The following articles are from the January 1-31, 2020, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.
“This is the road to Armageddon – we must reverse course!”
The Communist Party of Canada has condemned the illegal US airstrike and assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and 9 others, warning that they place humanity on a path to destruction. The CPC denounces the strike and assassinations as illegal under the UN Charter.
“These actions are acts of war and US state terrorism, which threaten to set off a regional war or even a global confrontation. This is the road to Armageddon.
“The US effort to justify its actions by claiming self-defence is as transparent as its infamous claim of “weapons of mass destruction” as justification for its 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.
“Likewise, the current crisis involving the US and Iran was brought about by the US’ unilateral decision to put crippling sanctions on Iran and to pull of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 together with the European Union.
“US imperialism thrives on aggression, tension, and war in the region, and in the world, as it seeks to strengthen its dominance over its imperialist rivals and over the sovereignty of the states, nations and peoples it subjugates.”
The Communist Party notes that the more immediate aim of the January 2 airstrike and assassination, which was launched by the US President personally, was to invigorate Trump’s flagging election fortunes “with a dog-whistle pitch to a fake patriotism and a fascistic national chauvinism.”
This is reminiscent of the airstrike that former US President Bill Clinton launched on Iraq amid impeachment proceedings against him in 1998.
The Communist Party demands that the Canadian government, and Prime Minister Trudeaupersonally, “condemn these acts of war and terrorism by the US and the Trump administration and to speak out about the enormous threat they pose to peace and stability in the world, to national sovereignty and independence, to the continued existence of the United Nations and international law.”
The Canadian government seems more concerned that it was not consulted by Trump prior to the airstrike, than over the fact that it is an illegal act of war which threatens to expand into a regional or global conflict. On January 6, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan suggested that the Trudeau government was supportive of the US aggression. “We need to make sure we as a coalition protect our people and prevent future attacks.The Quds organization [which General Soleimani led] that has been supporting proxy groups in the region, has been responsible for thousands and thousands of deaths – plus also putting our own personnel at risk.”
The Communist Party criticizes this interlacing of Canadian foreign policy with that of the United States, and notes that there is a pattern of deepening participation from Canada in US intervention and aggression. “Canada has bowed to US pressure by agreeing to detain Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the US to be prosecuted for refusing to recognize illegal US extra-territorial laws and jurisdiction over other countries’ trade with Iran. There is no legal basis for her detention. But it is clear evidence of Canada’s changing relationship to US imperialism, and its near complete absorption into the vortex of NATO and the US war machine. Canada is now routinely involved in illegal US regime change operations, and in US dirty wars around the world including the 16 year old US-led war on Iraq which killed over one million Iraqis. Canada is now commanding the NATO mission in Iraq.”
The CPC has long called for Canada to adopt an independent foreign policy based on peace and disarmament, mutual security, and respect for the sovereignty and independence of all states and nations. In response to the current crisis, the Party calls on the labour and democratic movements across Canada to speak up against the US strike, and to condemn the US drive to a new war in the Middle East. “Public pressure on the Canadian government to oppose these illegal acts of war can help stop the outbreak of a new war, and all its consequences on the 100 million people who live in the region, and on the peoples of the world.
“Canada must reverse course, exit NATO, leave Iraq, and stay out of Iran.”
Intensify efforts to preserve peace confront US imperialism!
Iranian communists are calling for deepened opposition to US aggression, in an effort to avoid war on Iran.
The Tudeh Party of Iran (TPI) issued an international statement on January 3, that denounced the US assassination of Qasem Soleimani as a “clear violation of Iraqi national sovereignty and all international law [that] could undoubtedly posedeadly risks for the region.”
In recent months, the Tudeh Party has repeatedly warned about the dangers posed by the aggressive policies of US imperialism and its allies, including the reactionary government of Saudi Arabia and the racist Israeli government.
“It is also necessary to point out that war and military conflicts in the region will only benefit the most reactionary and anti-people forces in the region and across the world and will be against the interests of the nation and working people,”said the TPI statement. “The action of the Trump administration takes place when he ison the verge of an impeachment trial in the US Senate for his abuse of power; and Americans have entered an election year.In Iran, our people – who are well awarewhat catastrophes war has brought on our homeland in the past – have always been concerned at the prospect of another war. The development of a national emergencyand wartimesituation in Iran … will be used as an excuse to intensify the atmosphere of repression and terror in Iran.”
The Tudeh Party notes that, despite rhetoric to the contrary from pro-war forces, military conflict harms the working class. “In contrast to the outlook of forces such as the monarchists and the PMOI [People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran] who act asagents of the Trump administration and demand US military intervention against our homeland, our Party recognises that the intensification of military conflictswill certainly harm the people of Iran and Iraq more than anyone else; the very people who have been the main victims of the policies of the reactionary forces and of US imperialism for years.”
In June 2019, TPI issued a statement about the duplicity of the US government in the context of increasing tensions relating to the threat of airstrikes against Iran. “On 22 June, Trump claimed that his goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and that he is willing to talk to Iran’s leaders. When considering this current position of Trump, it is worth noting that it was the Trump administration that through withdrawing from the JCPOA (despite the opposition of the EU states and the governments of Russia and China that were the other signatories of this agreement) and imposing the harshest economic sanctions on Iran to date in order to advance regime change, laid the ground for the current precarious situation in the region.”
The Tudeh Party is calling upon “all ofthe progressive, freedom-loving and peace-loving forces of Iran, the region, and across the world to further their efforts to mobilise world public opinion against the escalation of tensions and the dangerous and lethal military conflicts in the region… The struggle to preserve peace and stop the warmongering forces in the Middle East region in order to defend the interests of the Iranian working people and nation is of utmost importance.”
Indigenous peoples want their land back
On December 31, the BC Supreme Court ruled in favour of Coastal GasLink (CGL), which has never obtained consent from the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs to work on un-surrendered traditional Indigenous territories in the north-central part of the province, east of Prince Rupert.
For years, CGL has pursued its pipeline construction plans, destroying archaeological and cultural sites, while private security firms and the RCMP interfere with the constitutional rights of Wet'suwet'en people to access their lands for hunting, trapping, and ceremonies. CGL has frequently violated the conditions of its permits, without facing penalties from Canadian regulatory authorities.
In January 2019, the RCMP arrested a number of Indigenous land defenders and allies at the Unist'ot'en camp, which was set up in 2010 to block access to Wet'suwet'en territory by resource extraction industries. Recent news reports based on RCMP files reveal that the Mounties were prepared to use extreme violence to carry out these arrests.
This story is nothing new in Canadian history. Most of the land and water within the borders of Canada were forcibly taken from the original inhabitants, with catastrophic consequences. Over the last few decades, increasingly detailed evidence has emerged about the scope of this enormous land theft, and the duplicitous efforts to justify the genocidal policies of the European colonizing powers and the modern Canadian capitalist state.
The latest study of this history comes from the Yellowhead Institute, "a First Nation-led think tank rooted in community networks and committed to Indigenous self-determination." In October 2019, the institute published "Land Back," a Red Paper which builds on the tradition of "agenda-making reports by Indigenous people" like the famous 1970 response to the "White Paper" assimilation project launched by Pierre Trudeau's federal Liberal government. The massive rejection of the White Paper helped build the "Red Power" movement which energized Indigenous resistance struggles during the 1970s and beyond.
"Land Back" is an invaluable tool for understanding these issues from an anti-capitalist perspective, written mainly in language which is clear and accessible, and free from academic terminology that sometimes limits a wider readership.
As the executive summary of "Land Back" points out, "one of the loudest and most frequent demands of Indigenous people in the relationship with settlers is for the return of the land." For non-Indigenous residents of Canada, mostly raised with the (mistaken) collective belief that Indigenous lands were "surrendered," however unfairly, this demand has often seemed puzzling. Thus, we see generations of "progressive" politicians who promote their visions of "reconciliation," including Royal Commissions, apologies for the residential schools, court cases, negotiation tables, impact benefit agreements, etc. From their perspective, the persistent attempts by Indigenous activists to assert rights and jurisdiction outside of reserve or settlement boundaries, at the expense of corporate extraction projects, are seen as utopian or simply annoying.
This sentiment was skewered over half a century ago by Buffy Sainte-Marie, in her song Now That the Buffalo's Gone, with the lines "Oh it's all in the past you can say, but it's still going on here today."
