Tag Archives: Toronto and York Region Labour Council

Cracked, but still on track

rob_ford_vice2by Barry Weisleder
Too much ink already has been spilled to expose the antics of Toronto’s crack smoking, drunk driving, serial lying, gangster-linked mayor. The butt of late night comedy TV, Rob Ford is merely the unvarnished version of the establishment hardware.
But behind the ongoing Rob Ford soap opera are a few noteworthy points.
  1. The bourgeoisie in Canada’s biggest city is far from infallible. They committed a whopping error of judgement. By backing Ford, as some high rollers did, to channel popular resentment against the liberal-social democratic David Miller City Hall regime, and for failing to stop Ford (despite his well known fatal flaws) prior to the 2010 municipal election, the corporate elite got much more instability than they bargained for.
  2. When embarrassed and beset by the eccentric, belligerent and obstinate Ford brothers (suburban city councillors Doug and Rob), the city fathers didn’t stand on ceremony. They wielded, twisted and re-purposed the rules to strip Rob Ford of his mayoral powers to appoint and initiate. But be very certain of this: in the event that Toronto ever elects a socialist mayor, the agents of Capital will use the same select punitive procedures to hobble an insurgent left. Ergo the need to base a Labour City Hall on mobilized workers outside the stately edifice.
  3. The capitalist austerity agenda remains intact and on track. Unaffected, and perhaps abetted by the tantrums, abject apologies and woozy spectacles of distraction, are the policies that keep the burden of funding Toronto’s crumbling infrastructure on cash-strapped workers, seniors and the poor, while minimizing the taxation of the super-rich. While the business media declared war on the Fords, there is no business war being waged against poverty, homelessness, traffic gridlock, inadequate childcare, and environmental degradation. The only war we see is on workers, like garbage collectors, bus drivers, and rec centre staff. If City Hall pushed progressive change at the speed pipelines will move hazardous bitumen though Canada’s most densely populated urban corridor, a new day would truly be dawning.
    The question is, why have leaders of the unions and the NDP, and all the so-called ‘progressives’ presently on Toronto city council, not seized on the Ford debacle to trash the corporate agenda and set the stage for transformative action on inequality and urban decay?
Because that would require a break with higher user fees and putting a halt to pandering to big business as practiced by the David Miller/Joe Pantalone regime.
Instead, Toronto’s labour leadership is taking workers down the primrose path of liberal, middle class politics towards the October 2014 municipal election.
Rather than host a convention of labour activists and members of the labour-based New Democratic Party across Toronto and York Region to adopt policies and to select candidates to fight for a Labour City Hall, we witness a relapse to the tactics that utterly failed in 2010.
The “Municipal Political Action Conference”, sponsored by Toronto and York Region Labour Council on November 16, was “designed for everyone who plans to get involved in the 2014 Municipal/School Board elections”. That meant it didn’t matter what are one’s policies and what are one’s links to big business parties, like the Liberal Party. Ignored is the reality that the Liberals share responsibility for cutbacks, privatizing public services, giving tax breaks to the rich, and curtailing the right to strike.
Quite revealing was the fact that the conference “Guest Speaker” was Jeremy Bird, former National Field Director for the 2012 re-election Campaign of President Barack Obama. Bird, readers will recall, was the target of a high profile protest which forced him to cut short his speech at the NDP federal convention in Montreal in April 2013. It is shameful, and sadly indicative, that Toronto and York Region Labour Council officials would invite this ‘field director’ for the pro-austerity, pro-big business bail-out, drone-wars regime in Washington.
The lessons of the failed David Miller mayorship, and the feckless 2010 ‘labour’ municipal campaign, are glaring. The situation cries out for a political alternative.
Instead of a multi-class, liberal smorgasbord of candidates and policies, labour needs an election team that demands: a free and greatly expanded rapid transit system, reversal of the cutbacks and privatizations, the mass construction of quality social housing to curb homelessness and poverty, a big expansion of quality childcare, and much greater support for the arts, parkland, and community sports facilities. To fund this agenda it is necessary to heavily tax the big land developers, property speculators, big businesses, the banks, religious institutions, and the rich.
