Showing posts with label anti-globalization movement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anti-globalization movement. Show all posts

Thursday, September 01, 2016

* All Those Who Fight Against Imperialism Are Kindred Spirits- A "Young Spartacus" Guest Commentary

Click on the title to link the Lenin Internet Archive's copy of an article about the socialist struggle against imperialism in wartime by V.I. Lenin in 1915, "The First International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald"

Miami FTAA Protest: Cops Rampage Against Youth, Labor

What Strategy to Defeat Imperialism?

Reprinted from Young Spartacus pages of Workers Vanguard No. 817, 9 January 2004.


This article is based on eyewitness reports from SYC comrades.

Thousands of protesters from across the U.S., and to a lesser extent Canada and Latin America, gathered in Miami during the week of November 17 to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), as government ministers holed up in the downtown Hotel Inter-Continental were negotiating the pact’s terms.

The FTAA represents the potential extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere, excluding Cuba. From NAFTA’s inception in 1994, the International Communist League has opposed the pact as U.S. imperialism’s “free trade” rape of Mexico; it has since brought increased misery and poverty to the people of Mexico. The U.S. is pursuing the FTAA as a means to further cement its control over the smaller capitalist states in Central and South America in the face of greater economic competition from rival imperialist powers in Europe and Asia. The fight against NAFTA and the FTAA is a battle against imperialist domination of Mexico and all of the Americas.

One unofficial slogan of the anti-globalization movement is “Another world is possible.” Some steel workers in Miami even had the slogan emblazoned across the backs of their union T-shirts. How to bring about that other world? A range of political opinions was on display. The AFL-CIO officials presented the protests as an opportunity “to educate our elected officials and candidates in preparation for the 2004 elections” and collected “ballots” from “millions of workers” from the Americas opposing the FTAA. Liberals like those in the coalition United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), in a call endorsed by the reformist International Socialist Organization and Left Turn among others, sought to inspire the delegates of poorer countries at the FTAA talks to walk out, as Brazil’s Lula did at the Cancún WTO meetings earlier last year. Many youth activists, identifying themselves as anarchists and rejecting reliance on any government officials, wanted to disrupt the FTAA meeting through direct action. None of these tactics will actually stop the FTAA.

The FTAA talks did end a day early, without a broad agreement. But this failure was not a result of the protests. As one radio reporter observed, at the Inter-Continental the demonstrations went unheeded by the delegates, confident in the protection accorded by the armed police camp in the downtown area. Instead, this failure was due to the competing national economic interests of the capitalist governments involved in the FTAA.

Ultimately there is no way to stop capitalist exploitation and bring about a just world short of working-class socialist revolution. We look to the working class as the only force in society that has the ability and class interest to defeat imperialism.

Miami Blues: Armed Police Camp

Miami was witness to a massive police mobilization, now routine at anti-globalization demos. The “security” measures were underwritten by $8.5 million from the federal government, allocated in the spending bill for the Iraq occupation. Also borrowed from the “war on terror” in Iraq: Miami police invited reporters to “embed” with them in armored vehicles and helicopters. The bourgeois media, civic leaders and Miami police engaged in an orgy of anarchist-bashing in the lead-up to the protests; several “suspected anarchists” (youth with backpacks walking down the street) were arrested. Days before the protests began, the Miami City Commission passed an ordinance banning the use and possession of common items like glass bottles and the puppets used in street theater.

On Thursday, the main day of protests, the cops totally shut down central Miami. Stores and offices were closed, the streets were empty, the elevated rail system was locked up, with cops perched at the stations. The police, many in full riot gear, unleashed a variety of weapons from batons and tasers to rubber bullets and water cannons. Youth were allowed to gather at Government Center Park at 7 a.m. but were swarmed by cops when they broke off into smaller groups engaging in direct actions.

Later that day at the end of the AFL-CIO-sponsored parade demanding “No to the FTAA!”, some anarchoid youth and a small number of steel workers advanced to the security perimeter fence separating the rally site from the Inter-Continental. The cops decided to end the rally on their own terms, attacking and dispersing the protesters. Youth and steel workers alike were injured in the onslaught. As we retreated, we talked to several youth who were assaulted, including a young man who was shot in the leg and hobbled and another who was shot in the back with a paint ball. Outside the “Wellness Center,” the temporary medical clinic set up by the protesters, a long line had formed. The cops later attacked the center.

“This should be a model for homeland defense,” Miami mayor Manny Diaz would later say. Almost 300 protesters were arrested, including 62 in a protest outside Miami-Dade County Jail the next day in solidarity with those arrested on Thursday. The Partisan Defense Committee issued a statement on November 24 demanding: “Free the arrested protesters and drop all charges now!”

The Miami events were a vivid lesson in how the capitalist state cannot be neutral but is rather the armed and violent defender of the capitalist order. The armed police camp in downtown Miami was a complete refutation of those leftists who peddle the illusion that the capitalist state, sufficiently pressured, can serve the interests of working people and the oppressed. However, this lesson was not necessarily generalized by all. Even youth crippled in the cop rampages thought that the “Convergence Center” was a safe place to assemble afterwards. While it was not raided, police had it staked out and picked off protesters as they came and went. There was this dangerous belief that if one declares a “safe space” or “autonomous zone” it thereby exists. Not so—black inner-city youth or the hundreds of immigrants locked up in federal detention centers can attest to the brutal daily reality of police repression.

Proletarian Internationalism or Pressure Politics?

