Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners

[b]From the Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar - Kevin "Rashid" Johnson (August)[/b]

By Sara Falconer

In many ways, the [i]Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar[/i] is an attempt to reshape the dominant narrative of history. Instead of marking the fourth of July as a time to celebrate Independence Day, it invites us to observe that on that date in 1977: “Washington: George Jackson Brigade plants a bomb in main power substation in state capitol in support of striking segregation prisoners.” More than merely a calendar, it is a detailed resource, a constant reminder, and a true collaboration. Published by a collective based in Toronto and Montreal, the project was suggested by Black Panther Party (BPP) political prisoner Herman Bell, who helps shape it with political prisoners Robert Seth Hayes and David Gilbert.

With the 2011 edition, we are proud to celebrate our tenth anniversary by offering 42 colour pages of art and insight from some of North America’s longest-held political prisoners, including Leonard Peltier, Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez, Herman Wallace, Sundiata Acoli, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jaan Laaman, Daniel McGowan, Alvaro Luna Hernandez and Marilyn Buck (who passed away in August just weeks after being released from prison). It also features contributions from supporters around the world.

The stuggle against austerity

By Alex Balch

At the G20 Summit held this past June in Toronto, the heads of the world’s most advanced capitalist economies met with their counterparts from the IMF and World Bank to hammer out a savagely coordinated attack on the international working class.

Central to the “decade of austerity” prescribed by the IMF – and zealously promoted by the meeting’s host, Stephen Harper – are massive cuts to public spending, aimed at curbing the national deficits that resulted from injecting trillions of dollars into the international banking system in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.

Effectively, this amounts to the largest transfer of wealth in modern history – and a particularly audacious act of class warfare, waged by the rich against the poor.

This past October, workers in Europe responded to this provocative act through a series of massive and highly coordinated strikes that paralyzed entire industries and struck fear into the hearts of the European elite.

In the great cities of Spain, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Great Britain, Greece, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Italy and France, workers poured out onto the streets with a single unified message: We, the workers of your capitalist economies, will not be made to pay for a crisis created entirely by you – the capitalist class.

In France – a country with a long and storied history of popular struggle – workers ratcheted up the impact of these strikes by barricading the country’s twelve major oil refineries and shutting down the country’s shipyards to incoming oil tankers. French workers were soon joined in the streets by tens of thousands of students, leading to clashes with police and widespread rioting that evoked cherished memories of the rebellion of 1968.

40 Days of Harassment: The Battle for Reproductive Rights in Canada

[b]Participants of the 40 Days for Life campaign target abortion clinics as part of their pro-life messaging[/b]

By Mélanie Stafford
[i]Pro-Choice Coalition of Ottawa/Coalition pro-choix d’Ottawa[/i]

“40 Days for Life” has once again set itself up on Bank Street in Ottawa, across the street from the Morgentaler abortion clinic. Anti-choice protesters are carrying signs that read things I’d rather not burden readers with. Suffice to say, it’s sensationalistic, sexist, shame-based bullshit. For 40 straight days on Bank Street, an empty baby carriage is symbolically bungeed to a post. Pamphlets are distributed that spew out misinformation already debunked by countless reputable health organizations. Street counselors sent by the Helpers of Gods Precious Children intimidate, harass, and bully women as they enter the building. Catholic school groups travel from Peterborough to visit the “ground zero” site.

40 Days for Life is an anti-choice campaign aimed at “saving the unborn”, where “the most visible component is the prayer vigil outside the Abortion Mills in every participating city throughout the 40 days, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.” While the measures of success are questionable, the organizers claim that “the results of the 40 Day campaigns have been outstanding, with hundreds of mothers and their babies being rescued from despair and death.”

While this particular form of harassment and intimidation primarily targets cisgendered women, the same groups organizing and participating in the 40 days of harassment and intimidation campaign have also targeted the queer community, sex workers, and young people wanting comprehensive sexual health education.

Blatchford Abuses Privilege as Journalist

By Devon Ridge

[Hamilton, November 16th]- The momentum of concerned citizens confronting Christie Blatchford's speaking tour continued last night in Hamilton. Blatchford spoke to a relatively small and tightly-knit crowd consisting of several Caledonia Councilors, and a local MP.

About a dozen Hamiltonians from diverse communities gathered at the event to hand out resources and ask critical questions. They helped open doors for those attending the event and smilingly welcomed discussion. The group carried a Two-Row Wampum flag and signs stating 'Blatchford's Bad News' and 'Hamilton Does Not Welcome Racism'.

The group's focus was to question the strong media support Blatchford's book is receiving, while calling into question its undeniable ties to racist, anti-native organizing.