The corporate elite is scrambling to find their ‘unity’ candidate for mayor. Perhaps it will be former provincial Conservative leader John Tory, or a right wing city councillor like Denzil Minnan-Wong or Karen Stintz.
So now is the time for the left to seize the opportunity. Ford’s fall from grace, and the momentary disarray of the right wing on city council is just the occasion to convene a real Labour Political Action Conference aimed at choosing policies and candidates to fight for, and to win a Workers’ Government at Toronto City Hall in 2014.

 

What is the Labour Bureaucracy, and What to do about it?

Presentation by Barry Weisleder for Education for Activists Conference, Trotsky School 2013.
labourb
Have your heard of the three famous guidelines for Bureaucrats? 1. When in charge, ponder. 2. When in trouble, delegate. 3. When in doubt, mumble.
Does that ring true? Still, there’s a bit more to this subject.
Indeed, there are two parts to this inquiry. The first concerns the nature of the beast. The second is about how to deal with it.
Over the past 200 years there has been considerable discussion about the emergence and growth of bureaucracy. By bureaucracy I refer to the non-propertied officialdom of various organizations.
Bourgeois sociology argues that hierarchies are an unavoidable feature of modern society. Max Weber saw bureaucracy as the most rational and effective mode of organization of large numbers of people according to rules, rather than subject to the whims of officials. Better to be governed by ‘experts’ than to be ruled by naked corruption and nepotism.
According to social democrats and neo-Stalinists, the growth and usurpation of power by a layer of full-time officials are inevitable features of mass working class parties and unions under capitalism and under any post-capitalist social order.
Ernest Mandel, like Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg, provided a powerful Marxian alternative to the Stalinist, social democratic, and bourgeois theories that deny the possibility of democratic organization of workers’ struggles and workers’ power.
Mandel argued that bureaucracy is the product of specific, historically limited relations among and between humans and the material forces of production.
For him, bureaucracy in mass working class parties and unions under capitalism is rooted in the reproduction of the social division of labour between mental and manual labour. Whether the product of the up and down character of working class struggle under capitalism, or the profound material scarcity of 20th century post-revolutionary societies, the persistent division between intellectual and manual labour gives rise to a layer of full-time officials who administer parties and unions, or the post-capitalist state apparatus.
This element usually evolves into a distinct social layer with its own material interests, politics and ideology. Bureaucracy does not enhance the ‘effectiveness’ of mass workers’ organizations or workers’ states. To the contrary, bureaucracy undermines the ability of the working class either to defend its most immediate interests under capitalism, or to build a viable alternative to capitalism.
Classical Marxism discussed bureaucracy to attempt to explain the growth of reformism. According to V.I. Lenin, reformism was the ideological expression of the “labour aristocracy”, a privileged minority of the western working class whose superior standard of living came from a share of super profits extracted by the imperialist bourgeoisie in the colonies and semi-colonies. This layer of workers supported the petty bourgeois intelligentsia in the party and union apparatus who promoted reformism and social patriotic politics before World War 1.
Mandel rejected Lenin’s notion of ‘labour aristocracy’. Mandel showed that workers in the North are not bribed by ‘super profits’ extracted from workers in the South. It’s true that workers in the Northern countries are paid more. But global wage differences are the result of greater capital intensity and higher productivity of labour in the industrialized countries. In other words, better paid workers in the North are actually more exploited than poorly paid workers in the South. They are not more oppressed, but to a greater extent they are robbed of the surplus value they produce.
Mandel found more useful the analysis in Rosa Luxemburg’s work. Luxemburg located social democracy’s growing conservatism in the hegemony exercised by full-time party and union officials, not simply in the influence of middle class intellectuals.
This bureaucracy, once consolidated, placed greater importance upon the preservation of the party and union apparatus than on any attempt to deepen or extend the workers’ struggles.
Mandel located the origins of the labour bureaucracy in the episodic and discontinuous character of working class struggles under capitalism. When workers do not engage in mass struggles, or when they suffer defeats, they become more open to conservative and reactionary ideas. They make futile attempts to defend sectional interests against other sectors of the working class. It is the level of class militancy and class independence, not cultural influences like suburbanization, television and films, that determine class consciousness under capitalism.