Despite the naked display of capitalist “law and order” in Miami, many youth were intent on somehow disrupting the meetings. This impulse to fight the “system” through well-intentioned, but futile, acts of self-sacrifice sprang from a gut hatred of their “own” government and its attempts to ride roughshod over the rest of the globe. What often was behind this justified hatred was a misplaced feeling of responsibility for the fundamentally oppressive character of American capitalism.

But youth and the working masses do not share the blame for the crimes of the brutal U.S. ruling class, which exploits workers, makes life miserable for black people and goes to war for itself alone. It only serves the class enemy for radical youth in this country to feel guilt for these crimes, because this guilt flows from the dangerously false idea that the capitalist U.S. is or could be pressured into being a democracy “for the people” if only the anti-globalization youth were determined or creative enough to make the rulers pay attention. Under the circumstances of the anti-globalization protests, the cops will assault, brutalize and arrest youth without fail. Lacking a perspective of mobilizing the working class against the rule of capital, such confrontations with the cops amount to the streetfighting face of reformism.

Ultimately what is at work is an idealist conception of social change, which sees the transformation of society as resulting from enlightening the “misinformed” or tempering social attitudes like “greed” and racism in capitalist society. From the exploitation of the working masses to the racial oppression of black people, the evils of the capitalist world are not simply a matter of retrograde ideas; they are materially rooted in a system based on exploitation and oppression. This material reality we seek to change.

The direct action protests were meant to “raise consciousness” and inspire others to follow, thereby building a mass movement against “globalization” and bringing closer victory in the future. Who was to be inspired? For some, it was the representatives of “progressive” Third World countries at the FTAA negotiating table, e.g., the Brazilian and Venezuelan governments. A speaker from Venezuela at an anti-globalization conference on the University of Miami campus that Friday hailed Hugo Chávez for supposedly carrying forward the “Bolivarian Revolution” by refusing to sign on to an FTAA lacking human rights provisions and, above all, protections of national sovereignty. Stickers from the group Alternativa Bolivariana para América Latina (ALBA), an outfit with ties to the Venezuelan government, were popular. Mention of Lula likewise brought praise and admiration for his leading the walkout at the Cancún WTO meeting.

A Spartacus Youth Club supporter responded to the Venezuelan speaker in the discussion round, pointing out how the Chávez government is tied in a thousand ways to the imperialist system. She counterposed the blow to that system delivered by the working class in the 1917 Russian Revolution. Whether it is the social democrat Lula attacking the Brazilian pension system or the nationalist strongman Chávez deregulating the Venezuelan banks, these politicians protect and defend the capitalist order. Notwithstanding the differences in their countries, their backgrounds and their politics, both Lula and Chávez are openly servile to the IMF, enforcing economic austerity dictates to curry favor with the imperialist powers. As well, both have sought to bring powerful unions to heel and reneged on promises of agrarian reform. Lula went so far as to recently expel left-wing critics of his economic policy from his own Workers Party. As our comrades in the Grupo Espartaquista de México observed:

“The history of Latin American capitalism has been one of constant swings between populist protectionism and nationalist rhetoric on the one hand and ‘free market’ trade liberalization on the other. Alternatively, the bourgeoisie of these countries, frightened by the unrest of the masses, resorts to populism and protects its industry with tariff barriers and subsidies. Then, under the political pressure of imperialism and because of its own internal inefficacy, this model fails. The bourgeoisie, handing over the economy to the imperialists, resorts again to ‘free market’ liberalism, which in a few years fails, too, as it destroys the internal market and condemns the masses to even greater impoverishment, and then the cycle begins again. The rise of bourgeois rulers with populist rhetoric like Chávez in Venezuela and the social democrat Lula in Brazil points to the latter. The only constants in this inhuman wheel of fortune are imperialist subjugation and the human misery of millions of peasants and workers.”

— “¡Por movilizaciones obreras contra el TLC, el ALCA y las privatizaciones!” [For Workers Mobilizations Against NAFTA, FTAA and Privatizations!], Espartaco No. 20 (Spring-Summer 2003)

More consistent left-leaning anarchist youth had little affection for the capitalist governments of the Third World. One young woman observed how Lula put himself forward as a leftist candidate of the workers but was actually doing exactly what the U.S. demanded of him. Another “hoped to cause headaches” to the U.S. by arousing the Latin American masses.

Naomi Klein expressed a clearly reformist take on this position in her article on the Miami protests: “Despite the [Bush] brothers’ best efforts, the dream of a hemisphere united into a single free-market economy died last week—killed not by demonstrators in Miami but by the populations of Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia, who let their politicians know that if they sign away more power to foreign multinationals, they may as well not come home” (London Guardian, 25 November 2003). This perspective, too, is the dead end of seeking to pressure bourgeois governments, in this case those of Latin America, to stand up to the depredations of capital.

It was “the people” that the more radical youth wanted to inspire. But “the people” invariably consists of members of different classes that have their own distinct interests. Lula and the Brazilian bourgeoisie have some interests in opposition to the U.S. imperialists, but are dependent on imperialism to maintain their own class rule and are not going to challenge the system as a whole. The existence of imperialism has arrested the development of the Third World, as the imperialist countries have already divided up the vast majority of the wealth and power. The investment of imperialist capital in countries like Mexico has resulted in uneven and combined development; age-old conditions of subjugation in the countryside exist alongside modern industry and a powerful proletariat.

As our comrades in the GEM wrote: “The social, economic and cultural development of Mexico can only be achieved through a socialist revolution which puts the proletariat in power, leading the peasant and indigenous masses and all the oppressed, and establishes a planned, socialist economy. From its inception, a victorious workers state in a backward country—which also shares a border with the U.S.—would have to fight to promote proletarian revolution inside the American imperialist beast and on a world scale. A socialist revolution in Mexico would really have an electrifying effect on the workers in the U.S.”

