Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I wish to bring to your attention the grave matter of a vicious assault on my granddaughter by five members of the Winnipeg Police.
The following events were told to me by my granddaughter, Stephanie Kay Warren, age 18, of 125 Barber Street. On Sunday, March 1, 2009, Stephanie was in an argument with some girls at the Robins Donuts on the corner of Salter and Selkirk Avenue at approximately 6:30 p.m. The police were called because of the disturbance. Once the police arrived at the Robins Donut Shop, Stephanie ran outside. The police pursued and grabbed her by her hair. She slipped to the ground and the police pulled her up by her hair. The police told her to cooperate or they would taser her. At that time Stephanie stopped and put her hands behind her back and she was handcuffed. The police slammed Stephanie’s head over the police car and patted her down . They again pulled her by the hair and hit her head on the roof of the car as they shoved her forcefully into the back seat of the car, calling her a “dirty Indian”. Stephanie got mad at their deliberate act of hitting her head into the car and calling her names. Once in the back seat of the car, she began to kick at the door and window because she was being abused by the officers. An officer was at each door – one was strapping Stephanie’s legs and the other one, Cst. Prociuk, #2423, was gripping Stephanie’s face with force and she began to struggle, which made it difficult to secure her legs. Stephanie then received a few hits to her body from the officer attempting to secure her legs. Stephanie then bit into the officer’s gloved finger that was over her mouth and nose. He yelled at her to let go and Stephanie mumbled “you first”. Admittedly this was the wrong thing to do, but at this point she could not understand why she was being assaulted like this and was trying to protect herself from these men.
At this time the two police in the cruiser car took her to the Hartford police station. Stephanie again asked them to please take her home, and one of the police in the front responded by saying “You want to go home to F___ your Indian daddy?”. Racial slurs continued throughout the ride to the Hartford station,and she was called a “dirty Indian” several times. Upon arriving at the Hartford station, she was approached by another officer who said “you like to bite police officers?” and proceeded to hit her in the face, causing her nose to bleed. She was then knocked to the floor and dragged into a room and repeatedly slammed against the wall, knocked to the floor again and handcuffed to a bench. At this time more police appeared and the police began kicking her in the ribs, kicking her legs, kicking her arms, kicking her in the stomach, punching her in the face , and pulling her hair. All this took place while Stephanie was lying helpless on the floor handcuffed to a bench. Throughout this beating she was also assaulted by a barrage of racial slurs . Stephanie is not sure how long this assault took place, but she thinks it was around 45 minutes. Of course, all this time Stephanie was wondering why on earth she was receiving this horrendous treatment at the hands of five police. As Stephanie lay bleeding on the floor and terrified, a police officer came into the room with a white paper towel. Stephanie asked “what is that?” The officer replied it was something to “knock you out for awhile”. As they tried to put it over her face, she struggled to prevent them from putting it over her face, thinking they were trying to knock her out. Actually, it was only a wet paper towel to wash the blood off her face. This is one more incident of terrorizing her. Stephanie weighs approximately 120 pounds and was totally bruised from head to foot from this incident and at that point she thought she had some broken ribs. Stephanie was taken to the Health Science Centre on March 3, the morning after her release from jail, and all her injuries have been documented.
Unknown to the police, Stephanie had her cell phone when she was put in the police car. When briefly left alone in the room where she was beaten, she called a friend, who listened to 15 minutes of Stephanie screaming while being yelled at and beaten. This friend has documented the phone call and submitted to LERA. At one point Stephanie was also able to call her mom who heard Stephanie screaming into the phone “Mom, help me, help me, they are beating me”. A second call was placed to her mom, at which point her mom heard a man yell “who are you talking to” and the line then went dead. We later learned this was when the police threw her phone across the room upon discovering Stephanie had it.
After hearing this call, Stephanie’s mom, Melissa Warren, and myself went to the Hartford station to see if they knew anything of this incident, thinking that Stephanie had been beaten up by some kids or gang. We were told that Stephanie had been taken to the Remand Centre and charged with assaulting a police officer. The officer who was bitten, Cst. Prociuk, showed us his finger and said he had had gloves on when Stephanie bit him and the skin was not broken. We saw no evidence of bite marks at all on the finger . We were very concerned about why Stephanie would have done this and told the officer Stephanie had never been in trouble before and she would be there to apologize to him upon her release. We explained that Stephanie was a responsible young woman and held down a full-time job. We also told him about the two phone calls to her mom, at which time he asked to see Stephanie’s mother’s cell phone . We later discovered Cst. Prociuk, in fact, deleted the phone numbers from Melissa’s cell phone indicating that Stephanie had called her during the time she was at the Hartford Station.
We were told by Cst. Prociuk that we could not see Stephanie that night. It was not until Monday evening, March 2, that Stephanie was able to call her mother and tell her exactly what happened, that it was the police who had beaten her. When Stephanie did appear in Video Court, the presiding judge granted bail with very strict conditions of release. Two different lawyers acknowledged to us that police at the Hartford Station do this “all the time,” and “get away with it because it was almost impossible to prove.”
Not only has my granddaughter been traumatized by her experience with the Winnipeg Police, but those of us around her who have worked for decades to foster positive relationships with community members and the police are stunned and disheartened. Just recently, my colleague, Dr. Eveline Milliken, participated in the Crime Prevention through Social Development Conference (January 15, 16 & 17). I am Sel Burrow’s Co-Chair of the Point Douglas Residents’ Committee and we have worked hard with police to make our community a better place. While we are certainly upset about what has happened to my granddaughter Stephanie, we are also very concerned that this is not an isolated case, and that other young people are the targets of police assaults and racial slurs.
The Winnipeg Police, as public servants of the City of Winnipeg, work on a relationship of trust with their constituents and incidents like this are terribly damaging to the good work the police can be doing. You cannot do your job and be respected and be role models for young people with unprofessional behavior such as beating and illegally assaulting people. I realize that most police do not behave in this manner.
However, we must do everything possible to prevent unprofessional behavior such as this from ever happening.
As a grandmother I am sickened to think of this abuse to my granddaughter and to think of her lying on the floor being kicked and beaten and degraded by the very people we have taught her to respect. As a Winnipeg resident I demand a full formal investigation be made into this hideous incident. The abuse of police power must stop.
The Toronto Haiti Action Committee,
Venezuela We are With You and
Latin American Solidarity Present:
CANADA VERSUS LATIN AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: FROM JACOBINS TO SALVADOR ALLENDE, HUGO CHAVEZ AND JEAN BERTRAND ARISTIDE
When: Thursday, May 7, 7pm
Where: Bahen Centre (40 St. George Street at University of Toronto) Room 1130
Presentation and book signing with author Yves Engler
Introductory Remarks by Rick Salutin
Yves Engler's The Black Book on Canadian Foreign Policy is the first serious critical overview of Canadian foreign policy and will challenge popular mythology of Canada as the peacekeeper and honest broker on the world stage.
We bear responsibility for what governments do in the world, primarily our own, but secondarily those we can influence, our allies in particular. Yves Engler's penetrating inquiry yields a rich trove of valuable evidence about Canada's role in the world, and poses a challenge for citizens who are willing to take their fundamental responsibilities seriously. - Noam Chomsky
Engler has done for Canadian foreign policy what I tried to do for United States foreign policy in my book "Killing Hope" -- cover each region of the world, showing how "peaceful, benevolent, altruistic Canada" has, on numerous occasions, served as an integral part of Western imperialism, particularly the American version, helping to keep the Third World down and in its place. From Vietnam to Haiti, Canada has served the political and economic demands of US foreign policy and the multinational corporations. The picture that emerges is not the image of Canada the world has long admired. - William Blum
Yves Engler is a Montreal area activist, author and independent journalist. He is the author of two previous books: Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority (with Anthony Fenton) and Playing Left Wing: From Rink Rat to Student Radical.
Rick Salutin is an award winning Canadian novelist, playwright, critic and widely read columnist for the Globe and Mail.
