Defeat the big business, anti-democratic majority on City Council
| October 21, 2014 | 10:10 pm | Action | No comments

On the Winnipeg election, October 22, 2014


By Darrell Rankin
Leader, Communist Party of Canada – Manitoba

The best outcome in tomorrow’s civic election would see the defeat of the right-wing majority that has dominated civic politics for many decades. It would mean City Council and school boards would be better prepared to avoid looming problems that threaten the condition of working people.

Years of cronyism and shady deals are overshadowed by what lies ahead. It is essential to look at the election from the standpoint of improving and protecting the interests of the large majority of people.

We need civic representatives who will speak out for the rights of working people and not just on ‘local’ issues. From climate change and free trade to rail safety and protecting our right to vote federally, our representatives can fail us no longer.

An example of such a failure is when Sam Katz and the outgoing council voted in April 10-6 to not oppose the Harper Tories’ new federal election law whereby half a million people will lose their right to vote (about 10,000 voters in Winnipeg).*

People are aware of the need for real change. The growth in popularity of candidates on the left of the NDP such as Robert-Falcon Ouellette and David Sanders (to nearly 20 per cent) shows that people realize the existing taxation model and other blights of civic politics can last no longer.

By “left,” I mean ‘more interested in advancing the interests of working people’ and ‘actually willing to challenge the monopoly of power enjoyed by big developer and business interests in City affairs.’ Just one developer, Genstar, has a commanding 27% share of Winnipeg’s housing market.

The growth in the left vote is partly the result of the exceptionally reactionary, pro-corporate stance of the old City Council – stonewalling First Nations’ calls for justice concerning our water supply, not even saying so much as thank you to the Aboriginal people whose homes were sacrificed to save Winnipeg from flooding in 2011, and signing a contract with Veolia to co-manage our water utility, a company known for war crimes in Israel.

Mayoral candidate Garth Steeves’ wife’s racist facebook post about Aboriginal people had the good effect of galvanizing Aboriginal activists to campaign for a big voter turnout. The intolerable poverty and insecurity of the poorest sections of the working class have generated a change in mood for real change.

Not surprisingly, Winnipeg Free Press editors are concerned about the need to “quell civic unrest” (Oct. 7) and electing a mayor and council that will steer Winnipeg to “social harmony” (Oct. 20) – anything to stop protest movements.

If Brian Bowman is elected mayor, his Tory-inspired plan to “target” the pensions of 9,000 civic workers is sure to spark protests and maybe a strike, not stop them.

We need a City Council that shines a spotlight on who owns the land, curbs speculation and reduces housing costs. And since unions and First Nations are being forced to be “transparent” about their finances, then private companies like Genstar need to be forced to disclose their profits.

We need a City Council and school boards who will criticize the real source of budget underfunding and the expected two-year $100 million civic deficit:  The pro-corporate Harper government that has downloaded costs to the Manitoba government, and in turn to the City.

There’s a price to pay for all this downloading, which protects the profits of Canada’s monopoly class. Harper expects workers in Winnipeg to pay higher property taxes for his hype that Canada is crisis-free and healthy since the 2008 economic crash. Without noise and resistance from a Council willing to expose this fiction, working people can expect hard times.

The top two candidates – Bowman and Wasylycia-Leis – are ignoring the need to address the realistic question, “How do they intend to fund the growing civic deficit, especially with the projects they intend to carry out such as rapid transit?”

With the Manitoba government looking at a $550 million deficit shortly before an election and no desire to tax the corporations and the wealthy, NDP Premier Greg Selinger is not likely to rescue Winnipeg in its hour of need.

Working people need relief from unfair taxes. They want taxes imposed on those able to pay, such as the corporations whose profits are the source of impoverishment and the growth of extreme social inequality.

It is important to hear the 69% of workers in Manitoba who say they live from cheque to cheque. A large tax increase means they could lose their homes. And such a tax increase could easily tilt our economy into a serious recession.

More than ever, it is essential to reduce property taxes.

Rather than look at fair ways to grow revenue, the once-leading contender Judy Wasylycia-Leis is proposing four years of property tax increases. This is inadequate. More importantly, it is regressive.

Steeves’ plan of no property tax increase is reactionary and destructive since he has no plan to replace the shortfall with fair taxes. (A fair tax system could actually reduce property taxes.)

Wasylycia-Leis adds that she is “probably the most fiscally conservative of all the candidates.” She reportedly “rejects the notion she’s the most union-friendly candidate this year,” saying “I have a record of working on a pragmatic basis… as opposed to pushing an ideological agenda” (WFP, Sept 26).

Yet her ideology is one of continuity, impoverishment and another economic crash through regressive taxes. Unless there’s a huge strike movement, wages will take a big hit from property tax hikes.

Brian Bowman has the most reactionary proposals concerning pensions and to replace the property tax with a sales tax. Bowman’s policies would merely push workers into poverty faster than Wasylycia-Leis’ plan. Objectively, both are pro-poverty.

Sales and property taxes are regressive, not based on ability to pay, but at least property taxes impose a burden on wealth. If property taxes could be a tax credited against income tax, it would boost workers’ income and penalize land speculators.

The problem is not so much a lack of vision, but a lack of reality among the three major contenders, with Bowman and Steeves expressing reactionary, pro-Tory ideas. All three endorse a regressive tax model without examination of what is fair and progressive.

The City’s budget deficit is $100 million over two years, and it may continue to escalate. Considering that a 1 per cent increase in property tax raises only $5 million, it would take an enormous increase in provincial subsidy and fee revenue to avoid a very costly increase in property taxes. With added needs for infrastructure and school boards, property taxes will likely grow far faster than 3.5 per cent a year.

Winnipeg and other communities need the ability to raise enough revenue based on a progressive and fair tax system.

What is the best outcome in tomorrow’s civic election from the standpoint of improving the condition of working people?

The best we can expect is a defeat of two or three right-wing candidates. This small shift would make City Council less reactionary and tilt politics slightly towards working people, but it means conditions will not improve without more organizing for real change.

That is because the next council will likely support continuous property tax increases above the rate of inflation, eating into take-home pay. Continued action by working people Aboriginal and not is needed on civic issues between elections, especially to reform the tax system and curb developer and big business interests. Working people need to become active at all levels and on all issues to improve their lot.

I urge that workers vote for their class, not the “lesser evil” – so-called strategic voting. Robert-Falcon Ouellette and David Sanders have thought in a realistic way about the challenges facing Winnipeg, recognize the regressive nature of property taxes and have a reform agenda.

They would probably reject the label “socialist” or even “left” but what counts, objectively, is their policies’ impact on the condition of the working class in Winnipeg.

They cannot be accused of splitting the progressive vote because Wasylysia-Leis’ support is at roughly the same level as 2010. They and new movements have galvanized new people to vote.

To me, they are the most unifying and visionary candidates for working people. Their continued connection to civic reform movements is needed over the next four years. As for the NDP, it is impossible to unite workers by expecting them to support regressive taxes.

Sanders says he is the most “union-friendly” candidate, but both he and Ouellette have policies that stand for working people regarding taxes, labour and social policy. A large vote for either will show that working people in Winnipeg need more from their next representatives, or else City Hall will hear be hearing from them soon.

* * * * * *

*For the record, Katz, Browaty, Fielding, Mayes, Nordman, Pagtakhan, Steen, Swandel, Wyatt and Sharma voted to support Harper’s mutilation of our right to vote.

Texas Republicans fight for the right to hate
| October 21, 2014 | 9:24 pm | Action, Analysis, Immigrants' Rights, Local/State | No comments

By James Thompson

 

Led by lame-duck Texas Governor and buffoon-in-chief Rick Perry, the Republican clowns are running amok in their effort to win the hearts and minds (and campaign contributions) of the 1% while alienating the rest of us. The Republican candidate for Texas Governor is Greg Abbott. It is hard to imagine a sector of the population besides the wealthiest of the wealthy that he has not attacked viciously. Most of his campaign contributors are listed among Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires.

