Monday, June 29, 2009

Barrio Nuevo condemns coup d’état in Honduras

Barrio Nuevo is a Latino community organization in Toronto which runs the radio program by the same name on Voces Latinas 1610AM. Barrio Nuevo is also the founder of the Frente Norman Bethune international exchange of community organizers, information of which can be found elsewhere on our website.

Barrio Nuevo strongly condemns and opposes the military coup d’état carried out today in Honduras forcibly removing the democratically-elected President, Manuel Zelaya. We call for the immediate reinstatement of President Zelaya and for those responsible for ordering and carrying out the coup d’état to be brought to justice. Furthermore, we call for the Canadian government to condemn the coup and to not recognize any illegal government in Honduras. Barrio Nuevo stands in solidarity with the Honduran people as they mobilize in the streets to denounce the coup in the face of violent repression from the military. For a report on the crisis in Honduras, click here:

Please call or send a message to Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, demanding that the Canadian government 1) denounce the coup d’état; 2) not recognize any illegal government in Honduras; 3) call for the immediate reinstatement of President Zelaya. Please send copies of any correspondence to Minister of State for the Americas, Peter Kent, and to the leaders of the three opposition parties. Finally, we call on our allies and progressive organizations in the GTA to support Honduran democracy, to call for President Zelaya’s reinstatement, and to remain vigilant as further actions and demonstrations are organized. To contact Barrio Nuevo, please send an email to


Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Tel: 613-992-5516
Fax: 613-992-6802

Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)
Tel: 613-992-0253

Fax: 613-992-0887

Michael Ignatieff

Gilles Duceppe

Jack Layton

Friday, June 26, 2009

COMMUNITY RALLY in support of Justice for Live-in Caregivers and Temporary Foreign Workers!

We are a network of workers, advocates and community allies who are calling for fundamental changes to the federal Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) and other Temporary Foreign Worker Programs (TFWP).

Please join us as we call for real protections and landed status NOW for all Temporary Foreign Workers!

There will be music, performers and speakers! Refreshment provided! Bring your family!
DATE: Sunday, July 5, 2009
TIME: 1-5pm
LOCATION: Parkette beside Food Basics, main intersection at Wellesley St. E. and Ontario St.
CONTACT: Pura Velasco, 416.361.6319; or Mary Auxi Guiao, 416.320.4486

Canada is a country of immigrants. It continues to need immigrants to sustain growth in its economic and cultural life.

Over the last 30 years, the failure of our federal and provincial governments to adequately address the gaps in Canadian immigration and labour policy has led to the systemic discrimination and exploitation of migrant workers, including caregivers under the LCP and others under TFWP.

Our communities do not want the growth of Canada, as a nation, to be based on the systemic discrimination and exploitation of migrant workers!

We are calling for the following changes:

  • A RIGHT TO LANDING STATUS be granted upon arrival for live-in caregivers and other temporary foreign workers (TFW); they must not be tied to one employer, be required to live in their employer’s home, or be subject to further medical examination;
  • A RIGHT TO EQUAL ACCESS for all social programs, including Employment Insurance, health care, settlement services, social services and Workers’ Compensation;
  • A RIGHT TO A FAIR APPEAL PROCESS for live-in caregivers and other TFW prior to a pre-removal order, and a stop to deportations until this process is in place;
  • A RIGHT TO FULL PROTECTION UNDER THE PROVINCIAL EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS ACT AND REGULATIONS currently enjoyed by Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents, including NO FEES for any work placement.

Organized by the Coalition for Change: Live-in Caregivers and Temporary Foreign Workers

Organizations that endorse this rally include: Adhika-Phillipne Development Concerns, Caregivers Action Centre, Caregivers' Connection, Colour of Poverty Campaign, CAW- Canada, Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ), Filipino Centre-Toronto, Filipino Ministerial Fellowship, Gateway Centre for New Canadians, Good Jobs for All Coalition, Independent Workers Association, Justicia for Migrant Workers, Migrante-Ontario, No One is Illegal - Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Santiaginian Association of Ontario, Silayan Community Centre, United Food and Commercial Workers-Canada, United Steelworkers and Workers’ Action Centre.

Migrante-Ontario member organizations:
Filipino Migrant Workers Movement; AWARE; Philippine Advocacy Through Arts and Culture (PATAC); Damayan Migrant Education and Resource Center; Migrante Youth; Migrant Workers and Family Resource Center - Hamilton; Pilipinong Migrante sa Canada (PMSC) - Ottawa; Pilipinong Migrante sa Barrie (PMB) - Barrie

Monday, June 22, 2009

Toronto’s Biggest Gang

More police brutality not the solution to violence in our communities
by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan and E. Jamal Chang
BASICS #14 - June/July 2009

There has been a lot of talk recently about the supposed ‘gang war’ in some of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods. Over 12 people have been murdered and more than 50 shot in the west-end since January alone; including a 14 year-old youth gunned down on Scarlett Road, and a 5 year-old girl who survived a stray bullet to the chest at Lawrence and Weston. City politicians, corporate media reporters, and so-called “community organizations” have been discussing the conditions in and solutions for the largely black and brown areas experiencing the violence. But the commentaries and proposals have been flawed, and even racist, since they have ignored the role of the state in both causing and creating the conditions that cause violence in the first place. So the project now being enforced on the city’s poor and racialized communities as a solution to gun violence is the boosting and backing up of what could be described as this city’s largest gang: the Toronto Police.

Any honest discussion about the violence in low-income communities in Toronto and elsewhere must acknowledge that police brutality is routine and systematic. It is experienced daily; it is cold, calculated, raw, and at times, homicidal. Because of this, many residents of these communities approach the police with fear, and at times even frustration and anger.

The story of Shak featured in this issue is just one example of violence the Toronto Police are well known for, brutality that escapes both the media lens and any public accountability. Shak’s only “crime” was informing his neighbours that suspicious men (police) were lurking in their backyard. For this the cops pulled Shak off his bike, dragged him out of sight and violently beat him so badly that he later fell unconscious. He is in grade nine. Only one week after that brutal attack, the Toronto Sun released information about 2 black youth in Richmond Hill who were nearly beaten to death by eight masked York cops in September. The cops had broken into their hotel room and tazered them 24 times, leaving one of the youth unconscious and nearly blind in one eye.

Police Brutality in its most extreme form, murder, also takes place in this city regularly. Most notably, 17-year old Alwy Al-Nadhir who was murdered on Halloween night 2007 and Byron Debassige on February 16, 2008.