For More Information Contat THAC at 416-731-2325 or SSH at 647-408-2654 or CVEC (venenzuelawearewithyou.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
A few weeks ago, our high school, Weston Collegiate Institute, had a few people from the NO COPS campaign (Newly Organized Coalition Opposing Police in Schools) pay a visit to us at lunch time. They set up a table across the street and had stacks of free BASICS newspapers to give out. While BASICS organizers are well known for distributing the papers in Toronto communities, the members of NO COPS who were there that day, strapped with their BASICS issues, had another purpose.
What these guys had was a petition to the remove the “Special Resources Officer” - the uniformed armed police officers in high schools – from the 30 or so TDSB secondary schools across Toronto.
For the majority of the students at Weston, this petition is allowing us to voice our concerns about having a cop in our school. There was a lack of community consultation in bringing this cop here in the first place. The Toronto Police Services initiated and funds this program and the Toronto District School Board approved it at an executive level. The feelings among most of the students at Weston C.I. is that they do not want a cop in their school and they feel threatened by the presence of an armed police officer in the school for numerous reasons. The students cannot identify with an individual who wears a massive bullet proof vest and carries a loaded gun and taser, which is quite intimidating particularly for people coming from T.O.’s “priority neighbourhoods” – let’s be honest, ghettoes – who witness and experience police activity in a whole different light than youth from more affluent areas.
On a day-to-day basis, the police harass, bully, and brutalize people from our communities and get away without being held to account for their actions. How can we accept having police in our schools to “build relations” with us if they are getting away with daily brutality and sometimes murder in our communities? (Anyone remember Alwy Al-Nadhir or Byron Debassige?) We have already experienced police (SRO) harrassment at Weston C.I. There was a conflict with two young women and the SRO used unnecessary and excessive force on the two young women. This incident was captured on video.
The effect of having police in schools is going to push more and more marginalized students out of school altogether, furthering the divide between youth from financially-stable homes and communities and youth from working-class homes and communities. We cannot let this happen. We will not let this happen.
We want cops out of our schools!
If you are interested in becoming an organizer with the NO COPS campaign , please contact us at email@example.com.
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
You want to know the names of those “waging global terror”? The new audio documentary, Path of Destruction: Canadian Mining Companies Around the World, from Asad Ismi and Kristen Schwartz, shows us we can start a list with the names of mining companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canadian mining’s path of destruction isn’t limited to Canada. As these companies spread throughout the world, they apply the tried-and-true practices they developed in this country to be the top players in a global money game that thieves, pollutes, terrorizes and kills.
With perfect clarity, Ismi and Schwartz demonstrate how Canadian mining capital brings misery and devastation with it wherever it goes. In Sudbury, Ontario, the Canadian mining industry has worked hand-in-hand with the government and courts to steal the land from its indigenous people. In the documentary we hear from Chief Petahtegoose of the Whitefish Lake First Nation, not only about the theft of their land, but how those mines have poisoned the water in the area, polluted the air and contaminated the soil. The Chief’s own words link this devastation to the earlier devastation inflicted on his people by diseases such as smallpox spread by early European settlers. The genocide of indigenous people, started by the settling of this country, continues with the theft and destruction of their land.
Sudbury’s not the only place with minerals though. And when Canadian mining went looking for more earth to tear up and lives to ruin, they brought with them the support of their government and years of brutal know-how. Following the destructive path of Canadian mining in the Ismi and Schwartz documentary is to bear witness to a rampage where nothing stands in the way of profit.
When Canadian mining expanded internationally and met with resistance, it proved itself capable of sinking to almost unbelievable depths. These businessmen went about the business of instigating and fuelling brutal conflict and warfare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guatemala, among others. Massacre, forced displacement, torture, assassination, and intimidation became the ‘business model’ of Canadian mining companies’ (such as Inco and Barrick Gold) expansion to the global south.
When European and American-backed paramilitaries or armies weren’t available to do their dirty work, mining relied on the support of courts and politicians to clear the way for them. The Canadian government has worked diligently on their mining friends’ behalf. Through the Canadian courts at home and its embassies abroad, the mining industry’s interests have been well protected, to the detriment of those who work the mines or live anywhere near them. Environmental and labour protections are scrapped or ignored, leaving the companies free to pillage the land and destroy the health of their workers. Corporate taxes are erased to the degree that a Manitoba-based mining company recently paid taxes to the Canadian government for the first time in 75 years.
Path of Destruction illustrates that savage crimes against humanity and environmental devastation are not the exception, but the rule, when the Canadian mining industry is concerned. Ismi and Schwartz’s spectacular documentary not only demonstrate the abhorrent crimes of the mining industry but also the ways in which their imperialist and genocidal crimes can be successfully challenged. In Canada, Native communities are at the forefront of resistance to murder and theft perpetrated by Canadian mining capital. Likewise, successful popular movements have led resistance to mining’s incursions all over the south, resulting in progressive defeats of capital’s aims in favour of the well-being and wealth of workers and indigenous peoples. The closing words of Edward Gudoy are a healthy prescription for the cancer spread by Canadian mining: “At the end of the day, it’s about workers taking control of the resources – including the natural resources – including the economy of the country – this is the bottom line. In the north and south.”
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
This year’s international Israeli Apartheid Week was the largest ever - being held in over 40 cities all across the world - and its level of success was matched with an unprecedented level of repression from university administrations, the Canadian government and Zionist pro-Israel groups on and off campuses. Despite the sometimes-violent nature of this repression, the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel is growing each year and is showing no signs of letting up until apartheid in Israel falls.
Israeli Apartheid Week is a weeklong series of events that spread information and analysis about the nature of Israel as an Apartheid State. The word Apartheid was the name of the government created in South Africa from 1948-1994 that separated the population by Black (majority of population), White, and Coloured. The laws made it legal to treat the "Coloured" population like second-class citizens, and the "Black" (native South African) population like third class citizens, refugees in their own country. This status meant little or no education, no voting rights, poor healthcare, checkpoints and police terror for Africans.
Israel is now recognised around the world by more and more people as imposing a similar apartheid system on Palestinians. This is why Israeli Apartheid week exists: to spread information about this system and promote the boycott of Israeli products. In Canada, one of the main boycotts going on right now is that of major book retailer Chapters Indigo, for its financial support of Israeli soldiers.
The forms of university campus repression this year included the outright banning of the Israeli Apartheid Week poster in two of Ottawa’s universities (Carlton U and U of Ottawa), as well as banning of the group Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) group at York University. SAIA York was also fined $1000 for holding a rally at York U and the SAIA chapter at U of T suffered physical and verbal harassment from Zionist groups and individuals.
As for repression coming down from the Federal level, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff have both denounced the event, and Jason Kenney has pulled funding from the immigration settlement programs administered by the Canadian Arab Federation on the basis of its Palestinian advocacy.
Israeli Apartheid Week is against all forms of discrimination, including Islamaphobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. Despite the repression, the organisers stand strong against the racist Israeli state and takes a similar stand against the Canadian state for its racist genocidal policies towards indigenous peoples to this very day.
End Israeli Apartheid!
Let the Palestinian Refugees Return Home!
If you are interested in getting involved in Israeli Apartheid Week 2010, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the movement’s main website: www.apartheidweek.org
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has released a report predicting the fall of apartheid Israel within the next 20 years. The report points to the unexpected and quick fall of Apartheid South Africa after harsh and organized resistance by people all over the world. Similarly, there is growing support for a one-state solution as the only viable democratic solution in the region. According to an Al-Jazeera report, even American public opinion is rapidly shifting toward such a solution. After Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, public opinion continues to move away from supporting the continuation of Apartheid Israel or even the creation of two separate states. A one-state solution would allow for the return of Palestinian refugees who were driven from their homes in the 1948 catastrophe, as well as a return for 1967 refugees. According to the report, the return of the refugees and an end to apartheid-rule are preconditions for a sustainable peace in the region. The study also predicts that a one-state solution would lead to an exodus of millions of Israelis who hold passports in the U.S., the E.U., and Russia.
While the CIA report cites shifting moral opinion as the cause for the likely end to the apartheid regime, it is important to recognize that is has been the ongoing resistance of Palestinians and their supporters that the anti-apartheid movement is gaining ground. Furthermore, it is important to recognize the need for a sustained and continued resistance against other repressive regimes in the region that are supported by imperialism, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. While the end of Israeli-apartheid would be an incredible triumph of the Palestinian liberation movement, only the end to all forms foreign domination and occupation in the Middle East can open up the possibilities for genuine national liberation.
This past March, Amy Miller and Boban Chaldovich, founders of Wide Open Exposure, a Montreal-based production team, released their debut documentary, Myths for Profit. The hour-long film is an important introduction to Canadian imperialism. In a short time, it introduces its audience to Canada’s role in ‘industries of war and peace,’ leaving them wanting to explore each facet of the documentary in greater detail. Filmmaker Amy Miller points out that throughout her years of research, she came across many examples of Canadian Imperialism. The film does a good job of picking particularly salient examples that the audience might have some degree of familiarity with and going into particular details to help bust the myth of Canada as the eternal peacemaker.
Through diverse interviews and case studies, the 60-minute documentary unveils the specific interests and profits made by certain corporations, individuals and governmental and non-governmental agencies within Canada. The documentary covers the three myths of Canadian identity: ‘Canada as a peacemaking nation,’ ‘Canada’s military purpose [as] defense,’ and ‘Canada’s aid [as] helping people around the world.’
In addition to the informative interviews from varying perspectives, the film also has a lot of archival footage as well as a clever and funny cartoon exploring the history and role of NATO in various conflicts throughout the world.
Wide Open Exposure is a particularly unique production team in that it is made up of social justice organizers and independent media activists. It is their mission to work with grassroots organizations and educational organizations such as BASICS to provide resources for political education. We look forward to any future projects.
by J.D. Benjamin
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
The year 1937 marked the beginning of full-scale war between the Republic of China and the Japanese empire. Bethune saw China as the next great flashpoint in the worldwide struggle against fascism. "Spain and China, are part of the same battle," he wrote. "I am going to China because that is where the need is the greatest."
In 1938, Norman Bethune arrived in China and insisted on traveling to the North to join the Communists who were fighting a guerrilla war against the Japanese. Once there, he set about performing emergency battlefield surgery, training new medical staff, producing manuals and organizing mobile medical facilities. The conditions were extreme. Bethune traveled 4,800 kilometers in the course of his duties and once operated on 115 cases in 69 hours without rest, even when his team came under heavy artillery fire. Yet Bethune did not complain. "It is true I am tired," he wrote, "but I don't think I have been so happy for a long time. I am needed."
The Chinese were amazed by this foreigner who had adopted their cause as his own and was literally willing to give them his blood. Bethune in turn was humbled by the Chinese dedication to liberate themselves and build a better world.
In late October 1939, Bethune was on a tour inspecting hospitals when a nearby brigade of the People’s Liberation Army came under attack by the Japanese. While operating on wounded soldiers, Bethune cut his finger, something he had done several times before. This time, infection set in. Bethune continued to work as best he could until the regimental commander, seeing Bethune’s deterioration, ordered him sent back. On November 12, in a small village in Hopei Province, Bethune died of blood poisoning.
Chairman Mao Zedong, leader of the Communist Party of China, had only met Bethune once, but upon hearing of his death Mao wrote an essay that would be studied by hundreds of millions of people in China and around the world. ‘In Memory of Norman Bethune’ praised his internationalism and devotion to the people. Mao held up Bethune as a model to be emulated, writing, "We must all learn the spirit of absolute selflessness from him. With this spirit everyone can be very helpful to each other. A man's ability may be great or small, but if he has this spirit, he is already noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man who is of value to the people."
When we compare Mao's estimation of Bethune with Bethune as a younger man, we can see the profound changes he had gone through. Gone was the Bethune of just a few years previous, with his drinking, womanizing, impatience and individualism. His commitment to serving the people and being part of a movement for a better society made him overcome these problems. He became not just a better person, but a hero for working people all over the world.
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
Nearly 200 outraged community and labour activists rattled the fences of Rexdale Immigration Detention Centre on April 5, demanding the release of over 100 undocumented workers arrested during unprecedented immigration raids across southwestern Ontario.
Chanting ‘No One Is Illegal! Stop deporting people,’ ‘We didn’t cross the borders, the borders crossed us’ and ’Justice for migrant workers,’ teachers, lawyers and organizers from OSSTF D12, Parkdale Legal Community Services, Mujeres Al Frente, the Sikh Activist Network, the Good Jobs Coalition, CUPE, UFCW, CAW, OPSEU and many others joined family members and friends on Sunday morning. Organized by No One is Illegal-Toronto, Migrante Ontario and Justicia for Migrant Workers, the spirited action was in response to three separate but coordinated attacks against undocumented communities.
This past week, Canada Border Services Agency and South Simcoe Police arrested hundreds of people, detaining over 100 workers. At the same time, in Leamington and Windsor, Ontario, dozens of undocumented people were picked up on their way to work, in their homes and in public spaces. Homes were also raided on the Danforth where absentee workers possessions were confiscated.
''For Justicia, these are our friends and our families that are on the inside," says Chris Ramsaroop from Justicia for Migrant Workers. "For Justicia this isn't just political, it’s personal. Our activists are impacted by these workplace raids."
“Racialized people have been targeted once more while working to pay for the basics while corrupt employers go free. And to this we say No!" he thundered.
No charges have been laid against the employer, Cericola Farms. These raids come the same day the migrant worker community celebrated a victory against recruitment agencies charging large “placement" fees to workers even if no legal work was found. Many workers were forced to work under precarious immigration status in order to secure an income.
As supporters encircled the premises of the detention center, the detainees came to the windows, applauding, cheering, pounding at the glass and waving fists. The action saw both the imprisoned and their community allies demanding an immediate end to immigration raids, detentions and deportations.
by Minnalkodi Sivan Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
To many people Sri Lanka might be just a tiny island in the Indian Ocean. However, Sri Lanka is the most militarized country in South Asia, spending billions of dollars on military expenditure that makes countries like India look like dwarfs. Records indicate that Sri Lanka’s military budget has swollen to $1.8 billion in 2009, quite an ambitious figure for a small country.
Sri Lanka is only able to sustain this racist war with the help of external funding from their donor countries and imperialist-controlled organizations like the IMF. Sri Lanka‘s biggest contributors donate in millions, if not billions. Some of their top funders are Iran, EU, Japan, China, India, US and Canada. Additionally, Sri Lanka has requested for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan of $1.9 billion with no conditions. However, the reality is that the reason for the island’s weak economic state is the diversion of funds into militarization to buy weapons from countries like Israel and China to fight the Tamil resistance and wage a genocidal war on Tamil civilians.
According to various bodies such as the U.N, Human Rights Watch, and International Committee of the Red Cross, the current situation of Tamil civilians is extremely grim. Sri Lanka has violated most (if not all) international laws and has taken human rights violations to a new dimension. So far, in 2009, over 200 Tamils have been arbitrarily disappeared from areas under Sri Lankan occupation. Over 4,000 civilians have died and 8,500 severely injured in the conflict areas where 80% of the population are women and children. Reports from the conflict tell of the horrendous scenarios where government-declared “Safety Zones” are being bombarded daily. Maimed bodies, torn limbs and blood-drenched soil has filled the landscape. Make-shift, overcrowded hospitals that are functioning at bare-minimum levels are shelled regularly. According to the Sri Lankan Defense Secretary, brother of the current President, “hospitals are legitimate targets”.
The barbarism of the Sinhalese Army has not spared a single Tamil. There have been reports where new born babies are born with shell pieces stuck to their bodies and even a case where an unborn baby died inside its womb with an exploded head. Concentration camps have sprung up in the Vanni region where people are exposed to extreme conditions, harassments, intimidation and their state of mental health, especially children, are in inconceivable conditions. The Sinhalese Army’s plan is to end the “War on Terror” by eliminating the Tamil resistance which was sparked out of a long history of extremely ruthless discrimination and massacres against Tamils, and then the transfer all the civilians into detention centers for three years to “filter out terrorists”. The latest reports indicate that the war has taken a new phase where chemical weapons have been used against LTTE and civilians, killing thousands! Chemical warfare was used by Sri Lanka in the past and it now appears that the option has been taking down from the shelf.
The world is yet to respond to this silent genocide that is worsening by the day. So far the only response from the “international community” has been to line the pockets of a government that is following the path of the Nazis and pursing unrealistic goals to eliminate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Meanwhile, as conscious beings Canadians should start boycotting blood-stained Sri Lankan products and join in solidarity with the Tamil Diaspora in Canada to demand that the Canadian government stop supporting Sri Lanka’s genocidal policies.
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
The current economic crisis is being repeatedly used to justify capital’s assault on the working-class. Whether it’s in the form of cutbacks on hours in a non-union grocery store, a freeze or cutback of wages and benefits at the bargaining table, or closures at unionized car plants, the recession has been used as an excuse for owners to cut labour costs at every opportunity.
Job losses in Canada for the month of January alone were at 129,000, the largest since the government started recording such data. February wasn’t much better, with 82,600 jobs shed mostly in the construction and manufacturing sectors. Ontario in particular has been hit hard, as 1,500 workers at the Stelco plant in Hamilton were laid off and 900 workers at the Dofasco plant got pink slips in March. With the unemployment numbers growing (officially, 7.7%, but in reality much higher) employed workers can expect an attack on their wages and benefits. Just ask union members who are in the process of bargaining new collective agreements and being expected to make countless concessions before talks even begin. Owners and bosses are telling us that we should be happy that we even have a job and they threaten cutbacks, layoffs and closures when we demand a share of the company’s profits.
However, while the attacks on workers have been hard and swift, workers’ resistance is beginning to develop. Workers at Aradco in Windsor, Ontario occupied their car parts plant after the company withheld over $1.3 million in severance pay, vacation pay and other benefits. On March 18, workers welded the doors of the plant shut, refusing to take the measly $200,000 the company offered to share amongst the 80 workers. Unfortunately, to date, this example of workers uniting to take control over the factories to demand a little bit of justice has not been replicated to meet the gross injustices unfolding around us.
In the 2009 Federal Budget, the Canadian government passed another $200 billion in bailout money for the banks, on top of the $75 billion already passed in the end of 2008. With banks and other major financial corporations in the U.S. and Canada getting bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions, why are workers being asked to forget about their severance pay, and why is their EI lost in the mix? While the rich can count on the State for bailouts and assistance, workers need to count on each other, and organize in their communities, workplaces and schools to fundamentally change the way this system works.
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
K’Naan is a new and rising musician, having released his sophomore album in February of this year. After the success of his first album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, his second has been much anticipated. K’Naan receives press not only for his diverse music styles and lyrical flow, but also because of what he says. Somali born, K’Naan now makes his home in Toronto. Though he has been asked to provide his viewpoint of the situation in Somalia, he rarely addresses the influence of Western capitalism and imperialism within his home nation. In addition, K’Naan lived in the Toronto community of Rexdale for some time, and words in interviews and his music doesn’t express the struggles of local communities. His lyrics and messages in his new album are nowhere near as overt as the artists that we generally associate with politically focused music, such as Immortal Technique, Dead Prez, or The Coup. K’Naan seems to be aware of this and embrace his choice of music, in which he has said “My art is not a place where I feel like I voice these things. It’s not like my art is a political mission … but it’s me that I bring fully to the table, so you’ll get some of those things.”
K’Naan does make some statements about the struggles of people, such as migrants and people in marginalized communities that face the oppression of our system. However, many famous hip-hop musicians make comments about the social system, such as artists like Mos Def, Black Star, and K-os, but those musicians are not usually associated with sending politically strong messages. K’Naan’s music is more associated with these artists in his ability to produce high quality hip-hop and provide artistic lyrics with an impressive flow. K’Naan’s music is complex in not only its musical composition but its lyrical presentation, such as the song Somalia, which tells about his life in Mogadishu and incorporating sounds and samples from various genres. K’Naan’s first single ‘ABC’s’ is already on the charts and will be played throughout nightclubs in Toronto.
Dutch prosecutors drop false murder rap against poet and Filipino people's leader for lack of evidence
by J.D. Benjamin
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
Prof. Sison and his supporters are celebrating the decision of the Dutch prosecutors to end their year and a half long investigation into his alleged involvement in the murders of two military assets working for the Philippine government. Sison is a poet, writer and activist living in exile in the Netherlands.
"I've long expected the decision to be dismissed because in the first place I'm innocent of the charge," Sison said during a press conference.
The accusation was a result of false information fed by the Philippine government of current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is eager to silence one of her most prominent opponents. The false charges were an attempt to distract Sison from his role as chairman of the International League of Peoples' Struggles, a coalition of democratic and anti-imperialist people's organizations from around the world, as well as his work as a political consultant for the National Democratic Front (NDF). The NDF has been fighting a 40-year-long civil war against the brutal and corrupt government of the Philippines.
Despite the clearing of Sison, the legal harassment against him has not ended. The Arroyo regime has announced that they will seek extradition of Sison, despite his recognized status as a political refugee.
Sison has announced his plans to sue Dutch prosecutors for legal costs as well as moral and material damages.
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
The end of February marked the fifth anniversary of the Canadian, American and French backed coup in Haiti. It was the country’s 35th coup, the second against the popular President Jean Bertrand Aristide and the first carried out directly by foreign soldiers, including American Marines and Canada’s Joint Task Force II. It would be the latest interlude in Haiti’s sad history of constant interference and intervention from foreign powers working in collusion with Haiti’s tiny and corrupt elite. It would violently derail the remarkable popular movement of Haiti’s poor majority which had organized itself in the streets, in the fields and in the churches into a formidable democratic force. This grassroots movement demanded an end to their social and political exclusion, and had given Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas Party an indisputable mandate, with a massive 75% share of the vote in the 2000 elections.
After deposing the President, the “international community” dismantled Haiti’s entire government structure and removed thousands of elected officials from every region of the country. The United Nations Security Council officially sanctioned the illegal intervention, and then consolidated the coup with the deployment of a United Nations military occupation and endorsement of a brutal foreign-imposed dictatorship for two years.
Today, Haiti remains administratively, economically and militarily occupied. The five coup years have served to culminate years of American and international financial institution economic policy impositions that have maintained Haiti as a low-wage, export-friendly, most open world economy providing profitable business and resource extraction opportunities for foreign investors. The coup has resulted in thousands killed, raped, displaced, imprisoned and exiled; a political and social setback of decades; termination of every one of Aristide’s progressive social programs; a crippled economy; and increased poverty, misery and hopelessness.
The storms in the fall of 2007 exposed the perilous state of Haiti under foreign domination, when with more money coming into the country, the international community was incapable or unwilling to even come close to reinstating the disaster relief programs in place under Aristide. The networks and offices of Aristide’s Civil Protection Committees were attacked after the coup, and committee officials were killed, arrested or driven into hiding. The fall-out from the lack of preparation for the expected hurricanes was 1000 people killed, several thousand displaced, destruction of the season’s entire harvest and an aggregated loss to agriculture and infrastructure of 900 million dollars, representing the largest disaster to take place in Haiti for more than 100 years! The Haitian government complained that it became impossible to coordinate relief efforts among the numerous and disconnected NGOs (non-government agencies) who control all of the foreign aid coming into Haiti. Incredibly, the Haitian government was unable to access some 197 million dollars for relief from its own Central Bank because the funds had been placed in U.S. financial markets without the consultation of the Haitian parliament!
So while the international community marked the 5th anniversary of the coup with promises to stay their disastrous course in Haiti, the fatigued but defiant popular movements filled the streets with thousands and thousands of people (as they have consistently done since 2004).Their demands? Release all political prisoners; end the neoliberal policies and associated occupation; end the repression against Lavalas; and return the exiled President Jean Bertrand Aristide. It is a course that Haiti’s poor majority has not altered for five years, and one with which people in Canada need to stand in solidarity!
Biggie Smalls, one of the greatest hip hop artists in history, was assassinated 13 years ago by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and corporate thug Suge Knight in an operation that was both assisted and approved by the American state. The year before that, Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Vegas by the same forces. Both men were murdered because they spoke about the realities facing black people in the ghettos of America: poverty, crime, racism and state violence. ‘Pac was a genuine revolutionary carrying on the legacy of his Black Panther mother by organizing a truce between the Bloods and Crips in LA in 1992. Although not as politically educated, Biggie still rapped about the struggles he faced growing up. Their murders had everything to do with crushing the revival of a black revolutionary movement in the US and silencing two positive figures for young racialized youth. But you’ll get none of that from watching the new Biggie film, ‘Notorious.’
Instead, you’ll hear the entertaining, but fictional story, of an artist who reached the American dream through skill and hard work, but because of some dumb rap beef was killed before he could really mature as a man and performer. Notorious runs through Biggie’s childhood and youth without showing a single example of police brutality or systematic discrimination. According to the film, Smalls chooses to hustle dope before realizing he is wasting his lyrical abilities, and dedicates himself to the rap game. His success is then attributed more to the skill of his manager Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs (the corporate snake who owned Biggie’s label ‘Bad Boy’, and produced the film), than to his personal talent. But the movie’s biggest lie is its portrayal of the supposed East Coast - West Coast feud between ‘Bad Boy Records’ and Tupac’s rap label ‘Death Row’, owned by the criminal Suge Knight. In reality, the rivalry was created by the American state working with Suge and Puffy in order to break the unity being built by ‘Pac’s community organizing, and replace the positive hip hop being recorded at the time with diss tracks. Notorious plays into the east/west rivalry myth by presenting Biggie’s murder as revenge for Tupac’s death, and even more destructively, by casting Tupac in the film as naïve and aggressive and even mocking his revolutionary politics.
Still, Notorious did manage to do justice to Biggie in some ways. Jamal Woolard’s performance in the title role is incredible, and every hip hop fan will appreciate seeing B.I.G come back to life on the screen. But it’s an insult to Biggie’s memory to present his assassination at the hands of the LAPD and Death Row as the result of a simple ‘rap battle’, and to censor any political content from his story.
R.I.P. Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur and all other victims of political assassinations by the US government!
Patiently enduring a long road of suffering and disillusionment, the FMLN, the main people’s party of El Salvador, has set an example of how perseverance and conviction can achieve what it aims for. On March 15, 2009 the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) triumphed in El Salvador’s presidential elections, bringing a major political defeat to the right-wing governing party, ARENA, and bringing the people one step closer to the reality of social and economic justice.
During the 1980s, five insurgent groups united to form the FMLN coalition, which they named after the internationalist-minded Farabundo Marti, a Salvadorian leader of a peasant and working class uprising against electoral fraud in January 1932. Dictator Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez reacted with furious violence against the movement, backed by U.S. and British military support. During an event known as ‘La Matanza’ (The Massacre), Farabundo Marti was executed and historians estimate that some 30,000 people were killed during four days. Since then, the people’s movement in El Salvador took to the underground to organize themselves clandestinely to overcome repression. In response, the Salvadorian government began using death squads to kill the revolutionaries’ social base. During those years of fierce repression, the people’s movement was forced to take up armed struggle as a way to defend the poor from the violence imposed on them, enduring the hardships of a gruesome civil war that lasted from 1979 until 1992. Although the people’s movement was unable to seize power from the powerful Salvadorian army aided by a million-dollar-a-day U.S. investment in paramilitary squads, the movement was still able to achieve wide political support and legitimacy, laying the foundation of what today is a victorious movement.
This is the brutal history that set the tone for the 2009 Presidential elections in El Salvador.
A week before the elections, the FMLN closed the campaign in the capital, San Salvador. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in a public gathering, the largest crowd for a political event in decades. It was a show of support far superior to what the right wing party displayed the next day. It was obvious by then that the FMLN had a greater following than the opposing party, and during the days of that week ARENA (Republican Nationalist Alliance) desperately tried to convince people through an intensive media bombardment that if FMLN were to be elected, El Salvador would become subordinate to Venezuela and “President Hugo Chavez’s expansionist project”, and that Salvadorians would risk having remittances from family members in the U.S. halted by the U.S. government.
ARENA’s maneuvers to discredit the revolutionaries included personal attacks against FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes, to which Funes responded by highlighting his party’s proposals to overcome the devastating effects of the neoliberal capitalist policies implemented by ARENA since 1993. ARENA has a long track record of using tricks and foul play to maintain power, but this time the frustrated population would not allow another fraud to occur and perhaps wouldn’t limit their furious reaction.
ARENA has in past handed out thousands of fake IDs to people they brought in from neighboring countries to fraudulently vote for their party. Although widespread evidence indicates this also happened on March 15th, 2009 FMLN was still able to move their voters and supporters to the vote and defend their electoral rights against these ‘tactricks’ of ARENA.
However, change will only occur gradually in El Salvador, with the right still firmly entrenched in the bureaucracy, the judiciary, and with the FMLN lacking a majority of seats in the Parliament. At best, the FMLN’s presence in the government will only be able to pave the ground for future rounds of struggle. For a start, it will begin by opening the books and taxing big business and recover the U$2 billion lost every year on tax evasion. This could allow them to increase wages and subsidies to basic social services, implement land reform and increase agricultural production, increase employment and scholarship opportunities and reduce gang violence in urban areas. Also, the FMLN’s political presence will give them the opportunity to strengthen the social and political capacity of the mass movements, for example by strengthening community media. Furthermore, with the FMLN at the head of the executive branch of government, they will be able to establish independent foreign relations, which under ARENA’s governments were so submissive to U.S. policy.
All of this, however, will only be possible through the continued participation and increased development of an organized mass movement to defend and advance the struggle for the economic and social power of the people.
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
The first School Resource Officer (SRO) programs began, unsurprisingly, in the United States. The goal of the first programs, started in Flint, Michigan during the 1950s, was to “improve relations between police and young people”. Despite the long history of these programs and their growing expansion to school districts all over the U.S. and Canada, a report by the International Center for Crime Prevention (ICCP) suggests that these programs have no long-term measurable benefit to student engagement or school safety.
If these programs have no measurable benefit, then why would Toronto Police Services (TPS) and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) be spending invaluable financial and institutional capital on an SRO Program at a time when our schools and our students are in crisis?
The answer, according to the ICCP report, is the move made by most police forces in the 1990s towards “community policing”. In the wake of the release of the Falconer Report, in response to the shooting of Jordan Manners at C.W. Jeffries Collegiate Institute, Toronto's own champion of “community policing” Police Chief Bill Blair made his own pitch to the TDSB to install armed police officers in schools.
In keeping with the history of SRO programs, and despite the dire warnings of the Falconer report, about the urgent need to make schools safer places for students, teachers, and staff, the goal of Blair's program is not to make schools safer but to “improve relations between police and young people”.
Despite being explicitly part of the TPS's 'community policing' mandate, there was absolutely no community consultation before the pilot program was implemented in September 2008. The decision to create the program was made in a series of back-room meetings with members of the Safe and Caring Schools department of the TDSB and members of the TPS.
Not only was the program created without consultation, it explicitly ignores two major community consultations done at the cost of millions of precious taxpayer dollars. Both the Falconer Report on School Safety and the Curling-McMurtry report on the Roots of Youth Violence spent months talking with and listening to students, parents, teachers, and school support workers. Out of these direct and extensive consultations, both reports painted a picture of a system in critical need of repair, and outlined extensive and specific recommendations to both engage marginalized youth and make our schools safer. Not once did either report recommend putting armed and uniformed officers in schools. In fact, the Curling-McMurtry report explicitly points to the racial profiling of racialized youth by Toronto police as a major contributing factor to the increased climate of fear for many youth:
“Many youth also told us that they felt uncomfortable walking through policed areas within their neighbourhoods for fear of being harassed. One senior civic official highlighted this for us when he explained that in one community the youth favoured the use of surveillance cameras in public areas because they created zones where the police did not harass the youth”
While the TDSB is still struggling to come up with funds to hire the highly-trained youth and social workers recommended by the Falconer and Curling-McMurty Reports, the TPS has stepped in with funding to replace social workers with the very police officers many youth fear.
Despite explicit assurances that the SRO program is not about school safety, the TDSB continues to justify the program on the grounds that it's making schools safer. This February, the TDSB released its preliminary report on the 5-month-old SRO program. In glowing articles in both The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, school administrators as well as TDSB and TPS officials told seemingly charming stories about police officers staying late to coach teams and participating in school-wide events by dancing in tutus. Based on these stories and other “anecdotal” reports, journalists and administrators happily concluded that the program was so far a great success in making schools safer.
