Americas

Friday, 11 December 2015 00:00 Michal Rozworski Editorial Dept - Americas
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Harper is gone, but (as a friend only quarter-jokingly said) we got the second worst outcome sold as the best, so now what? That's the 10 second version of this post. I want to throw out a few questions or, better yet, problems that I think the Canadian Left will have to face together over the next few years. There are no easy answers here.

In 2015, the Liberals once again showed that they are masters at campaigning to the left. But as we now wait for them to show how equally apt they are at governing to the right, it's clear that it won't simply do to say ‘told you so!’ in four years time. It is not by accident that the Liberals are Canada's ‘natural governing party,’ for if anything, they know how to govern. They are experts at balancing competing interests or, more accurately, giving the semblance of balancing interests all the while closely aligned with the interests of the elite, and the upper middle class.

Still, we have to recognize that things will be different and that this affects where people are and how they relate to politics. On the one hand, the Liberals do open up some space on the left by making symbolic gestures here and there; at the same time, they close off this space by drawing the limits of respectable progressive politics. They don't fill the void left by a weak left as do the Conservatives with their exclusionary, pocketbook politics aimed at the working class. In fact, they speak to a broader cross-class progressive segment of the population in a way that can be disorienting.


 
Monday, 30 November 2015 00:00 Art Young Editorial Dept - Americas
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I join with many others who stand for a world of peace and justice in completely repudiating the terrorist attacks in Paris and the similar atrocity in Beirut. We express our full solidarity with the hundreds of innocent victims, dead and injured, many of whom remain in critical condition at this time.

That said, the terror attacks must be seen in a wider context.

We live in a world of massive inequality and environmental degradation, one dominated by the global 1% and the states that act in their interests.

To maintain their power, in recent decades the U.S. and its allies have engaged in a seemingly endless series of imperialist interventions across the globe, unequal wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed societies, created profound animosities between communities, and forced millions of people to flee their homes to seek safety in bleak refugee camps or risk death on land and sea. Our condemnation of the crimes committed in Paris and Beirut must not blind us to the crimes of imperialism, many orders of magnitude larger, and which create the conditions that have led some to turn to terrorism.

 
Saturday, 28 November 2015 00:00 Gregory Shupak Editorial Dept - Americas
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The election of Canada's Liberal Party is likely to mean a shift away from the hyper-belligerent tone Stephen Harper's Conservative Party used on issues pertaining to Middle East policy, but few concrete changes can be expected to take place. All signs point to the incoming government continuing to play a key supporting role in U.S.-led imperialism in the Middle East.

That the Liberals intend to approach international affairs in an aggressive manner is made clear in their platform, which accuses the Conservatives of “weakening Canada's military,” criticises Harper's government for providing the Canadian armed forces with supposedly inadequate funding, and promises to maintain the military's budget at current levels. The platform vows to “build a more modern, efficient, and effective military... to strengthen frontline operations,” and to “strengthen Canada's Armed Forces” so that it can “offer international deterrence and combat capability.” These statements indicate an intention not to spend money on the military for its own sake, but to do so in order to use force.

This can be expected, furthermore, on the basis of the Liberals’ track record. When the party was in power between 1993 and 2005, it participated in U.S.-led attacks on both Afghanistan and (contrary to popular mythology) Iraq as well as countries in other regions of the world such as Haiti.


Voting in Favour of Bloodspill

Moreover, every member of the Liberal Party present in the House of Commons voted in the affirmative when the motion was put forth on whether Canada should participate in NATO's 2011 intervention in Libya. Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau voted in favour of extending Canadian military action in Libya where the NATO mission was subsequently accused of committing war crimes. These policies demonstrate the Liberals’ long-term commitment to acting as auxiliary to the U.S. ruling class in spilling blood in the Middle East.

 
Saturday, 28 November 2015 00:00 Tim Heffernan Editorial Dept - Americas
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The headline in mic.com ran: “Meet the Most Important Socialist in America Not Named Bernie Sanders.” It was about the impact of open Socialist, Kshama Sawant, who had just been reelected in a Seattle Council election. The article went on to say, “Sanders isn't the only socialist in the United States making a splash.

Kshama Sawant, a member of Seattle's city council since her election in 2013, has a tiny fraction of the name recognition of Sanders. But she's quietly been making an impact that is arguably just as important, having led the charge for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle, which in turn sparked a national movement and has become a major litmus test for Democratic politicians.”

Sawant's 2013 victory sent shock waves through the Seattle establishment by unseating a seemingly entrenched Democratic incumbent to squeeze out a narrow victory. Over the next two years, the big question became framed as: was this a one-off fluke or would she be able to make a difference as a lone socialist, take on the local establishment and still get reelected?

The answer came as a resounding yes when the ballots were counted and Sawant came in with 56 per cent to her opponent's 44 per cent. So what had happened in the previous four years to allow this to happen and what lessons, if any, can be drawn for the Canadian left (whether that left is inside the NDP or outside)?

 

 
Thursday, 26 November 2015 00:00 Richard Fidler Editorial Dept - Americas
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Canada's federal election October 19 was effectively a plebiscite of voter opinion on the decade-long rule by the ultra-neoliberal Conservatives (Tories) led by Stephen Harper. With some 70 per cent of the electorate declaring for “change” in successive polling, the overriding issue was which of the main opposition parties, the New Democratic Party (NDP) or the Liberals, would emerge as the party best situated to replace the Tories.

The Official Opposition NDP entered the campaign in August with high hopes, leading the polls, buoyed by its recent victory in the Tory heartland of Alberta and enjoying new support for its principled opposition to the Tories’ repressive “anti-terror” bill C-51. But on October 19 it was the Liberals, with only 34 seats in the previous Parliament and led by a new leader Justin Trudeau, who were elected the new government, with a clear majority of the 338 seats. The NDP, winning only 44 seats, was reduced to third-party status. Its major losses were in Quebec, the province that had elected 59 NDP MPs in the previous federal election. The defeated Tories will form the Official Opposition, while the death agony of the Bloc Québécois (BQ) gets a further extension.

A typical reaction of many worker activists was that of Suzanne MacNeil, executive vice-president of the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council and member of Solidarity Halifax, who acted as campaign manager for an NDP candidate:

 
Thursday, 24 September 2015 15:45 Herman Rosenfeld Editorial Dept - Americas
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At this moment, it seems that Harper's Conservatives are losing ground, headed for possible defeat or minority status, if recent polls are to be believed. If these trends continue, it might represent a long-awaited respite from years of unrelenting and hard-edge neoliberal offensive in all walks of Canadian life.

It provides a potential opening to begin to undo the foundations of the dramatic right-wing shift that so many on the left and centre of Canadian politics, predicted would never happen here.

For socialists and the larger working class, as well, Harper's likely defeat would present opportunities: to organize collective resistance in and around the labour movement; to raise and deepen demands for renewed social programs, minimum wage increases, infrastructure and new challenges to the current social and economic regime.

But a number of obstacles will remain – from the inability and unwillingness of the electoral opposition to present real alternatives (both the NDP and Liberals); the relative weakness (and lack of radicalism) of labour and other working-class based social movements; the embedded strength of material and ideological gains of neoliberalism, and the lack of any organized class-based socialist political movement or party with any resonance.

Living Under Harper

The damage done by Harper and his colleagues is all around us, and his defeat would be welcome.

 

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