Fighting the Imperialist Order

It is essential to understand what imperialism actually is in order to defeat it. Imperialism is a system, capitalism at its most developed stage, and is marked by the export of finance capital. What it is not is a series of belligerent government policies. The imperialist bourgeoisies, in pursuit of profits and spheres of economic influence, exploit the world’s backward countries for raw resources, cheap labor and new markets. The constant competition and conflict between nation-states over such influence is the impetus to war. War is therefore an inevitable characteristic of imperialism.

Although it is an agreement between governments, the FTAA is referenced as another case of “globalization,” supposedly a new world system in which sovereign nation-states are overtaken by transnational corporations. But these corporations do not and cannot operate without a national base. For example, many of the corporations involved in “rebuilding” Iraq today are multinational in the sense that they have capital invested in more than one country. Yet the corporations still retain their national base—it is ultimately the U.S. military and none other that enforces the property rights of these corporations.

Several groups claimed that “globalization” promotes war. Typical was the US Labor Against the War statement, which concludes: “Unfair trade policies destroy American jobs, impoverish workers around the globe, and lead to violence and military conflicts.” Likewise, in a leaflet it distributed, the UFPJ argued: “Globalization undermines the ability of governments to regulate and mitigate the damaging effects of the market, which leads to an intensification of all of the economic causes of war.” There is no fundamental separation of interests between the bourgeois state and its capitalist economy, whatever the particular policies of the government. The above views wrongly imply that the governments of capitalist states could betray the fundamental interests of their propertied class and that the imperialist system could be a peaceful one.

All the talk in recent years about “globalization” is a reflection not of any profound new economic transformation but rather of a tremendous political defeat, the collapse of the Soviet Union. As we noted in our pamphlet on “globalization”:

“A fundamental political condition for the present triumph of capitalist ‘globalization’ was the retreat of Soviet global power under Gorbachev, the disintegration of the Moscow Stalinist bureaucracy and the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92. It was no accident that the electoral overthrow of the [Nicaraguan] Sandinista regime in 1990, capping a contra war armed and organized by Washington, coincided with the beginning of a massive investment boom by U.S. banks and corporations in Mexico. At the same time, capitalist counterrevolution in the former Soviet sphere has opened up a new, huge sphere for exploitation, especially for German imperialism.”

— Imperialism, the “Global Economy” and Labor Reformism (September 1999)

We had several lengthy discussions with youth about the Soviet Union. One anarchist youth dismissed the USSR as a “statist” superpower; his attitude was one superpower down, one to go. To the contrary, the collapse of the bureaucratically degenerated Soviet workers state cleared the field for the hegemonic power of the U.S. The Soviet Union when it existed was a counterweight to U.S. imperialism.

A member of the North Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists argued that the precipitous drop in the standard of living in post-Soviet Russia was due not to the restoration of capitalism but rather to the defeat of the USSR at the hands of (and its subsequent economic trampling by) the U.S. He made a comparison to the economic devastation in Germany following the First World War. He considered the class character of the society and its form of economic organization to be subordinate to the degree to which the state “interfered” with people’s daily lives.

But the Soviet Union was not a capitalist country, in which production is for profit; it was a society based on the establishment of collectivized property and a planned economy, made possible by the expropriation of the capitalist class. Despite the degeneration of the Soviet workers state under Stalinist misrule, it was a measure of the power of the planned, collectivized economy that it provided jobs, housing, education and health care for all. Today, however, Russian life in all aspects is in drastic decline.

Opposition to imperialism requires defense of those gains the international working class has already won. We Trotskyists fought tooth and nail against capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union.

Treachery of the Labor Bureaucracy

The fundamental contradiction in capitalist society is the antagonism between labor and capital. Workers create the wealth of this society with their labor and can bring the capitalists to their knees by withholding that labor power. With its vast numbers, its location in the urban centers and its hands on the means of production in the factories, where the common experience of workers lays the basis for solidarity and organization, the proletariat is the key social force to bring about the shattering of the imperialist order.

More than one youth argued that the American proletariat no longer has any social power due to the disappearance of jobs and the transformation of the American economy from manufacturing to service-oriented industries. One pro-working-class anarchist youth argued that proletarian centrality is impossible today, essentially claiming that only by defeating the FTAA and other supranational economic institutions will the working class recapture its social power in this country and save the Third World proletariat from the ravages of the “multinationals.”

The decline of the American labor movement is not fundamentally caused by the objective effects of “globalization” but by the defeatist and treacherous policies of the AFL-CIO misleaders. The transfer of production to low-wage areas in semicolonial countries has led to a sharp decline in unionized manufacturing jobs here, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest. But instead of seeking to organize international class struggle against attacks on jobs and unions, the AFL-CIO bureaucracy limits union struggle to what is acceptable to the U.S. capitalist rulers.

The strength of the unions is not in their paid lobbyists on Capitol Hill but in their numbers, their militancy, their organization and discipline. What is crucial is the question of leadership. The existence of “multinationals” only underscores the historic need for an internationalist class-struggle perspective that transcends parochial, nationally limited trade unionism. We are for a class-struggle leadership in the trade unions. This is part of the fight to build a revolutionary workers party that mobilizes the working class and all the oppressed against imperialist rule.