Not only did these stories ignore the numerous reports by students, teachers, and staff of police harassment and an increasing climate of fear and repression, but they also ignored the TDSB report's own data.
While TDSB data shows a reduction in suspensions and police charges in schools with SROs, there is nothing to support the claim that these reductions are the direct result of the SRO's presence. Indeed, these drops are consistent with a similar drop in suspensions and police charges in schools without SROs, which have been credited to the changes made to the Safe Schools Act explicitly intended to reduce suspensions and the intervention of police.
There is only one significant difference when it comes to data comparing schools with and schools without SROs: while the report indicates a 24% drop in violent incidents board-wide, it shows a 15% increase in violent incidents in schools with SROs. (Officials blamed this increase in violence in SRO schools on two major incidents in two different schools, and then conveniently chose to exclude these two incidents from the data set because it “skewed” the results.)
With no contemporary or historical data to suggest SRO programs have any measurable benefit for students, and with much historical and contemporary data that suggests that increased police presence alienates and marginalizes many youth, both the TDSB and the TPS continue to struggle to come up with a rationale for the program. At a time when there is almost universal consensus on what our schools and students need, our police force and school board are spending precious time, energy and resources on a program whose stated goal is not to benefit students in need, but to benefit the police force itself.
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
According to Statistics Canada, in the last quarter of 2008 Canada’s economy shrank at an annualized rate of 3.4%, and it’s expected that the economy contracted at an even faster rate in the first quarter of 2009. This means that Canada is officially in a recession, defined as a period of at least six months of economic contraction. Despite the reassurances made by Canada’s politicians, as the job losses amount into the hundreds of thousands and with an unemployment rate of 8%, there is nothing for workers to be optimistic about.
And how has the Canadian government responded to what is scaling up to become the greatest economic crisis in Canada and the world since the 1930s?
In late 2008, the Canadian government injected $75 billion into the Canadian banking system in order to buy up unstable mortgage debts held by the banks in a program called the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program (IMPP). Preparing themselves for worse times ahead, the Canadian banks quietly liquated their soon-to-be-troubled assets in exchange for cold, hard cash from the public purse.
With a nearly total media blackout on the decision and thus no opposition to check this unprecedented transfer of wealth from the public to the rich, the back-room dealings were taken to new levels in early 2009 as Canada’s banks were pushing for more bailout money. The Conservative government – with the silent complicity of their “opponents” in Parliament – passed the 2009 Federal Budget which approved an additional $200 billion in bailout money under a program they called the Extraordinary Financing Framework (EFF). While much adieu was made about the Federal Budget’s estimated 5-year $85 billion deficit, nothing at all was said about the plan to spend $200 billion to bail out the banks. This bailout was not calculated into the deficit projections because, as the budget tells us, in return the government was getting “revenue-bearing assets” from the banks. Well, the question immediately follows: If these assets were bearing revenue, why would the banks by trying to liquidate them in the first place? When these assets begin to fail in the coming months and years, it is now working-class Canadians who are going to be picking up the bill for these toxic liabilities.
By early March 2009, the Bank of Canada lowered its interest rate to an all-time record low of 0.5%, a move that economists compared to making a decision to launch nuclear warfare. What this move signaled was the Bank of Canada’s preparations to flood the economy with new dollars that are going to be used to buy up billions of dollars of corporate debt, which is setting the stage for pushing the bank bailout beyond $275 billion.
As the Canadian economy moves into depression territory, all signs suggest that the Canadian government and every political party represented in it are going to stand firm as staunch defenders and apologists for the bankers and big business. The majority of us, in the meantime, can either sit back and watch our interests continue to be attacked; or we can begin organizing ourselves to seriously confront the capitalist class relations that are allowing these outrages to be carried out.
International Women`s Day (IWD), March 8, is an international day to celebrate the economic, social, and political achievements of women around the globe, while demanding that there is still much to be done to achieve women’s liberation and end the oppressions, discriminations and violence that particularly target women. This year, on the weekend of March 8th, IWD was celebrated in Toronto and the theme chosen for the event “Good Jobs and Dignity for All” – a call out to the government to ensure that this becomes a reality here in Canada. This message comes during a crucial time of economic recession, where the most vulnerable in the population happens to be women. According to the Canadian Auto Workers, 70 percent of part-time jobs and two-thirds of the Canadian population earning minimum wage are women. In other words, women are suffering disproportionately due to the economic recession and this harsh reality is even more evident for women of color, migrant women and Native women.
On March 7th, the day of the IWD march, participants gathered at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education to hear powerful speeches delivered by women from various backgrounds addressing issues and voicing their solidarity with other struggles. The rally was followed by a march that attracted over 1500 participants chanting and relaying their message to the public, who stood still to watch the demonstrators make their way through the downtown core to the IWD fair, where various groups had booths to educate people on various women’s issues.
The next day, the Migrant Women’s Organizing Body got together to facilitate workshops and discussions under the theme “Fighting the War on Us”. Women of color are on the forefronts of fighting for decent livelihoods, justice, and the right to self-determination. It is critical for women to converge during times like this when imperialist forces and systemic racist-sexist policies are pressing down on women and exploiting them for their labour and bodies.
The Migrant Women’s Organizing Body is a growing body of different organizations that intends to expand as a network of women standing side-by-side in solidarity to fight against women’s oppression, and is planning to continue organizing IWD and other related events in Toronto.
by Derek Rosin
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
Revolution is very much alive, and nowhere is it stronger than in the Himalayan country of Nepal. Today in Nepal, a country of 30 million people, there is a real communist revolution taking place, something most of us have never witnessed in our lifetimes. It's uplifting, exciting, dangerous, complicated and contradictory. And it needs to be studied carefully by anyone who's ever thought about what it would take to make a real revolution.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most people are poor peasants who can barely eke out a living. It's a country dominated by foreign powers, especially its southern neighbour. India has historically strangled Nepalese domestic industry and controlled its resources. Internally, the Nepalese people are kept down by caste oppression – a system of discrimination based on the family you were born into. Women also suffer tremendously. The combination of poverty and oppression has forced tens of thousands of Nepalese women into prostitution in India. Communists have been active in Nepal for decades, searching for ways to solve these basic problems.
A turning point came in 1996, when an insurrection was launched by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Starting off small, the Maoist movement was able to strengthen and grow by relying on and leading mostly poor Nepalese peasants to fight and overthrow the forces of government in the countryside, then represented by an absolute monarchy. In their place, they began constructing a new society – by taking steps to end gender and caste oppression, introducing forms of popular democratic government, and providing for people's needs like basic health care and education. The Maoists called this the “People's War” - a revolutionary war of the people that seeks to overthrow the old system.
Within 10 years, the Maoists controlled 80% of Nepal. Only the cities remained firmly under government control. It was at this point that the Maoists decided to change tactics. Although they had built up a powerful People's Liberation Army (PLA), they did not feel it would be best to capture the cities militarily. They faced several obstacles: weak support among middle-class people in the cities, who would have to be important allies in any future society; an unfavourable international situation with no real socialist countries who could assist their extremely undeveloped country; and the mood of the masses themselves, who were justifiably exhausted by a decade of bloody conflict and yearned for peace.
In November 2006, the Maoists ended one phase of the revolution by signing a peace treaty with the government on the condition that elections be held for a Constituent Assembly – a temporary governing body that serves to write a new constitution for how society will work. The peace treaty gave the Maoists the freedom to begin doing intensive political work in areas they had previously been weak – namely in the cities and the heavily populated Southern Terai region. A tactic during this time was to politically isolate the leadership of the mainstream parties and reach out to their supporters by demanding the unconditional dissolution of the corrupt and widely-hated monarchy.
In April 2008, elections for the Constituent Assembly were held and the Maoists emerged as the biggest and most influential party. This shocked everyone in the world except the Maoists themselves, who knew the huge support they had been building throughout Nepal. In May, the monarchy was abolished.
Today, the situation is extremely complex. Although the Maoist leader Prachanda has been elected Prime Minister of the country, the revolution is far from complete. In nearly every way, it is just beginning.
Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has been clear for a long time that the process of negotiations and entering government is a temporary tactic, and that this phase will not last forever. He has also been clear to emphasize that all their gains have rested on the foundation of the People's War. For this reason, the Maoists, despite entering the government, have refused to disband or disarm their army. They want to fuse their army with the old National Army, maintaining their leaders and influence over it.
Maoists have also emphasized the need for a thorough agrarian revolution that would give peasants land and break the power of landlords. They want to push forward with what they are calling the “People's Federal Democratic National Republic”. This is a slogan that encompasses many demands: autonomy for minority nationalities, multi-party democracy and democratic rights, national sovereignty and independence, women's equality, the end of caste discrimination and more.
The old mainstream parties, who enriched themselves by defending the old society, are bitterly opposed to these plans, and will try to block the Maoists.
So now there exists an uneasy dance between the Maoists and the representatives of the old system, as each tries to manoeuvre for their very different goals. It's an unsustainable situation, one where something definitely has to give.
This is what a real revolution looks like. Messy, complex, full of new approaches, unorthodoxies, and compromise. Study intently and stay tuned.
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
A leader of the League Against Profiteering (LKP) in Guadeloupe.
On January 19th, 2009, Guadeloupe’s League against Profiteering (LKP) organized workers, youth, and the women’s movement to shut down the small French Caribbean island’s industries, refusing to budge unless the French government dealt with the longstanding economic and cultural issues of the small nation. France’s domination over its colony, Guadeloupe, became intolerable for the island’s 450,000 residents earlier this year when masses of people closed down roadways, schools, gas stations, public transportation and the entire tourist infrastructure that services the rich elite from France and other richer nations.
Guadeloupe’s economy is regulated in euros as imposed by the French government. In 2007, the escalating prices of food, oil, and gas led to a rapid decline in the living conditions for most of the island’s population. As the financial crisis that began in the US expanded to all sections of the world economy, official unemployment rates in Guadeloupe reached as high as 30%.
The LKP, an umbrella group of 49 unions and grassroots organizations, took the initiative to launch its strike in January. The protestors immediately demanded a 200 Euro monthly wage increase, bringing the minimum wage up to 1,321 euros a month, significant raises for better paid workers, a 20% decrease in the price of student meals and public transportation costs, a moratorium on all foreclosures, evictions and utility cut-offs, and official recognition of the indigenous language on par with French.
The Guadeloupean protests threatened the French government to such a degree that they granted the strikers their top 20 demands and continue to negotiate on the remaining 126 mid-term and long-term demands. The LKP declared the accord signed on March 4th as an immediate victory, but only the first of its kind. Demonstrations still continue against the island’s white elite who control the majority of supermarkets, sugar mills, and agriculture.
Within weeks of its own mobilizations, the revolutionary impulse of Guadeloupe spread to its neighbouring country, Martinique, which unified its movement on February 5th and mobilized for the same demands that the Guadeloupeans were making. In Martinique, 25,000 protestors took control of the capital, Fort-de-France. The strike in Martinqiue, lead by the February 5 collective, shut down the island’s industries for 38 days. Like Guadeloupe, the majority of their demands were met, such as a $250 USD increase in monthly wages and a 20% lowering of the prices on 400 basic necessities.
And then came the wave of mobilizations in a third French colony on the other side of the world in the Indian Ocean, La Réunion, which had similar mass actions to protest the 52% poverty rate and 24% unemployment on the island. The movement’s leader, Gilles Leperlier of the Collectif des Organisations Syndicales, Politiques et Associatives de La Réunion (COSPAR) said, “Something is developing in the Overseas Territories [France's name for its colonies], a vast movement challenging the situations of privilege, a social and political movement that will not stop until the Overseas Territories have taken in hand their own destiny and put an end to the iniquity of a system that maintains them in economic dependence.”
Monopoly corporations in Canada, such as GM and Chrysler, who continue to demand concessions from Canadian workers, quiver at the thought of the revolutionary surge that could be projected by the some 225,000 CAW workers being threatened with plant foreclosures and pension cuts. The mobilization of the Caribbean population should serve as a lesson to all those negatively affected by the current crisis of monopoly capitalism and imperialism, that only militant organization and mobilization can achieve a better future for the people.
Demonstration on March 11 in St-Denis, La Réunion, a French colony in the Indian Ocean.
Basics #13 (Apr/May 2009)
Afghan writer and philosopher Zahir Ofuq endures 15 years with no rights, no status, says it’s like being in an “open air prison”.
TORONTO – On a rainy and windy day at a Toronto rally calling on the Canadian government to pull troops out of Afghanistan, Zahir Ofuq stands atop the makeshift stage and explains how the combined occupation of his country Afghanistan and Canada’s immigration system have torn him from his family and confined him to life with neither status nor rights.
Zahir Ofuq fled Afghanistan with his family in 1992 after the rise of the warlord regime of Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmed Shah Masood. Zahir belonged to a communist group in Afghanistan with links to the previous central government in Afghanistan. Zahir was a tireless defender of human rights, and was imprisoned by the government he worked in for twenty years for his opposition to human rights violations. However, after two years in prison, the government fell and Zahir and his family fled to Pakistan, where his family remains, in hiding, to this day. Zahir subsequently came to Canada to apply for refugee status.
At the Immigration & Refugee Board, Zahir’s application for refugee status was turned down, even as Canada was gearing for war against the very regime that Zahir was fleeing. Even though he was never personally accused of involvement in any of the atrocities, and was in fact jailed for opposing them, his membership in the party was enough for the Canadian state to exclude him from refugee status.
The Canadian government, however, did not deport Mr. Ofuq because under Canadian policy, Afghanistan was deemed too dangerous to deport failed refugees. Thus, Zahir lingers in legal limbo, unable to acquire the status he needs to work, have rights, and sponsor his family here in Canada. Recently, his application for a visa to visit his severely ill daughter in Germany was denied.
Macdonald Scott, an immigration consultant with Carranza Barristers and Solicitors, and a member of No One Is Illegal-Toronto, has been working on Zahir’s case since 2006. He explains, “The thing is, he’s like person-non-grata with everyone. Someone who’s an anti-imperialist or a human rights activist, it’s like the last thing I think Canada and the United States wants is to see an independence movement in Afghanistan that’s really autonomous…”.
Zahir understands that his lack of immigration status is a direct result of Canada’s imperialist war in Afghanistan. It is for this reason that he has worked closely with No One Is Illegal and other anti-imperialist organizations in Toronto to oppose Canada’s occupation of Afghanistan. He notes that the Canadian government’s claims on why they are occupying Afghanistan are hypocritical and untrue.
He explains his case: “I think this is a very, very bad argument from immigration, because personally when a person is not guilty, you cannot make him guilty by saying it is so. The other point is now they are not going to accept me to give me status because of my affiliation with a particular political party, but Harper sends troops to Afghanistan to save the same party’s members, the leadership of the same party - they’re in parliament in Afghanistan. They send the troops to save the parliament, but I’m guilty, they’re not guilty? Where’s the logic?”
Zahir’s case is not unique. It is estimated that there are over 200,000 people live in Canada with no immigration status, with at least 80,000 in Toronto alone. Under new Conservative immigration laws like Bill C-50, more and more people are being pushed towards legal limbo, losing status and having applications rejected.
On May 2nd, Zahir will take to the streets with thousands of others on May Day to demand: “Enough is Enough!” And to state “No One Is Illegal!”. The march will begin at Allen Gardens at Dundas and Sherbourne at 12pm and will be preceded by a community festival on Friday, May 1st starting at 6pm at Steelworker’s Hall, 25 Cecil St.
For more information on No One Is Illegal and Zahir’s case go to http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org.
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
The failure to allocate money for childcare in the March 26 Ontario provincial budget will have a grave impact on single mothers and working class families in Toronto.
The onset of job losses and a looming depression has created a situation where adults will be returning to school for retraining, signalling a need to increase the amount of subsidized childcare spaces. As a poverty reduction strategy, childcare and early childhood education is an investment that governments cannot afford to ignore. Currently, children who are waitlisted for subsidy spaces number more than 14,000. With numbers this high, the Ontario provincial government is gambling with the well-being of families by foreshadowing cuts rather than growth for the subsidy program. The McGuinty-led government is employing a "pass the buck" strategy by opting to lobby the federal government to top up the subsidy funding, which expired in March 2009. Some 6,000 childcare spaces, currently in use, are slated to be permanently cut in Toronto, as well as 16,000 more spaces across the province.