These acts of violence don’t only affect their direct victims, but are used to terrorize, contain, oppress and silence whole communities. Even families who have the courage to speak out are confronted with a state that uses every means - from the media, to the court system, to the corrupt SIU - to cover up for and justify police brutality.

In this way, the police are agents of the very activities they claim to act against: their fists bruise, their batons smash, and their guns kill. Amidst a worsening economy, poor housing conditions, gentrification, and an unhealthy relationship with police forces, how can we expect to see any real changes in our communities? When the school system isolates, and expels our youth, when the economy leaves them with no opportunities, and when our neighbourhoods are flooded with weapons and drugs, what is to be excepted other than a rise in crime?

The only solution is to come together and unite in our neighbourhoods, to mobilize so we can end the violence ourselves, whether caused in our communities, or from the hands of those employed “serve and protect”.

Anti-Native Militia to be Formed in Caledonia

by Steve da Silva - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

In early 2006, the Haudenoshaunee (“Iroquois”) people of the Grand River Territory began a reclamation struggle to halt the “Douglas Creek Estates” housing development on the outskirts of Caledonia, Ontario, which was being constructed on their unceded lands. Since then, people from Six Nations have continued organizing and have blocked over $2 billion worth of other “developments” in other parts of Six Nations territory, particularly in nearby Brantford, Ontario.
Over this period, the Canadian government has demonstrated that it has no interest in expediting the resolution of its hundreds of outstanding land claims cross the country, and certainly not those of Six Nations, and this has left the people of Six Nations, and the Canadians living alongside them, extremely frustrated.

As a result, some non-Native residents of Caledonia have at times over the last three years gravitated towards the calls and rallies of anti-native, white supremacist, and even neo-Nazi forces. And now, some of these forces are calling for the formation of a Caledonia militia to police the natives directly, Doug Fleming, one of the militia’s initiators, wrote on June 14, 2009 that “Due to the ongoing reality that the OPP refuses to enforce the Criminal Code with regards to people’s property rights I am forming the Caledonia Militia to ensure that the criminal code is upheld in Haldimand County.” Fleming conveniently omits the fact that the owners of the land in question in Haldimand County are the people of Six Nations, who are the true title-holders of the 950,000-acre Haldimand tract that runs through southwestern Ontario. Today, the people of Six Nations control only about 5% of that original tract. The conflict between white working-class settlers and natives stems from the fact that the Canadian government permitted the sell-off of land that it had no right to.

Such a move by anti-Native forces signals a major escalation in regard to the conflict at Six Nations. On June 23 at 7 p.m., a meeting is being held at the Lion’s Hall in Cayuga to found this militia.

There is evidence that Fleming and other anti-native organizers in Caledonia, such as Gary McHale, receive substantial support from local developers and real-estate interests. At a time when workers in Canada are experiencing attacks on their economic and social interests on all fronts, the institutionalization of racism and settler chauvinism in the form of an anti-native militia will be a serious political blow to the interests of working-class people, especially in one of the most rapidly deindustrializing regions of Canada.

The way forward must be to unite our class and resist attempts to have us divided through racism. The real enemies of working people are not the native peoples of the land, nor the Canadians who have settled on indigenous territories, but the past colonial landlords and the current capitalists who benefit from the ongoing theft of people’s lands and resources.

Let’s stop the formation of this racist militia and start organizing working-class people against our real enemies: the bourgeois class and its repressive arm, the Canadian state.

On Tuesday, June 23, people opposed to the formation of this militia will be making their way from Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton, and Kitchener-Waterloo, to stage Cayuga to stage a peaceful protest at the founding meeting.

A bus will be leaving Toronto at 4:30PM on Tuesday, sharp, from the north east area of Dufferin Mall parking lot (Dufferin, south of Bloor). Please contact for more information, to endorse the protest, or to reserve a space on the buses. A $10 seat fee is requested, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Friday, June 19, 2009

BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)- Coming June 22, 2009.

2nd Annual J4A Basketball Tournament Against Police Brutality

See poster for details. More information will be available soon on this website.

For more information, call 647-887-7857 or email

Registration will be available soon through the Facebook group "Justice for Alwy Campaign Against Toronto Police Brutality".

The Iranian People: “Death to the Dictatorship”

by Farshad Azadian - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

On Sunday, June 12th, results from the Iranian “elections” showed an overwhelming victory for Ahmadinejad. That same day in Tehran, hundreds of thousands of Iranians hit up the streets to express their opposition the election process, followed by protests in the major cities of Esfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Rasht among others.

Unexpectedly, the uprisings were met with fierce state repression at the hands of Basij thugs and the police. Recent reports indicate that, during the first week of protests, dozens of protestors have been killed, that universities and homes have been raided and that the Islamic regime has mobilized tanks into Tehran. The Iranian people, however, have refused to budge.

Corporate mainstream coverage of the post-election turmoil has framed the uprisings as largely resulting from people’s loyalty to Moussavi, the opposition candidate. What is often left out is that both Moussavi and Ahmadinejad are representatives of different factions of the same repressive and reactionary ruling class, and that Moussavi has a long bloody history of involvement within the ruling Islamic fascist establishment. Regardless of Moussavi’s politics, the power struggle between the two candidates has provided an outlet for opposition to the Islamic Regime as a whole, after 30 years of intense repression of women, working class people, students, and, in particular, revolutionary activists.

Of particular concern to the Iranian people is the way that imperialist countries may intervene in the current situation, taking advantage of the social unrest. For years, the West has threatened sanctions against Iran (and imposed some) and has openly displayed aggression. At the same time, much of the mainstream media has portrayed the Iranian protesters as being in support of the West, and perhaps even desiring intervention.

Instead, most Iranians are oppositional to the US and other imperialist powers, as they have not forgotten the bloody history of US and British intervention in the country. A quick look at the millions who have been murdered by the US, British and Canadian imperialist forces in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 8 years shows that this opposition to Western interference is not unwarranted.

The movement in Iran continues to grow and mature, with labour activists beginning to play a prominent role through organized walkouts, work slowdowns and statements of condemnation towards the Islamic regime. Our solidarity must lie with the radical youth, workers and women’s movements in Iran that have openly and militantly challenged the Islamic dictatorship.

Witness Statements of Police Terror in Pelham Park on May 13, 2009.

The following two statements were provided by witnesses to the police terror that transpired in Pelham Park, Toronto, on the night of May 13, 2009, against young teenager Shaq. Shaq's statement to BASICS, "My Statement About the Need for Justice", was published a few weeks earlier and appears in BASICS Issue #14.