The entire working class cannot consistently engage in strikes, demonstrations and other forms of political activity because the working class does not own the means of production. Workers are compelled to sell our labour power to survive.
Only in extraordinary, revolutionary or pre-revolutionary situations can our class broadly participate in mass struggles, which must be short, given our need to work and to be paid in order to make a living.
Only a minority of the working class remains consistently active. That minority is what we call the workers’ vanguard. That consistently active layer preserves and transmits to newer workers the traditions of mass struggle.
However, a minority of this militant minority, together with middle class intellectuals who have access to cultural skills from which the bulk of the working class is excluded, must take on responsibility for running the unions or political parties created by periodic upsurges.
There is a big risk in this: Specialization can result in a growing monopoly of knowledge. Knowledge is power. A monopoly of knowledge can lead to power over people.
During long waves of capitalist growth, workers’ conditions improve without mass struggles. This is when officials can separate themselves from the rest of the working class. Full time officers are no longer subject to alienated labour and despotic bosses. Able to set their own hours, officials seek to consolidate these privileges and create new ones. Increasingly, the labour bureaucracy excludes rank and file activists.
The consolidation of the labour bureaucracy gives rise to a distinctive political practice and world view. Preservation of the appartatus is its main goal. Bureaucrats seek to contain working class militancy within boundaries that do not threaten the system which is the basis for the officials’ fat life style.
Discussion to promote militant work place actions, mass political strikes, etc., must be quashed. The bureaucracy’s organizational fetishism grows into substitutionism. It demands workers’ unquestioning obediance to leaders who claim to know ‘what is best for the workers.’
Reformist electoral politics and routine bargaining exercises ignore the structural character of political and social power under capitalism. In other words, the politics of the labour bureaucracies under capitalism are utopian in the most negative sense of the word. Attempts by bureaucrats to broker the struggle between capital and labour constantly flounder on capitalism’s unavoidable crises of profitability, and the resulting rise in class struggle.
History confirms the thoroughly unrealistic nature of bureaucratic gradualism. In the name of preserving bourgeois democracy, the bureaucracy de-rails workers’ struggles. That opens the door to deadly reaction. Instead of workers’ revolution in Italy in 1921, in Germany in 1933, in Spain in 1939, in France in 1940, in Chile in 1973, there was fascist repression.
Rejecting militancy, the labour bureaucracy and reformist politicians have no choice but to make concessions to the employers’ offensive.
Is the bureaucratization of the mass working class organizations inevitable?
Clearly reformism will continue to be a problem until capitalism is overthrown. However, there are countervailing social forces and available safeguards against bureaucratization of workers’ parties and unions. The chief counter factor is the organization of the workers’ vanguard and the building of a mass, revolutionary workers’ party.
In non-revolutionary periods, advanced workers can keep alive traditions of militancy and solidarity, and fight for democratic safeguards. These include the election of all officers, the reduction of salaries, the promotion of free and open debate, and the representation of different currents in the leading bodies. Small revolutionary socialist groups can play a crucial role in organizing rank and file currents, and in educating the most radical workers in Marxist theory and practice.
This is the road to the revolutionary transformation of society. Concretely, this path poses a practical alternative to the reformist bureaucracy.
When we speak of the labour bureaucracy in Canada, who do we mean? We mean union officers who are paid two, three, four, five or more times the pay of the members they ‘represent’. Paul Moist, President of CUPE, is near the bottom of the luxury ladder. He was paid $159,000 in 2012. His office spent $370,000 in travel alone. Before merging into UNIFOR, the CAW had 89 officers who were paid over $100,000 a year. The leaders of the teachers’ unions and most other unions are paid between $200,000 and $300,000 a year. By Bay Street standards, that’s modest remuneration. But clearly, it puts the labour brass in a league apart from the rank and file.
Let’s consider now the record of the labour bureaucracy in Canada. The prevailing theme today is concessions. In sector after sector, from auto to steel, from forestry to railways, from the Ontario and Federal Public Service to the federal postal service, bosses get the concessions they demand from labour.
