Category: struggle for equality of agricultural workers
Unite and fight: Jobs, democracy, sovereignty and peace

Unite and fight: Jobs, democracy, sovereignty and peace


This Labour Day 2017, is the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. Against all odds, the Russian workers defended their socialist revolution against invasion, fascism and wars, at an enormous cost of 22 million Soviet lives. Their goal was to create a new workers’ state in which the exploitation of one human being by another was abolished forever.

100 years later, the peoples of the world are once again facing war, racism, exploitation and fascism, while the USSR – a great counter-weight to US imperialism and global war – has been overthrown. The world has changed, but the struggle for peace, jobs, democracy, sovereignty and socialism remains the goal of millions of workers around the world.

Today working people in Canada and around the globe are faced not only with the ongoing corporate assault against jobs and living standards, but with a US president willing to launch a nuclear war which could devastate humanity. It’s time to unite and fight – for jobs, democracy, sovereignty and peace.

Say no to Trump! Get out of NAFTA!

As we march in Labour Day parades, our sovereignty and independence are being sold out in the NAFTA talks. Contrary to what the Liberal government and Chrystia Freeland claim, these negotiations aim to open up Canada like a sardine can to US based transnationals that want to feast on energy and natural resources, including oil and gas, water, lumber, and much more. They want to scrap Chapter 19, which settles trade disputes among the NAFTA partners, while expanding Chapter 11, which gives corporations the power to sue governments over future lost profits. They want to allow US corporations to bid on healthcare and education services and delivery, which are all public in Canada today. They want to swallow our manufacturing jobs and repatriate the Big Three auto parts and assembly operations to the US, using rules of origin to send auto and manufacturing jobs south, where wages are much lower. They want to finish off our agriculture supply management system, which keeps farmers afloat by guaranteeing quotas and incomes – by allowing agribusiness to flood the market with US milk (laced with BGH), eggs, and poultry products. Leaving everything to “the free market” is precisely why US dairy farmers have huge surpluses, while the price of milk has dropped 40% since 2014. Why would Canada sign on to that?

On top of all this, the US is demanding more access to the Canadian market through technology that allows on-line purchases of US goods and services virtually tax free, negatively affecting the Canadian economy and the pubic purse. Privacy rights protected under Canadian law are also on the chopping block in NAFTA renegotiations.

There are no benefits for Canada. Working people, youth, women, the unemployed, will all be hit by these negotiations, just like they were by NAFTA in 1992 and the FTA in 1988. It was a bad deal then – it’s a worse deal now. No side deals can change that reality.

Unfortunately, much of the leadership of the labour movement in Canada seems unwilling to grasp this danger, referring to the key issues as “irritants” in these talks, while the CLC participates in the government’s NAFTA Advisory Council. The CLC should pull out of the Advisory Council and instead demand that Trudeau PULL THE PLUG ON NAFTA now!  Out of NAFTA!

Instead of one-sided and detrimental “free” trade with the US, Canada needs mutually-beneficial, multi-lateral trade with the world that respects national sovereignty and independence.

Say yes to democracy! Defend workers’ rights and standards!

Since Trump’s election, the attack on civil, social, labour, and democratic rights has escalated dramatically, especially in the US.  The gathering of racist and fascist forces in Charlottesville, and Trump’s defence of  the terrorist actions which left one dead and dozens wounded, is a clarion call to action for all those who recognize the threat that these forces represent.

In Canada, xenophobic, racist and Islamophobic hate campaigns came into the open with the Harper Tories’ “Barbaric Cultural Practices Act and Snitch Line”. Similar legislation was introduced by the PQ government in Quebec under the claim of protecting  “Quebec values”. Now the Liberals have put this back on the table with Bill 62.  The attacks escalated from hate messages and confrontations on city streets, to the murder of six Muslim men in a St. Foy mosque last February. Hate crimes have increased significantly in Canada, as the Conservative leadership candidates signalled that hate campaigns against Muslims, immigrants, Blacks, Jews and Indigenous Peoples are acceptable. Tory MPs in the Commons even voted en masse against M103, a motion directing the government to look into hate crimes including Islamophobia in Canada. Now, the anti-Muslim Bill 62 is back on the legislative agenda in Quebec, and the “World Coalition Against Islam” is promoting white supremacist hatred.

Andrew Scheer, the new Conservative leader, has close ties with the far right, including (despite recent disavowals) Ezra Levant’s ultra-right Rebel Media. Tory MPs including Kelly Leitch and Chris Alexander have spoken at rallies organized by Rebel Media and other groups, to attack immigrants and racialized communities.

Canada is at a watershed moment. Hate crimes must be prosecuted in the courts, and hate speech is also a criminal act when it advocates hatred and/or violence against identifiable groups based on religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, or place of origin.

Mass protests and demonstrations are essential to send a strong message that the cancerous ideas spread by fascist, racist and white supremacist movements will not be tolerated. Working people have fought fascism in Canada before, from the battle of Christie Pits in Toronto during the 1930s right up to the present. This struggle is needed today as well, to drive these rats back into the sewers.

These movements have arisen again because of the crisis of capitalism and its inability to meet the needs of working people without curbing the power and the profits of the biggest corporations. Instead, reactionary governments have relied on policies of austerity, mass unemployment, war, and attacks on labour, civil and democratic rights to quash resistance and maintain the status quo.  This has created an opening for the rise of the ultra-right.  Racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism aim to split and divide the working people and weaken their resistance when united action is essential and decisive. US imperialism, now openly aided and abetted by Canada, also has a wider militarist agenda. The labour and people’s movements cannot sit on the sidelines as the US and its NATO allies, including Canada, relentlessly push to overthrow governments which resist their domination of the planet.

No to Trump’s war threats

The “fire and fury” threat by President Trump against the DPRK (North Korea) is his latest tactic to demonstrate the ferocious power and global domination agenda of US imperialism. But any US attack on the DPRK would lead to the death of millions of Koreans. There is no such thing as a tactical nuclear war – such a US strike could potentially ignite a global conflagration.

The South Korean government is pleading with the US to step back, stating that no-one has the authority to start a war on the Korean Peninsula without the agreement of the people who live there. Trump – and Trudeau – should listen. PM Trudeau and the labour and democratic movements must say NO! Instead of nuclear weapons, the Korean people and the peoples of the world need a political solution – and peace. This can be achieved, if US troops are withdrawn from the Peninsula, and joint manoeuvres by the US, Japan and South Korea to invade DPRK and overthrow its government are stopped now.

Closer to home, where Venezuela sits atop the largest oil deposits in the world, the Trump administration is threatening to overthrow the elected government of Nicolas Maduro, who has full constitutional rights to convene a Constituent Assembly. Cuba is also in Trump’s sights, just 90 miles from Miami. US military forces in and around Syria are also building up, even though the war against ISIS has largely been won by the Syrian government with Russian support.

On a global scale, military spending (largely by the US) already consumes over a trillion dollars a year. Now, the Liberal government has promised a 70% increase in military spending, to meet the US demand that Canada vastly increase its NATO funding. This means deep cuts to social programs, and more undelivered Liberal promises to Indigenous Peoples, the unemployed, youth, women, and workers.

Higher military spending also means more privatization of public services and assets like Canada Post, and higher user fees and prices. The conversion of civilian to military spending and the expansion of Canada’s role in US dirty wars means that job creation will be tied to military industries and services, as they are in the US. The labour and peace forces must say NO to militarization of Canada’s economy. This money must be invested in good jobs, higher wages and pensions, affordable housing, quality public healthcare and education. This includes environmental protection and sustainable development of natural and energy resources and industries, in the interests of working people from coast to coast to coast.

