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This Issue: Looking for Answers, Creating Alternatives
This issue of Other Voices features people who are questioning and
challenging the way the world works and trying to create better
Phyllis Omido, a courageous environmental activist in Kenya who
faced arrest and physical intimidation, has led a successful campaign to
force a lead-smelting company that was poisoning residents to shut
Justin Podur challenges the way the corporate media systematically
spread lies and misinformation about Venezuela, a country faced by a
systemic campaign of economic sabotage led by local elites and supported
by the United States and its allies.
Judith Deutsch reviews Norman Finkelstein’s new book on Gaza. She
asks: why are states and corporations assumed to have a “right to exist”
but people – specifically, in this case, the people of Gaza – are not
said to have a right to exist.
Bruce Lesnick asks what is the best way to organize against the
mobilizations of the right. Most crucially, he asks, “how can we best
harness the power of the 99% – the working class majority – in this
ideological, social and economic battle?”
The book of the week is “Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a
Revolutionary Transformation” by Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams. They
set out to show that it is possible to envision and create a society
that is genuinely democratic, equitable, and ecologically sustainable.
And that it is possible -- not one moment too soon -- for society to
change fundamentally and be brought into harmony with nature.
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An extremely important aspect of Connexions‘ work is promoting the
idea that there are alternatives to the status quo, and that people
working together can bring those alternatives into being. There are
thousands of articles and books on the Connexions website exploring many
different types of alternatives. The Alternatives page in the
Connexions Subject Index is a gateway into the idea of alternatives.
Explore it here
Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist?
Judith Deutsch reviews Norman Finkelstein’s new book Gaza: An
Inquest into its Martyrdom (Verso 2018). “His meticulous inquest into
Israel’s atrocities and the moral depravity within humanitarian
institutions,” she writes, “demands answers about who or what has a
right to exist..” In political discourse, she notes, states and
corporations, and even “the planet” are said to have a “right to exist”
but people do not have a right to exist. In today’s world, Deutsch
concludes, “states must be assessed in terms of the deaths they cause or
facilitate inside and outside their borders.”
Keywords: Gaza - Israeli War Crimes
Why Won't American Media Tell the Truth About What's Happening in Venezuela?
Since 1999, Justin Podur writes, the Venezuelan government has
experimented with a process of social and economic reform using
constitutional and electoral means. The elite and sections of the middle
class have waged unrelenting warfare against these reforms. When a coup
and media campaigns failed to upend the government or silence its
mouthpiece, the opposition has resorted to economic warfare and
sabotage. Rather than help to solve the economic problems, the
opposition in the Assembly has celebrated them and worked to make them
worse, in the hope that this will topple the government.
As the U.S. steps up its regime change efforts in Caracas, many
leftists in progressive and social media have expressed confusion or
equivocation. Their difficulty in distinguishing between an embattled
social democracy and a violent, right-wing rejectionist opposition is a
testament to the weakness of anti-imperialism in Western politics at the
moment. Progressives should have no such difficulty. Chavismo is an
incomplete, flawed, ongoing democratic experiment. The alternatives on
display are clear: terror, occupation and austerity. Read more
Keywords: Venezuela - Counter-revolution
Kenyan activist defies harassment to bring major anti-pollution case to courts
Phyllis Omido is leading a landmark class action demanding a
clean-up and compensation from a lead-smelting factory accused of
poisoning local residents - including her own son. Phyllis Omido has
been threatened by thugs, arrested by police and forced into hiding for
organising opposition to a lead-smelting factory in Mombasa, which
allegedly poisoned residents in the neighbouring shantytown of Owino
Uhuru. But the NGO she founded, the Centre for Justice, Governance, and
Environmental Action, has already forced the closure of the plant and is
now pushing the courts to secure compensation for the victims and a
clean-up of the community.
Keywords: Lead Pollution - Industrial Pollution
Import and Die: Self-Sufficiency and Food Security in India
A World Bank-backed plan for the future of India doesn’t have
much of a role for the majority of farmers. Successive administrations
in India have been facilitating this plan by making farming financially
unviable with the aim of moving farmers out of farming and into the
cities to work in manufacturing or service sector jobs – jobs that, by
the way, do not exist. It is an agenda founded on a bogus model of
‘development’. The aim is to restructure agriculture according to the
wishes of the US and its agribusiness corporations. It entails
displacing the existing labour-intensive system of food and agriculture
with one dominated by a few transnational corporate agribusiness
concerns which will control all aspects of the sector from seed to
plate. As a result, small, independent cultivators and food processing
concerns are being impoverished through exposure to a rigged
international market and rising input costs or find it increasingly
difficult to operate and are being forced out of the sector.
Keywords: Food Self-Sufficiency - Industrial Agriculture
No Fare Is Fair: A Campaign for Free Public Transit
Public transit should be a right for everyone in Toronto. Using
subways, buses, and streetcars shouldn’t require paying fares, or user
fees, that penalize riders with lower incomes. Like public education,
libraries, clean water, and healthcare, public transit should be funded
by government revenues. Regardless of income, which part of the city you
live or work in, or if you have mobility challenges, transit should be
easily accessible. Free transit would be a critical step in addressing
Keywords: Public Transit - