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by Editors — last modified Feb 03, 2014 12:45 PM
Contributors: Faiz Ahmed, JBB, Graham H. Cox, R. Dubois, JA Cox


Avoiding the Capitalist Apocalypse

by JBB last modified Apr 14, 2014 08:01 AM

by Paul Street | Znet | Click HERE to read article

In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty says capitalism has avoided a Marxist apocalypse. He misunderstands Marxism, and ignores the ever-increasing degradation and destruction of life on Earth, and the looming threat of climate disaster. 

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Don't airbrush Jim Flaherty's record because of sympathy for his family

by JBB last modified Apr 14, 2014 07:56 AM

David J. Climenhaga | It is not speaking ill of the dead to say the charming Jim Flaherty held the same beliefs as the charmless Stephen Harper. It is the unvarnished and necessary truth. Click HERE to read article.

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The tragedy of the private, the potential of the public | Hilary Wainwright

by Graham H. Cox last modified Apr 11, 2014 01:43 PM
"Over the past 30 years, since Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan gained office, it is clear that the problems the welfare state was designed to alleviate - hunger, disease, unemployment, poor living conditions - have thrived once again, as these dogmatically pro-market politicians drove the destruction of the model. In the case of too much of the Global South, their ideology contributed to blocking attempts to build public services where they are most needed."

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Rwanda, Twenty Years Later

by JBB last modified Apr 11, 2014 08:44 AM

by Samir Amin | MR Zine | Click HERE to read article

The case of Rwanda is indeed tragic.  There are no signs of the region moving away from continuous wars and chaos allowing permanent imperialist interference and plunder of its resources.  The only acceptable solution would be diluting the violent inheritance of Rwanda through the building of a kind of loose "confederation" of the Great Lakes region, incorporating Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Congo (there are Hutu/Tutsi minorities in all these countries), pursuing a common sovereign project as distant as possible from the Western powers.  An immense task for the popular and democratic forces in the region.

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Au revoir, Pauline: Goodbye to Quebec's time of division

by JBB last modified Apr 11, 2014 08:35 AM

by Monia Mazigh | | Click HERE to read article

Pauline Marois's strategists thought that by raising the spectre of a "Muslim invasion" they would succeed as the Front National in France did. But Quebec isn't France and North America isn't Europe.

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Are CEOs panicking over a new style of tax rage brewing?

by JBB last modified Apr 11, 2014 08:30 AM

by Linda McQuaig | For years now, public commentary about taxes has been dominated by a rabid anti-tax movement, but recent rumblings from the progressive side of the tax debate have threatened to shake things up. Click HERE to read article.

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Free transit: Three reasons it is an idea whose time has come

by JBB last modified Apr 11, 2014 08:27 AM

by Michael Laxer | | Click HERE to read article

Free transit is an idea whose time has come and there are three truly significant reasons it needs to be front and centre as an ultimate objective in any left municipal agenda in Canada.

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Report: Syria rebel infighting kills 51 fighters | The Washington Post

by Faiz Ahmed last modified Apr 11, 2014 12:07 AM
"Thousands of fighters have been killed in rebel-against-rebel violence that intensified beginning of the year, particularly in northern and eastern Syria."

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Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic to close, Reproductive justice group forms | NB Media Coop

by Graham H. Cox last modified Apr 10, 2014 03:27 PM
"The Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic plans to close at the end of July after operating for 20 years. Simone Leibovitch, the clinic’s manager, made the announcement today, April 10th, at a media conference at the clinic. She listed financial losses as the reason for the closure and pleaded for publicly funded services. Leibovitch spoke of the marginalized women in the province who are going to suffer the most with the closure of the clinic."

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Big Tobacco Abroad The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the downside to free trade | Boston Review

by Graham H. Cox last modified Apr 10, 2014 02:43 PM
Developing countries are faulted for their ineffective governance, but free trade strips them of the power to regulate and protect public health.

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The three key moments in Canada's neoliberal transformation

by JBB last modified Apr 09, 2014 07:31 PM

by Jim Stanford | | Click HERE to read article

The last three decades have witnessed a far-reaching transformation of the Canadian economy, politics and culture. Canada is not unique in experiencing this neoliberal transformation, of course, but it has been as dramatic, thorough and socially destructive here as almost anywhere else in the industrialized world.