"Land Back" grounds this attitude in the "stubborn insistence by Canada, the provinces and territories, that they own the land. For many Indigenous communities, this is a deep violation of their consent to determine what happens on un-surrendered lands, but also a violation of the broader assertion that they have jurisdiction over those lands."
There is now a welcome trend towards deeper understanding of this question. For example, many Canadians today realize that most of British Columbia was never the subject of treaties. The recent publication of "No Surrender," an important study of the negotiations during the 1870s leading to the "numbered treaties" in western Canada, is a powerful antidote to the false concept that Indigenous peoples "gave up" their territories.
The Red Paper provides fascinating details on the land and resource strategies of federal and provincial governments, posing broad but crucial questions about the nature of "consent" practiced by Canada, especially the strategies for dispossessing Indigenous peoples of lands and waters. The Paper helps readers to beyond debates over immediate struggles, towards a deeper perception of the big picture.
As the Paper points out, 89 percentof lands in Canada have been divided between the federal and provincial governments. These “Crown Lands” are an artifact of the colonial “doctrine of discovery,” conveniently enabling governments to alienate lands originally held by Indigenous peoples, leaving them no legal avenue to recover their ownership. Of course, corporations take full advantage of the "Crown Land" system. The authors reviewed almost 100 cases of injunctions, finding that "this legal tool reinforces the impossibility of choices First Nations must make when they appear before Canadian courts. The sad final tally was that 76 percent of injunctions filed against First Nations by corporations were granted, while 81 percent of injunctions filed against corporations by First Nations were denied. Perhaps most tellingly, 82 percent of injunctions filed by First Nations against the government were denied."
Importantly, "Land Back" stresses that "alienation is not simply a process of straight theft because it often requires the compliance of First Nation governments. Colonization has transformed internal social relationships and governance systems through the cumulative impacts of assimilation." The Paper also warns that "land and water alienation must also be understood through gender dynamics," since "Women, transgender, queer, and Two-Spirit people were never the intended beneficiaries of new distributions of power introduced through colonization. Rather, they were targeted and disempowered with the intention of removing them from leadership and minimizing any confrontation or challenge they posed to the patriarchy of Western systems of governance."
Many other valuable insights are presented, including analysis of "new strategies to manage Aboriginal rights." These days, governments increasingly seek to download their responsibilities, especially the duty to consult, to the private sector, through the encouragement of bilateral commercial contracts with resource companies. "Impact and Benefit Agreements" (IBAs) are private commercial contracts negotiated between Indigenous peoples and industry in the consultation phase of a project. Such private agreements can imply recognition of Indigenous authority, and the right to benefit from economic activity on their territories. But the Red Paper raises serious concerns: "While certainly not embracing a frozen-rights approach to Indigenous culture, recognizing the importance of First Nation participation in the market economy, and trying to avoid any form of essentialism, we press the question: can capitalism coexist with decolonization?"
"Beneficial" energy projects like hydroelectricity and transmission lines, for example, often negatively impact First Nations and their land and waters.
"Land Back" examines the changing nature of Indigenous resistance as laws began to change. After the Canadian Constitution was patriated in 1982, the new Section 35 declared that “the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.” Many First Nations rejected this as a subordination of their rights under Canadian federalism, while others sought to leverage this new tool. Although governments have done little to make this declaration a reality, the courts have slowly elaborated on the definition of Section 35 rights. "Land Back" gives an overview of this process, including an explanation of new legal categories: “Aboriginal rights,” “Treaty rights” and “Aboriginal title.”
However, as the Red Paper points out, no “veto” power has ever been established by Canadian courts, although the Tŝilhqot’in decision "introduced a higher threshold of consent for development on Aboriginal title lands."
That brings the authors to a review of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which contains clauses ensuring Indigenous people’s right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), tied to a universal human right to self-determination. "Land Back" traces the tactics of both Conservative and Liberal governments to restrict the application of UNDRIP clauses, or to falsely claim that Canada is "already implementing" these rights. In July 2017, Canada published its "Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples," consisting of ten commitments for the new nation-to-nation relationship promised by PM Justin Trudeau.
This document states that "any infringement of Aboriginal or treaty rights requires justification in accordance with the highest standards established by the Canadian courts." In other words, while Canada recognizes UNDRIP, it does not guarantee adherence to the Declaration's concept of "free, prior and informed consent."
The Red Paper warns that "the life of our species and of the planet are at risk from the type of economic philosophy and practices perpetuated by capitalism and settler colonialism.... In May 2019, the UN’s Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that human activities are rapidly stripping the planet of biodiversity, contributing to the ecological devastation wrought by climate change. One million species are at risk of extinction. While an apocalyptic future certainly awaits without transformational change, the UN report finds some hope in the land management practices of Indigenous peoples globally."
Read "Land Back" for yourself at redpaper.yellowheadinstitute.org.
First Nations back in court to fight TMX, defend land
PV Staff, with files from Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust
Representatives of Indigenous communities fighting the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project (TMX) in the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) gathered on December 16, the day before hearings began, in a demonstration of unity and resolve to have the Courts once again quash Canada’s approval of the controversial project.
The FCA heard from four First Nations who are challenging the federal government’s June 2019 re-approval of the TMX. As with the August 2018 Tsleil-Waututh vs. Canada decision, this case has the potential to delay pipeline construction by quashing Cabinet’s approval.
The First Nations involved in the challenge include the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN), Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band, and the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribes – a group of seven Stó:lō bands with territories near Chilliwack.
One major difference in this round of consultation is that the federal government is now also the owner of the TMX. When Houston-based Kinder Morgan, faced with decisive opposition from First Nations, decided to abandon the project in 2018 the Trudeau government intervened and purchased the pipeline for $4.5 billion.
The purchase was a dramatic act of dispossession of Indigenous peoples’ control over their territory, proof again that policies of colonialism are still key to the role of the state’s apparatus in producing and reproducing capitalism in Canada.
The four First Nations point out that the government purchase put them in a challenging position, “as decision makers, as project proponents and as fiduciary to the First Nations. As a result, many of the First Nations argue that the consultation efforts were not approached with an open mind, and that approval was a foregone conclusion, making the consultation a box-ticking exercise.”
The First Nations argue that consultation once again fell below the mark set by the Supreme Court of Canada. They charge that the consultation was poorly organized and rushed and did not engage substantively with First Nations’ focused and specific concerns nor address those concerns through mitigation and accommodation.
According to Chief Leah George-Wilson of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, “Federal officials altered Canada’s peer reviews of the science, which largely agreed with TWN expert reports that there is a lack of information about diluted bitumen, its behaviour and effects. That is not honourable consultation. It appears as though their minds were closed to anything other than enthusiastic approval.”
Squamish Nation Councillor Khelsilem warned, “The TMX Project is still a threat to our coastline and community in the case of a pipeline leak or tanker spill. This project will harm our communities, our people, and the jobs our people rely on in the Vancouver area. Canada was ordered to try again at meaningfully consulting with our Nation but treated us with the same contempt as the first time when the Courts said their attempt “fell well short of the mark.” The Trudeau government does not seem to understand what respecting Indigenous rights means. Consultation was rushed the first time and it was rushed again despite the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision. It is of utmost importance to our Nation that the court ensures that Canada complies with its obligations to uphold our Nation’s rights.”
Chief Lee Spahan of the Coldwater Indian Band also noted the federal government’s repeated failure to respect Indigenous rights. “Last year the Court found that Canada failed to provide certainty that our concerns about risks to our sole source of drinking water would be addressed. Despite our sincere effort to find solutions, the Crown has managed to create even more uncertainty about how and whether our drinking water will be protected for generations to come. Once again we have been forced to return to court to try and protect our reserve drinking water.”
The FCA granted leave to the four First Nations on September 4 but limited the grounds of appeal to the re-initiated consultation efforts by the federal government. That September leave decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in November by Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish as well as three environmental groups who were excluded from the present FCA case. The SCC has not yet ruled on the leave applications.
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust initiative is mandated to stop the TMX project. The Sacred Trust stresses that each First Nation’s legal challenge is based on unique facts relating to their specific territory, rights, and title. “This raises an independent duty for Canada to consult and accommodate each individual First Nation. In other words, the extent and content of consultation are specific to the facts and circumstances for each First Nation and satisfying the duty to consult and accommodate one First Nation does not guarantee that the duty has been fulfilled for another. Success on any one of the First Nations’ legal challenges could delay the project.”
The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) states that the federal government’s responsibility to consult “imposes on it a positive obligation to reasonably ensure that aboriginal peoples are provided with all necessary information in a timely way so that they have an opportunity to express their interests and concerns, and to ensure that their representations are seriously considered and, wherever possible, demonstrably integrated into the proposed plan of action.”
However, the First Nations’ legal arguments demonstrate that this duty was not met during the latest round of consultation:
“The federal government failed to meaningfully engage with and address specific and focused concerns repeatedly raised by First Nations, resulting in a breach of Canada’s constitutional duty to consult and accommodate.
“Consultations were once again rushed on a unilaterally-imposed timeline.
“The federal government did not engage in consultations with an open mind: as the proponents of the project, the decision to approve did not appear to be in question.
“Accommodation measures were generic and proposed before First Nations had the opportunity to fully list their concerns. Those measures did not change following the consultation period.
“The federal government initially denied the existence of its own peer review documents of Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish expert reports which largely agreed with the First Nations’ conclusions. Later, the government withheld the documents from the First Nations and finally, provided altered versions. Only after the approval on June 18 were the Nations provided with the original peer review documents, which confirmed that the government staff agreed with the Nations’ expert reports about the lack of information regarding the fate and behaviour of a diluted bitumen spill in the Salish Sea.
“In Coldwater’s case, the consultation process resulted in a weakening of the previously approved conditions by imposing a new timeline to complete a hydrological study of Coldwater’s aquifer and failed to address the flaw found by the Court that Canada failed to consider additional measures to address Coldwater’s concerns about risks to their drinking water.
“The Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribes have already confirmed fishing rights at Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in waters directly affected by the project, but the Tribes were consulted as if those rights were not confirmed, and there was no justification of the infringement of these confirmed rights. There was also no implementation of any of the Tribes’ 89 recommendations.”
Predictably, the federal government’s arguments attempted to diminish the First Nations’ concerns. Regarding the withheld documents, for example, the government stated that these were “internal notes” which the First Nations had no right to review. The objections of the Coldwater Band were brushed aside as “historical grievances” that had nothing to do with the current project, but which demonstrated Coldwater’s “lack of meaningful engagement with Canada.”
If built, TMX will increase the amount of tarsands crude oil traveling through BC water from approximately 60 tankers a year to over 400. Notably, however, the First Nations argue that there is no economic need for the project. The pipeline is not intended to meet the energy needs of the Lower Mainland or British Columbia, and the crude oil that it will carry is for export and will not be refined in Canada. Outside of private corporate profits, there is no compelling economic justification for TMX.
The FCA heard all arguments between December 16-19 and has adjourned to deliberate; a decision is expected soon.
Perhaps prophetically, Chief Justice Marc Noël summarized the antagonistic nature of the proceedings: “It feels like an acrimonious divorce. Obviously, there’s a lot of tension here.”
Trilateral meeting of Communist parties in USMCA countries
Participants agree to joint action, future meetings
Communist parties from Mexico, the US and Canada met in Mexico City November 28 to December 1 to discuss the USMCA free trade agreement, whose ratification by governments across North America is about to be completed. The meeting was hosted by the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM) and included the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) and the Communist Party of Canada (CPC).
The parties identified the USMCA – known as T-MEC (El Tratado entre México, Estados Unidos y Canadá) in Latin America – as a continuation of the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Like its predecessor, USMCA is described as a continental corporate constitution whose goal is to strengthen the power and profits of capital across the continent; weaken the working class, the labour and democratic movements, small farmers and producers; slash wages and living standards; and privatize public services and social programs, including Medicare in Canada. The agreement also aims to undermine the fight for peace, climate justice, social progress and socialism in the hemisphere.
Under the USMCA, national sovereignty and independence will be weakened further than they were under NAFTA, as significant parts of the deal require national governments to inform and consult one another on such things as trade agreements with other countries, and specifically with socialist (“non-market economy”) countries, before they can act. In fact, this ‘trade’ agreement is not mainly about trade; it’s about corporate domination of national governments across the continent.
Discussion at the trilateral meeting focused on key areas of water privatization and privatization and control of natural and energy resources; control over Indigenous rights, land and resources; and control over the movement of people, including refugees, while corporations and capital are freed to move anywhere in the hemisphere in order to maximize profits. Climate change and the loss of flora and fauna specifies, which the USMCA agreement will accelerate, were also major themes, as fires raged across the Amazon – the lungs of the planet – during the meeting.
There was considerable discussion over the massive forced migration of millions of people in the Americas, who are fleeing war, far right and fascist governments, and climate catastrophe. All of these crises have been brought on by neoliberal governments and the imperialist countries of North America which aim to dominate the Americas and the Caribbean. The parties condemned the US government’s response to migrants fleeing north to the US and Canada, including the notorious caging of migrant children taken by force from their parents at the US border with Mexico. These are de facto concentration camps run by the US military.
The so-called Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the US has forced migrants who first sought refugee status in the US to enter Canada illegally. This often endangers their lives – particularly of children and elderly people – as it can involve crossing through fields at the border in -30° temperatures. Migrants moving north through Mexico to the US also face dangerous conditions and are met at the border by US military personnel with shoot to kill orders.
Under the USMCA, mass migrations will become larger and more dangerous as corporations continue to plunder Latin America and the Caribbean, while governments close borders to fleeing migrants and refugees. The 21st century has seen the largest mass migrations since World War II. Far right governments and movements in all the capitalist countries have sought to exploit this crisis with xenophobic and racist campaigns against migrants and immigration.
The three Communist parties pledged to continue fighting the USMCA and set May Day 2020 as a day of joint action against the deal. Instead of a race to the bottom, the parties declared their commitment to fight for and win better wages and living standards for all workers across the continent; to protect small farmers and producers from bankruptcy and expropriation, with policies to protect the family farm and guarantee food security for all; to protect the environment and reverse climate change; to protect and expand Indigenous rights and land; to protect and defend national sovereignty and independence; to curb corporate power and build the unity, organization and strength of the working class movement across the hemisphere with the goal of fundamental social transformation and socialism.
The trilateral meeting saluted the struggles of autoworkers, teachers and educational workers taking place in Mexico, the US and Canada. It also expressed solidarity with Cuba, condemning the imperialist blockade and the recent aggressive measures by the Trump administration, and with the people of Bolivia in their struggle against the coup d’état promoted and implemented by the OAS and guided by the US. The meeting condemned similar attempted coups in Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The three parties welcomed the struggle of the peoples of Ecuador and Chile against far right and neoliberal governments, and against finance capital. They expressed their collective concern about the failure of the peace accords in Colombia and the situation of political persecution, murders, and staging of new “false positive” killings of civilians. The meeting also welcomed the Haitian people’s mass mobilization for their rights.
Finally, the parties agreed to continue fraternal exchanges and to convene another trilateral meeting in 2021 in Canada, and to continue sharing views on important contemporary theoretical and political questions.
Following the meeting on the USMCA, the three parties were joined by other parties from across Latin America to discuss recent and urgent developments in Latin America including the mass migrations, the overturning of progressive governments in the region, and the continuing efforts by the US and OAS to overthrow the Maduro government in Venezuela.
A day of discussions included talks about the work to build the Communist parties and the movement for socialism in each country. While the conditions are different, the fight for working class unity, militancy, mass political struggle, and for socialism is the same. During this session, veteran members of the Communist Party of Mexico were recognized and spoke briefly about the Party’s history and the revolutionary struggles of the Mexican working class in the 19th and 20th centuries. Participants visited a gallery featuring the breathtaking wall murals of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siquerios, a confirmation of the revolutionary spirit of the Mexican people.
On the final day, the parties celebrated the founding of the Communist Party of Mexico in 1919. PCM leader Pavel Blanco spoke to a large gathering of Party members, supporters and guests, followed by representatives of Communist parties from Latin America, the US, Canada, Greece and Turkey. While the PCM is 100 years old, its membership is young, active and militant. A panel discussion on women, with contributions from women in the leadership of the Communist parties of Mexico, Turkey and Canada, showed the importance that all the parties gave to the issue of building among women.
In the wake of the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 2017, many Communist parties are celebrating their centenaries; in 2019 this included PCM and the CPUSA. The next gathering of the three parties will also celebrate the centenary of the Communist Party of Canada in 2021.
Alberta Communists issue open letter on U of A controversy about Ukrainian famine
The Communist Party – Alberta has issued an open letter commending the University of Alberta for resisting calls to dismiss sessional lecturer Dougal MacDonald overhis comments thatthe Ukrainian famine was not a genocide. MacDonald made the comments on Facebook in November 2019, and immediately became the focus of an attack by right-wing voices in the Ukrainian community and beyond. Organizations like the U of A’s Ukrainian Students’ Society argue that the famine was a deliberate genocidal policy by the Soviet government, and have coined the term “Holodomor” (which means “to kill by starvation” in Ukrainian) to promote this view. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly weighed in, referring to MacDonald (without naming him) as an “useful idiot” and a liar.
In fact, questioning the famine as genocide is far from idiotic. This narrative has been refuted in detail by reputable historians, particularly since the Kremlin archives have become available for study. While there is plenty of evidence that there was an emergency, there is no sign of deliberate starvation.
The “Holodomor” narrative has become official state doctrine in a small handful of countries, wherestate forces typically attempt to equate Holodomor skepticism with Holocaust denial.
In its statement, issued on December 21, the Communist Partynoted that pressure from right-wing Ukrainian organizations has“induced several deans to issue statements of loyalty to the official revisionist position on the famine of 1932-33 in the Ukraine.” The University of Alberta has previously boasted that it is one of the world centres of propagating the Holodomor myth, which the CPidentifies as an“official falsified version of history, created by fascists and other opponents of socialism in Ukraine and elsewhere.”
The CP statement notes that the Holodomor myth“arises from the triumph of Cold War propaganda over academic independence and rigour, when some people with collaborationist war records were brought into Canada under government protection and were installed into academic jobs despite questionable educational credentials. The eagerness of the Canadian government to foster cold-war rhetoric and contribute to the Red Scare resulted in giving a second life to a libel that originated as Nazi propaganda – the idea that the famine, arising from crop failures during the social upheaval of Soviet attempts to collectivize and modernize agriculture, was a deliberate genocide.”
The Communists warn that this is not an abstract debate over events past. “The need to defend the right to challenge this official state view is particularly sharp in Alberta right now. With a provincial government setting up a “war room” to combat environmentalists, and a federal government committed to promoting reactionary coups around the world and fanning Russo-phobia, it is crucially important that working people have the tools to recognize authoritarian attempts to frighten, punish and silence opponents. It is important to recognize that the techniques of vilifying opponents, and suppressing criticism with a pretence of moral outrage, will be extended to environmental activists, trade unionists, and all those who are prepared to struggle against government policies. It is equally important that they have the tools to recognize the class interests behind officially enforced doctrines, whether it is denying climate change on behalf of oil and gas corporations or demonizing Russia on behalf of aggressive US imperialism.”
The Communist Party – Alberta calls on all who oppose austerity, attacks on workers’ rights, and corporate devastation of the environment to also resist the ideological onslaught of right-wing propaganda. “Defending academic and historical criticism also means defending your own right to be heard.”
Canada has a racism problem (and the fact so many Canadians think we don't is a part of it)
Perhaps after an election where Justin Trudeau was exposed for having worn blackface on several occasions and yet not only was not forced to resign as Liberal leader but was ultimately re-elected as Prime Minster (albeit with a minority) it should not come as a surprise that “49 per cent of Canadians don't think racism is a serious problem in the country.”
This according to an Ipsos poll released December 21 that also found 44 per cent disagreed with the firing of Don Cherry and 40 per cent think “white Canadians are under threat from immigration.”
The same week that nearly half of Canadians patted themselves on the back – and, no doubt, embraced the illusion that they are more socially evolved than Americans – saw an Indigenous Winnipeg couple told they 'look like' thieves and asked to leave Winnipeg craft store, a woman in Nova Scotia talked of being subjected to racist remarks in a Tim Hortons and of how "Being brown is definitely a burden in a small, mostly white rural town," and the RCMP was revealed to have talked of “sterilizing the site,” referring to the planned arrests Indigenous protesters in Wet’suwet’en late last year as if they were vermin.
None of this is at all unusual.
A report in Ontario in 2017 found“the constant and unwarranted scrutiny of store clerks, police and public servants leaves many racialized and Indigenous people in Ontario feeling mistrustful and unsafe, according to a new report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.”It concludes that “racial profiling is a daily reality that damages communities and undermines trust in public institutions.”
Earlier in December an Indigenous man in Winnipeg said that he was racially profiled after several shopping trips at a Winnipeg grocery store which led a former Superstore security guard to come forward and reveal that "9 times out of 10 the shoppers that employees ask security to monitor are Indigenous."
Also, in December in Montreal Indigenous women denounced ‘devastating’ random street checks by police after a report revealed that they "experienced street checks 11 times more than caucasian women."
This same report also found that “black and Indigenous people in Montreal were four times more likely to be subject to street checks by police than white people were. Arab people were two times more likely.Indigenous Peoples also appear to be increasingly targeted: while they were two times more likely to be stopped in 2014, the report shows, they became six times more likely in 2017.”
Despite the overwhelming evidence that this study provided, just like Canadians generally the Montreal police were in total denial. Police spokesman Andre Durocher, when asked whether police engage in racial profiling, replied, “No.”
In March of 2019 a reporton racial profiling by Halifax-area police found “black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.The independent report found that in Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black men, followed by Arab males and black females.”
In December 2018 the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a report that showed,“Between 2013 and 2017, a Black person was nearly 20 times more likely than a White person to be involved in a fatal shooting by the Toronto Police.Despite representing only 8.8% of Toronto’s population, Black people made up approximately 30% of police use-of-force cases that resulted in serious injury or death, 60% of deadly encounters with Toronto Police, and 70% of fatal police shootings.”
It revealed “serious use of force in interactions where there was a lack of legal basis for police stops and/or detentions of Black civilians in the first place, and inappropriate or unjustified searches of Black civilians,” and that despite "repeated claims by Toronto police of changes and improvements in interactions with Black communities, the picture is not much different when information from this period is compared to 2000-2006."
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg with countless other studies and investigations having revealed the same issues with deep, abiding systemic racism and colonialism across the country.
This is not news, of course, to activists and community members. Lindell Smith, a Black City Councillor in Halifax noted of the report about his city, "As a member of the African Nova Scotian community, I certainly do not need Dr. Wortley's report to tell me that for decades the community has felt that there is anti-black bias, and racial profiling when policing black communities."
Earlier in December 2019 an Environics poll“found that Canadians were more likely to view racial discrimination as the attitudes and actions of individuals, not a systemic issue embedded in Canadian institutions. Two-thirds of respondents said people from all races have the same opportunities to succeed in life.”
Toronto activist and writer Desmond Cole responded by stating, “That is a fantasy...Unsurprisingly, a lot of Canadians are in denial that racism is a systemic thing.”
“That is why we are still where we are today. That’s why I have to write a book about this topic,” said Cole, who wrote the forthcoming The Skin We’re In about racism in Canada. “It’s not just a few people’s nasty or racist, bigoted opinions. It’s not just Don Cherry spouting off on Coach’s Corner. It’s us not getting jobs. It’s us being kicked out of the education system. It’s us being disproportionately the victims of violence. Until that stops, do all the studies we want to. Those are the real issues.”
“Before you can tackle a problem, you need to recognize it exists,” Alain Babineau(formerly with the RCMP and now with the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations) said of the refusal of Montreal police to admit that racial profiling by the force actually occurred.
This lack of recognition of the devastating and violent reality of systemic racism in Canada, unfortunately, extends far beyond just the police. And that is profoundly troubling and disturbing.
Locked out workers at FederatedCo-op fighting for fair share
Union urges boycott of all Co-op brands
When the 800 members of Unifor Local 594 are working inside the Co-op Refinery in Regina,Federated Co-op Limited (FCL) makes $3 million a day. In fact, FCL makes 75% of its total revenue from the refinery, and the union has calculated that the corporation has made nearly $3 billion since 2016.
But since December 5, the hugely profitable corporation has locked out the workers because they refuse to accept concessions to their pension and overall compensation. FCL has purchased billboards telling the public that the union is on strike – a blatant lie.
The corporation is also claiming that the workers are seeking enormous wage increases that threaten the sustainability of the refinery. According to the Local 594 website, however, the real story is very different:
“While Co-op’s offer to increase our wages by 11.75% may sound impressive, it is not special. 80% of workers in the energy sector have gotten the same increase as part of what’s called the National Pattern. Co-op Refinery is merely doing what was agreed to by companies across this sector.
“The Truth: This is only an illusion of a raise. Based on the other parts of Co-op’s offer, we would wind up paying out of pocket for this standardized wage increase. Why? Because Co-op wants us to go backwards on pensions by paying 11%, plus a 6.5% savings plan elimination equalling a 17.5% decrease in pay. So, with the wage increase being 2.5% in the first year, we would have to give up other forms of pay to the tune of $15,000-$20,000 to get it. The remaining 9.25% of the wage increase over the next three years would not make up for that giant leap backwards we would have to take in other ways.”
FCL started negotiations by insisting that the existing defined benefit (DB) pension be replaced by a defined contribution (DC) version. The former provides a steady and predetermined level of income – based on the deferred wages that are pension contributions – while the latter is a type of RSP, with contributions completely at the mercy of the market and providing unpredictable income. The union forced this option off the bargaining table, but FCL returned with a DB package that was a gutted shell of what the workers have had since 1979.
Union members responded with a 97% strike vote on December 3, and the corporation locked them out two days later.
FCL is keeping the refinery open with scabs it is bringing in by helicopter, putting plant and public safety at risk by operating with a smaller group of underqualified replacement workers. Shamefully, some of the scabs are retired union members who have chosen to cross their own comrades’ picket line while continuing to collect their pension. As the union asks, “One can’t even imagine the twisted thought processes that must go on to justify these immoral, unethical acts to oneself. While they are hypocrites, they are best known as Super Scabs.”
But the members of Local 594 aren’t giving up, and they are taking this struggle to a bigger arena. Unifor is asking people to boycott the local co-ops that own Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) until the lock out has ended and workers receive a fair contract with no concessions to their pension plan.Not all co-ops in Canada are part of the FCL network–Co-op taxi companies operating in several areas and the Pincher Creek Co-Op in Pincher Creek, Albertaare not on the Unifor boycott list. A full list of the boycotted co-ops is available at the boycottco-op.ca website.
An accelerated attack on working people in Ontario
Communist Party - Ontario Committee
Working people in Ontario are facing major political struggles in order to defend already meager living standards and their social and economic rights. We have only seen one third of the four-year term of the Conservative majority government, and already it has managed to drastically accelerate the pace and expand the scope of the corporate attack in the province.
After the concealment of the Conservative program with an empty anti-Liberal election campaign, the majority of the working class is now aware of the true intentions of the Tory government. Now that the policies are clear and the effects of the cuts are starting to be felt, Doug Ford’s approval rating has dropped to 26%.
At the same time, the Ontario Tories are receiving significant support for their corporate agenda from the capitalist class. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has unbridled enthusiasm for this government. Clearly big money is still bankrolling the Ford steamroller, judging from the fact that the Ontario PCs have brought in more than twice as much fundraising than the Ontario NDP and Liberals combined so far in 2019.
This government is deeply unpopular, but the class project behind it is powerful. The spring saw an outpouring of mostly spontaneous resistance to Ford which resulted in some retreats in certain areas by the government, but it will take organization and escalating mass action to roll back the attack, defeat this government and win meaningful reforms. These reforms are urgently needed to make life livable for millions of working class Ontarians.
The working class around the world and in Ontario face deepening exploitation, expanding imperialist wars and the capitalist climate crisis. A mass fight for a People’s Alternative has the ability to build a powerful coalition of labour and people’s movements and shift the balance of class forces. This is a prerequisite to ending capitalist economic, environmental and social crises by winning socialism through working class political power. This is our goal as Communists and charting a path towards that goal in Ontario starts from building a powerful resistance to Ford’s attacks and advancing class demands that can increase unity and militancy.
At the point of no return?
Haiti’s 18-month popular insurrection continues
The crisis in Haiti is the most extensive, radical, and unknown of all those that are currently breaking out in Latin American and the Caribbean. Since July 2018 Haiti has been in a state of permanent popular insurrection,with peaks of massive mobilization followed by periods of stagnation. As the crisis worsens, the periods of social truce are increasingly short and unstable, and the peaks of mobilization increasingly convulsive. There have been three major catalysts for the protests:
1) The government's attempt, in line with the IMF's global policies, to increase fuel prices by 51%, along with the impact this would have on the price of transport, food and high cost of livingoverall. In response, between July 6-8, 2018, about 1.5 million people took to the streets of the country, forced the repeal of the measure and the resignation of then Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant, and managed to restrain the security forces which were completely overcome.
2) The revelation of one of the most serious corruption scandals in the country's history, in which the political class, and in particular the president and the ruling party, participated in embezzling at least $2 billion fromPetroCaribe’senergy cooperation agreements (an amount equivalent to almost a quarter of Haiti’s GDP). This was the main focus of the protests from September 2018 until March 2019,which saw an important role by young people organized through social networks, the so-called “petrochallengers.”
3) The energy crisis that began in September 2019 was the latestspark for protests. This was partly the result of government speculation that, by retaining its fuel supply, it could justify eliminating the subsidy as a condition to continue paying the price of imports. But even more decisive was the virtual departure of PetroCaribe fromHaiti. This occurred because the blockade that the United States maintains on Venezuela prevents freighters from transportingoil to the Haitian coast. But it is also because, in a sharp shiftin foreign policy, Haiti decided to withdraw its recognition of the government of Nicolás Maduro. Thus the country, completely aligned with the warlike geopolitics of the United States, began operating against the Bolivarian Revolution in regional forums like the OAS and CARICOM, reaching the extreme of being the only nation in the region to vote in in favour of invoking the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR).
The energy crisis, coupled with an explosive cocktail of high inflation, currency devaluation and a wage freeze, worsened the already dire living conditions of 80% of the Haitian population. Some of the consequences of this were the shutdown of transport for prolonged periods; the crisis of the peasant agricultural economy, since lack of fuel impedes the sector’sability to commercialize production; the consequent increase in the price of food in the big cities; the interruption of school activity and the intermittent operation of health centres; the closure of factories and small and large businesses; and worsening hunger, especially in the most isolated regions and those dependent on food assistance.
In response, the people and their rural and urban organizations took to the streets to demand the immediate resignation of President JovenelMoïse, identified as the person responsible for the crisis. But soon the demands would escalate, becoming not onlyopposed to the current political class, but to the entire economic and political system. Fòksachanje ("this needs to change"), chavirechodyè a (“overturneverything”), or nou ta dwevivtankoumoun (“we should live as people”) have been some of the slogans in the Haitian language that express the scope and meaning of popular demands.
The government has adopted different strategies to retain power and guarantee the privileges of a “repugnant elite,” as one Haitian writer christened the bourgeoisie and oligarchy who have bled the country since the conclusion of the revolution in 1804. The first strategy was silence, when the president spent a month without addressing the nation in the middle of an energy crisis and social collapse. Then came calls for dialogue, each of which failed as the different political actors distanced themselves from an obviously sinking ship. Then, as expected, they beganto use repression against the demonstrations in an unsuccessful attempt to regain control of the territory, in particular the capital Port-au-Prince, which had become a powder keg.As the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights in Haiti, the UN Office of Human Rights and Amnesty International (the latter with resounding delays) found, the outcome of the repression has been tragic: excessive use of force, torture, arbitrary detentions, at least 42 dead in recent weeks and 77 so far this year.
Due to the proven inefficiency and weakness of the National Police, and considering that Haiti cannot copy its Ecuadorian, Bolivian or Chilean peers by taking the army to the streets (since it was dissolved in 1995), the response that began to be imposed was paramilitarization, as has happened in all mature neoliberal regimes. Several facts confirm this tendency towards paramilitarization: the fostering of organized criminal groups that respond directly to political power, the perpetration of massacres in some rural communities or in the most active and mobilized neighborhoods, andfinally, the constant infiltration by mercenaries and former US military personnel. At the beginning of February 2019, and again recently, some of these contractors were detained at Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport carrying heavy weapons, ammunition and advanced telecommunications equipment.
On the international front, the response of the major western media has been as expected: the complete invisibility of the Haitian situation as long as possible and, when the depth of the crisis became unquestionable, its total misrepresentation. Thus,they have denied the peaceful nature of most protests, the existence of alternative government plans as well as organized leaders and social forces, and the obvious responsibility of the so-called “international community” in the Haitian crisis which is presented as fate. It is routine to one-sidedly point out the elements of violence, despair and spontaneity in a nation that is always interpreted through racist and colonial frameworks. International NGOs have also contributed to this, byspreading developmentalist and demobilizing ideologies.