Blatchford’s book blames the government and police for a failure to protect the citizens of Caledonia, while neglecting to comment on the matter of land claims in the area, which is at the heart of the dispute. Blatchford has been known to publish material criminalizing anti-racist activists and accusing leftists of violence against their communities, meanwhile praising racist actors despite the violence that they perpetrate. This same trend is found in her book, [i]Helpless[/i], in which Blatchford gives praise to anti-native organizer Gary McHale.

Demonstrators felt the importance of creating a presence of opposition comes from a biased media slant, which suggests that the opinions of Blatchford reflect those of many people of Caledonia and the surrounding area. In fact, the Hamilton community did not support Blatchford's presence.

Toronto Hotel Workers Win New Contract

[b]Workers raise the stakes with two-week strike and management quickly capitulates to their demands [/b]

By Will Dean (With Peter Marin)

[TORONTO - November 11th]
On the afternoon of November 8th, the workers of the Delta Chelsea hotel on Bay and Gerrard in downtown Toronto were celebrating their victory in a nearby parking lot, after being informed that all their demands would be met. Since the economic crisis of September 2008, western corporations have attempted to force employees to bear the brunt of the crisis through wage freezes, cuts to benefits and the elimination of pensions for new hires. With the consumer price index running at approximately 2% inflation each year, a wage freeze is effectively a wage cut; the workers at Delta Chelsea have made clear that they will not tolerate this treatment and have organized accordingly, with great success.

I spent a few hours assisting the strikers, members of Unite Here local 75, at the valet parking blockade on Saturday and was inspired immediately by the strength and resolve of the employees who were mainly women and immigrants. Many of the women I spoke to told stories of the difficulties of working two or three jobs to support a family and felt betrayed by the lack of respect they received from the company’s management. Many also spoke of coming to Canada to find a better life for their families, only to find unfair labour practices and insufficient compensation to be the norm here as well. One employee even joked of how he no longer had any illusions of the “Canadian dream”.

Anti-Poverty Activists Crash Liberals' Party

OTTAWA - On the evening of Wednesday November 10th members of Under Pressure, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and No One Is Illegal disrupted an Ontario Liberal Party's fundraiser dinner. A rowdy crowd of roughly 30-40 people assembled at the Crown Plaza hotel, where the Liberals were enjoying drinks and an expensive supper. The anti-poverty activists gathered outside tried to make their way into the event, but were pushed back by police. Luckily, one group of protesters had come dressed in suits and managed to get inside the event to confront Liberal party members.

"Tickets to this event cost 500$ per person, which is almost as much as a single person on welfare in Ontario is expected to live on for a whole month!" said Shushan Araya, spokesperson for No One Is Illegal – Ottawa

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was the special guest for the event. Under his leadership the Ontario Liberals have upped their attacks on poor people across Ontario in a spectacular way. Not since the days of Mike Harris has a provincial government not only allowed people to live in poverty, but actually further cut the limited amount of money that people living on welfare and the Ontario Disabilities Support Program see every month.

"Poor people in Ontario often have difficult decisions to make: pay the rent or pay the bills; food on the table or a winter coat on their kids. But one thing we do not have a choice about is [whether or not] to fight. We are a community of struggle and we always have been. We know that to survive we need to fight these governments and their anti-poor agendas. Many of us in the struggle today were born into the Common Sense Revolution that saw poor people attacked viciously. Now we are seeing a new wave of attacks - but just as we have before, we are ready and willing to fight back" said Pierre Beaulieu-Blais of the anti-poverty group Under Pressure, addressing the crowd.

An "Unpriviliged Combatant"

By Brandon Gray

It is not often that white people in imperialist countries like Canada get to know the individual names and faces of the people their government kills and maims. The Vietnam War is remembered as tragic because of the near 60,000 American lives lost, whereas the three to six million Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians killed remain long forgotten, if ever known at all. Omar Khadr, a fifteen year old Canadian citizen of Afghan origin is a rare exception to this rule, and the fact that he was convicted for war crimes offers a fitting example of the type of justice found under the jackboot of Anglo-American imperialism.