Statement by Michael Godelia

It was Wednesday, May 13, 2009 between the time of 9:40pm – 10:00pm and we were standing by the fence by Pelham Avenue when two guys were looking through the fence towards my friend’s house. Then Shaq told my friend’s cousin that “2 guys were looking at her house through the fence.” So she was swearing at them to move from the fence. So they moved. Then Shaq was riding his bike on Osler going to the store for his mom. That’s when the undercovers grabbed him off his bike. Meanwhile there were uniform officers already at the scene distracting us from what really was happening. He was asking personal information about us. Later when I told them that my friend was grabbed by the two undercover officers, they were oblivious to the situation. So my brother and Tyty ran over to see what was going on with Shaq and they did not see him or his bike. All they saw was the undercover officers. So they came back and waited for a few minutes and then we saw Shaq riding on his bike and he fell to the ground and the undercovers were just watching him. Then my brother picked him up and took him to his house and the undercovers drove off. The cops who were on the scene came to Shaq’s house, they looked at him and decided not to phone for an ambulance. When my friend Tyty and his mom asked the officers if they were going to speak to the mother they replied “F*** THE MOTHER” and left. Then the ambulance came two hours later to pick up Shaq.

Statement by Tyshawn F.

I am writing a statement about my friend Shaq and the night he was beat up by the police.
It was Wednesday, May 13, 2009 sometime between 9:00pm – 10:00pm and we were playing games outside when Shaq saw a bunch of police and told others to be careful. After that he was going to the store for his mom and at the time and me and others heard him scream but two officers were distracting us. So a while after we didn’t see anything so me and my friend went to see what was going on and I saw a fist go down while two others were just standing around so I went home to call my mom but by the time we got back we saw one of my friends carrying him to his house. So after a while the police that were distracting us came to Shaq’s house and left. Then me and my mom tried to stop them and asked if they were going to talk to the mother and the male officers said ‘f*** the mother’.

Imperialism and the Genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka

by Michael Red - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

The horrors now facing more than 300,000 Tamils held in prison camps in northern Sri Lanka is deeply rooted in imperialism. Ever since the British colonial regime vacated the country in 1948, war and oppression have plagued the peoples of Sri Lanka. Following in the footsteps of Dutch and Portuguese colonialists, the British ruled Sri Lanka according to divide and rule policy. Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim people who had previously lived interdependently for thousands of years were pitted against one another throughout the Crown’s rule. When the Sinhalese majority took power upon independence, the first measure the new government initiated was stripping Hill Country Tamils of their citizenship. At the time, Hill Country Tamils were the most exploited of all Sri Lanka’s peoples – they were indentured labourers originally from India who harvested the country’s tea for world export markets. These Tamils had a tradition of organizing and fighting back and they often worked in coordination with Sinhalese Marxists and peasants. Therefore, the Sinhalese government’s first move was decidedly based on ethnic and class oppression.

As the government moved to completely marginalize all Tamils, by making Sri Lanka a Sinhala Buddhist state which denied Tamils entrance into universities and public sector jobs, Tamils began a rich tradition of struggle based on ethnic, class and caste empowerment. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka engaged in a variety of organized civil disobedience, political education, and militant struggle. Many of the early militant groups embraced Marxism and the struggle as a whole was largely against Sinhalese imperialism. Courageous Tamil feminists campaigned against war mongering and rape. The government responded with ruthless oppression and instigated murderous race riots against Tamils on at least three occasions. The regime in Colombo also turned their guns against two attempted revolutions in the South, resulting in the murder of more than 50,000 Sinhalese peasants and youth.

Following the anti-Tamil pogroms of 1983, the war moved into a new phase. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) emerged as an exclusively nationalist army fighting for national liberation while Marxist and feminist voices were largely silenced. The state embraced neo-liberalism, increased military spending to more than 20% of the GDP, and formalized a constant stream of arms from Britain, China, the Czech Republic, Israel, the United States, and Canada. For example, the Chrétien government supplied the Sri Lankan government with Bell helicopters that were used to bomb Tamil villages in the North and East. More recently, the Harper government increased small arms sales to Sri Lanka following the designation of the LTTE as a terrorist organization.

During the so-called ceasefire periods throughout the war, foreign powers have played a more direct role in oppressing Tamils. In 1988, the Indian Peace Keeping Forces committed countless atrocities in the North, including murder, rape and torture. Finally, during the recent war in the Vanni, as thousands of Tamils were slaughtered by daily aerial bombing and artillery fire, the Western world turned a blind eye to the contemporary tragedy unfolding in Sri Lanka.

Over the last 25 years, the war between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE has cost as many as 100,000 lives and resulted in the internal displacement of more than half a million people. The modern legacy of imperialism here is extremely complex. The state is now abusively using “anti-imperialist” rhetoric to actually keep humanitarian aid and independent observers out of the prison camps, where torture, rape, murder, disappearances and starvation are occurring daily. Meanwhile, imperialist states such as China and Russia came to the support of Colombo’s racist war against the Tamil people.

So what can be done in such a desperate, seemingly hopeless situation? The answer can be found by remembering that despite decades of imperialism, there are thousands of progressive activists who have survived the war in Sri Lanka. They continue to struggle in Sri Lanka and they live right here with us in Toronto. Existing on the margins of society here in Canada, there are Tamils who have dedicated their lives to struggling against the racist oppression of the Sri Lankan state and the exploitation of the West. In Sri Lanka itself, there are many Sinhalese workers and activists who refuse to buy into the fascist communalism of the state. It is these people we desperately need to reach out to, to learn from and to act in solidarity with, before their voices are silenced forever.

17 May 2009: A Sri Lankan Army soldier seen walking among the debris of a devastated war zone that saw some 20,000 Tamil civilians slaughtered.

Is India plotting an invasion of Nepal?

by Derek Rosin - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

Back in 2000, Nepali Maoist leader Prachanda was blunt when talking about the future of the growing revolutionary movement in his country: “Ultimately, we will have to fight with the Indian army.” Prachanda said this when he was an underground revolutionary leading a guerilla war and was speaking of Nepal as a base area for the world revolution. He was rightfully concerned that India would not accept a new, revolutionary state on their northern border and would try to crush it by force if necessary.

Today, as the Nepali Maoists maneuver against the Nepali ruling classes in a complicated legal-political process, they have moderated some of their public proclamations, but there is little reason to suggest that their ultimate goal of being part of a growing world revolution has changed. Enemies of revolution in South Asia have not forgotten this either.

An ominous sign of this threat came in early June when Indian troops encroached on Nepali land in the Terai region near Dang. Reports from Nepal are that the Indian troops committed atrocities that spurred 6000 villagers to flee the area. This is a serious development.