Moreover, the interference of the United States, as well as that of other Western powers of smaller amounts, has been constant. At first this interference was outsourced through regional organizations such as the OAS, multilateral financial institutions such as the IMF or ad hoc interest groups like the so-called Core Group (the self-appointed “Friends of Haiti” that is aligned under US hegemony) who never ceased to tacitly or explicitly support JovenelMoïse. But in recent weeks it has been the embassy in Port-au-Prince and the US Department of State that have publicly intervened, visibly exasperated by an expanding crisis that is already beginning to affect the profits of its transnational corporations.
On the other hand, the opposition has formed into two coalitions, from the Patriotic Forum – representing the street mobilizations and the social movements of the countryside and the city – to conservative formations such as the Consensual Alternative, the Gateway or the Democratic Bloc, that reflect different fractions of the oligarchy, the local bourgeoisie and the small reactionary bourgeoisie. Recently these and other coalitions have agreed to a series of programmatic points to facilitate the construction of a transitional government following the eventual resignation of the president.
All the factors mentioned suggest that two general exits from the crisisare possible. The current unstable balance, which the country has endured since July 2018, is unsustainable and could quickly evolve towards:
1) A regressive solution, that is, the continuity of the JovenelMoïse government in the short term, facilitated by the United States through an agreement with the most conservative opposition, promising in return early elections and the possibility of introducing amendments to the Constitution. Given the impossibility of consensus, this solution presupposes the resurgence of the police, military or paramilitary solution, as well as the frontal defeat of the popular mobilization through the use of violence or economic shock policies. The slippery slope of Haitian reality would send the great majority toan even deeper level of pain and inequality. However, there are clear difficulties with demobilizing the Haitian people and stabilizing the dominant regime.
2) A progressive solution, which could be institutional, through the construction of a Sovereign National Conference and a transitional government in which organized popular forces contestthe hegemony of the traditional political class, maintaining pressure through continued street mobilizations. Other points, already agreed upon, would be the trial of those responsible for the PetroCaribe embezzlement and the massacres, political-electoral reform and the call for clean elections, and a Constituent within approximately three years. To develop, this process requires accelerated subjective and organizational work on the part of the popular forces,as well as restraint of rival powers in the region, to safeguarda minimum of Haitian autonomy forachieving a popular government.
LautaroRivara is a sociologist and journalist, and a member of ALBA MovimientosenHaití
(Translated from Spanish by Dave McKee, and edited for length)
“End the legacy of fascism!”
Solidarity with popular struggle in Chile
Communist Party of Canada
Meeting on Dec. 15, the Communist Party of Canada’s Central Committee condemned the brutal violation of human rights taking place in Chile since massive demonstrations began on October 18 against the government of President Sebastian Piñera.
According to the December 6 report of the National Institute of Human Rights of Chile (NHRI), 26 people have been killed, more than 15,000 arrested and 11,000 injured. The NHRI also reports 352 eye injuries (due to the indiscriminate use of riot guns against demonstrators by the Military Police-Carabineros), as well as 192 victims of sexual violence and 405 cases of torture. The scale of state repression today in Chile is the worst since the years of fascist dictatorship following the US-backed coup in 1973, yet it took almost two months for the federal Liberal government of Justin Trudeau to respond. Even now, the federal Liberals claim that both the Piñera government and Chilean protesters “share the blame” for the situation and urge the Chilean authorities to “seek an integrative approach” to the crisis, rather than to admit their guilt.
The Piñera government bears full responsibility for the violence against protesters, both due to its deployment of heavily-armed police and troops, but also by failing to submit to the mass public demands for a new constitution to replace the fascist document imposed by the Pinochet military regime nearly 40 years ago. The popular rejection of the Piñera government in the wake of these events is proven by opinion surveys which show that almost 80% disapprove of the President and his cabinet.
The past two months have seen huge public involvement as the people of Chile to debate the necessary changes to bring real democracy and freedom to their country. This popular movement aims to finally overcome the impact of decades of neoliberal austerity attacks against pensions, health care, labour rights, and wages and salaries. The eruption of popular anger in October, like the massive student protests which rocked Chile in recent years, are proof that the fascist coup of 1973 did not improve the lives of working class Chileans, but instead served to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the country’s corporate elite. Despite the desperate maneuvers of the government, millions of Chileans continue to mobilize around demands to establish a Constituent Assembly to carry out fundamental democratic change and progressive social reforms.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada expresses full solidarity with our comrades in the Communist Party of Chile, with the movement for a Constituent Assembly, and with all the popular struggles to end the legacy of fascism and bring a new, progressive future for the working people.
Rooting out “the longest hatred”
As the contradictions within capitalism sharpen, the world is hurtled through a gauntlet of ever deeper crises. At any given moment we face the threat of economic collapse, war or environmental catastrophe – or some combination of the three.
In the process, reactionary and fascistic ideologies are resurgent. These are defaults for capitalism during severe crisis, when it uses chauvinism to deflect anger and frustration away from the root of the problem – capitalism itself – and the socialist solution. Part of this resurgence is in the form of “dog whistle” politics – coded messages that mean one thing to the general public but resonate in a specific way within targeted communities.
Dog whistling is insidious, so much so that it can facilitate the appearance or reflection of reactionary ideas within progressive communities. This newspaper has written about some of these: Islamophobia posing as secularism, transphobia in the guise of feminism, anti-Quebec chauvinism dressed up as solidarity with Indigenous resistance to colonialism. In all these cases, penetration by a reactionary ideology into Left discourses is doubly destructive – first, by propagating its hateful views; second, by undermining the very movements that are opposed to it. Probably more often that not this isn’t intentional, and the people involved may have become so through clumsy or inadvertent means. But the effect is real.
One particularly troubling ideology that seems to regularly infect progressive discourse is anti-Semitism. It has been described as “the longest hatred,” perhaps with good reason. Even before Donald Trump’s infamous final campaign ad – which featured photos of Jewish financiers with a voice over talking about “global special interests” and “the political establishment” and “a global power structure” – a number of otherwise progressive activists were sharing a video produced by Anonymous, promoting the Rothschild Conspiracy.
Anti-Semitism often makes inroads into those activist movements that are critical of the Zionist policies of Israel, including the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Although these movements are not by nature anti-Semitic, there is nonetheless a razor-thin border between criticizing the immoral and imperialist Zionist ideology versus criticizing Jews, Jewish culture, and Jewish thought or politics.
Ironically, yet unashamedly, the right wing has weaponized anti-Semitism and uses it to attack anti-Zionist campaigns and activists. This was used to great effect against Jeremy Corbyn during the recent election in Britain.
Most recently, and obviously in response to Corbyn’s treatment, Jagmeet Singh has publicly disavowed BDS and indicated that the NDP supports a definition of anti-Semitism that includes criticism of Zionism. This is a disappointing position, particularly as it risks finding a reflection in the NDP’s “partner,” the trade union movement.
The response to “anti-Semitic creep” within progressive movements should not be to distance ourselves from solidarity with the just struggle of the Palestinians. Rather, we need to diligently identify, confront and root out these trends.
This newspaper, along with many millions of people all over the world, supports the BDS movement because it is a principled, non-violent and unifying way to oppose the racist and genocidal policies of Israel. But we also condemn anti-Semitism wherever it emerges, especially when it masquerades as progressive ideology.
On the edge of another war, a review of the nature of capitalist state powers
Written on the eve of the October Revolution, Lenin’s “The State and Revolution” is a fundamental contribution to Marxist thought, clarifying the nature of the State and its role in revolutionary society, i.e. “the dictatorship of the proletariat” - the rule of the working-class majority over the owning class minority.
Imperialism in the 20th and 21st Centuries has confirmed the basic analysis of V.I. Lenin, who showed how the monopoly stage of capitalism ushers in imperialist wars, and that only socialist revolution can bring them to an end. Two world wars of unimaginable slaughter and destruction have confirmed Lenin’s basic thesis and also led to the end of the old colonialist European rule and the emergence of the USA in mid- 20th century geopolitics as the latest centre of global imperialist domination.
The powerful wave of anti-colonial national liberation movements and the emergence of a socialist bloc of countries after World War ll re-shaped some of the characteristic features of modern imperialism but not the intrinsic expansionist motive-force of monopoly capitalism.