The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union agreed with General Motors to organize special early retirement buyouts at its two assembly plants in Oshawa, Ontario. This is designed to accelerate the automaker’s drive to replace higher-paid veteran workers with workers earning low wages. Temporary workers will get about $10 per hour less than their counterparts, receive an inferior benefits program, and be barred from enrolling in the pension plan. New hires will begin work at $14 per hour below the regular-tier rate, will receive reduced benefits, and also will be ineligible to participate in the pension plan.
For OPSEU it was concessions bargaining at the outset. President Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas offered to accept a 2 year wage freeze, without membership approval.
In fact, OPSEU members had prioritized wages in their demand setting process. Supposedly fearful that the membership would accept major concessions, a concessionary contract was signed and put to a vote. The deal introduces a two-tier wage structure, especially impacting new and young hires. There is a two year wage freeze, which represents a loss of over 4% of wages when inflation is taken into consideration. While members will continue to move up the wage grid, the 3% lower first new step in the grid will have a major impact on new hires. The deal also removes termination pay for new employees who are surplussed. These austerity concessions create a ‘divide and conquor’ situation in the labour movement, which will foster future ruling class attacks. What’s next? Unpaid internships?
In the teachers’ unions we find a particularly egregious example of class collaboration, and the strangulation of rank and file initiative.
Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association brass agreed to concessions before the Ontario Liberal government enacted Bill 115 (which suspended collective bargaining and the right to strike for education workers) – and did so without conducting a vote of OECTA members. Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario followed suit. Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation tops mounted token protest rallies, and simultaneously negotiated local concessionary deals. In York and Niagara districts, members voted in November 2012 to reject the deals that mirrored provincial take aways, despite heavy pressure from Federation headquarters to accept. In February 2013, OSSTF suspended its ‘political action’ protest (chiefly the boycott of extra-curricular activities, which impacted mostly on students and parents). In April, OSSTF capitulated to the province’s demands, with minor tweaks. ETFO, the last holdout, gave way on June 13. Discouraged by the unravelling of what began as a common front of resistence to austerity, education workers ratified the deals. But scandal dogs the leaders who did the dirty deeds.
Outraged members of Toronto OSSTF are demanding accountability from the District 12 Executive which donated $30,000 to four candidates contending for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership.
Members’ indignation pursued former OSSTF President Ken Coran. Coran angrily denounced the Liberals for violating collective bargaining rights. He did so right up to the front door of the Liberal Party leadership convention in February. Then Coran stood as a Liberal candidate in the byelections held on August 1. Was his candidacy a reward for services rendered?
As it turned out, Coran came a distant third in London West. The labour-based New Democratic Party surprised the pundits by winning that seat, and by making an even bigger breakthrough in Windsor-Tecumseh.
While perpetrating treachery from on high, union officials curtail democracy below. An example is the ten year ban imposed on me. I’m not allowed to attend OSSTF meetings for ten years. This is for the crime of speaking out of turn at a substitute teachers’ bargaining unit meeting in November 2012. I demanded job dispatch list data that the local executive (consisting mainly of double-dipping retirees) refused to disclose for a decade!
Here’s the background. In 2002, OSSTF officials removed the entire elected leadership of the Toronto substitute teachers’ unit on petty and false charges. They put conservative retirees in control. The right wingers surrendered an array of job security, wage and benefit gains in short order. On July 25, activists from several unions launched a Campaign to Defend Democracy in Unions and to Rescind the 10 Year Ban. On October 30 I addressed the Greater Toronto Area Council of OPSEU. It voted overwhelmingly to support our Campaign, and to ask OSSTF to rescind the 10 year ban.
In OECTA, bureaucrats imposed a two year suspension of Richard Brock, the elected President of Halton district Catholic teachers, for opposing the MOA with Queen’s Park last year. A campaign to reinstate Richard Brock is underway.
The United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters barred Brother Giancarlo Cessorronne for four meetings, until Jan. 2014, because he called the Treasurer of his Local a liar, outside of a mtg.
The fact is that the teachers’ top brass, and most of the entire labour leadership, would rather suppress militant members than fight austerity-minded bosses. Bureaucrats put a premium on tight control — even if it means weakening workers’ resistence to an agenda that harms the vast majority, including ultimately themselves.