India is no stranger to such intrigues. They provoked war with China in 1962 in an attempt to destabilize the then-revolutionary communist country. In 1987 they sent troops to fight the LTTE in Sri Lanka before being forced out in 1990 after a series of embarrassing defeats against guerilla fighters in rugged terrain.

A full-scale Indian invasion allied with the old Nepali ruling classes would be a huge risk for those opposed to the Maoists. It is true that there is a real possibility that they could succeed and drown the revolution in blood. Conversely, invasion could mean uniting the overwhelming majority of Nepalis under Maoist leadership on a patriotic basis. It could also mean an escalated war in which Indian Maoist forces, who are numerous and gaining in strength, intertwine with the fighting in Nepal and intensify the conflict into a much wider regional war.

Despite these dangers, India may be willing to risk the dangers of invasion. Regardless of all the noise about the growing Indian economy, the country remains home to hundreds of millions of bitterly poor peasants and is a checker board of oppressed nationalities. A genuine revolutionary society in Nepal would be a tremendous inspiration to the majority of Indians who have no realistic hope of benefiting from the country’s economic boom. More importantly, it could greatly help India’s self-described number one internal security threat: the aforementioned Indian Maoist guerillas.

As the Maoists in Nepal continue to unite growing numbers of Nepalis around their program, and further isolate the representatives of the old system, the options available to the ruling classes to halt the revolution are becoming narrower. And so the dangerous reality is that military invasion by India, once highly unlikely, is now a real possibility.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A DECLARATION OF WAR: The Arming of Canadian border Agents in Mohawk territory

by Sandra Cuffe - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

As part of a national plan regarding border security to be put in place by 2016, the Canadian government insists on arming all Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) agents, even at their controversial post within the sovereign Mohawk territory of Akwesasne. After months of respectful communication opposing the arming with 9mm guns of the very same CBSA agents who have been accused of years of documented cases of harassment and racial profiling, the community of Akwesanse set a deadline of midnight Sunday May 31st for a resolution to the conflict.

The government of Canada responded to the deadline by presenting the community with an ultimatum shortly before midnight to accept either the arming of the CBSA or else face the immediate closure - by police! not the community! - of the two bridges and international border. The 400 or so Akwesasne community members immediately responded to the ultimatum with the same united position they have maintained for months: NO GUNS FOR CBSA IN AKWESASNE!

On June 11th, dubbed "National Reconciliation Day" to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Government of Canada's official apology to First Nations for the residential school system, Akwesasne community residents Khristy Sawatis and Dwayne David were arrested by Cornwall police. Both have since been released and continue to actively denounce the well-documented harassment and racial profiling of Akwesasne residents by CBSA, police and judicial authorities.

The Government of Canada and Assembly of First Nations (AFN) marked the one-year anniversary of the apology, organizing activities on Parliament Hill for what has been called "National Reconciliation Day." The irony of the name was not lost on the community, considering both the timing of the arrests and of the fact that Canada has still not directly contacted the community of Akwesasne or even the federally-recognized Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA).

Around the same time as David's detention, while addressing the crowd gathered in Ottawa, MCA Grand Chief Tim Thomson publicly accused Federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan of being "a liar" for claiming to have carried out "consultations" with the community of Akwesasne about the government's plan to arm the Canadian Border Services Agency's employees in unceded Mohawk territory. This plan has been called a "declaration of war" by MCA Chief Larry King and many others in Akwesasne.

"They can't give them guns on their hips and expect us not to do anything about it. You don't fight with somebody your whole life and then give them a gun," said Stacey Boots, who was released from police custody on Monday, June 15th after his violent arrest at the Skyway bridge blockade, carried out a week before in Tyendinaga to support Akwesasne. "It's inevitable that someone's going to get shot."

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has not backed down from his position: "They'll have to accept armed border officers there. What we're looking at is a potential long closing, and as a result we are right now examining the long term viability of that particular port of entry... and that includes moving it."

"Right now everybody is happy to wait it out. Look at everyone..." exclaimed Akwesasne community member Jojo Francis, gesturing towards the lacrosse game, the women's meeting, and children playing. "They can wait all they want!"

"It's just another thing that we accomplished as a People, as a Mohawk People. It's limitless now..." explained Stacey Boots. "We took one good step forward in our community.

"We're our own country. There's Canada. There's the States. This is Indian Country," another Akwesasne community member concluded, echoing the words of the majority of residents. "Leave it alone. This is our land."

Sandra Cuffe is a freelance journalist, photographer and contributing member of the Dominion Newspaper Cooperative who has been embedded in the Mohawk community of Akwesasne since June 1st. For more information, see her blog:

Obama’s regime signals destabilization and all-out war for Pakistan

by N. Zahra - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

The coming to power of Barack Obama, while making some jubilant, has others asking questions, especially in South Asia.  Obama’s Pakistan Strategy is rooted in the U.S.’s ‘War on Terror.’  According to Obama’s National Security Advisor, General James Jones, the American ‘strategy now starts with…[an] attainable goal which is to disrupt, dismantle, and prevent al-Qaida from being able to operate in its safe havens – not only al-Qaida, but all forms of terrorism that would seek to destabilize our countries….’ He goes on to say, ‘Our strategy focuses more intensively on Pakistan than in the past, and this is normal, because it’s a newer problem.’

It is not difficult to see that Obama’s wider strategy for Pakistan has some parallels to the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq.  It is a strategy aimed at extending U.S. imperialism first through military operations and destruction of any existing social and economic infrastructure, only to be replaced by ‘reconstruction’ efforts that will afford lucrative contracts for rebuilding to large economic monopolies. 

As Gen. James Jones reiterated on behalf of Obama, ‘a campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone. As a part of this strategy, we’ll devote significantly more resources to the civilian efforts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The President will submit a budget that includes indispensable investments in our State Department and foreign assistance programs. These investments relieve the burden on our troops and contribute directly to our safety and security [sic].’ 

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) fact sheet on the emergency situation in Pakistan, as of May 27, 2009, there are approximately 2.7 million internally displaced persons in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan.  NWFP is where military operations are concentrated and where the Taliban is said to have strong influence.

Under intense pressure from the U.S. and other imperialist countries such as Britain, Pakistan cancelled a peace deal that they had concluded with the Taliban and intensified military operations.  There were concerns over the provision in the deal for the use of Sharia law and its impact on Pakistani women.  U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said of the deal that Pakistan posed a ‘mortal threat’ to the world by abdicating to the Taliban.  Concern for the rights of women being used as a justification for imperialist war is not a new strategy of American imperialism.  It is reminiscent of U.S. policy in Iraq. 