After WWII the dynamic of inter-imperialist rivalry for control of colonies and spheres of influence which led to World War l and World War II was halted temporarily by a new war drive against socialism. The post-Cold War world order delivered global overlord power to the U.S. ruling class, but there are growing contradictions that may re-order the established global disorder once again.
With the success of anti-imperialist parties to capture power electorally in key Latin American countries since the 1990’s and the rise of China as a rival to US economic global reign, a new period of a multi-polar contest for global economic reach has become today’s contemporary focal point of US imperialism’s drive to war and conquest by means of direct military attacks, coups, hybrid wars, the enlistment of mercenaries from the impoverished strata, global surveillance, the use of sanctions to starve out the peoples, and the ongoing US trade war on ascendant China.
Lenin’s core diagnosis of our epoch remains transparently correct: war is a key feature of the imperialist stage of monopoly capitalism. This threat underscores the need for the global anti-imperialist struggle in creating a new world based on social ownership of the key means of production and inter-human cooperation to heal a world desperately ravaged by climate change and the breakdown of a sustainable ecology. The future is Socialism.
Environmentalism, animal liberation and veganism–a class-based approach
Brian W. Major
Greta Thunberghas become a powerful icon in our popular culture, with Time magazine naming her the Person of the Year for 2019. While many governments and business leaders, including Donald Trump, have lashed out at her activism and even at her personally, the concern regarding climate change and other environmental issues is clearly growing. Part of this interest can be reflected in the current movement towards veganism – abstention from using or consuming animal products. For some people, a plant-based diet is a path to weight loss and other health and well-being goals; for others, it is rooted in environmental concerns and an embrace of “animal liberation.”
How should Marxists respond to the arguments in favour of animal liberation? What position should we take on the growing view that animals should not be used for agricultural purposes? Is there a way for us to address this movement in a principledpolitical manner? A failure to address animal liberation in a serious way could contribute to the perception that Marxists don’t really care about environmental issues.
In itself, veganismis politically neutral. In the book, Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World (2010), Bob and Jenna Torres point out that veganism has representation from every political system of belief on the planet; this even includesAdolf Hitler.Hitler’s veganism was based on the Nazi concept of the purification of the body, but we certainly should not dismiss the movement based on a fascist conception of purity. What makes veganism a concept worth exploring is precisely the way that the movement can address core political issues such as class, exploitation, and alienation.
Some progressives have completely written off the vegan approach as being liberal or bourgeois in its origins. This is a reasonable response to the narratives currently employed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), perhaps the most vocal vegan organization in the West. Many may appreciate their videos or online posts about the importance of stopping animal cruelty, and Marxists can certainly agree that measures could reasonably be taken to stop needless suffering.
For most of us, however, that’s where the agreement stops. PETA has acted in ways that have, rightly, been condemned as “environmental racism.” Activists such as Pamela Anderson have famously fought against the seal hunt. But attacks on the seal hunt can lead to a racist and imperialist approach which attacks the traditional practices of Indigenous peoples around the world, particularly those based on hunting, gathering and fishing. It can be very hard to imagine that those living in far-north Arctic regions will be able to find their protein source from plants. Eating seal and caribou can be essential to the provision of protein in one’s diet.
Approaches like PETA’s have also focused on personal responsibility and the practice of “ethical consumption.”This view holds that individual consumers should personally adopt a vegan lifestyle in order to personally stop the exploitation of animals by the agricultural sector. But within a capitalist framework, just how are our personal eating habits going to change agricultural industry?
We also need to explore the fact that, when a product has been labelled “vegan” it can literally be sold at triple the price. Most workingclass and poor families cannot afford to have their grocery bill tripled; as a result, many workers have ruled out living a vegan lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be this way. The vegan diet is typically made of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.There is absolutely no reason for such food items to be more expensive than meat, dairy, eggs or honey. Corporations have co-opted veganism by making “vegan” products so expensive, and we need to challenge that.
Another concern is the attack on members those religious communities who traditionally have included meat consumption in their diet. Many vegans, for example, have criticized the practice of Halal meat production in which an animal’s throat is slit, calling it cruel. Arguments based on Islamophobic claims absolutely need to be rejected around the world.
Having explored and rejected a liberal bourgeois argument, is it possible to adopt a class-based, or Marxist, approach to veganism? There are some issues which could form the basis for just such a position and practice.
A “Vegan Marxism” needs to take, as its starting point, solidarity with all workers who are currently employed in the field of animal agriculture. In North America, meat is extremely popular as a source of protein and as a culinary enjoyment. Many of us can remember fond memories of a family day in the summer around a barbecue; at the same time, most of us don’t really want to think about the fact that the meat we love so much came from a sentient, caring and loving animal. As a result, those workers who are employed in slaughterhouses, meat packing plants, and butchery operations are typically workers considered to be “at the bottom of the ladder.” In the US, for example, it has been shown that workers in this field are over-represented by undocumented Mexican migrants. Several films on the Netflix platform, such as Cowspiracy, address this phenomenon. Major agricultural firms will employ such workers because they can more easily get away with paying them poorly. “Vegan Marxists” must take the material interests of such workers to heart.
Marxists who follow a vegan approach often point out that animal-based agriculture is simply not sustainable. The amount of resources needed to produce a pound of meat, for instance, includes the feeding and grazing of cattle at a level of immense proportions. Animal-based agriculture is currently the largest industrial contributor to environmental destruction. Consider, for example, the deliberate burning of Amazon rainforests in Brazil to make way for cattle ranching. Beef and dairy production require a massive amount of water and resources, such as corn and soybeans, which could be used to feed people directly. Each year, the amount of cattle on Earth increases beyond the level that would occur by nature. Cattle used for dairyare artificially inseminated so that they will give birth, which means they produce milk. Calves produced in this way are typically diverted to veal production. Beef and dairy production demand more available land, which, under a capitalist framework, means the destruction of forests (the lungs of the Earth) and the theft of Indigenous land all around the world.
In North America and Europe, meat and dairy production is heavily subsidized. Those subsidies reflect a decision, made socially, to value such production.
It is very difficult to imagine that animal liberation or the ceasing of environmental degradation can be achieved under a capitalist framework. Under socialism social resources can be harnessed in a way which is based on a more sustainable model of development.
With this in mind, it is not only possible but criticalto develop a class-based approach to the environmental movement. In the process, more environmental activists can be convinced to seriously embrace an anti-racistand anti-imperialist framework. Such an effort is urgent, for the socialist movement and also for our planet.
Two murals, two breaths of new hope
Noone on Berlin’s main eastbound traffic artery could miss one of the two murals, five stories high, 2745 square feet in area, in shiny bright, red, green, yellow and blue colours up to the gabled rooftop of an older, isolated apartment building. A first glance sees an Indigenousvillage in Nicaragua with red-roofed huts, dogs, a spotted hog, chickens amidst beautiful tropical trees, flowers and birds in a jolly rural setting.
But take a closer look and you see the fighter plane and the armed soldiers marauding through the village, masked villagers trying to protect it, panicked mothers and children - and the corpses.
Monimbó was the first village to rise up in 1978 in defense against repression by the right-wing Somoza dynasty. It held out for a week against the well-armed foreign-born mercenaries, largely recruited in US military magazines. Though finally defeated and destroyed, it became a symbol of the revolution which drove Somoza out in 1979. Some fifty mercenaries died in Monimbó, and 343 indigenous villagers, mostly women and children.
A man born in that village became one of Nicaragua’s best painters, certainly the best in the so-called “primitive school.” After Somoza was beaten Manuel García Moia began painting his beautiful, colour-rich murals at home and then, as his fame increased, in many cities of Europe, east and west.
In 1985 East Berlin’s borough of Lichtenberg, aided by the city and the GDR Ministry of Culture (the (East) German Democratic Republic still had five years to go before its demise) commissioned Moia to paint his mural on this conspicuous site.
When the GDR collapsed in 1989 the mural survived. The building’s new private owner wanted to renovate it away but was finally won over, not without difficulty and expense, thanks to a small, highly dedicated group of active citizens.
But in 2004 the painting began to fade, and again the committee had to look for ways and means to save it, actually to reproduce it exactly by two enthusiastic progressive artists from Hamburg and West Berlin, with some assistance by the artist himself when he was able to visit. Lichtenberg, luckily, remained the most left-wing borough in East Berlin so it was possible to gain some official support and 20% of the nearly 200,000 euros required for the job. All the rest came from enthusiasts.