To supplement threats at the bargaining table there is the hammer of strike breaking law. Government back-to-work legislation in 2011 broke strikes in the railway, at Air Canada, and at the post office, with scarcely a murmer from the labour movement tops. Union heads kept mass job action, which is urgently needed to counter the anti-labour offensive, off the political agenda.
Unions in Canada now encompass 31 per cent of the work force, 9 per cent less than in 1983. Average wages are lower now than in a generation. Morale is lower still.
Union leaders talk about confronting the threat of so-called ‘right to work’ laws (which would end compulsory deduction of union dues at source). You’ve probably seen the TV ad campaign, titled “Together Fairness Works”, set to the tune of ‘Sunny’. Unfortunately, it side-steps the need to fight rollbacks in wages, benefits and pensions, and the insidious lower wage rate increasingly imposed on new hires. Such measures undermine the confidence of all workers’ (especially young workers’) in unions.
Is the 30 year pattern of retreat by Labour due primarily to an inherent lack of self-confidence? Is it due to ingrained passivity, or to false consciousness on the part of working people? Are unions no longer suited to their task, as some academic ‘Marxists’ (in the GTWA) argue? Or does a sense of powerlessness simply feed off bureaucrats’ self-inflicted failures? Perhaps Labour’s retreat arises primarily from an aversion to struggle by union officials.
Plenty of evidence suggests that where a good, strong lead is offered, large numbers of people are willing to fight the austerity agenda of growing social inequality. The massive Quebec students’ uprising showed that. The global Occupy protests, and the cross-Canada Idle No More movement testify to that. What’s lacking, at the top, is a will to fight, or even to allow the ranks to discuss and exercise the option.
So, how can workers organize in a non-sectarian way to challenge both the bosses and the labour traitors? Fortunately, some positive examples exist, pointing the way forward.
In the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, rank and file members organized a large and inspiring Solidarity Caucus. Its mission: to get OPSEU to rejoin the Ontario Federation of Labour. OPSEU stopped paying dues to the OFL without good reason. The Solidarity Caucus attracted much support. It helped to elect reformers to the union’s Executive Board, but it did not win the re-affiliation battle at the April 2013 OPSEU convention. The struggle continues.
In OECTA, in March, convention delegates defeated and replaced the President who signed the bad deal and denied members a vote.
Meanwhile members of OSSTF and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario formed a cross-union caucus, the Rank and file Education Workers of Toronto. REWT initiated actions to protest government policies, and is now demanding accountability from officials who approved funding and other forms of collaboration with the governing party which attacked teachers’ rights.
And in the Toronto substitute teachers’ bargaining unit, we have an Action Caucus, which was launched in 2003 when local control was undemocratically usurped. Our Action Caucus has been successful at winning policy and action resolutions at unit meetings. It has come close to getting its candidates elected. The ten year ban on me reflects the bogus executive’s fear of losing control.
In CUPE, rank and file members formed a Return to Militant Labour caucus, which was active at the CUPE national convention just days ago.
And keep in mind the brilliant example of Sister Lindsay Hinshelwood who ran for Unifor president at the Unifor founding convention in August. She ran directly from the floor, without a fancy campaign, standing against concessions, for democratic principles, and she got 17.5% of the votes cast.
So…. what do these various experiences suggest?
  1. The fight against capitalist austerity and union concessions requires rank and file organization in all the unions to promote mass job action to win a Workers’ Agenda.
  2. Rank and file organization should be based on policies, not personalities. It should actively strive to replace the current mis-leaders on political grounds. Abstention from struggle in the union arena, or giving political support to this or that wing of the bureaucracy, are a betrayal of the fight against austerity and concessions.
  3. To change the overall direction of our unions, it is necessary to build a cross union, class struggle left wing. This has been the approach of revolutionary socialists in the unions in Canada and the USA since the 1920s, pioneered by the Trade Union Education League. The TUEL, which was active prior to the Stalinist degeneration of the Communist Party, provides an example that every worker-socialist should study.
How will a new generation of workers repair the damage done by the bureaucracy?  Not by the so-called ‘left centre unity’ tactic advanced by the Communist Party.  That tactic chains workers to the whims of liberals and opportunists.  Also dead wrong is the Toronto Labour Council’s nearly exclusive focus on defeating Tim Hudak’s Conservatives who threaten so-called right to work legislation.  Don’t forget: Liberals are Tories too.  Liberals curtailed collective bargaining, suspended the right to strike, and prorogued the Legislature.  It is capitalist austerity that we must fight and defeat.  Clearly, it will take more than an election to do it.  It will take class struggle, plant by plant, community by community, through mass action, mass resistance and general strike action. That course logically leads to the fight for a Workers’ Government.