The first phase of the American strategy of building a Pakistani client state is of course to use the new Pakistani leadership and the Pakistani military to carry out offensives against the Taliban.  The military continues to attack Taliban strongholds from the air, and using artillery and mortars has caused widespread destruction and a mounting toll of civilian casualties. Mingora, the district capital of the Swat Valley, which is still under Taliban control, has been a main target of the army’s operations. Troops have seized key positions around the town, all exit roads have been sealed and electricity, water and gas supplies have been cut off. 

In addition, the U.S. is carrying out drone attacks in Pakistan.  However, this strategy is backfiring as U.S. Army Chief in Pakistan, David Kilcullen has pointed out.  He noted that these U.S. actions are highly unpopular amongst the civilian population and are leading to the mounting of hostile feelings amongst Pakistani citizens toward the U.S.

There is no possibility that the U.S. strategy for Pakistan will lead to the betterment of conditions for Pakistanis.  If the U.S.’s Pakistan Strategy plays out according to plan, Pakistan will turn into another U.S. “reconstruction” project like the devastated and shattered occupied Iraq.

15 Years On, the ‘Rwandan Genocide’ Continues to Kill

Western Imperialism’s Genocidal Wars in the Great Lakes Region of Africa

By Steve da Silva - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

In recent years, it has become fashionable for the ruling-classes of the West, and their servants in politics and academia, to distort the story of the conflict in Rwanda in such a way as to build support for the neocolonial ideology that the West has the moral authority to invade any place on the globe, at any time, in order to save Third World peoples from themselves, what they have officially labeled the “Responsibility to Protect”. One of the greatest champions of this doctrine in its early years was none other than Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff himself.

By presenting the Rwandan genocide as a tragedy that could have been prevented by Western intervention, not only have imperialist states built up a humanitarian cover for future acts of foreign aggression – such as in Somalia and Sudan – but in the case of Rwanda they have also rewritten the history of their role in catalyzing the Rwandan civil war and the genocidal onslaught that ensued in the Great Lakes Region of Africa after 1994.

Let’s revisit some of the basic facts of this history to illustrate just how instrumental Western imperialism has been in these conflicts.

In 1986, the U.S.-backed National Resistance Army in Uganda, under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni, succeeded in establishing a dictatorship. Under this regime, Uganda would go on to become the World Bank and IMF’s model African state for its rigorous implementation of the impoverishing and socially-destructive Structural Adjustment Policies. Next, in September 1990, Uganda was used as a staging ground for the invasion of Rwanda, which at the time was a country firmly in the sphere of French imperialism. Within two and a half years of the invasion of Rwanda by part of the Ugandan army – by then calling itself the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led by CIA-trained Paul Kagame – almost a million ethnic Hutu Rwandans were displaced by the RPF in northern Rwanda and tens of thousands had been killed (a part of the “Rwandan genocide” narrative never told to Western audiences).

When the Rwandan government attempted to repel the invasion and arrest collaborators with the occupation it was denounced by the “international community” for human rights abuses. With diplomatic pressure building up from the non-French Western imperialists, the Rwandan government under the Presidency of Habyarimana buckled under international pressure and signed the Arusha Accords of July 1992 – a peace agreement that would legitimize and entrench the brutal occupation of Kagame’s RPF.

Year by year leading up to 1994, the brutal and unpopular RPF, backed by its friends in Washington and Ottawa, was consolidating its power in Rwanda. Then came the fateful day on April 6, 1994, when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down by the RPF, igniting what we have come to know as the “Rwandan genocide”.

What the Western media has depicted to us about the three months that followed April 6 is a period of genocidal reprisal led by machete-wielding ethnic-Hutu “genocidaires” against the poor and defenseless Tutsi ethnic group. Show trials around the world have been established to exclusively try “Hutu extremists” for their role in this 100-day period, including right here in Canada with the recent trial and conviction of Desiré Munyaneza in Montréal. However, that Kagame’s RPF was responsible for a great share of the deaths during this period, if not the majority and mostly Hutu, is an inconvenient truth for those forces interested in maintaining a certain slant on the “Rwandan genocide” narrative. And that Paul Kagame, along with Uganda’s President Yoweri Musaveni, proceeded to establish their occupation of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and to kill millions upon millions more is also conveniently papered over in imperialism’s narratives about Rwanda.

When the Tutsi-dominated RPF prevailed in the Rwandan civil war in July 1994 and brought the “Rwandan genocide” to an end, the stage was only just being set for the real genocide. With Western imperialism now firmly in control of its two client states in Rwanda and Uganda, these two client states made their move into one of the most resource-rich regions on the planet: the eastern region of the DRC.

The Ugandan and Rwandan invasions of the eastern region of the DRC in 1996 and 1998, along with their constant interference in the region ever since, have triggered the deaths of some 6,000,000 Congolese. And when they weren’t directly occupying and ravaging the region, Uganda and Rwanda were supporting their proxy forces to do it for them, such as the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, formerly led by Gen. Laurent Nkunda.

There is no doubt that the long-term project of Western imperialism in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, via its Rwandan and Ugandan client states, has been and will continue to be the plunder of the DRC’s precious and highly strategic natural resources. That millions of lives have been taken means little to the imperialists who profit magnificently from the plunder, and should clearly demonstrate to regular people that Western governments not only do not care about humanitarian disasters - in fact, they are the cause of them!

We must expose the “Responsibility to Protect” arguments for what they really are – neocolonialist trash – and demand an end to the plunder of the DRC, the repatriation of Africa’s stolen wealth, and justice for the remaining victims of Western imperialist genocide.

No to neocolonialism and imperialism!
Reject the ‘Responsibility to Protect’!
Africa for Africans Now!

For a more detailed history of the conflicts above, see my 2007 article on
"Revisiting the 'Rwandan Genocide'".