Though he should have qualified as a child soldier under international law, on October 31st Omar was sentenced to forty years incarceration, thereby becoming the youngest person ever convicted of war crimes in the history of the United States. His trial by a special military tribunal was as farcical as it was tragic. Under the terms of a plea deal, he will only serve one more year in Guantanamo Bay (for a total of eight years), before being transferred to Canadian custody - where it is possible that he could soon be released under special conditions. And so there you have the perverse form of justice mustered by the imperialist military court: a backhanded recognition that they did not have a case coupled with an abject willingness to squander years more of young Omar’s life, barring some formal pretense of an admission for their media to work with. Make no mistake, Omar Khadr pled guilty to spying, murder, and terrorism in return for a shot at escaping the nightmare that is the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

Rethinking the role of race in the modern Tea Party Movement

By Khalil Tian Shahyd

The rapid rise of the Tea Party Movement has fueled ongoing debate about the potential influence of the movement on American public policy and politics. The movement’s appeal and almost exclusive attraction to working class white voters has also caused many to question the role that race has played in its emergence and in sustaining its anger. However, much of the discussion on the role of race in the TPM tends to get lost in two perspectives; 1.) to outright deny or downplay the influence of race in the movement’s political goals altogether; which is made possible by the charges of the second perspective that, 2.) limits itself to a catalogue list of racist actions, political slogans and associations that can be charged against individuals, Tea Party leaders and organizations [1].

Missing from the discussion is a real analysis of the role that race plays in framing our national political economic and historical narrative that can explain why public policies to limit the redistributive functions of government are the focus of conservative political groups in the form of “smaller government” advocacy. Indeed, the modern Tea Party can be said to have gotten its initial inspiration from CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s outburst on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange in which he blamed the federal government for giving subsidies to “subprime” mortgage holders who “were making bad economic decisions” [2]. Santelli claimed that he would organize a Chicago Tea Party against President Obama’s plans to provide support to homeowners facing foreclosure. Of course, “subprime” became quickly coded by race and has been associated almost completely with homeowners of colour, whose experiences with foreclosure and mortgage debt had to be made somehow different and distinct from the experience of “mainstream” white American households - who were morally superior and thus more deserving of public sympathy.

Final Stelco blast furnace shut down - lockout feared

[b]October 13th 2010[/b]

By Devin K.

HAMILTON - Around 100 members and supporters of United Steel Workers Local 1005 gathered at City Hall on Wednesday in the wake of the recent shutdown of the last blast furnace at US Steel (former Stelco) Hamilton works. The move has many workers fearing that the company is preparing for a lockout.

The rally was organized to coincide with East End Councillor Sam Merulla putting forward a motion to City Council that the City of Hamilton demand the restart of the blast furnace. The motion read, in part: “[…] the City of Hamilton call on US Steel to restart the Blast Furnace immediately; and stop Corporate ‘bullying tactics’ […] the City of Hamilton asks US Steel to restart negotiations with Local 1005” While the City of Hamilton itself has no actual power to force the restart of the furnace, the union hopes public pressure will at least contribute to getting US Steel back at the bargaining table.

The Pittsburg based corporation has not resumed contract negotiations with USW Local 1005 since July 7th, negotiations in which the company is demanding a number of concessions relating to pension plans, vacation time and cost of living allowance, among other things. There are fears that with the shutdown of the furnace, US Steel is preparing for a lockout to force the union to accept these concessions. Glenn Faulman, rank and file member of USW 1005, tells Linchpin “I don’t think they want to lay anyone off, because they’ll collect unemployment. They are waiting to lock us all out so nobody gets anything.” US Steel has already demonstrated its capability and willingness to attack workers and their families in order to advance their own corporate interests. The 2008-09 shutdown of the Hamilton plant and the bitter lockout at the Nanticoke plant are two recent examples. “I picture us getting locked out, though I hope it’s not for a year [as in the case of US Steel Lake Eerie works].”

Farm workers, “dis is not slavery/ just poverty / speaking to democracy”

[b]Participants take part in the [i]Pilgrimage to Freedom[/i] march, organized by Justicia for Migrant Workers[/b]

By Ajamu Nangwaya

[i]i am a H2 worka
pickin apple inna florida
i am a H2 worka
hopin dat tings will be betta
suh don’t tek mi fi granted and pass mi
like is only cane and apple yu si
don’t tek it fi joke and run mi
den sen to mi govament fi more a wi
dis is not slavery
just poverty
talking to democracy[/i]

[b]- Excerpt from the poem [i]H2 Worka[/i] by Mutabaruka[/b]

Mutabaruka, the renowned Jamaican dub poet, accurately captures the lament and pain of migrant farm workers who labour in Ontario and the rest of Canada. These offshore workers come from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines and other Third World areas.

Over the Thanksgiving long weekend in Canada, we enjoyed the bountiful harvest from the farms in this country and the United States in the company of friends and relatives. We probably shared stories of success, challenges and plans for the future.

But did we reflect on the people who made that food possible? No, I am not referring to those mythic and stoic farmers of Canadian legends. I am hinting at the migrant farm workers whose sweat, tears, lives and broken and injured bodies went into producing the cheap food that we all enjoy in the great North that is supposedly fair, strong and free.