of civil liberties by police in connection with the G20 Summit in Toronto last June, to the latest FBI raids on anti-war activists across the USA) makes it crucial that the process of ‘forgetting’ the historical roots of state repression, and the struggle against it, be confronted and overcome.
Despite much self-conscious, arch-academic phraseology, Kinsman and Gentile make a compelling case, masterfully summarized in the last chapter, that capitalist globalization and the “expanding national security state” go hand in hand. Gay or straight, religious or secular, regardless of colour, sex, language or ethnicity, working people will find freedom sooner when we come to see ‘national security’, like patriotism, as the common refuge of many a monied scoundrel.

University: Suffering from Elitism Déjà Vu

by Tyler Mackinnon
The first year university student is typically bright and energetic, ready to embrace a whole new world of ideas that allegedly can be grasped only by the cream of the intellectual crop. The student worked for months, pulling up high school grades, working on countless essays and tests, still recovering from a lack of sleep endured last May and June.                                   

But all that work finally paid off. At last s/he is a true scholar. Then comes the tuition bill. The colour literally drains from the eyes. All emotion is sucked dry at a glimpse of the absurd price.   
University fees are pushing working-class scholars out of their deserved class room seats and into the service industry faster than you can say delta-hyde.                           

According to a report by the Canadian Federation of Students, the share of university operating budgets funded by students’ tuition fees more than doubled between 1985 and 2005, rising from 14% to 30%. This, plus unprecedented levels of student debt, have been a growing concern for working class students for the past twenty years, despite the popular student movement slogan “education is a right, not a privilege”.                                                                            

The CFS report shows that student debt skyrocketed between 1999 and 2004, going from $21,177 to over $28,000 — an increase of more than 33% in just five years. Even the once reliable government assistance programs and scholarships, which were introduced  supposedly to give struggling students support while they pursue post-secondary education, take months to deliver. And when funds are finally released, the amount is barely enough to get a student through the first term. Whatever doesn’t go towards tuition, gets spent on text books, transportation and basic living conditions. This trend is frustrating students to the breaking point.                                                                                                                                     
Researchers also state that financial issues are the most commonly cited barrier for students trying to get into post-secondary learning. Speaking from experience I can honestly say that OSAP will cause more sleep loss and stress than any exam ever will!                 

If something is not done soon about this issue, university will revert to the conditions of the industrial revolution. Only the rich will be educated; the poor will be denied. That ought to keep the latter from ‘getting dangerous ideas in their heads’. If government can afford to fight an unjust and unwinnable war, then it can afford to provide access to free education to every man, woman and child. Education is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Let’s make it so. Drop fees! Tax the corporations!

April 9 protest set for Toronto

by Julius Arscott
The call for mass anti-war actions on April 9, issued by the U.S.-based United National Anti-war Committee (UNAC), has been heard and answered in Canada.  A January 14 membership meeting of the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War responded with a Yes. It is proceeding to organize an outdoor rally, and numbers permitting, a street march in that city. 
Members, supporters and friends of Socialist Action started in September to lobby the Toronto coalition in favour of a broad demonstration to demand ‘Canada Out of NATO, NATO Out of Afghanistan Now!’ The TCSW is an affiliate of the Canadian Peace Alliance. The CPA  endorsed the UNAC actions slated for the U.S. east and west coasts on Saturday, April 9.
A show of international solidarity with UNAC, and with other participating organizations, including in other countries as well, in opposition to the imperialist wars of occupation in the Middle East, is now posed.    
Several Socialist Action members from Toronto and Montreal attended the UNAC conference, along with 800 peace and social justice activists on July 23-25, 2010 in Albany, New York. It was the largest U.S. gathering of its kind in over a decade. It enjoyed the backing of thirty-one national organizations. With the assistance of the Albany-based Sanctuary Media, 17,000 more people witnessed the conference and many of its 30-plus workshops via video-streaming.    
The conference took many important decisions, culminating in the major effort now underway to gather the broadest range of endorsements for the April 9 bi-coastal mobilizations set for New York and San Francisco. The convergance of major forces of the U.S. anti-war movement presents a challenge to the anti-war movement in Toronto, and across the Canadian state.
In the wake of the revelations by WikiLeaks of the sheer ugliness and hopelessness of the Afghan military quagmire, with anger mounting over the money earmarked for the purchase of new fighter aircraft, leaks about war crimes condoned by Canadian military officials, and following the three year extension of Canadian Forces’ intervention in Afghanistan by Prime Minister Steven Harper without even a debate in the House of Commons, opposition to the war is cresting.
Many Canadians want to take to the streets, but for the past three years occasions for united mass action have been few. The CPA and TCSW have waged many important campaigns and actions in that time, such as organizing a cross-country speaking tour by former Afghan female MP Malalai Joya, by protesting at a Toronto appearance by former British PM Tony Blair on November 26, and particularly by conducting the highly successful George Galloway tours. The former British MP attracted international media coverage to the issue of the Zionist seige of Gaza, to the just struggle for Palestinian freedom, and to the popular legal triumph over the Canadian government’s initial bar to Galloway entering Canada. Anti-war coalition leaders seem convinced that now is the time to take the next step.
The call to action in Spring 2011 provides an opportunity to unite in the streets all opponents of Ottawa’s war policies, priorities and actions. This is the occasion to invite and involve labour unions, the labour-based New Democratic Party, and all social movements that want to put human needs first.  Now is the time to build support for the April 9 demonstration in Toronto, and to explore the prospects for similar actions all across the Canadian state.

For more information about the Canadian Peace Alliance, call 416 – 588-5555, e-mail:  cpa@web.ca  or write to:  427 Bloor Street West, Box 13, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1X7.

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