The Naxalites and Maoists of India

They Will Rule a Grand Majority of India”
by J. Bueno - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)
Indian Professor Arindam Chaudhuri recently said the following regarding the Naxalites in India: “These Naxalites in India are there to stay and grow. Mark my words, the day is not far when they will rule a grand majority of India. These 200 districts will become 400 in no time, and inch towards more… And as long as India’s crony capitalism and heartless journey towards being a slave of the rich continues, long will live the Naxalite movement in India.”
Across almost half of India, revolutionary Maoist organizations work with some of the most oppressed people in the country. Unlike most communist parties that participate in Indian elections and hold seats in parliament, the Maoists have chosen to organize a people’s war and have been redistributing land back to the people through force. They organize with landless farmers and tribal peoples located in economically marginalized areas. In a recent interview, Koteshwar Rao, a member of the political bureau of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), described some of their work in villages as follows:
We play very diverse roles. Because they have lost faith in the administration, villagers approach us with their day-to-day problems. We organize camps in villages so they can voice the grievances. We deal with the villagers with a lot of compassion and kindness, which is why they love and protect us. We also work for women’s liberation. There are many women who are tortured by their (parents) in-law, husbands or parents. But they cannot protest because they are dependent on them. We fight for liberation of such women. Women are very important for our movement. Many oppressed women have joined us in our struggle across the country.”
There are various Maoist parties and revolutionary communist groups, known to the Indian state as ‘Naxalites’, which are active in several Indian states including Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In 2007, the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh called the Naxalites the most serious security threat to the future of the Indian state. The state Singh was talking about was the one controlled by reactionaries and the classes that depend on foreign imperialism for their survival.
Government estimates claim that the Maoists control one fifth of all of India’s forests and are active in 160 of 604 administrative districts in India. Several of the Maoist groups, including the Communist Party of India (Maoist), have been classified as terrorists by the government of India, and this past February the central government launched coordinated counter-insurgency operations across many of the states where Naxalites work with people. The state and rich landowners have also mobilized private armies and para-military groups to fight the Naxalites and terrorize their base of support among the people. One of the most well known of these groups in called the Ranvir Sena in Bihar and Jharkhand states, which has been known to murder and terrorize tribal people, dalits and landless farmers. Another of these anti-Naxalite groups is the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh, a vigilante group built up with the help of the Indian state to hunt down and kill rebels. The Indian state has carried out a scorched earth policy in certain regions of Chhattisgarh and then forcefully recruited people from the refugee camps to join the Salwa Judum. Many members of Salwa Judum are then employed by the government as “Special Police Officers” to help guide the army and other anti-Naxalite forces.
The word Naxalite comes from a village in West Bengal state, Naxalbari, where members of the Communist Party of India led an uprising on May 25, 1967.  One of the main leaders of this uprising was Charu Majumdar, who was important in the spread of Maoist ideas in India.  The uprising began after a local peasant was attacked by landowner thugs.  In retaliation, landowners were attacked and violence escalated.  This uprising was suppressed, as would the other uprisings led by Maoists in India that followed.  But this was just the beginning of the Maoist revolution in India. Four decades later, the Indian Maoist revolution has grown to encompass one third of India.  According to the recent interview with party member Koteshwar Rao:  “There is no end to revolution. There is no time frame—it seems it will take time… But, if the war strategy is right, we’ll reach our goal soon. Otherwise, we will have to retreat and change course. But we are strictly against joining mainstream politics.”

NATO’s May 5 Massacre at Bala Baluk

NATO Kills as Many Civilians in One Day as Canadian Troops Have Been Killed in 7 Years

By Justin Panos

On May 5th, 2009, between 127 and 147 Afghan civilians were killed in one of the deadliest bombings of NATO’s war and occupation of Afghanistan. Red Cross spokesperson Jessica Barry confirms that among the dead were many women and children. The bombings took place in Bala Baluk within the Farah province of western Afghanistan. An entire family of thirteen perished, including a father and worker of the Afghan Red Crescent—a community-based arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The magnitude of death resulting from this bombing is only outdone by the horror of the first bombs dropped in October 2001, when between 3100 and 3600 civilians were immediately killed.

Most of the village elders used tractors to maneuver the dead bodies into mass graves. One elder, Hajji Issa Khan, informed the Guardian newspaper that “In this operation there were 127 people killed. I can tell you exactly because my driver was carrying those…people to the center of town and he came and told me that he carried 127 people” (quoted in the Guardian 5/6/2009). Abdul Basir Khairkhah, a member of the provincial government’s investigating team said that he collected 147 names of those who were instantly destroyed by the attack. Discrepancies in the body count have occurred because, as the elder Kahn recalls “It was difficult to count because they were in very bad shape. Some had no legs”. Reuters newswire simply accounts for “truckloads of dead bodies” (5/9/2009). Since the bombings, anti-U.S. protest has been ceaseless in the area.   

The bombings were carried out by U.S. 2nd Marines Special Operations Battalion India Company, MSOC-I. According to commanding officer Maj. Wu, “Our overall mission is to increase the credibility of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the eyes of the local nationals”. Such a mandate is blatantly contradicted by the actions of the company in their bombing of Bala Baluk.    

Following his January inauguration, President Obama diverted 17,000 US troops from the Iraq war theatre into Afghanistan. This “surge” of troops has only led to increased bloodshed and turmoil for the Afghan civilians. One researcher posits that 54 to 56 civilians die per month, in contrast to 46 to 57 per month during the first half of 2008. When the data is broken down further, the highest percentage of deaths are women and children, which lead many to conclude that “US/NATO forces are assaulting domestic or home spaces” (Herold, 2009).

The Demographics of Afghan Civilians Killed by US/NATO Actions during Obama’s Presidency (Jan. 21 – April 19, 2009)
















Source: derived from the Afghan Victim Memorial Project data base 

In further contrast to Maj. Wu’s statements, the major combat operations of the United States, Canada, and NATO has only lead to a resurgence of the Taliban, their merger with Pakistani Taliban along the puzzling borderland between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an increase in Taliban control from 54% of Afghanistan to 72%, according to the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS, 2008).  

Canada’s participation in this occupation amounts to collusion and support for war crimes. The amount killed in the May 5th, 2009 massacre instantly outnumbers the total amount of Canadians killed in over 7 years. Hillary Clinton’s “deep, deep regrets” are simply not enough. No world will be livable until all nations are free of foreign military and economic occupation. Oppose Canada and NATO’s barbaric assault on the people of Afghanistan!

Alberto Fujimori Convicted and Jailed

Greatest Enemy of the Peruvian Revolution Now Behind Bars

By Derek Rosin - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

This past April 2009, former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori was convicted of murder and kidnapping and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Fujimori's crimes stem from the vicious counter-revolutionary war he led against the Maoist rebels of the Partido Comunista del Peru (PCP), popularly known as the “Shining Path.”  

The PCP gained strength throughout the 1980s by waging a guerilla war popularly supported by urban slum dwellers and the poor indigenous peasants of Peru's Andean highland regions. By 1990, when Fujimori was elected, the PCP controlled large parts of the Peruvian countryside and threatened the stability of the US-backed regime.