 

Abbott and the rest of the Texas Republican gang have railed against immigrants. Nut case rocker Ted Nugent indicated in one interview that he favored shooting people as they crossed the US border. Ted Nugent is a major fundraiser for Greg Abbott. Abbott has not yet repudiated his ugly, vile hateful rhetoric. Nut case candidate for Lt. Gov., Dan Patrick, has made his major campaign theme “securing the Texas border.” The ugliest of the ugly Republicans have even alleged that immigrants “could” bring the Ebola virus to Texas. The word “could” is fairly loose and, of course, a similar case could be made that billionaires “could” bring the Ebola virus to Texas. Interestingly, Texas Republicans don’t go there. Instead, they fight to make Texas safe for hysteria.

 

Ted Nugent also has a long history of hatred towards women. Abbott has fought hard to roll back the clock on women’s reproductive rights.

 

Ted Nugent once referred to our current president as a “subhuman mongrel” and was called out because this is a phrase that was frequently used by the Nazis to characterize sectors of the population they persecuted. Most people understand that this is not a coincidence that Nugent used this phrase.

 

According to the Wendy Davis (Democratic party candidate for Governor of Texas) campaign, Mr. Abbott has distinguished himself in the field of hypocrisy by seeking all possible benefits of his disabled status while fighting hard to deny any benefits for other people who are disabled.

 

Mr. Abbott has fought hard for a Texas Voter ID law which will make it more difficult for working people, African-Americans, Latinos, and the aged to cast a ballot.

 

Texas Republicans have opposed healthcare for the poor and current Gov. Rick Perry has waived off federal Medicaid money.

 

Gov. Perry has distinguished himself in the past by making veiled references to Texas seceding from the union. Most people understand that these references relate to dreams of restoring the Confederacy and the right to own slaves.

 

So, if Texans want their state government to be run by racist, sexist, bigoted nuts who will fight for liberty and justice for the 1%, they will vote Republican. If not, they will vote for candidates from other parties.

Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
| October 19, 2014 | 2:33 pm | Analysis, International, National | No comments

Sen. Sanders Joins nurses protesting unpreparedness against infectious diseases
| October 18, 2014 | 10:39 pm | Action, National | No comments
by A. Shaw
Nurses demanding Ebola safety and training were joined by US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at a rally in Oakland, California, on Thursday, Oct. 16. He supported their call for every hospital in the country to be prepared in the case of an outbreak. “You deserve protection,” Sanders said, “not only for yourself, of course, but so that you can do your job.”
Sanders chairs the US Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging and is considered by both bourgeois liberals and bourgeois reactionaries to be expert on health issues.
Sanders fought budget cuts demanded by Pres. Obama and Tea Party reactionaries that reduced the Center for Disease Control’s budget by $1.3 billion. Sanders strongly opposed cuts to CDC’s funding related to the fight against infectious diseases like Ebola, MRSA, etc.
Sanders argued that the US people are entitled to health.
In defense of the budget cuts, Obama and the Tea Bags argued that health is not an “entitlement,” but only a policy, even in the midst of the spread of infectious diseases.
A Texas Militiaman Reconsiders the Mission
| October 17, 2014 | 9:26 pm | Local/State | No comments

Charles Gilbert joined the Texas Border Volunteers to “kick some ass,” but the group’s tactics forced him to do some soul-searching.

Read more: http://www.texasobserver.org/texas-border-volunteers-reconsider-the-mission/

Ebola vaccines and Bernie Sanders
| October 17, 2014 | 9:12 pm | International, National | No comments