A People’s Coalition

The Communist Party calls for a People’s Coalition that can unite all the forces fighting against austerity, war and the rise of the ultra-right, and for a people’s recovery from capitalist crisis. Working people need a strong and independent voice to defend their interests in the turbulent times ahead.  This cannot be contracted out to the NDP ,who are committed to put a human face on capitalism, or to the Liberals, the “friendly” face of capitalism. A People’s Coalition would be just that: a coalition of people’s organizations, labour, the Communist Party and others united around a common program and united action to secure those gains. This would enable a united struggle across Canada, moving from the defensive to the offensive – an objective whose time has surely arrived.

On this Labour Day, we call for mass united action to stop the drive to war and reaction, and to move labour onto the offensive, shoulder to shoulder with its social and political allies.

  United we stand – divided we fall!

                An injury to one is an injury to all!

FE Local 236

Greece’s farmers converge in Athens to protest against government-EU policies

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Greece’s farmers converge in Athens to protest against government-EU policies
After 22 days in road blockades, small farmers are going to give a powerful response to the provocative intransigence of the government which has ignored their rightful demands
After a decision by the national committee coordinating the farmers’ protests, a large rally is scheduled to take place in Athens today as a way of pressure towards the government. Already, since the early hours of Tuesday, thousands of workers with their tractors and pick-up tracks, from all over Greece, began their route towards the Greek capital.
Vangelis Boutas, member of the national committee of the protesting farmers, has called the people of Athens to show solidarity with the rightful struggle of the small farmers and join the rally. Statements which call for participation in the rally have been issued by the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME), the Panhellenic Antimonopolist Rally of the self-employed workers (PASEVE), the Federation of Greek Women (OGE) and other workers’ unions and associations.
The General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Dimitris Koutsoumbas is expected to attend the farmers’ rally. 
Meanwhile, civil servants’ union ADEDY has called for a work stoppage between 12.30 p.m. and the end of the shift tomorrow so that public sector workers can join the farmers’ rally in Athens on the same day. 
The rally of the farmers has been scheduled to take place at Vathis Square, at 13:00 local time. 
Keep Hope Alive

Demoralized Democrats have a road map for success in Trump’s America. It was written by Jesse Jackson.

Leonard Freed
Jesse Jackson at an event honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., in 1983.

Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Jesse Jackson first ran for president during the national farm bust of the early 1980s. Debt for farmers had exploded from $85 billion in 1976 to $216 billion in 1983, with little relief in sight. As Jackson laid the groundwork for his 1984 campaign, the crisis had become so acute that he often found himself preaching his “populist Pentecostalism”—to borrow a phrase from biographer Marshall Frady—to large audiences of angry white farmers in the Midwest. It was an almost unbelievable circumstance for an unusual candidate who had to make unlikely alliances if he wanted national traction.

Jamelle Bouie Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie is Slates chief political correspondent.

At a rally in 1984, some of those farmers arrived wearing paper bags over their heads, to obscure their faces. It wasn’t until later that Jackson learned they were trying to hide their identities from farm bureau officials. “I looked out there, all these guys in hoods. Sort of a little moment there,” Jackson recalled a few years later in a conversation with farmer and supporter Roger Allison, as recounted by Frady. “But our people have always had more in common than other folks supposed—right, doc? We’ve both felt locked out. Exploited and discarded. People saying about the family farmer exactly what they say about unemployed urban blacks, ‘Something’s wrong with them. If they worked hard like me, wouldn’t be in all that trouble.’ Fact, more you get into this thing, more you realize that black comes in many shades. We’ve found out we kin.”

* * *

In the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise victory, demoralized Democrats have had a fierce intramural argument over how to move forward. Most call for a renewed focus on economic disadvantage. But some juxtapose this with a push against so-called “identity” politics. “In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing,” writes Mark Lilla of Columbia University for the New York Times. He urged a “post-identity liberalism” that would “appeal to Americans as Americans” with a press that would “educate itself about parts of the country that have been ignored.”