In Miami, the labor tops worked to keep the radical youth separate from the union ranks and the working class away from radical politics. Union marshals wearing “Peacekeeper” badges forcibly kept any youth wearing black from entering the amphitheater where the union rally was held; security patted down those who were not in labor contingents and used metal detector wands on them. Youth were disgusted by this exclusion, and we found anger at the treatment of the leftist youth among the workers.

Given that the protest was to “raise consciousness” against globalization, the “unity of anti-FTAA forces” was very important for many youth, irrespective of the broader political program of any of those forces. Whether one was for or against capitalism did not so much matter; in fact, an “anti-corporate” attitude was sometimes what youth meant when they said they were against capitalism. By this they meant opposition to “large monopolistic” corporations, not capitalism per se. Others subscribed to an anti-technology attitude. Much of the resentment against the AFL-CIO bureaucrats was not so much for making anarchist youth persona non grata as for breaking this unity. But pleas for “unity” with those who alibi capitalist rule can only reduce what is fought for to the lowest common denominator, namely Democratic Party electoralism.

Many youth did make a distinction between the steel workers and the AFL-CIO apparatus. The steel workers were spoken of with admiration for standing down cops harassing youth activists and widely cheered when they first arrived on Thursday. Then, the steel workers were prevented from entering the union rally site by the cops and later marched together with the youth to the security fence, taking arrests. But the leadership of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) is politically indistinguishable from that of the other AFL-CIO unions. Following the protests, the USWA tops called for a Congressional investigation into the police assaults, breeding illusions in supposed Congressional “impartiality” when the police repression had been paid for with money approved by Congress!

Central to the political outlook of the USWA officials is their protectionist “Stand Up For Steel” tariffs campaign, with its rhetoric of saving “American jobs” for “American workers.” This outlook is shared by liberal Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich, whose supporters mobilized widely for the demo. Protectionism is poison to the workers movement because it sets workers of one country against workers of another country, obscuring the reality that the enemy of both is the capitalist rulers at home. In his 11 November 2003 “anti-FTAA” campaign flyer laced with protectionism and patriotism, Kucinich intones: “NAFTA allows foreign owned companies to challenge our Constitution, our Congress, and our rights to enact American laws.”

Those youth who were pro-labor offered boycotts against particular companies as the best means of defending the interests of working people here and in other countries, citing campaigns against Taco Bell and Wal-Mart. Consumer boycotts were seen as the “practical” alternative to organizing the unorganized because residents of the U.S. “are not there” in the countries miserably exploited by sweatshop labor. Boycotts may occasionally serve a useful purpose in conjunction with a strike action, but behind timeless consumer boycotts is a liberal-moralist worldview positing that one corporation is more benevolent than another. This presupposes that capitalism can be made into a humane system and is counterposed to mobilizing the power of labor.

Defend Cuba, China Against Counterrevolution!

Che Guevara probably was the most highly regarded political figure among the youth, though the anarchists would distinguish between the Che before and the one after he was a part of the ruling state apparatus in Cuba. The adulation of Che generally came from a romantic identification with the guerrilla road, i.e., “armed direct action.” While opposing imperialism, Che’s program was fundamentally elitist, posing a band of intellectuals as leadership for the peasant masses—an isolated, parochial social layer whose primary aspiration is property holding. This program is an obstacle to workers taking power in their own name.

Some anarchist youth we talked to defended Cuba and the gains of its revolution (e.g., education, health care) but did not like Castro, whom they considered an authoritarian. A group of youth asked about the dollarization of Cuba out of justified concern over the threat to the Cuban Revolution. Indeed, making U.S. tender legal opened a breach in the state monopoly of foreign trade, a serious danger making the Cuban deformed workers state more susceptible to capitalist forces. This has sharply increased social divisions, particularly affecting women and black Cubans.

The Cuban Revolution has survived decades of CIA plots, a U.S. blockade and imperialist economic penetration. Miami itself is a haven for the gusanos, the counterrevolutionary Cubans who fled the 1959 Revolution. In fact, the stretch of Biscayne Boulevard where much of the anti-FTAA protests took place was renamed Jorge Mas Canosa Boulevard, after one of the more vicious historic gusano leaders.

Although the Cuban workers state was deformed from the outset by the rule of the nationalist Castro bureaucracy and the absence of the proletariat in the revolution, the smashing of capitalist class rule in 1960-61 has enabled the Cuban masses to make great strides forward in their living conditions. The restoration of capitalism would bring many horrors to the people of Cuba and would further embolden U.S. imperialism in exploiting the peoples of Latin America, more than any “free trade” agreement could ever do.

It is part of our struggle against imperialist capitalism that we stand for the unconditional military defense of Cuba, China, North Korea and Vietnam—the remaining deformed workers states—against imperialism and capitalist counterrevolution. Simultaneously, we call for workers political revolution to oust the sellout Stalinist bureaucrats and fight to extend proletarian rule to the advanced capitalist countries.

World socialist revolution is the prerequisite to raising the productive forces of society to a level where material scarcity is eliminated. Opposition to trade between nations leads either to support for protectionism or to primitivist economic decentralization and isolation, programs that would exacerbate the differences between the industrial and the underdeveloped worlds. It is only through centralized planning on an international scale, based on global exchange terms favorable to underdeveloped nations, that the divide separating the impoverished of the world from the wealthy of this country can be overcome. The way forward is to build a revolutionary party that can infuse the working class with an understanding of its historic task to overturn the imperialist order and reorganize society on an egalitarian socialist basis.

