Strikes for social justice have taken hold of Canada’s two largest universities. 6,000 members of Local 3902 (unit 1) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are on legal strike against their employer, the University of Toronto (U of T). “We are poor, precarious, and need improvement in our standard of living,” Union Chair Erin Black said after her members overwhelmingly rejected U of T management’s terms at the end of February. The 3,700 members of CUPE Local 3903 hit the bricks on March 3, taking on their bosses at York University. At a special membership meeting held a day earlier, members voted 71 per cent to reject the university’s last offer and to commence strike action. They want protection against tuition hikes and an end to precarious, one year at a time, teaching contracts.
York University’s administration punished Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) for holding a rally on March 27 to demand divestment from Israeli Apartheid. York U Security also asked an alumnus and member of SAIA to leave the protest at Vari Hall and threatened to arrest him if he didn’t. In addition, SAIA’s club status “has been revoked until January 2014 following the Vari Hall demonstration in March” as reported in Excalibur, York University’s community newspaper.
In response to these sanctions, Youth for Socialist Action (YSA) joins The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), and the Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA), which have all condemned the York University administration. We call on the administration to amend University policies which pose a threat to free speech, particularly the Senate Policy on Disruptive and/or Harassing Behaviour in Academic Situations, the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, and the Temporary Use of University Space policy.
YSA is a firm supporter of the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel. We demand that York University stop investing in repression, occupation and war crimes, and to stop violating freedom of expression on campus.
As a socialist and internationalist organization, YSA affirms that socialists have a further responsibility to present a cogent analysis of the current situation in its global context, and to advance a programme in the strategic interests of all working people. In this sense, the starting point for a programme for peace with social justice in the Middle East is the end of the apartheid Zionist state, and the revolutionary transformation of all the Arab regimes. For the Palestinians, the proposed “two state solution” is simply a call for an old-style South Africa Bantustan-type arrangement – consisting of large, impoverished, concentration camps of Palestinians surrounded by powerful Zionist armed forces. We support the right of Palestinians to establish a state on any part of their territory, whatever its limitations, and to continue the fight for full national emancipation. This is a basic, democratic stance, without which social progress is impossible.
We further seek to
- Educate and mobilize public opinion to oppose Israel’s military aggression against the Palestinians. Confront and expose the myths about Zionism offering a safe haven for world Jewry. Refuse to submit to intimidation by pro-Zionist organizations and business media. Conduct seminars and teach-ins, and seek opportunities to speak to labour, NDP and community organizations.
- Challenge the partnership of the Canadian government and big business with the Israeli state and economy. Ottawa’s policy is now the most blatantly pro-Zionist in the world. Challenge Canada’s complicity with United States’ domination of the Middle East.
- Demand implementation of an immediate international embargo on investment, trade and arms shipments to Israel – to be lifted only when the Zionist state ends its occupation of the Palestinian territories, dismantles the Apartheid wall and the Zionist settlements, halts its military aggression, recognizes the right of return of all Palestinian refugees, pays reparations to refugees and victims of Israeli state violence, ends discrimination against non-Jews inside Israel, and recognizes the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and an independent state.
- Organize a broadly based, mass action-oriented, democratic alliance of all groups and individuals willing to fight for peace with social justice in Palestine. Action must include solidarity with the mass protest movement of the victims of Zionist aggression. It is wrong to subordinate the freedom struggle of the Palestinians to the so-called ‘unity’ of the Israeli working class, much of which is imbued with chauvinist prejudice. In recent years Israeli unions hold general strikes against social cutbacks and the lack of housing, but include right wing settler groups and refuse to discuss the plight of Palestinians. We insist it is wrong to oppose the global BDS campaign on the claim that it is ‘divisive’, as some ‘leftist’ groups argue. Unity in action for social justice should be based on a concrete programme of democratic demands, including the ones stated above. On this basis, a broad movement for justice and solidarity can be built, reaching out beyond the Canadian Arab and Jewish communities, and mobilizing allies in the unions and the organizations of feminists, seniors, environmentalists, students, immigrants, civil libertarians, visible minorities and international solidarity activists.
Unity in action of Palestinian and Israeli workers – against national oppression – is a prerequisite to a Democratic, Secular Palestine, which is likewise a precondition to ending the bloodshed, repression and injustice that torment the peoples of the region. Unity in solidarity action with the Palestinian people, across the Canadian state and around the world, is a critical step towards that goal.
Youth for Socialist Action
for more information: http://www.socialistaction.ca/ysa