Lilla lauds Presidents Reagan and Clinton for their politics of shared identity and aspiration, which, if you’re attuned to the facts of those administrations, gives away the game. Reagan gutted federal civil rights enforcement, nominated judges hostile to the “rights revolution,” and elevated a conservative legal movement that, in the years since, has chipped away at the victories of the 1960s. Bill Clinton was an expert practitioner of identity politics, with a “shared vision” aimed at white Americans. As a candidate, he took steps to repudiate the black left. As president, he reinforced the trend toward mass incarceration and enshrined discrimination against LGBT Americans within federal law. To describe either Reagan or Clinton as exemplars of a “post-identity” politics is to submerge whiteness, maleness, and Christian belief as identities.

Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson speaks at a Baptist church in Columbia, Missouri, during his 1984 presidential campaign.

Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images

The fact of the matter is that Americans have never lived lives separated from the material facts of their identities. Jesse Jackson knew this. A liberalism that doesn’t, for example, engage with the specific problems of black workers or undocumented immigrants is one that can’t engage with “Americans as Americans,” if American is a stand-in for the citizens and residents who exist and not a euphemism for a certain kind of imagined American of decades past.

Even those who don’t make Lilla’s juxtaposition tend to silo questions and issues of identity from those of class and economic disadvantage. “Clearly there is no working with a president who believes in, or will bring forth, programs or policies based on bigotry, whether it is racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia, and there can be no compromise on that,” said Bernie Sanders in a recent interview with GQ magazine. “But if Trump is prepared to work with me and others on rebuilding our infrastructure and creating millions of jobs, on raising the minimum wage, on passing Glass-Steagall, on changing our trade policies—yes, I think it would be counterproductive on issues that working-class Americans supported and depend upon if we did not go forward.”

To be clear, what Sanders isn’t doing is dismissing concerns of identity and representation. He clearly sees that they are important. At the same time, he wants to make a distinction between compromising on racist or sexist or homophobic policy and compromising with a racist or sexist political movement. That distinction doesn’t exist in practice. Bipartisan legislative victories bolster Trump and his administration, giving legitimacy to a movement centered on white grievance and white anger. Working with Trump to raise the minimum wage, for example, invariably strengthens a politics that casts Hispanic immigrants as a threat to national prosperity or paints Muslim Americans as a threat to national safety. Building new infrastructure doesn’t change Trump’s commitment to draconian policing. For black workers, then, the gains that come with new jobs are undermined if not vaporized by a larger agenda that endangers and disadvantages. A working-class politics that leaves black and brown workers vulnerable to white nationalism isn’t a working-class politics. It’s a white politics for white workers and counterproductive to broad advancement.

Because Sanders puts those questions of identity in a silo, he misses this relationship and risks being co-opted by Trump. At minimum he is pushing an incomplete populism that doesn’t grasp how the experience of class is inextricably bound up with identity.

In our conversations around inequality and poverty, we often miss a crucial fact: Not all inequality is created equal. On average, inequality and poverty among black Americans (as well as native groups and undocumented Americans) is of a different scale and magnitude than inequality and poverty among white Americans.

When white workers attain higher wages and greater economic status, they can translate this to better neighborhoods and stronger schools. When black workers attain the same, they can’t, at least not to the same degree. Middle-class status, insofar that black workers can reach it, is less stable and more tenuous for them than for their white counterparts. “Even if a white and black child are raised by parents who have similar jobs, similar levels of education, and similar aspirations for their children,” writes sociologist Patrick Sharkey in his book Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality, “the rigid segregation of urban neighborhoods means that the black child will be raised in a residential environment with higher poverty, fewer resources, poorer schools, and more violence than that of the white child.” Opportunity itself is redlined.

Black and white workers face the same kinds of economic disadvantage: deindustrialization, an eroding safety net, weak wage growth, and poor investment in needed infrastructure. But black workers (and other nonwhite workers) face additional challenges that move their disadvantage from a difference of degree to a difference of kind: residential segregation, discrimination in jobs and housing, and discrimination by lenders and banks, which in turn contribute to unfair and draconian policing, poor and unequal schools, and heightened exposure to impurities in air and water. They need specific and universal solutions. They need a politics that addresses all material disadvantage, whether rooted in class or caste.