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Labour union activists confront climate change at LaborNotes #ln2014

by Graham H. Cox last modified Apr 08, 2014 04:45 PM
For the first time, unions and how they need to mobilise against climate change made it on the list of discussion points at Labor Notes. There is a lot of history to why it took so long to make climate change and green alternatives a priority (spoiler: it has a lot to do with some powerful trades unions being opposed). However, the progressive (and historically correct) position on this is winning across the labour movement and it is now considered an essential struggle by the majority of workers.

Energy Democracy

The session was standing-room only and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy lead things off with a presentation from Sean Sweeney.

Sweeney stated that there has been a shift in our unions' understanding on the importance of climate change, but we have a long way to go. Unions have to be more effective and more involved in a positive way as the business as usual option is not an option.

Unions as democratic organizations of workers are not always the tip of the spear when it comes to identifying and starting mass movements for progressive change. However, when activists organize and heroic unions take the historically correct stand, it does not take long for the entire union movement to take-up the fight and drive them forward like the political freight train the movement can be.

Sweeney said there are plenty of examples of this through the history of struggles in the US.

Only a few brave and principled unions marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. at first, but no one can deny the role unions have played since in fighting for racial equality.

Only a few brave and principled unions came out against the Vietnam war. However, the labour movement became instrumental in ending that war and promoting peace.

There are still only a few unions taking the brave and principled stand to fight climate change and develop an new democratic energy program. These principled unions will be remembered as those on the correct side of history and will lead this fight as a fight for workers.

Dave Coles, Unifor

One such union driving climate change as an issue for workers is the one that used to be lead by Dave Coles (now of Unifor, but previously as president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union).

Dave Coles first talked about the creation of the new Unifor union. The union was created to promote new principles and a guiding vision of putting progressive action at the heart of the labour movement in Canada.

Unifor represents workers that work in the operation of tar sands, telecom workers, mining sector, autoworkers, airline and rail, health care workers. The union was started in a particular historical moment in Canada where a right-wing government trying to undo progressive history in Canada.

Coles outlined how for almost 20 years the unions in Canada have opposed export pipelines.

Tar sands are neither tar nor really sands. They are bitumen and bitumen needs to be upgraded into usable oil. Unifor represents the majority of the workers in the export and up-grading sector. Coles' argument for Unifor to oppose the XL Pipeline has multiple parts beyond the obvious environmental issues that speak to even those prioritising jobs over the environment.

  • XL Pipeline will only have 13 permanent jobs when finished.
  • Exporting unrefined bitumen cost jobs every day amounting to killing 18,000 jobs in the industry.
  • Tar sands are the biggest industrial project in the history of the world.
  • Building Keystone XL will result in some very short-term pipeline jobs. However, for Canadians it is our sovereign right to decide where the jobs for our natural resource jobs should go.
  • First Nations communities are opposed.
  • When it comes to Keystone XL he asked why would we side with the boss so that they can export our jobs out of the country?

For Dave Coles, climate change is not (just) an environmental issue, it is a labour issue. He knows that workers will bear the brunt of the effects of climate change, not the bosses. Global warming must be understood in a broader social, political and economic context and it likely cannot be fixed in the unregulated, market-driven economy of Capitalism.

There needs to be a conversation on these issues within labour if we are going to find a solution. As workers we should never be scared of having an open debate about carbon producing industries and what our plan should be for them. For Unifor, it is necessary to have nationalisation of energy production on the table to control this industry effectively.

Elizabeth Lalasz

Next on the panel was National Nurses United activist Elizabeth Lalasz who outlined their concern with the known health affects caused by climate change.

National Nurses United and Global Nurses United have traveled the world helping those feeling the effects of climate change. It is clear to them that the impacts on people are large. Specifically Lalasz discussed their recent support to those affected by typhoons in the Philippines.

Nurses responded to the tragedy and built understanding of how far reaching the effects of climate change are.

National Nurses United work through Global Nurses United and the RN Response Network to support those affected by large natural disasters.

National Nurses United has come out against the Keystone XL and produced a document outlining 10 reasons to oppose the KXL pipeline.

