Socialism 2010: Socialism or Barbarism / Eco-socialism or Extinction

an International Educational Conference May 20, 21, 22, 23, 2010 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 (LUS) – Mexico

Thursday, May 20

5:30 p.m. registration opens

7 p.m. Palestine, Afghanistan and Haiti: Occupation and Resistence

Khaled Mouammar, President, Canadian Arab Federation; Nadine MacKinnon, Toronto Coalition to Stop the War; B.C. Holmes,Toronto-Haiti Action Committee; and Christopher Hutchinson, participant in Gaza Freedom March and Aid Convoy, from Connecticut SA-USA.

Friday, May 21

4 p.m. Dialectical Materialism – a philosophy for radical change
Christian Whittall, Toronto, SA-Canada.

7 p.m. From Copenhagen to Mexico City – the World at the Brink Linda Avila, Socialist Unity League (LUS) – Mexico; Barry Weisleder, federal secretary, SA/LAS Canada; Jorge Soberon, Cuban Consul-General in Toronto; and Carl Sack, Lake Superior Area SA and YSA leader.

Saturday, May 22

10 a.m. The Malthus Myth: Population, Poverty and Climate Change

Ian Angus, editor, Climate and Capitalism, author of “The Global Fight for Climate Justice, Anti-capitalist Responses to Global Warming and Environmental Destruction”.

12 noon Lunch, with film: Myths for Profit

1 p.m. Combatting the Corporate Agenda – Jobs, Pensions and Poverty
John Clarke, organizer, OCAP; John Orrett, SA-Canada; Carl Sack, Lake Superior SA-USA.

4 p.m. Women’s Liberation Today
Heather J. Walker, Toronto, SA-Canada; Marissa Janczewska, SA-USA, student organizer, and YSA rep to Connecticut for Reproductive Justice; and Uzma Shakir, past-President of Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, and of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.

6 p.m. break for supper

7 p.m. World Economic Disorder and the G8/G20 Summits
Linda Avila, LUS – Mexico; Tom Baker, Hamilton, SA-Canada; Jeff Mackler, National Secretary SA – USA, based in San Francisco.

Sunday, May 23

11 a.m. Civil rights under attack – Fight back!
Jeff Mackler, National Secretary, SA-USA; Troy Jackson, legal assistant, journalist, singer and Board member at The 519 Center in Toronto; Dr. Robbie Mahood, Montreal, SA-LAS, and recent election candidate for Quebec Solidaire.

1 p.m. Lunch, with film: Workers of all Lands, Unite!

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

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

May Day Celebrated in Toronto

by Christian Whittall

The Free Times Cafe was packed to the gills on the evening of Saturday, May 1, for Toronto’s 24th Annual Socialist May Day Celebration. The lively, convivial atmosphere may have seemed in sharp contrast to the rather dire-sounding theme for this year: “Eco-Socialism or Extinction”. But what was really on display was great hope and excitement for the first of these two alternatives.

Jorge Soberon, Cuba’s consul general in Toronto spoke about challenges facing his country and its militant resolve in the face of them. He deflated the wishful thinking of Cuba’s enemies that the revolution would die with Fidel, citing the vast resource represented by the country’s young generation.

The Venezuela consul general in Toronto, Mirna Quero de Peña, sent a written statement that was read aloud by emcee Elizabeth Byce. De Peña emphasized that the environmental crisis we are facing is an economic rather than a technological one.

B.C. Holmes of the Toronto Haiti Action Committee talked about her visit to the subsequently earthquake-ravaged nation on the anniversary of its independence, Jan. 1 of this year. “Haiti needs solidarity, not charity,” she insisted. Vice president of the Canadian Arab Federation Ali Mallah spoke next, also giving voice to revolutionary sentiments overseas, especially in the Middle East.

With a more local perspective, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty member Leslie Wood celebrated the noisy optimism and numerical strength of the No One Is Illegal march held earlier that day (with several hundred participants)—defiant in the face of the province’s inhumane cut to welfare spending in the middle of a recession.

Finally, Socialist Action Federal Secretary Barry Weisleder drew all these threads together in a “State of the Revolution” address. The evening was rounded out by a line-up of performers, leaving the crowd infused with rebellion and hope.

War Crimes & Scandals Aplenty

by Barry Weisleder

At the risk of being found in contempt of Parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative minority government still refuses to release documents pertaining to the torture of detainees handed over by Canadian forces to Afghan authorities. If House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken backs the parliamentary order, the Justice Department may take the issue to the Supreme Court, which will buy the Tories some time.

But time doesn’t appear to be on their side. Despite assiduous, side-door efforts to re-open the debate and extend the 2011 date for removal of troops from the war of occupation, a series of scandals have conspired against Harper and company.

First, there are persistently surfacing torture allegations. Ahmadshah Malgari, 37, an Ottawa resident who volunteered to work for Canadian military intelligence in Afghanistan, made three claims before a Commons committee in mid-April:

1) In August 2007 a Canadian soldier illegally shot an unarmed Afghan in the head and, to cover this crime, troops panicked and arrested innocent people. (Chief of defense staff General Walter Natynczyk denied this.)