To attack the mass base of the PCP, Fujimori killed or “disappeared” thousands of Peruvians. One needs only list a few incidents to give a sense of the monstrous nature of the campaign: four adults and a child murdered at a slum-apartment fundraising barbecue for a pro-revolution newspaper in November 1991; nine leftist students and a professor abducted and killed from La Cantuta Technical College in July 1992; picking out and executing forty suspected PCP leaders after a raid on Canto Grande Prison where political prisoners were held in May 1992, and so on.

Fujimori's conviction is bitter-sweet. On the one hand, Peruvians are glad to see this cold-blooded killer finally face some justice. On a deeper level though, Fujimori was just one man, and his crimes were committed by many people in the army and government, fully supported and aided by the United States.

And what does sending a former president to jail mean for the big picture? Today, the poverty, inequality and racism that gave rise to the Peruvian revolution remains firmly in place. Moreover, Peru is now headed by Alan Garcia, a man also responsible for numerous massacres of Peruvian peasants and political prisoners during his first term as president from 1985 to 1990. With people like Garcia still free to run Peru’s dirty system, the vast majority of Peruvians continue to be denied meaningful justice.

Our Day

The May 1st Movement Reclaims May Day in Toronto

by Bryan Doherty - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

On the 1st of May every year, workers around the world take to the streets in a show of force and celebration of workers’ resistance. For over a century, major cities have been witness to what our bosses and politicians spend much of the year trying to keep from view – the working class, strong and united. Though you’d never know it living in Toronto, people just like us all around the world on May Day stand in defiance of all those that would like nothing more than working class people at each others’ throats. We aren’t talking about “Labour Day” here. Labour Day – the official, state-sanctioned holiday that falls on the first Monday of every September – is nothing but an off brand bootleg holiday that politicians and bosses threw our way so we can take the kids to the park. May Day, on the other hand, is our day of solidarity.  It’s ours, and we’re taking it back.

This year, the May 1st Movement set out take May Day back. We may not have taken the streets this May Day, but we did fly our colours. We packed the Steelworkers’ Hall on Cecil Street that Friday night. Workers from all corners of the world, now living in Toronto, gathered to share with one another. Powerful speakers from Tamil Eelam, the Philippines, Latin America, Nepal and many working-class organizations right here in Toronto took to the stage and listed off the victories of their people and organizations - victories won through struggle and resistance, not begging for charity. Amazing performers did more than entertain the crowd. They took that small stage and showed everyone in that workers hall what art looks like when it grows from strong people that aren’t ever going to give up the fight for justice.

Not one person took the stage to complain about how they’ve been victimized. Not one song about how hard life is. There was no need. Everyone in that room knew what it was to get screwed over. No one there ever thought life was easy. We weren’t there to make each other feel better about all the struggles in our lives. We were there to show each other that all these different struggles are really just one struggle with many parts. While parents from different movements discussed the work they’re engaged in, their children danced to performers. While the FMLN’s election victory in El Salvador was being talked about from the stage, Tamil youth were spreading awareness on the floor about their mobilizations in Toronto and the genocide in Sri Lanka. While we celebrated, we organized. When we talked about our own struggles, we talked about the struggle for liberation of all working people.

May Day is for workers. Not just an auto worker or postal worker. Not just a white guy with a hardhat and steel toed boots. From shop floors to hotel hallways, from behind a drill-press to behind a sewing machine, whether with citizenship or without, we are all workers. May Day is our day and it’s about time we started acting like it. Next May Day, Toronto we will properly join the millions around the world – in the streets and with no more excuses. What are you doing next May Day? 

Tamil Canadians: A Community Transforming Itself and Its Freedom Struggle

by Pragash Pio -   BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

The last couple of months have been a turbulent time for Toronto and its Tamil community with constant mass mobilizations; the successful subversion of the police force’s violence tactics of repression; large scale marches and occupations from Parliament Hill to downtown Toronto; the mass media’s failure to effectively represent the community’s message; a courageous highway blockade led by students and youth as an attempt to get the attention of Canadians in the midst of a genocide; the revelation of the ugly face of the Canadian state’s and media’s racism; and, finally, the failure of the Canadian and international political establishment to take any effective action to prevent the mass murder of 20,000 Tamil civilians. The Tamil Canadian community now finds itself slowly recovering from the shock of failing to stop the Sri Lankan state’s genocide of our family and friends.

A mere eight months ago, the Tamil Community would never have imagined that they would be in a situation where the LTTE’s (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam a.k.a. the Tamil Tigers) armed resistance would be broken, leaving 300,000 Tamil civilians defenseless and trapped in concentration camps. More shocking to the Tamil community has been the role of the international community, whose ambiguous demands for “human rights” some Tamils had bought into over the Tamil Tiger’s unambiguous call for national liberation.  For its part, the “international community” is not free of culpability. The United Nations and western states, while decrying the armed tactics of the Tamil Tigers, ignored the Sri Lankan state’s mass slaughter of Tamil civilians and even actively helped the Sri Lankan state to cover up casualty figures.  The Tamil community has now awoken to and is adjusting to the reality that fair-weather friends shouldn’t be relied on and new allies need to be found along common lines of resisting oppression.

Now the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle must take on the difficult task of transforming itself, but there is hope to be found in history. This will be the second great transformation of the struggle, the first since it moved from non-violent, Gandhian strategiesto an armed resistance movement in the 1970s and 80s. Except this time, unlike then, the Tamil community has reached a consensus and a level of solidarity never before seen. Tamils must not be swayed by the Sri Lankan state and its collaborators, who are already trying to break the solidarity of the Tamil community by sowing confusion. The Tamil community and its leaders must not lose their commitment to breaking the occupation of Tamil Eelam, the release of hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in concentrations, and the liberation of all minorities on the island called, at least for now, Sri Lanka. In the coming weeks and months the whole Tamil community and its allies tirelessly strives towards these goals.

DPRK Defends Its Sovereignty

Interference of Western powers the real cause of crisis in the two Koreas.

By JD Benjamin - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) successfully tested a second nuclear device in an underground detonation last month, following shortly after a test of a ballistic missile in April. The U.S. has responded by attempting to whip up anti-DPRK sentiment and demanding the right to board North Korean cargo ships sailing in international waters.

The interference of the imperialist powers has repeatedly destabilized the Korean region. After WWII, Korean desires to decide the future of their country, without outside interference, were brushed aside. American troops occupied the southern region and reinstated many of the former Japanese colonial rulers to power and created a U.S. puppet government - a move widely hated by the Korean people. When the Koreans in the north attempted to retake their country from the puppet regime the imperialists (including Canada) invaded and killed between 1.5 and 3 million civilians in the ensuing Korean War. To this day, the U.S. still has 28,500 military troops in South Korea and 50,000 in Japan, has repeatedly interfered in the internal affairs of the two Koreas and continues to threaten North Korea with military annihilation.