Bruce Hamilton, ATU 1700

Bruce Hamilton from the Amalgamated Transit Union 1700 presented on why his union believes that labour must get into the fight around climate change and the shift away from carbon intensive transportation.

For Hamilton, it is because labour is separate from Capital which allows us to be more open in our activism on this issue than most other organizations. While it is obvious that working people have a stake in the effects of climate change, he also reminded the audience that workers have a lot to gain from the fight.

Transport is the second leading cause of putting greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and getting people out of their cars and into public transportation is a great way to fight climate change. Public transportation jobs are climate jobs.

Increasing public transportation also has other great economic benefits. There are high quality jobs in industries in creating the public transportation infrastructure.

May is international transit month and the ATU are taking action to promote bills in US congress to re-authorise transit investments. Hamilton outlined that mobilizations to stop the privatization of transit is especially important if we are going to have the resources and political power to invest enough to tackle climate challenges.

Finally, it is clear that the ATU is pushing to be out front in the push progressive solutions to climate change and for a democratic economy that is run for all.

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How to cover a campus labour dispute

by JBB last modified Apr 08, 2014 09:05 AM

by Cherise Letson | | Click HERE to read article

How do student journalists cover labour disputes happening on their campus? What is the relationship between student and university? These questions were discussed at the March #CUPchat.

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A significant 'no': PQ government defeated

by JBB last modified Apr 08, 2014 09:01 AM

by Duncan Cameron | | Click HERE to read article

The defeat of the minority PQ government led by Pauline Marois means Quebec will have a majority Liberal government led by Philippe Couillard. It does not mean the sovereignist movement is dead or that Quebec nationalism is a diminished force in Canadian politics.

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Québec Solidaire keeps its two seats, adds third | CBC

by R. Dubois last modified Apr 08, 2014 08:05 AM
"Québec Solidaire kept its two seats in the National Assembly in Monday's election and gained a third in the Montreal riding of Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques. The party's co-spokesperson, Françoise David, held on to her seat in the Montreal riding of Gouin and Amir Khadir has won in the Montreal riding of Mercier that he's held since 2008. Their colleague, Manon Massé, defeated Liberal Anna Klisko in a see-saw battle that saw fewer than 100 votes separating the two in Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques."

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Québec election day: We've already forgotten Lac-Mégantic | Nora Loreto

by R. Dubois last modified Apr 08, 2014 08:01 AM
"Throughout the 33 days of the election campaign, it seems that the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic has been forgotten. Very little was said by the leaders about rail safety and crude oil transportation. Instead, the three major parties based their economic plans on more of the same. Only Québec Solidaire promised to take aim at our dependence on oil. Their economic platform was premised on how to stop our collective addiction."

The link address is:

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Wage slavery, the commons and the future of our planet | Gary Engler

by R. Dubois last modified Apr 07, 2014 11:35 AM
"The words "chain" and "command" are both suggestive of a fundamental truth: Today's rules about the power of bosses and workers evolved from a time of masters, servants and slaves. While many norms and expectations have changed over the years the fundamental truth that bosses give orders and workers are required to obey remains the same."

The link address is:

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The End of Capitalism

by JBB last modified Apr 07, 2014 08:23 AM

This is an excerpt — the last two chapters — from Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism by David Harvey, out now from Profile Books. David Harvey the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. He has authored such books as The Condition of Postmodernity (1989), A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005), and A Companion to Marx’s Capital (2010). | Znet | Click HERE to read article

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The Labour Struggles in Latin America panel at LaborNotes #ln2014

by Graham H. Cox last modified Apr 08, 2014 02:38 PM
The session included presentation by six union activists from Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico and Argentina.

All the presenters related their current struggles in Latin America to those that lead to the Haymarket Affair in Chicago.

Free trade and oppression of trade union activities by their governments acting on behalf of Capital were prominent themes of all the speakers.


In Colombia, free trade agreements are not working for the workers, have impoverished the people and furthered the boundless exploitation of their environment.

The current free trade agreement with the US had a labour side-agreement. This so-called Plan for Labour Action has failed in its supposed objectives. Over 100 union leaders have been killed since the agreement has been signed which is as much on the US as it is in the Colombian government.

