Aim a Little Lower, Please

After Taser International, Inc., issued a bulletin from its U.S. headquarters instructing users not to aim the weapon at the chest of a suspect to avoid impact to the heart, police in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, plus the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario Provincial Police decided to comply.

This comes almost two years after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport. He was jolted by a Taser up to five times by the RCMP. Indeed, hundreds of people across North America have been killed by cops using the weapon. Toronto police admit to deploying Tasers on 122 people last year, including two 15-year olds.

John Tackaberry, spokesperson for Amnesty International in Canada, said adjusting where police aim their Tasers “isn’t a solution to the problem… it’s the impact the Tasers have on bodies.”

Paul Lochner, whose autistic brother George was Tasered by the Toronto emergency task force in 2006, agrees the change isn’t enough. He would like to see Tasers banned.

Ditto. The lesson here is that the cops are feeling the pressure of public outrage. The point is to keep it up. –Barry Weisleder

Like We Said . . . Blood for Oil

Oil baron T. Boone Pickens told the U.S. Congress in Washington on October 21 that U.S. energy companies are “entitled” to some of Iraq’s crude oil because of the large number of U.S. troops that lost their lives fighting in the country and the American taxpayer money spent in Iraq.

Pickens complained to the newly formed Congressional Natural Gas Caucus that the Iraqi government has awarded contracts to non-U.S. Companies, particularly Chinese firms, to develop Iraq’s vast reserves while U.S. companies have been shut out.

“Heck, we even lost 5,000 of our people, 65,000 injured and a trillion, five hundred billion dollars.” Bitter over promises (which Obama is unlikely to keep), Pickens said, “We leave there with the Chinese getting the oil.”

Cry us a river, boss man, but the blood and the oil still flow plenty profits into your pockets. Only anti-war mass protest action will turn off that tap. –Barry Weisleder

Education for Activists Conference

Education for Activists Conference
2nd annual Toronto Socialist Action Trotsky School


November 20-21, 2009 at OISE, U of Toronto, 252 Bloor St. W.
just above the St. George Subway Station

Friday, November 20, 7 p.m.

Rosa Luxemburg – a revolutionary for the 21st Century The nature of Reformism, the concept of the Mass Strike, and an analysis of the Revolutions at the end of World War I.

Presentation by Adam Shils, Chicago Socialist Action, leading member of SA-USA

Saturday, November 21, 10 a.m.

Is Fascism on the rise in America?

What is fascism? What is the significance of the right wing rallies against medicare reform? Where is the U.S. labour movement and what is it doing?

Presentation by Adam Shils, Chicago SA

12 noon Lunch break, and screening of film “Workers of All Lands”, a history of 3rd and 4th Internationals

1 p.m. Permanent Revolution, Stalinism and the Transitional Program What is the strategy for fundamental change?

Presentation by Barry Weisleder, federal secretary, Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste

4 p.m. The Jobless Recovery, and other absurdities of the capitalist economy What is the socialist alternative?

Presentation by Julius Arscott, Executive member, Toronto Socialist Action

6 p.m. Social event at a nearby pub

Conference Registration: $10 for the weekend, $4 per session (or pay what you can)

For more information, visit: http://www.socialistaction-canada.blogspot.com

e-mail: barryaw@rogers.com or call: 416 – 535-8779

Layton’s hypocrisy undermines NDP

Fear that a Fall Canadian federal election would decimate the ranks of New Democratic Party MPs drove Leader Jack Layton to a self-inflicted act of desperation – voting for a rotten Tory budget.

Months of failing to advance socialist policies to meet human needs and differentiate the NDP made Layton’s parliamentary caucus more vulnerable to a tactical shift by the Liberal Party. On September 18, Michael Ignatieff had his Liberal MPs vote non-confidence in the Conservative minority government of Stephen Harper. But it would take a vote by all three opposition parties in the House of Commons (Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois) to defeat the government and force an election. Worried that NDP support would bleed towards the Liberals, and that voters would punish the NDP for precipitating a fourth federal election in only five and a half years, Layton and company opted to prop up the more rightist Tories.

According to opinion polls, 60 per cent of Canadians don’t want an election now. Many want employment insurance reform and the $6 Billion home renovation tax credit in the budget Harper tabled.