The job was at last completed when nocturnal fascists smeared it full of swastikas and slogans – which could be removed just in time for the re-dedication ceremonies.
Trouble hit again seven years later when the materials used turned out to be faulty and pieces of the mural crashed to the ground. Another long battle by the committee, devoted as ever, with moral support from the Nicaraguan ambassador, fought to have it recovered again, this time with better, lasting materials. The borough mayor, this time not from the LINKE (Left party) but a Social Democrat, was won over to save this bright spot in his borough; again part of the needed sum was granted, nearly half, the rest was gradually collected, and now reconstruction is again underway. On Moia’s 70th birthday in June 2006 the little square in front of the mural, with a small column explaining it and telling its history, was officially re-named Monimbó Platz. Since the mural is his largest and almost the only one to escape gentrification and demolition in Europe, the artist, who has been living for years with his daughter in Maryland, is extremely grateful. So are many other good people for whom the mural remains a lasting symbol of internationalism, anti-fascism, and hopes for a happy life in peace.
The other mural symbolizes basically the same ideals but in a very different way. Erfurt, 200 miles to the south, the capital of Thuringia, is an ancient city, first mentioned in 742 AD. It has a handsome old town, with 25 churches and a grand cathedral crowning a unique, wonderful stairway. But post-war GDR needed millions of modern homes and it needed them quickly. Using its newly-developed system of prefabricated panels, it built whole neighborhoods of comfortable, extremely low-priced apartments, well connected by cheap city transportation, provided with new schools, child care and sport facilities, clinics and cultural centers, soon improved with trees, shrubbery, playgrounds, but with one weakness – their sameness. Also, in Erfurt.
A number of sculptors and painters worked to overcome this; a leading light among them was JosepRenau (1907-1982).
Born in Valencia, where he studied at the art academy, Renau became an active leftist, joined the Communist Party and, when the fascist putsch began in 1936, he joined in making the famous posters supporting the Republic. Put in charge of the Spanish Pavilion at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937, he was able to encourage and then exhibit Pablo Picasso’s passionate, startling “Guernica” mural.
After the defeat of the republic Renau escaped to Mexico, where he worked with the great Mexican painter David Alfaro Siquieros.
Invited to the GDR in 1958, he soon began work on his remarkable murals, almost as colourful as those of Moia but with bold, modern, partially abstracted forms which did not always conform to some administrators’ clichéd ideas of the officially-approved “socialist realism.”In spite of such attitudes, he became most noticeably successful with a series of murals, some vertical, some horizontal, always big and eye-catching, for a new city, Halle-Neustadt. It is still a goal of artlovers’ pilgrimages.
Old Erfurt also wanted such a bright attraction for its new high-rise housing areas and commissioned a mural by Renau for a big new cultural center. Called “The Relationship of Humans to Nature and Technology,” it shows two large hands, one with an apple, the other a many-sided geometric object, surrounded by symbols and urging a symbiosis of both elements in building a better world. It was composed of 70,000 coloured glass mosaic tiles, each about one-inch square, and together full 7 meters tall and 30 meters in length (c.22 x 100 ft.) – truly an impressive sight! Sadly, Renau did not live to see its completion.
Many GDR works were discarded or destroyed after 1990, but the Erfurt mosaic (and the Halle-Neustadt murals) survived. But in 2012 the cultural center – like nearly all of its kind – received a death sentence. It was replaced by a shopping center, which saved the city costs and brought money into the pockets of persuasive new owners. As for the Renau work, due for demolition, it was again a small group of devotees who managed to rescue it – but only after it was sawed into many sections, put away in a storage building and almost forgotten.
But those who loved it did not forget it. It took them years before they finally found art-loving sponsors, including one wealthy foundation, who agreed to revive it – an extremely difficult job, requiring exact studies of the correct mortar, the mechanical nature of a new base, the colours and how to replace broken tiles.
It took four years, but this month it was finally achieved – bringing a huge sigh of relief for its supporters, regained beauty for Erfurt, and a breath of new hope to some for a better world of genuine progress and lasting peace.
[Victor Grossman is a long-standing US activist based in Berlin, and the author of A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee, published by Monthly Review Press.]
Music Notes: Chilean anthem calls out femicide
A flashmob performance piece written by a feminist collective in the Chilean city of Valparaíso has been taken up by women worldwide as a battle cry for justice. “Un violadorentucamino” (“A rapist in your path”) is an important part of the ongoing mass struggle to end Chile's authoritarian neoliberal regime, currently personified by billionaire President Sebastián Piňera. In less than two months the protest anthem against sexual assault, victim blaming, and state violence has spread like wildfire around the world. Flashmobs of women have performed the piece in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Lima, Mexico City, Tijuana, Bogotá, as well as in Paris, Barcelona, Stockholm, Los Angeles, and as far away as India, Turkey, Kenya and Tunisia. A recent survey finds that to date it has been performed in 40 countries and in more than 200 cities. Performances begin with drumbeats. A group of blindfolded women assemble in a public space. The masks they wear are a reference to the countless protesters who are blindfolded by the police when they are apprehended. As the women chant the militant text (see below) they perform synchronized dance steps and illustrate their words with dramatic signifying hand gestures.
“Un violadorentucamino” was created and first produced by the ColectivoLasTesis. Its members – Daffne Valdés, Sibila Sotomayor, Paula CometaStange, and Lea Caceres – are young artists who acknowledge the influence of renowned feminist thinkers Silvia Federeci and Rita Segato. Their first performance in Valparaíso on November 20, with about 30 women participating, can be viewed on the LasTesis Facebook page. Just two weeks later 10,000 women, wearing masks and red scarves, performed the anthem in Santiago in front of the national stadium (a highly symbolic site given its association with the coup of September 11, 1973). “Un violadorentucamino” is both a response to deep-rooted systemic oppression and more immediate causes. In Chile 40% of women have experienced sexual violence while only 8% of reported rapes end in a conviction. The anthem's title, "A rapist in your path," alludes to "A friend in your path", the official slogan of the Chilean carabineros police force in the 1980s and 90s, and the lyrics and choreography both include specific references to the carabineros. Since the wave of protests began last October, security forces have been formally accused of 117 cases of sexual violence. For more info visit LasTesis on Facebook.
[Text of “Un violadorentucamino”: The patriarchy is a judge who tries us for being born and our punishment is the violence you now see / It's femicide, impunity for my murderer, it's disappearance, it's rape / And it wasn't my fault, nor where I was, nor how I was dressed (4x) / You were the rapist, you are the rapist (4x) / It's the police, the judges, the state, the president, the oppressive state is a macho rapist].
A Song for Colombia
Some of Colombia's biggest international recording stars were among 250 musicians who participated in a giant outdoor concert held in Bogotá on December 8 in support of the national strike against the government of President Iván Duque. Among the headliners at “A Song for Colombia” were five-time Latin Grammy-winning singer Santiago Cruz, as well as pop singer Adriana Lucía, ska-punk band Doctor Krápula, and pop-jazz-folk quartet Monsieur Periné, all Latin Grammy winners or multiple nominees with big followings. Claudio Narea and Miguel Tapia, from the renowned Chilean rock band Los Prisonieros, were special guest artists. The Chileans sang their iconic song of the eighties, “El Baile de los que Sobran” (“Dance of the Left Behind”) while the crowd chanted along. In Colombia, the people have taken to the streets for essentially two reasons. First, they are fed up with Duque for his failure to seriously implement the Peace Agreement process that followed the demobilization of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in 2016, after decades of civil war. Many blame Duque for the deaths of hundreds of ex-FARC fighters, social justice leaders, and Indigenous land defenders since he was elected in August 2018. At the same time, the Colombian working class is resisting a package of neoliberal measures that seeks to raise the retirement age, increase workers’ pension fund contributions, reduce the role of the state in social security, and lower the minimum wage for young people. As of late December, the protests continued while the government remained in crisis. Duque has had difficulty assembling a majority in parliament to pass his austerity measures, while his army commander-in-chief Nicanio Martínez has resigned over new revelations of military involvement in extra-judicial killings, and six more social leaders have been assassinated. Today, as before, the Colombian oligarchy resorts to violence, persecution and terror to eliminate political opposition and organized social sectors, and maintain its conservative, neoliberal project. "¡La lucha continua!"