by A. Shaw

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two vaccines — which many observers think are improbably chosen as a system of immunization against the Ebola virus — will be ready by the end of March 2015.
The first of the two vaccines, cAd3-ZEBOV, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline in collaboration with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The second, rVSV-ZEBOV, was developed by the Canadian Agency for Public Health.
WHO doesn’t say whether cAd3-ZEBOV and rVSV-ZEBOV have proven in experimental research to be the least or most successful vaccines in treating Ebola.
In the USA, a number of US citizens who are health care workers have been given a vaccine for Ebola and the condition of these infected US workers improved. Thomas Eric Duncan, an Ebola-infected Liberian citizen who travelled to Dallas, TX, was given a different “vaccine” and he died.
 Why was there such a dramatic difference in the results? Why did the US citizens improve and Duncan die?
US drug companies own patents on drugs that are most successful in fighting Ebola.
Neither cAd3-ZEBOV nor  rVSV-ZEBOV is subject to patents own by US drug companies. So,  cAd3-ZEBOV and  rVSV-ZEBOV can be administered to Ebola patients in West Africa without permission from US drug companies.
[By the way, a patent is an exclusive right to produce or sell an invention or new product -- like an Ebola drug -- for a certain time.]
But will  cAd3-ZEBOV and  rVSV-ZEBOV do any good in West Africa? Are they the least successful of a dozen possible vaccines?
WHO will not oppose US drug companies withholding the best drugs.
As one possibility for a score, the political implications and opportunities of what has been said above should be clear to Sanders.
What may not be clear is Sanders blew a big opportunity to score when Sanders was silent while Obama was dilatory in March-April 2014, about the US response to Ebola, Obama allowed Ebola to get out of control. Sanders announced his preparedness to run for the White House in the March 6, 2014 edition of The Nation magazine. So, Sanders could have scored if he were disposed.
This is now water under the bridge.
Now, the important thing is not to blow any additional opportunities to score on Ebola or on numerous other issues.
A Socialist Campaign for Chicago’s 99%
| October 16, 2014 | 8:39 pm | National | No comments

Posted by

Posted on March 01, 2014

We live in a working class city. Our labor, skills, ingenuity and pride built this city. We keep Chicago running, yet we have no voice in how it is run. The mayor and city council redistribute the wealth we create to the rich and corporations instead of making our city better for working people. Every year they take hundreds of millions that were collected to pay for our streets, schools, public transit and infrastructure and spend it on prestige projects that benefit the super-rich.

We face a real crisis, but it is a crisis of priorities, not resources. The rich get tax cuts while we face cuts in city services. In a time of record profits for the financial and corporate elite, working people face outsourced and privatized jobs, low pay or no pay, increased workloads, reduced benefits and stolen pensions. This crisis is worse for Black, Latino and young people.

These issues require urgent action. Neither Republicans nor Democrats offer solutions because both parties represent the 1% – from the billionaires who are pushing charter schools to real estate charlatans to poverty-wage employers. Until we create our own political voice, working people will continue to be locked out of the corridors of power.

We are declaring our independence by creating a real alternative to the Democrats and Republicans: a Socialist one. Our movement strives to represent the interests of all working class people, whether employed or unemployed; women, people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, both documented and undocumented, and people who are differently abled. Real change is never handed down by politicians. Real change is won by people standing together and building movements.

As Socialists, we will fight to put our city’s enormous wealth at the service of human need instead of corporate greed. We will fight for a $15/hour minimum wage because too many of us cannot make ends meet. We will fight to reclaim our neighborhoods by stopping foreclosures and evictions, and by turning vacant homes and apartments in our city into quality, affordable housing. Many of us are union activists; we will fight to defend our unions, and call on our union sisters and brothers to help build this campaign.

We will fight against police brutality and the treatment of our young people as criminals.We will fight against mass incarceration and racism, segregation and discrimination in all of its forms. We will fight to enforce the ban against the Chicago Police Department cooperating with ICE and to stop the deportations that are destroying our families and communities. We will fight for access to the vote for all Chicago residents.

Our campaign draws its strength from existing struggles for better pay, better schools, and better housing. Our campaign promise is to join these struggles, help build them, and amplify their voices. We work within our communities to shape the answers to the crises we face. We draw on our experiences as grassroots leaders, community organizers, union members and activists. We invite our brothers and sisters in these struggles to help shape this campaign.

The Chicago Socialist Campaign is about changing the system. We are building a people-centered and people-led movement in order to make real, lasting change in all of our lives. We are fighting for a society that puts people before profit. The needs and aspirations of working people, the poor, the homeless, the incarcerated, the undocumented, victims of discrimination, and all exploited people must set our course. Our campaign is inspired by this vision and is one step towards that goal. That’s what makes it a Socialist campaign.