Friday, April 22, 2011

From The Pages Of "Spartacist Canada"- From the Cold War to the G20:State Repression Targets the Left

Spartacist Canada No. 168
Spring 2011

From the Cold War to the G20:

State Repression Targets the Left

The Partisan Defense Committee (PDC) held its 25th annual Holiday Appeal benefits in December and January, including events in Toronto and Vancouver. The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League in the U.S. and the Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste in Canada. The funds raised at these events go toward providing monthly stipends and holiday gifts to class-war prisoners and their families, an expression of proletarian solidarity and material support. (See “Free the Class-War Prisoners!” SC No. 167, Winter 2010/2011, for details on the prisoners.)

The PDC events highlighted the case of death-row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. We also honoured 16 other class-war prisoners including American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier. Greetings to the PDC gatherings from the stipend recipients, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jaan Laaman of the Ohio 7 and Janine Africa of the MOVE organization, were read out and displayed.

Speakers at the Toronto event, held on January 28, included David Bleakney, National Union Representative of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), a speaker for the Spartacus Youth Club (see article, page 7), and speakers from the Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste and PDC. Mike Larsen, a managing editor for the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons, spoke on behalf of the Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee. Harkat was one of five Muslim men detained in December 2002 under Ottawa’s draconian “security certificates,” which allow the indefinite detention of any refugee or immigrant whom the government considers a national security threat. Harkat was jailed without charge or trial for 43 months and was then placed under house arrest with extremely onerous conditions. The security certificates have been a cutting edge of the Canadian state’s repressive “war on terror.”

Sophie Harkat, Mohamed’s wife, also sent greetings to the event. Referring to a decision by the Federal Court in December, she wrote:

“The certificate was found ‘reasonable’ under the lowest standard of proof in a Canadian court. This decision was based on secret evidence neither Mohamed nor his public counsels could see or test for national security reasons. All that because CSIS believes, thinks, or assumes that Moe was involved or will be involved with terrorism in the past, present, or future. That position could cover any one of us at any time.”

Indeed, while the first targets of the ruling class have been the vulnerable Muslim minority, the “war on terror” has been from the beginning a political pretext to expand the repressive apparatus of the bourgeois state. The fight to defend the Secret Trial Five and all those targeted by the “war on terror” dragnet is crucial to all working people. After the court’s verdict, Harkat has now been issued with a deportation order to Algeria, possibly to torture or death. From the beginning, the PDC has called to free the detainees and to abolish the security certificates. No deportations! Defend Mohamed Harkat!

We print below the speech to the Toronto fundraiser by a PDC representative, slightly edited for publication.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We’re here to honour those behind prison walls for their political beliefs. The political climate in North America never has been very receptive to those who challenge capitalist rule.

On January 18, an estimated 13,000 police took over the downtown streets of Toronto in a show of police bonapartism at a funeral for one of their own. A lone protester, not even a leftist, objected to the massive show of police power that day, holding a placard that read “No Police State” on one side and “Soldiers Die, Electricians Die and People Die” on the other. He was knocked to the ground, arrested and held for hours.

You couldn’t pick up a newspaper, watch TV or listen to the radio for over a week without hearing the horrendous media campaign in the wake of the cop’s death. Contrast this to what happened when four migrant construction workers died on Christmas Eve 2009, when the scaffolding they were working on broke in two and they fell 13 stories to the ground. The federal government took the opportunity to go after “illegal” immigrants—those without the right to work in this country. When Amalgamated Transit Union worker Tony Almeida died in 2007 in a subway tunnel accident due to unsafe conditions, the press and TTC bosses smeared him as a drug user. These examples highlight the privileged status accorded to the lives of cops, the guardians of private property, in stark contrast to the lives of the working class and poor, who are treated as expendable. The PDC stands with the victims of capitalist exploitation and repression and those who fight against it.

The cops are the hired guns of the capitalist ruling class. Their job is to uphold racist capitalist “law and order” through brute force: breaking strikes, rounding up minority youth, repressing social protest. The courts, to which many look for some justice, are an essential part of this murderous repressive machinery. Capitalist so-called “law and order” is based on frame-ups, lies and police violence.

Last summer during the G20 protests there was a larger, more ominous police occupation of the city. Some 1,100 people were arrested, the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. The cop rampage exposed the lie that capitalist Canada is some kind of “progressive” alternative to the U.S. Today, a host of G20 protesters face serious conspiracy charges. It is crucial that we defend them. “Conspiracy” charges are one way the state goes after perceived opponents when there is no evidence of any crime. There’s a very long history of this in Ontario, going back to 1837 when trade unionists were targeted by conspiracy laws.

At previous Holiday Appeals we’ve heard about the repressive history of the Canadian bourgeoisie, including around the Winnipeg General Strike, part of the upsurge of working-class struggle that followed the victorious Russian Revolution of 1917 (see “Class-Struggle Defense in Capitalist Canada: From Winnipeg 1919 to Montreal 1970,” SC 164, Spring 2010). Tonight I want to expand on this and talk about Cold War state repression starting in the late 1940s. The imperialists’ Cold War was aimed at the counterrevolutionary restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. At home, it meant witchhunting anti-Communism throughout North American society. I’ll begin with the so-called Gouzenko Spy Affair and what was known as the PROFUNC program, connecting these to state repression today. I’ll also talk about the class-war prisoners we’re highlighting tonight, including Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

In 1945, a cipher clerk at the Soviet embassy, Igor Gouzenko, defected in Ottawa, announcing he had proof of a widespread Soviet spy ring. This set off a chain reaction of anti-Communist hysteria. Fifteen people, including prominent supporters of the Communist Party, were arrested in February 1946 under a secret detention order made possible by the Royal Commission on Espionage, which the federal government instituted to track down “spies.” The Royal Commission is comparable to today’s security certificates. It allowed the state to secretly imprison people without charge and to hold them incommunicado for long periods, ignoring the right to engage counsel. It was one of the more thorough abuses of individual rights of the many carried out by the Canadian state.