We have serious battles ahead. Included is the fight against the new so-called ‘free trade deals’ and against federal Omnibus Bill C-4. Needed today is a cross-union, class struggle caucus.
Typically, union bureaucrats lack confidence in the membership. That’s why they did not want to chance a strike vote in the case of OPS bargaining. The idea that labour will turn things around ‘when the economy recovers’, or that a struggle against management will occur without the union rank and file challenging and overcoming the union bureaucracy, are grand delusions. Class struggle opposition in each union is no abstract ideal; it is an urgent necessity to avoid an accelerating descent into labour hell.
Workers know that it is we who built our unions, and that it is the rank and file which must reclaim the unions to fight for all workers’ needs — for the unionized and non-union, for the employed and unemployed.
In 1991 over twenty labour and community groups joined together to launch a Workers’ Solidarity Coalition in Toronto. Its initial purpose was to organize support for key public sector strikes involving postal workers and federal public service employees. Unions deserve to have every class conscious worker, every progressive person, feminist, youth, senior and environmentalist on their picket lines. Those were strikes which challenged a major Tory initiative to attack labour and public services. We were relatively successful in that fight. Now the stakes are higher. The global neo-liberal agenda is more extensive, more intensive, and it is relentless. And increasingly, union officials are caving in to it, and turning their fire on union members. That is why we need Workers’ Solidarity more than ever. We need a militant cross-union movement, in alliance with community-based groups and local activists. A class struggle opposition builds itself upon a defined membership. It challenges the current leadership. It is based on a clear programme and a firm set of principles.
The programme of the Workers’ Solidarity and Union Democracy Coalition declared: 1. Resist labour concessions and social cutbacks. 2. Support struggles for union democracy, to make unions more accessible, accountable, transparent and participatory. 3. Take back our unions and turn them into fighting organizations. 4. Rely on our own strength, and renew or create our own organizations, from the bottom up, to fight for the interests of working people and against corporate profit and power. The Workers’ Solidarity and Union Democracy Coalition was re-launched at a conference held here in 2004. It remained an embryo. But its birth is anxiously awaited, now more timely than ever.
I can summarize this talk with the following points: There is a tendency towards bureaucratic domination of our unions in capitalist society, but it is not insurrmountable. Bureacuracy has been, and will be overcome by organizing from the bottom-up.
What can we do today? Build a rank and file caucus in every union and social justice movement. Build a network of militants to oppose concessions and capitalist austerity. Challenge the current labour leadership. Support the Campaign to Rescind the 10 Year Ban in OSSTF, the 2 Year Ban in OECTA, and similar campaigns.
Together, we can prove that the corporate agenda, and labour sell-out policies, can be blown away by a strong wave of class struggle. Let’s force the labour leadership to lead that fight, or get the heck out of the way. This entails the construction of a militant, radical, well-organized left wing in the unions and the NDP. To that task Socialist Action is absolutely committed. If you agree, join us today.

When will they ever learn?

Once again, the leadership of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and of several key union affiliates, is taking workers down the primrose path of liberal, middle class politics towards the October 2014 municipal election.
Rather than host a convention of labour activists and members of the labour-based New Democratic Party across Toronto and York Region to adopt platform policies and to select candidates to fight for a Labour City Hall, we see a relapse to the tactics that failed us in 2010.
The “Municipal Political Action Conference”, set for November 16, 2013 at 89 Chestnut Street, is “designed for everyone who plans to get involved in the 2014 Municipal/School Board elections”. That means regardless anyone’s policies and regardless their links to big business parties, like the Liberal Party, which bear responsibility for cutbacks, privatizing public services, giving tax breaks to the rich, and curtailing the right to strike.