Most of these spaces were created with federal government-transferred money in 2003, as part of a "Best Start" plan for early learning, childcare and family support programs.
Most affected are families in low-income neighbourhoods whose centres have more subsidized spaces. For example, in Davenport-Perth, 35% of families are living below the poverty line (more than the Toronto average of 32.2%), with 25% of families having lone parents. In the 12 licensed childcare centres in this neighbourhood, 53% of all operating licensed spaces have been subsidized. At least two of the centres in this neighbourhood operate almost exclusively on subsidized spaces at 85% and 92% respectively. Cumulative measures to reduce the numbers of families receiving and eligible for subsidies have already been implemented to achieve the slated cuts, including the introduction of an “Absentee Policy”. This policy penalizes subsidized families, even for keeping their children out when they show symptoms of illness, allowing only 2 sick days per month (even for infants) and a measly one-week vacation over the entire year. Failure to meet the requirements of this Absentee Policy means parents lose subsidized spaces for ALL of their children.
As a mass of families currently accessing subsidized spaces are forced out of childcare centres, low income neighbourhoods will lack parents to pay the full daycare fee to maintain enrolments, resulting in centre closures. In adjacent communities such as Toronto Centre-Rosedale, where the number of families with children living in poverty is at 60%, the fallout from these cuts will be even more devastating. According to the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare, professional Early Childhood Education staff - already drastically under-paid - will lose their jobs, while centres will significantly reduce their capacity or close down altogether. Given the Harper government's record failure to provide funding for childcare, merely throwing in chump change for children under six, it is unlikely they will step in to reverse the cuts.
At a time when Canadian banks and big businesses are getting bailouts in the hundreds of billions by the Canadian government, these anti-childcare policies of the provincial and federal governments are just another example how working people – especially low-income families and single mothers – are the first to be victimized and the last to be considered in times of crisis.
All children in our communities deserve access to early learning childcare programs and family support. We need to plan together in our communities to fight the coming barrage of policies that will cut families' access to childcare. Refusal to accept these policies will show the province and the federal government that Ontarians cannot work or access education without adequately funded and equitable childcare.
These Cabbagetown kids are wondering why McGuinty’s budget is going to leave them and their friends without subsidized childcare spaces.
(Basics Issue #13, Apr/May)
Indeed, it’s been a while since we at BASICS declared someone an ‘Enemy of the People’. We’ve wanted to focus our limited space on the good work being done by various people's organizations. However, the actions of one individual in the Federal government has prompted us to bring back this section to highlight the racist, reactionary tendencies that exist in Canadian politics today.
The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Member of Parliament for Calgary South-East Jason Kenney has been on a tear, looking to earn the crown of most right-wing politician in Canada, if not North America. In the first three months of 2009, Kenney has been making continuous headlines for his unrelenting support for apartheid Israel and the imperialist wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.
As Minister of Immigration, Kenney has overseen a massive increase in raids on locations where undocumented workers are looking to build a life. Near the beginning of April, over 100 workers were swept up in raids in the GTA alone. Instead of regularizing these people who have come here to work in order to have their rights protected and their taxes collected, Kenney and Co. would rather split up families and detain workers in inhumane conditions.
Calling them “bogus refugee claimants”, Kenney has made it a personal mission to see that principled war resisters from the United States are denied refugee status in Canada, even though many of them face lengthy jail sentences if they return to Obama’s U.S. for refusing to participate in the murderous campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More recently, Kenney weighed in to denounce Israeli Apartheid Week, a grassroots educational and cultural series of events organized on campuses in over 40 cities worldwide. Kenney was of course responding to the calls of Zionist organizations that are realizing that the tide of public opinion in North America is shifting away from supporting Israel as it continues its construction of permanent ghettos, indiscriminate bombing and a range of other war crimes against the Palestinian people.
Just weeks after condemning university activists for showing movies and holding talks exposing Israel, Kenney responded to a call by the Jewish Defence League (JDL) asking the Canadian government not to allow British Member of Parliament George Galloway to enter the country. Galloway, an outspoken critic of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and long time supporter of Palestinian people, was considered by Kenney to be a 'threat to national security' for handing over donated items and civilian vehicles to the elected representatives of the Palestinian people in Gaza. The JDL, on the other hand, is actually classified as a terrorist organization even by the U.S. government’s standards, even though the U.S. is itself apartheid Israel’s strongest supporter in the world.
Kenney and company did, however, let their fellow Enemy of the People, George W. Bush, into the country just weeks prior to Galloway's scheduled talks in a number of Canadian cities.
Kenney appears to have no problem supporting actual terrorist groups such as the JDL or the People's Mujahedin of Iran, a right-wing neo-conservative CIA-backed outfit that advocates the violent overthrow of the Iranian government. Kenney spoke at a rally organized by the group on Parliament Hill, though he later said he didn’t remember going to it.
And then in early April, in a public address Kenney made to a group of Croatian supporters, he told the crowd that he keeps a prayer card on his desk of the fascist Croatian Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac – one of his ”heroes of the 20th century”. Cardinal Stepinac was a rabid anti-communist and a Nazi supporter who was in 1946 convicted and imprisoned for his crimes in collaborating with fascism and overseeing the forced conversion of Orthodox Christian Serbs to Catholicism during the fascist reign of the Second World War.
Kenney has been working overtime in 2009 to offend and attack the people and anyone fighting for a more just and peaceful world. So for your attacks against immigrants, peace organizations and your active involvement in the oppression of Palestinians, you, Jason Kenney, are an Enemy of the People.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Friday, May 1, 6pm - Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St.
(See below for details)
'NO ONE IS ILLEGAL' Rally and March
Saturday, May 2, 1pm - Rally at Sherbourne and Carlton
(See below for details)
This year, the newly-formed May 1st Movement (M1M) Committee and its allies are coming together to restore the importance of May Day for working peoples' struggles.
May Day, that is May 1st is celebrated everywhere in the world as the day for workers. Everywhere, on that day, people celebrate the accomplishments of working people everywhere towards justice, true peace and liberation. Everywhere that is, but here in Canada and in the United States.
It is long time we change that.
Come celebrate as communities and activists come together across borders to celebrate our resistance as workers striving for a world of of true peace, justice, equality and respect for all.
MAY DAY FESTIVAL
Friday, May 1, 2009
6:00pm - 10:00pm
United Steelworkers Hall
25 Cecil St
Food from all over the world!
With Speakers from:
Six Nations Mens Fire
No One Is Illegal -Toronto
Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberacion Nacional - Toronto
Canadian Humanitarian Appeal for the Rights of Tamils
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
With Dance performances from:
Manuela Astudillo (Ecuador)
MataDanze (Latin American)
Musical perfomances by:
CUPE Freedom Singers
Hernan Astudillo (Ecuador)
Kings of Kush (East Africa)
Maracatu Nunca ANTES
Ruben Esguerra (Colombia)
Santa Guerrila (Philippines)
Wasun and Unsung
Visual and Video Art by:
Alex Felipe (Philippines)
Huellas (Latin American)
Spoken word by:
Mujeres Al Frente (Latin American)
Theatre and Performances by:
Teatro un Minuto (Latin American)
Honor Ford Smith (Jamaica)
And music all night by:
El Machetero (Chile)
dj eLman (Colombia)
This event is part of the build up to the MAY 2nd MAYDAY OF ACTION
No One Is Illegal!
May Day of Action
Rally and March
Saturday, May 2, 1pm
Meet: Sherbourne and Carlton
The MayDay Festival is organized by the May 1st Movement Committee (comprised of No One Is Illegal-Toronto | FMLN - Toronto | Migrante Ontario | Canadian HART | Casa Salvador Allende | BASICS Newsletter | CUPE Ontario International Solidarity Committee | Tamil Youth Organization | Barrio Nuevo | Labour Education Centre | BAYAN Toronto | CAIA |Victor Jara Cultural Group | Progressive Nepali Forum on the Americas)
Media Sponsorship by: CHRY 105.5FM, Voces Latinas CHHA 1610AM, BASICS Community Newsletter