The anti-Communist investigations surrounding the Gouzenko affair left a trail of destroyed careers and ruined lives. But they were no aberration. The capitalist class utilized the War Measures Act to imprison Canadians of German and Ukrainian descent in World War I and Japanese Canadians during World War II. Another of the state’s weapons was and is the Official Secrets Act, which was designed to prohibit and control access to and disclosure of “sensitive government information.”

At the height of the Cold War, the government approved a plan to round up thousands of Canadians with “Communist links” in the event of a “national security threat” and lock them away indefinitely, simply because they were perceived to be a threat to so-called Canadian democracy. Under PROFUNC, which stands for PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party, a list was prepared of some 16,000 suspected Communists and 50,000 sympathizers, to be monitored and interned. Under the plan, targets could be detained indefinitely, subjected to severe discipline and shot if they tried to escape detention.

The blacklist included prominent Canadian public figures—men, women and children—whose identities were kept on file, in secret, at RCMP detachments across the country. The files were regularly updated until PROFUNC’s demise in the early 1980s. This paralleled developments in the U.S., where detention camps for known communists were authorized. As revolutionaries, we recognize that anti-communist victimizations are aimed above all at beheading the workers movement.

The Cold War wasn’t just about getting the reds but was also waged more widely. The concern over so-called communist subversion eating away at the fabric of wholesome Christian life meant that differences based on sexual preference, gender and race were themselves signs of subversion. You did not need to be a communist to be considered a Cold War enemy; you could equally be a woman who wanted to work outside the home, a man who liked to visit gay bars or even an anti-nuclear bourgeois pacifist. The RCMP even developed the “fruit machine” to test if a man was gay. Believe it or not, they would show “suspects” photos of naked men and measure the dilation of their pupils to “determine” if they were gay!

It was only with the major social upheavals of the 1960s that the reactionary Cold War domestic climate, including the stultifying atmosphere of “family values,” was broken. The key place that this happened in this country was Quebec. A documentary on PROFUNC that recently aired in Quebec detailed the use of the RCMP-compiled lists during the “October Crisis” in Montreal in 1970. The October Crisis was used by the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau to try to smash a mass labour and social radicalization in Quebec, including growing support for independence. The government used the kidnappings of two government officials by the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) to declare martial law and send the army in to occupy the streets. Hundreds of people were rounded up and thrown in jail. Other abuses in Quebec included the RCMP burning down a barn to prevent a meeting between members of the FLQ and Black Panther Party, and breaking into Parti Québécois offices to steal their membership files.

Many youth we talk to think that the oppression of the Québécois is a thing of the past. This is at best wishful thinking. The Liberal Party, backed by the NDP, imposed the Clarity Act, which bans Quebec from exercising its democratic right to self-determination. Our opposition to the Canadian state today is exemplified by our advocacy of Quebec independence.

Free the Class-War Prisoners!

Here I’d like to say a few words about Leonard Peltier. The labour movement must be mobilized to defend Native rights. This would be a step toward the emancipation of the working class as a whole in this country. It was important that the now locked-out Steelworkers (USW) Local 1005 sent several delegations to the occupation site of Native protesters in Caledonia. The occupation began when developers began building a residential subdivision despite a longstanding land-claim dispute. The USW flag has been prominently displayed there, along with that of the CUPW postal union, among others. Organized labour has the social power to possibly prevent further police and military attack against the Six Nations occupation.

Leonard Peltier’s incarceration for his activism in the American Indian Movement has come to symbolize the racist repression of Native peoples in North America, the survivors of centuries of genocidal oppression. It was Pierre Trudeau who extradited Peltier to his tormentors in the U.S. Peltier’s frame-up trial for the 1975 deaths of two marauding FBI agents in what had become a war zone on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation shows what capitalist “justice” is all about. The lead government attorney has admitted, “We can’t prove who shot those agents,” and the courts also admitted blatant prosecutorial misconduct, yet the 66-year-old is still locked away. Last year, the U.S. Parole Commission again turned down his request for parole and shockingly said they would not look at his case for another 15 years. I’d like to quote from a prison dispatch, “Greetings from Leonard Peltier, February 2010”:

“The Indian wars are not over; they just are fought more in the courtrooms and the boardrooms these days. But the issues are mostly the same—the land, resources, and freedom. Freedom to think. Freedom to live as we wish. Freedom to be who we are.”

Now to say a few words about Mumia Abu-Jamal. December marked the 29th anniversary of Mumia’s arrest. His case gives flesh and blood to the Marxist understanding of the state and its courts as organs of repression against the working people and the oppressed. The latest threat to Mumia’s life happened on November 9, 2010 when the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia heard oral arguments on whether or not to reinstate the death penalty. It may take months for the Third Circuit to announce its decision, which will then likely be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The PDC took up Mumia’s case many years ago. We’re proud of our massive efforts including the groundbreaking work of our attorneys debunking the phony ballistics evidence, exposing state coercion of witnesses, detailing the constitutional violations. We were instrumental in uncovering the confession by Arnold Beverly that he shot the police officer, and that Mumia had nothing to do with it. We have always struggled polemically against the various reformists who ignored this evidence. I’d like to make the point that the Gouzenko arrestees’ Communist affiliations made many of Canada’s liberal “civil rights activists” cringe from defending them against the Royal Commission on Espionage. This is echoed today when “respectable” liberals steer clear of the evidence proving Mumia’s innocence that was uncovered by the PDC. These liberals and the reformist left undermined the fight for Mumia’s freedom by diverting protests into pleas for a “new, fair trial” and by not proclaiming his innocence. At the last Mumia rally in November called by these reformist groups, it wasn’t until the PDC spoke that illusions in the bourgeois courts and the notion of justice under capitalism were countered. There is no justice in the capitalist courts!