* * *

In his 1988 speech to the Democratic National Convention, the “Keep Hope Alive” speech, Jackson provided a model for a Democratic politics that balances all of these concerns—that takes identity and class seriously, that understands their relationship and interplay, that appeals to common identities and forges responsive solutions. “Politics can be a moral arena where people come together to find common ground,” Jackson said, before moving on to an extended and illustrative metaphor.

When I was a child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, and grandmamma could not afford a blanket, she didn’t complain, and we did not freeze. Instead she took pieces of old cloth—patches, wool, silk, gabardine, crockersack—only patches, barely good enough to wipe off your shoes with. But they didn’t stay that way very long. With sturdy hands and a strong cord, she sewed them together into a quilt, a thing of beauty and power and culture. Now, Democrats, we must build such a quilt.

Farmers, you seek fair prices, and you are right—but you cannot stand alone. Your patch is not big enough. Workers, you fight for fair wages, you are right—but your patch labor is not big enough.

Women, you seek comparable worth and pay equity, you are right—but your patch is not big enough. Women, mothers, who seek Head Start, and day care and prenatal care on the front side of life, relevant jail care and welfare on the back side of life, you are right—but your patch is not big enough.

Students, you seek scholarships, you are right—but your patch is not big enough. Blacks and Hispanics, when we fight for civil rights, we are right—but our patch is not big enough. Gays and lesbians, when you fight against discrimination and a cure for AIDS, you are right—but your patch is not big enough.

Each struggle, for Jackson, is part of a larger whole. He’s not making an individual appeal to black Americans or an individual appeal to white workers. He’s asking black Americans to see that their struggle is the struggle of white workers and vice versa. That higher wages and civil rights (and affordable education and programs for families) are inextricable. And to that end, Jackson proposed a broad agenda that linked material uplift for all Americans to a civil rights agenda, to the fight against South African apartheid, to the Equal Rights Amendment.
Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson marches in the snow in a Jobs Not Bombs rally in Washington, D.C.

Jacques M. Chenet/Corbis via Getty Images

That vision grows out of Jackson’s biography. A veteran of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference who worked on the Poor People’s Campaign in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. A political organizer who worked to register voters and pressure politicians in both parties. An activist whose fights cut across class and race. Jackson gave a clear picture of his view in 1983, when he announced his first campaign for president, rooting his vision in the experience of black America but expanding it to include all marginalized groups.

This candidacy is not for blacks only. This is a national campaign growing out of the black experience and seen through the eyes of a black perspective—which is the experience and perspective of the rejected. Because of this experience, I can empathize with the plight of Appalachia because I have known poverty. I know the pain of anti-Semitism because I have felt the humiliation of discrimination. I know firsthand the shame of bread lines and the horror of hopelessness and despair.

For Jackson, a politics that cured inner cities and dismantled overcrowded ghettos was also one that rescued abandoned factories and deserted farms. It was a politics that, because of its focus on one of America’s most maligned groups, radiated outward to everyone who has struggled for dignity and recognition. Under Sanders’ rubric, identity and representation are separate from the question of a broad-based politics. “Yes, we need more candidates of diversity, but we also need candidates — no matter what race or gender — to be fighters for the working class and stand up to the corporate powers who have so much power over our economic lives,” he writes in a recent post for Medium. In Jackson’s vision, by contrast, identity and representation are critical. They ground a broad appeal that is attentive to lived experience, that stresses common threads without losing sight of the challenges facing each group, that sees diversity as integral to making progress on all struggles. This is a broad and inclusive liberalism—common vision from common struggle.