In fact, the labour crisis continues in Colombia as terror and violence continues to be a method used to undermine workers' rights. They say they have inherited the country that they live in now, but the people continue to struggle for a different future for Colombia.

Argentina Subway Workers

For the subway workers, the main struggle is for the return of the six hour work day.

Argentina was the first country to dig subways. It is very dirty work and subway workers at first had 6 hour word days underground. This ended in 1976 when they moved it to 7 hours. At this time, the struggle for six hours was the call for those fighting the dictatorship. The victory was only achieved when democracy returned to Argentina but at a cost of many disappeared workers.

However, the six hour day was lost again with the privatisation of the subway systems and new "labour flexibility" programs.

The transit workers have again take the slogan for the 6 hour shift. Their past victories have shown that the struggle must go beyond the fight for pay, it is also the struggle for a quality life.

Independent Mexican Autoparts Unions

Mexico struggles are just beginning when compared to other countries, but like other Latin America countries violence is starting to be used as a method of control against unionists.

Free trade agreements are also a big issue for Mexico and the labour movement.

In the last year they have seen laws that moved forward with privatisation of energy (oil) and education. The government has also been increasing taxes on the poor and cutting services and rights for workers.

Workers are trying to start independent unions in workplace. True unions that are out of control of the government and the bosses.

Recently they have organize in autoparts manufacturers. Two groups have been formed to start the unionization process. However, when you want to form a union you must fight with the legal authorities and this process takes years before you can have a vote.

With some support from United Electrical workers union they were able to pressure the company in the United States and force a vote. The election was called and the union was given one day to organise it. However, they succeeded in winning the vote and proudly proclaim they are the "bad" example where workers can win if they sustain their fight long enough.

El Salvador Teachers' Union

In the 1920s the first unions that were made legal were the teachers. However, these rights were lost in the 1950s.

Recently, through various strikes and community support in the streets, teachers have gained many of these lost rights back including health coverage for teachers and professors.

The 1980s in El Salvador brought the decade long FMLN uprising. At the end of that struggle, the labour movement was demobilised. Many of the promises of the pact to end the violence were not fulfilled. This is how after 20 years there has not been much change even with the arrival of the FMLN. The workers have now seen that it was important to re-establish an organized workers' struggle.

The El Salvadorian Union Front started organizing to put forward a social vehicle for their demands. They must work in the government, but workers cannot be accomplices to oppression and must always act as political force as well.

Chile's Federation of Port Workers

Salt and Copper are the main exports from Chile to the US.

The Federation of Portworkers Union in Chile do not have a typical union structure. The union represents 70% of the workers in the ports in Chile but these workers are temporary and contract workers.

The struggle to build their political power focused on developing deep connection between mine, metal and port workers.

The union has been able to sustain the support for the recent students struggles, social movements including the demand for free education.

A recent victory had forced the state to legislate an hour for lunch. After a 28 day strike with 70% of the ports paralysed, it was only through international solidarity erupted across the world in Europe (especially Spain) that they were able to win rights to a lunch break.

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by Graham H. Cox last modified Apr 08, 2014 02:39 PM is attending this year's LaborNotes Conference in Chicago, Illinois and will be reporting on some of the events and workshops.

A quick look at the detailed agenda shows a list of workshops and presenters that are not going to disappoint anyone engaged as a unionist.

Part of the long history of the labour movement is its struggle from the bottom-up not just against Capital, but also to modify, test and reform our own democratic structures, outreach tools, analysis and political campaigns.

The rise of Capital's economic and political power to heights not seen in almost a century means the labour movement's militants must continue to challenge ourselves and the movement. To win, we must fully understand and coordinate using new and old tools to rebuild workers' power.

LaborNotes is one of the key gatherings of labour union militants in North America that facilitates this constant re-imagining and rebuilding.

Over the weekend, there will be many presentations and discussions from organising a new local, to building lasting democracy within your union, to engaging with the community outside of the workplace to building independent worker political power and international worker solidarity. There are also skills and analysis-focused workshops that seek to bring activists together to discuss how to translate analysis to strategy and tactics on the ground.

Stay tuned to and on our Twitter feed: @leftnewsorg.

If you are at the meeting, send a direct message to us on Twitter or email.

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