Refusing to surrender their sovereignty, the North Koreans have been forced to increase their defensive capabilities, including the testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. This is not an unreasonable move, given the recent actions of the same imperialists that claim to be defending "the peace and security of the world" as Obama said in a recent press conference. After all, it was not the DPRK that invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, killing more than a million civilians in the process. It was not the DPRK that dropped nuclear bombs on the civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII. If the United States wants to get rid of nuclear weapons, they should look first to their own arsenal of 9,400 warheads - enough bombs to end all life on Earth several times over. They should also look at their ally, Israel, who is known to possess nuclear weapons and is actively threatening their neighbours. The DPRK has invaded no one and deserves the same right to peaceful coexistence and non-interference as any other country.

Understanding the New Auto Sector

by Herman Rosenfeld -  BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

In the past couple of months, there have been important changes to the auto sector in Canada and the US. In the midst of the ongoing economic crisis, started by the financial meltdown, auto sales dropped through the floor. 

The restructuring of GM and Chrysler was engineered by the U.S. state. Its goal was to transform them into competitors with the Japanese-owned transplants (Honda and Toyota), lean and mean profit-making machines with weak (or no) unions, in the spirit of neoliberalism. A key element of the new situation is the historic defeat of the auto unions (the American UAW and the Canadian CAW), signaling a further decline in the living and working conditions of the working class as a whole.   

The Obama administration started a process of “structured” bankruptcies in order to drive the restructuring of Chrysler and GM. This raised a bigger political issue of the legitimacy, role and purpose of state aid to the auto corporations.  

The Obama administration in the U.S. provided a process for the possible longer-term survival of these companies in a hyper-competitive market, including the selection of a group of Wall Street-based financial types to oversee the corporations’ transformation; pressure on bondholders (owners of GM and Chrysler debt) to reduce their claims; attacks on the rights of workers (by demanding massive wage and benefit concessions); and requirements that each of these corporations close plants, layoff workers and reorganize themselves so as to dramatically reduce costs. By appealing to the public in defense of “taxpayers’” money, and by calling on all “stakeholders” to engage in common sacrifice, U.S. and Canadian leaders appear as reasonable stewards of public resources.  

In limiting the claims of the bondholders, the Obama administration acted in the interests of the entire U.S. bourgeois class. The attack on the unions was the centerpiece of the strategy. Most important, Obama, Harper and McGuinty all demanded that the unions match the cost structure of the non-union transplants. This was accepted without question by both the UAW and CAW. It signaled a massive give-back of incomes, working conditions, time off and benefits. During the entire process of restructuring, there was no union-organized resistance, other than a series of CAW demonstrations demanding protection of retiree pensions.  

These attacks have crippled both unions and dramatically reduced their credibility. The UAW is now the custodian of a significant chunk of GM stock – but it can only be used to pay for the health care benefits of retirees. The CAW has little independence from its auto employers and has lost any claims to be a fighting union. 

The role of the state in both the U.S. and Canada is also a matter of some controversy. The huge loans that these governments have given - and will continue to give to the companies - have been translated into share ownership in the latter. On paper, the U.S. government owns 60% and the Canadian governments will own 12.5% of GM. 

Hard right-wing political and economic interests in Canada and the U.S.(Republicans and right-wing Tories) denounced this as “buying jobs” and contributing to future government deficits. Mainstream politicians defend the aid as necessary to protect against massive job loss. Industrial relations enthusiasts are excited about “worker ownership and participation.” 

Socialists look at the situation differently. Just because the U.S. and Canadian states own stock in GM and Chrysler, doesn’t mean that they have effectively “nationalized” them. In fact, government stock ownership in this instance is nothing more than a way of leveraging the loans and temporarily enforcing the rules of the neo-liberal marketplace, until and if (and there is no guarantee) these corporations are able to operate on their own. Obama and others have said so.

And, in another sense, it couldn’t really be otherwise, given the nature of the capitalist state and the politicians who control it today. They are committed to the operation of such a marketplace and do not have – and do not want – the capacity to run a company, let alone an entire economic sector. Owning one company could never transform the sector, anyway. What’s needed is to regulate the amount of autos being produced and social ownership of the entire sector, including all of the assemblers, parts producers, energy resources and mass transit. Perhaps the nationalization of the parts sector – a central repository of productive capacity – would be a good start.

Filipinos Rally against Charter Change

Move to amend constitution seen as another power-grab by Arroyo regime.

by JD Benjamin - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

People's organizations across the Philippines and around the world are outraged by the Philippines Congress passing of Resolution 1109, legislation that paves the way for the Congress to convene itself as a Constituent Assembly to change the Constitution without the participation of the Senate.

Charter change, referred to in the Philippines as Cha-cha, is widely unpopular as it is seen as a power-grab by current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Her leadership so far has been marked by widespread human rights abuses and corruption scandals, including the murder of almost 1,000 legal mass activists. Once she is out of office, she will lose her immunity from prosecution, so she is desperate to erase the term limits set by the current constitution.

Opposition congressmen attempted to block the motion, but the legislation was rammed through by President Arroyo's allies in a late-night session. “Tonight is a night of ignominy," said Gabriela Women's Partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan. "We witnessed the tyranny of numbers.”

Another troubling element of Cha-cha is the proposal to add the word "responsible" into the clause granting freedom of speech and expression. This would grant the state wide latitude in deciding what kind of speech was "irresponsible" and to stifle opponents of the government.

Cha-cha would also further undermine Philippine sovereignty and sell out the country to foreigners as it would delete the 60 percent domestic ownership clause in the current constitution. Filipinos would lose control over their public utilities, natural resources and domestic industries. As the Cordilleras Peoples Alliance said in a recent statement, “Clearly, Cha-cha paves the way for the 100 percent foreign ownership of lands and resources in the country, further marginalizing Filipinos from utilizing these resources. In the Cordillera, ‘cha-cha’ would further displace indigenous peoples from their lands as foreign corporations intensify the plunder of the remaining lands and resources of indigenous peoples.”

A variety of peoples’ organizations have pledged to block Cha-cha by taking to the streets, with protest rallies planned to take place across the country. “The people are not stupid," said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. "They can see the real intent of the railroaded resolution. They will not stand to have Gloria stay in power indefinitely."