If linked to a revived labour movement, the fight for Mumia’s freedom could strike a powerful blow against this system of state terror. What do I mean by a revived labour movement? Multiracial unions internationally, representing millions of workers, are on the record in support of Mumia, but they haven’t been mobilized in action. This is due to the fact that the union bureaucracy’s class-collaborationist politics tie workers to their exploiters. These politics have dissipated the fighting strength of the unions. We need to fight for a class-struggle leadership in the unions, using Jamal’s cause as part of the fight against the whole rotten system, replacing it with one in which those who labour rule.

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent man! Abolish the racist death penalty!

Monday, June 21, 2010

*Films to While Away The Class Struggle By-"This Is What Democracy Looks Like"- The 1999 Seattle WTO Protests

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of the movie trailer for "This Is What Democracy Looks Like."

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading.-Markin

DVD Review


This is What Democracy Looks Like, various anti-globalization demonstrators, A Big Noise Film, 2000

At one time, and maybe, as it turned out, it was just this one time in 1999 in Seattle at a WTO meeting the militant mass demonstrations organized by various components of the anti-globalization movement looked like the ‘new wave’ on the world-wide social reform curve. As this short but energetically-paced film footage (from many camera sources) makes clear an alliance between American organized labor (mainly through the middle and lower levels of some of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy but with plenty of enthusiastic rank and file worker support) and more overtly leftist environmentally-concerned organizations (in short, mainly students and their hangers-on) with a fringe of anarcho-lifestyle activists was in the making. While this film, composed of street footage of the action and released very shortly after the event, does not go into much detail about the long term prospects the footage itself does provide some of the reasons, if only accidentally, that this movement has been spinning its wheels since that time.

Look, not every movement has to start out with an explicitly socialist agenda and tactics and strategy to match. Waiting for such an occurrence, or more succinctly, waiting for such a full-blown movement to be hatched fully-formed from the embryo is not how social movements gather steam and become important in history. That said though, such social movements better end with a socialist agenda or they are doomed to that wheel-spinning mentioned above. And that is the nut of the matter here. That and the extreme provocations by the police of basically nothing more than militant (and creative) mass demonstrations. Those police reactions then, and the virtual para-military state that has been erected at subsequent sites for international capitalist economic conferences of various hues, certainly have a chilling effect on mass organizing for them. In the end only the most committed have stayed the course, as the last event in Pittsburgh in 2009 has demonstrated.

Now there is not much that we can do, currently, about the relationship of forces with that police state para-military operation so the last part of this commentary centers on what we can do, the political organizing part. What became clear throughout this film was that what looked like a conventional united front action was more a convenient convergence of a loose coalition of ultimately conflicting forces. In short, the various components had competing political agendas. The labor bureaucracy was talking jobs, protectionism, and, frankly, China-bashing as a way to deal with the crisis of the decline of the American working class’ continually eroding standard of living. The other components spoke to such issues as the downsizing of the industrial state, better protection of the environment, and living more simply, to put it simply. The anarchist fringe I never did get a sense of, as much as I like the young anarchists that I have run into. Militancy, complete with Zapata-like protective handkerchiefs over face, for its own sake has no independent virtue.

All this mixture is not mutually exclusive but what comes out glaringly is that the basic premise expressed explicitly in the title of this thing that more democracy, somewhat ill-undefined, will cure the ills of this sorry old world. Well, as much as we socialist respect the historic achievements of the bourgeois democratic revolutions that have brought humankind this far this is simply not enough. Those movements long ago ran out of steam. And at the end of the day that is what was missing in this film, that idea that we have to go beyond some merely enhanced democratic process. There was plenty of feel-good talk about community, and community-building and very little about the need to not just take over the current nation-state apparatuses and do a little tweaking to right things but to change the institutions, change them utterly. Think about that my friends, as you watch these well-meaning, courageous fighters go through their paces.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

From Green Left Global News & Info-Bank Of America Protest: Dozens Storm Bank Branch In DC

Click on the headline to link to a "Green Left Info" entry on a spirited protest at the Ban of America.

Markin comment:

Now we are starting to get some place. The brothers and sisters in D.C. found a one of the correct targets for our wrath. And they were workers. Dare I think of the words-"anti-capitalist struggle". Probably, no definitely, premature but in the right direction.

Monday, May 10, 2010

*From The International Marxist Tendency- The Struggle In Greece- a Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a "In Defense Of Marxism" entry from the International Marxist Tendency on the current situation in Greece.

Markin comment:

This guest commentary makes the right point about the limits of a general strike strategy without the goal of a struggle for state power. Two thing stick out-immediately. We are in a pre-revolutionary situation in Greece, whether we are prepared for it or not. The need to create workers councils down at the base and for revolutionaries to fight for their program in them is paramount. Secondly, to break the hold of the Stalinist and ex-Stalinist parties on the Greek working class, and that sit just to the left of the governing Socialist Party, in order get on that road to socialism it is time for revolutionaries to call for the formation of a workers government. If the Stalinist and others will not do fight for that, we will. Given the relationship of forces this is a propaganda call today, but the situation in Greece is so fluid things could turn around quickly. For A KKE-SYRIZA government!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

*The Latest From The ANSWER Coaltion Website- A Post Washington March 20th March Wrapup

Click on the headline to link to the "ANSWER Coaliton" Website.