But 40 per cent do want a federal vote to dump the labour-hating, Tar Sands-loving, war mongering Tories. That segment of the electorate is much more likely to consider supporting the NDP than the anti-election crowd – provided the party gives them some good reasons to do so.

By selling out so cheaply (that is, for E.I. changes that won’t help most of the 1.5 million unemployed), and by propping up the Conservatives just to avoid an election, Layton comes off pretty badly. He looks like a hypocrite and alienates the NDP base (of 2.5 million voters) at one stroke.

The labour-linked NDP, the left and the workers’ movement as a whole are squandering a golden opportunity to put capitalism on trial, and to seize upon the global capitalist crisis as a tailor-made platform to fight for public ownership and green energy conversion through workers’ and community control of industry.

If Jack Layton isn’t up to the task, which was evident at the federal NDP convention in Halifax in August, he should step aside. The sooner, the better. -Barry Weisleder

Toronto Labour must replace Miller

The mayor of Canada’s biggest city, David Miller, betrayed labour, disappointed his business allies, and was so low in the polls that he announced on September 25 that he will not seek a third term in office. Although the next Toronto municipal election is more than a year away (November 10, 2010), the mega-city’s corporate elite has been busy auditioning potential candidates for the mayor’s chair.

The labour movement should get busy too. It’s time to replace Miller and find standard bearers who will fight for a Workers’ Agenda, rather than fight workers.

Miller began his electoral career as a labour-based, New Democratic Party-backed councillor for the west-end ward of High Park in 1994. Before his successful run for Toronto mayor in 2006 he hooked up with Liberal Party fund-raisers, got Conservative Party strategist John Laschinger to run his campaign, and subsequently let his NDP membership lapse.

Miller’s policies were implemented by an informal Liberal-NDP alliance that controlled the 44-member Toronto city council. Those policies included corporate subsidies, tax incentives and/or deferrals for costly environmental clean-ups, and tax rebates and minimal property taxes for major commercial developers. At the same time, City Hall imposed steeply rising taxes, rents and fees for small homeowners and tenants, and serious cuts to services like street cleaning, snow removal, public access to swimming pools, arenas, community centers and libraries. Welcome anti-corruption reforms were coupled with an economic assault against the majority of residents that still left the city short of operating funds.

The class collaborationist coalition hit a big bump in the road when city hall bosses tried to squeeze the wages, benefits and work place rights of Toronto civic workers. One hundred and twenty pages of management take-away demands precipitated a 39-day strike by 30,000 inside and outside employees, members of Canadian Union of Public Employees Locals 79 and 416, in June and July.

The workers won a partial victory by resisting most concession demands and making modest gains. (See SA, page 10, August 2009.) Then Toronto and York Region Labour Council served Miller and several other city politicians their just desserts by telling them they were not welcome at the 27,000-strong Toronto Labour Day Parade, September 7.

Meanwhile, some of Miller’s Liberal backers, including lawyer/bagman Ralph Lean, and fund-raising co-chair John Ronson, jumped ship. Prominent bourgeois politicians, led by Ontario’s Liberal Deputy Premier George Smitherman, former Ontario Conservative leader John Tory, and several right wing city councillors are testing the water for a mayoral run. The class forces they represent resent Miller for not punishing city workers enough, and for not privatizing services. In the game of municipal musical chairs, the ex-NDP sell-out realized that he would have no where to sit.

Labour Council should learn the bitter lesson from backing a gaggle of Liberals and NDPers in 2006 who went on to legislate in favour of rich developers, bankers and businessmen, at the expense of working people. It’s time to assemble a team of NDP and Labour activists who will fight for a socialist City Hall in 2010.

To make that team accountable, the NDP should convene a Toronto NDP municipal convention, open to all Toronto members. It should debate policies, adopt a programme and determine a method for the selection of candidates for all municipal offices – and find a way to hold them all accountable to that programme. This is how the NDP functioned officially in Toronto up to the 1970s, before a wave of liberal opportunism and populist reform sidelined open and honest labour party politics at the local level. Hard times demand that labour and the NDP head back to the future. -Barry Weisleder

Ligue pour L'Action Socialiste