2) Military intelligence officers deliberately handed over “uncooperative” prisoners to Afghanistan’s notorious National Directorate of Security, knowing they were likely to be tortured.

3) Canadian troops arrested far too many Afghans with no links to the insurgency. Malgarai interviewed such people, including a 90-year-old man who could barely walk. There has been no official denial of the latter two allegations.

Then there was the revelation that, among NATO allies, the Canadian army led the pack with 163 prisoner transfers, followed by Britain with 93, the Netherlands 10, and Denmark one. The U.S. has its own system for dealing with captives.

To deflect mild Western criticism of Afghan puppet-government corruption and brutality, Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened to join the Taliban. His outburst cast a deeper pall over the imperialists’ promise to bring democracy and civilization to the region as they ready for the anticipated summer offensive of national resistance fighters.

Ironically, the scandal over alleged influence peddling by ex-Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, and the dubious behaviour of his wife, ex-Tory Cabinet member Helena Guergis, might have seemed like a welcome distraction from the unpopular war in Asia and from the persisting woes of the so-called Great Recession. Except that it isn’t. It highlights the government’s toxic secrecy, duplicity, and arrogance, and it makes extension of the war a more problematic sell-job.

Not to be lost in the fog of scandal-wracked Ottawa are maneuvers to keep Canadian police and other security personnel in Afghanistan, backing the corrupt regime of drug lords, past the 2011 troop pull-out time—or to transfer troops to Congo or Haiti or elsewhere to secure corporate resource extraction interests. Vigilance by activists, alongside demands for full disclosure by Ottawa, are key at this turning point.

If only the antiwar movement would get back into the streets to seal the deal for peace now.

Harper Sets a Corporate Table for Summits

by Barry Weisleder

The big issues on the agenda for the G8 and G20 Summits in Huntsville and Toronto in June include climate change, nuclear weapons, Afghanistan, and the state of the world economy. Poverty, hunger, and disease as a function of capitalist economic crisis and growing inequality will likely take a distant back seat to government deficit and debt reduction.

Just to make sure that the rich are not made to pay, even in the slightest way, for the crisis their system caused and their actions aggravated, the Conservative federal government in Ottawa is campaigning aggressively to block a proposal for a speculation tax and an excess-profits tax on financial institutions.

This is an old idea, first posited by the English economist John Maynard Keynes in 1936, and by American economist James Tobin in 1972. It is backed today by British P.M. Gordon Brown and the International Monetary Fund; even U.S. President Barack Obama is edging towards such a tax to pay for bank bailouts. These facts are clues that the FAT (Financial Activities Tax) will not go nearly far enough—and moreover, that it is designed to help stabilize the system of the fat cats rather than help working people.

But it goes way too far for the likes of Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “No Canadian taxpayer money has to be put into our system,” Flaherty told The Canadian Press on April 20. While Canadian banks were not hit as hard by the global meltdown in 2008, the country didn’t escape unscathed. Quebec’s giant Caisse de depot et placement, which manages the province’s pension fund plan, was burned by its investments in risky securities, as were private holders of asset-backed commercial paper. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan lost $19.5 billion since the end of 2007.

And now deficits resulting from shrinking revenues, in large part caused by cuts to corporate taxes, are being cited by governments as a reason to slash services and jobs, freeze workers’ wages, and further reduce corporation taxes. So, wouldn’t a Tobin Tax go well now?

Socialists are not opposed. But we insist that to eradicate (not just alleviate) poverty, hunger, and disease, and to convert industry and homes to green energy technologies (to save our global habitat), it will be necessary to expropriate the banks and big business. Democratically elected councils of workers and consumers will know how to invest the fabulous wealth of such institutions in the interest of the majority, once and for all.

In the meantime, let’s get ready to hit the streets and alternative venues for the Peoples’ Summit and protest actions in Toronto during the week leading up to June 28.

Children a G-8 ‘Priority’?

by Barry Weisleder

While child and maternal health is supposed to be a top priority at the G8 Summit in June, host Prime Minister Stephen Harper will have a tough time reconciling his federal budget with his public relations spin.

Ottawa’s budget freeze on foreign development aid after this year is in tune with Tory and business priorities to reduce the deficit, notwithstanding uninterrupted annual increases for the military.

Meanwhile, the tragic deaths of millions of children globally, from easily preventable diseases, proceeds at a staggering pace. Some 8.8 million children still die annually before they reach the age of five, according to World Vision Canada. That is 24,000 children per day. Seventeen per minute.

At the same time, 500,000 mothers die annually in childbirth or from other pregnancy-related causes.

A $10 bed net can protect a child from malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Access to nutritious foods can be provided at little cost. Diarrhea kills 1.5 million children annually. It is easily treated, as is malaria. Child blindness, too common in the underdeveloped world, can be prevented by just two vitamin A pills per year, at a cost of four cents.

Today the world spends $49 billion (U.S.) on pet food every year. If half of that amount were added to current spending on maternal and child health, the child death rate could be cut nearly in half.

If the big business politicians who run the G8 and G20 were forced to tax the rich and abolish military spending, humanity would have taken a big step toward solving our major problems.

Ligue pour L'Action Socialiste