This approach would have real value today, not just because of its rhetorical niceties but because it connects to a concrete policy agenda. Writing in the American Prospect in 2008, John Powell, now head of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley, argued for a new approach to targeting inequality and poverty. “Policies that are designed to be universal too often fail to acknowledge that different people are situated differently,” he wrote. “What is required is a strategy of ‘targeted universalism.’ This approach recognizes that the needs of marginalized groups must be addressed in a coordinated and effective manner.”
Jesse Jackson,  Iowa
Jesse Jackson rides a tractor while campaigning for his 1988 presidential bid in Iowa in 1987.

Yann Gamblin/Paris Match via Getty Images

It’s not enough to offer free college or a higher minimum wage. A higher minimum wage still leaves us with high structural unemployment in black communities. Free college still leaves us with vast inequality in public education. If inequality is shaped by place, gender, and race—which is to say, if it is shaped by identity—then any effective approach has to address those constraints in particular. But this doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice universalism. It means we have to tailor universal programs to those particular constraints.

This brings us back to the difference between black and white poverty. People of all races face a sluggish economy and long-term unemployment, but this is especially acute for black Americans, and young black men in particular. They are separated from the labor market, a fact that reinforces a host of social ills, from racial inequality to incarceration to the production of racial stigma (people begin to associate being black and male with being unemployed). And that separation is worsened by a matrix of segregation and discrimination. For economists William Darity and Darrick Hamilton, fixing the particular problems of young black workers is a way of ameliorating similar problems for the whole. And to that end, they have proposed a federal guarantee for jobs. “Each job offered under a federal employment assurance would be at a wage rate above the poverty threshold, and would include benefits like health insurance,” Darity writes for the New York Times. “The program would be great for the country: It could meet a wide range of the nation’s physical and human infrastructure needs, ranging from the building and maintenance of roads, bridges and highways, to school upkeep and the provision of quality child care services.”

Critically, a federal job guarantee is both universal—it benefits all Americans—and specifically ameliorative to entrenched racial inequality.

For something less expansive but still universal and attuned to particular disadvantage, there’s the “10–20–30” amendment proposed by Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Clyburn, who represents a majority-black district with rural and urban pockets of concentrated poverty, has a plan for addressing those conditions using existing resources. Under his amendment, at least 10 percent of federal investment would go to communities where at least 20 percent of people have lived at or below the poverty line for at least 30 years. Again, it’s a universal program, targeted at conditions specific to particular groups. The program, as Clyburn’s office notes, would include “Appalachian communities in Kentucky and North Carolina, Native American communities in South Dakota and Alaska, Latino communities in Arizona and New Mexico and African American communities in Mississippi and South Carolina.”

As it stands, the debate among Democrats is torn between a moderate approach that disdains all “identity politics” (except those for white Americans) and one that hasn’t absorbed the deep ties among race, gender, place, and class. Both may win over some Trump voters, but one would do so at the cost of accommodating Trump’s white nationalism and the other at the risk of being blinded by its patina of populism. At the same time, there are thinkers who want to deny the reality and force  of Trump’s white nationalism, full stop. This is despite the fact that Trump intuitively sees the interplay between economic interest and identity, pandering to white workers as whites and workers, who want racial hierarchy and economic revival, who see the weakening of the former as a threat to the latter, who exist in a society where economic advantage often follows the isolation and segregation of nonwhites.

But the history of the Democratic Party contains a model for moving forward, with an approach, honed by Jesse Jackson, that bridges the divide. And thinkers in the political and policy world have crafted solutions that reflect this approach. It respects the reality of the modern Democratic Party: a formation that represents—and depends on—the votes of women, young people, and people of color.

Mainstream Democrats have set their sights on white voters. But the path forward—the way to win them and energize those voters of color who didn’t come to the polls in 2016—might lie in the insights of black voters and black communities and a larger appreciation of how and why identity matters, in a politics of we kin, blackness in many shades. Against a political movement that defines America in exclusionary and racial terms—as a white country for white people—a renewed Rainbow Coalition is the only defense worth making.