Markin comment:

I will have more to say on this march later when I have a chance to think it through and compare it with other marches, from other campaigns. I still stand by my statement that, fair or foul, this demonstration was important as a start to the post- Afghanistan troop escalation Obama war policies. The real question is the way we will oppose those policies in the future and how we will develop a strategy to deal with the glaring lack of marchers, more than the already long committed anti-warrriors who formed the core of the Washington march, in future actions. We are small, in a similar way as in the early anti-Vietnam War period, but we do not have to stay that way. We do, desperately, have to reach the youth or we are doomed. That is an abiding weakness. More, later.


Thousands take to the streets to demand:
U.S. out of Afghanistan and Iraq now!


On Saturday, thousands of people converged at the White House for the March 20 March on Washington—the largest anti-war demonstration since the announcement of the escalation of the Afghanistan war. By the time the march started at 2 p.m., the crowd had swelled up to 10,000 protesters.

Transportation to Washington, D.C., was organized from over 50 cities in 20 states. Demonstrators rallied and marched shoulder to shoulder to demand “U.S. Out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now,” “Free Palestine,” “Reparations for Haiti” and “No sanctions against Iran” as well as “Money for jobs, education and health care!”

Speakers at the Washington rally represented a broad cross section of the anti-war movement, including veterans and military families, labor, youth and students, immigrant right groups, and the Muslim and Arab American community.

Following the rally, a militant march led by veterans, active-duty service members and military families made its way through the streets of D.C. carrying coffins draped in Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, Somali, Yemeni, Haitian and U.S. flags, among those of other countries, as a symbol of the human cost of war and occupation. Coffins were dropped off along the way at Halliburton, the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and other institutions connected to the war profiteering, propaganda, and human suffering. The final coffin drop-off was at the White House—the decision-making center of U.S. imperialism.

The demonstration received substantial media coverage. It was featured in a major story on page A3 on the Sunday Washington Post (click here to read it). An Associated Press article on the March on Washington was picked up by a large number of newspapers and media outlets in the United States and abroad.

Joint demonstrations in San Francisco and Los Angeles drew 5,000 protesters each.

In San Francisco, the demonstration included the participation of UNITE HERE Local 2 hotel workers, who are presently fighting for a contract; students, teachers and parents who have been organizing against education budget cutbacks; and community members and activists who have been engaged in a struggle to stop fare hikes and service cuts.

In Los Angeles, demonstrators marched through the streets of Hollywood carrying not only coffins but also large tombstones that read “R.I.P. Health care / Jobs / Public Education / Housing,” to draw attention to the economic war being waged against working-class people at home in order to fund the wars abroad. Essential social services are being slashed to pay for the largest defense budget in history.

The March 20 demonstrations mark a new phase for the anti-war movement. A new layer of activists joined these actions in large numbers, including numerous youth and students from multinational, working-class communities. A sharp connection was drawn between the wars abroad and the war against working people at home. Though smaller than the demonstrations of 2007, this mobilization was larger than the demonstration last year—the first major anti-war action under the Obama administration. The real-life experience of the past year has shown that what we need is not a change in the presidency, but a change in the system that thrives on war, militarism and profits.

These demonstrations were a success thanks to the committed work of thousands of organizers and volunteers around the country. They raised funds, spread the word through posters and flyers, organized buses and other transportation, and carried out all the work that was needed on the day of the demonstration. We took to the streets in force even as the government tried to silence us with tens of thousands of dollars in illegal fines for postering in Washington, D.C., and felony charges against activists for postering in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

We want to especially thank all those who made generous donations for this mobilization. Without those contributions, we could not have carried out this work.

March 20 was an important step forward for the anti-war movement. We must continue to build on this momentum in the months ahead. Your donation will help us recover much-needed funds that helped pay for this weekend's successful demonstration, as well as prepare for the actions to come. Please make a generous donation to support the anti-war movement.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

*Hand Off The Copenhagen Climate Conference Protesters- Free All Arrestees

Click on the title to link to an "AP" article, December 16, 2009,detailing the police actions against the anti-climate conference protesters.

Markin comment:


It is not clear to me exactly what the anti-climate protesters expected to come out of this conference knowing that the number one abuser, the United States, and the other imperialist powers are basically calling the shots. (And trying, for their own purposes having little to do with climate control, to make China the fall guy). But this I know-those anti-globalization protesters have a right to be on the streets or in the conference rooms. All I would add here, given the grim news about the too rapid heating up of our old planet, is we better get busy with the business of making a socialist revolution in order to really get this impending climate disaster from coming much more quickly than currently projected. In the meantime-Hand Off The Protesters- Release All Detainees!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

* From The BAAM Newsletter- December 2009 Issue

Click on title to link to Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement (BAAM) December 2009 "Newsletter".

Markin comment:


Although this space primarily reflects a Marxist world view and I am far from being sympathetic to anarchist doctrine and anarchism in general (except that, natural, warm spot every militant has for the historical IWW-before World War I) I find this on-line magazine usually has things of interest to the radical public. That is the case with this issue. Read on.

Monday, November 02, 2009

* From The "BAAM Newletter"- The Pittsburgh Anti-Globalizaton Demonstrations

Click on title to link to Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement (BAAM) November "Newsletter" for an article about the anti-globalization demonstrations at the Pittsburgh G-20 meetings. Also a review of Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story".

Friday, July 01, 2005