It is quite revealing that the “Guest Speaker” at the Conference is Jeremy Bird, former National Field Director for the 2012 re-election Campaign of President Barack Obama. Obama is the chief executive tool of Wall Street who bailed out the world’s biggest criminal corporations. Obama wages endless wars of occupation around the world, propping up racist, sexist, homophobic rule abroad and at home.
What about Jeremy Bird? He was the target of a high profile protest, which forced him to cut short his speech at the NDP federal convention in Montreal in April 2013. It is shameful, and sadly indicative, that Toronto and York Region Labour Council officials would invite this ‘field director’ for the pro-austerity, big business, drone-wars regime in Washington.
The lessons of the failed David Miller mayorship and the feckless 2010 ‘labour’ municipal campaign are there for all to see. On the reverse side of this leaflet, read the analysis issued by Socialist Action in the immediate aftermath of the entirely preventable Rob Ford victory.
Instead of a multi-class, liberal smorgasbord of candidates and policies, labour needs an election team that demands: free public transit, a major expansion of the rapid transit system, reverse the cutbacks and privatization, build quality social housing to curb homelessness, and to fund this agenda, tax the developers, big business, the banks, religious institutions, and the rich.
stubbornRemember the old adage: The first time you fool me, shame on you. The second time you fool me, shame on me.
Don’t be fooled again. Protest the invitation of US Democratic Party imperialist hack Jeremy Bird. No support for Liberal, Conservative, Green Party, or ‘independent’ candidates. Turn the Political Action Conference into a policy-making, candidate selection gathering aimed at fighting for, and winning a Workers’ Government at City Hall in 2014.
Join Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste
visit: www.socialistaction.ca phone: 416-535-8779
What led to Rob Ford’s win?
The ‘realistic left’ at Toronto City Hall blew it. Thanks to them, the municipal election was a write-off.
By pandering to big developers and the rich, by targeting civic workers instead of tax-withholding banks, by hiking user fees (and politicians’ perks) while slashing community services, David Miller and company pushed tens of thousands of working people into the boa constrictor-like embrace of Rob Ford and George Smitherman.
Joe Pantalone, the hapless apologist for the Liberal-NDP coalition government, Joe ‘Pants’, the Bob Rae of City Council, alienated his base and deprived voters of a principled, independent working class alternative to the big business right wing, right from the start.
Many unionists and progressives in Canada’s biggest city were stunned by the scope of the victory of right wing populist Councillor Rob Ford in the race for mayor. Equally disturbing, an increased number of Ford-like labour-haters captured seats on Toronto City Council on October 25 — possibly enough to fashion a voting majority to implement an agenda of severe social and culture cuts, plus privatization and contracting-out measures.
The turnout of 52 per cent of eligible voters, compared to 39 per cent in 2006, rewarded candidates who promised “change”. Ford received 47 per cent of the votes cast. Former Ontario Liberal Health Minister George Smitherman, running on a similar programme of austerity and privatization, got 36 per cent.
Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, propped up by a disintegrating band of labour tops and fellow Councillors, came third with 12 per cent.  Pantalone helped to steer the informal Liberal Party-New Democratic Party coalition that ran Toronto City Hall for seven years. That regime not only raised taxes and increased user fees while reducing public services. It forced 30,000 municipal workers into a bitter 40 day strike over wages and pensions. It abused workers and whetted the appetite of the corporate elite for more labour concessions.
A stormy period of clashes over the fate of city jobs and services is now in store. Hopefully, there will be mass resistance to the corporate agenda. If there is, it may hasten the realization that unions must break with the Liberals and fight for an up-front NDP-Labour slate of candidates committed to socialist policies prior to the next municipal vote in 2014.
How can this be done? Long before the next city election, after voters have digested the bitter fruit of opportunism, it will be time to return to the future. Labour and the NDP should convene a broad, mass, participatory convention to fashion a socialist platform and select candidates who can be held accountable to it, to run for all municipal offices. Just as the NDP and labour did in the 1960s and 70s, before the left-populism of Sewell and Crombie dulled our senses and muddled the class line at City Hall, a workers’ slate can be built again.
Union activists: Demand that independent working class party politics be reintroduced to the municipal arena. Fight for electoral reform, including preferential ballots.Give workers a real choice. Otherwise, the tragedy of October 25 will become a permanent farce – at the expense of the working class and our urban environment.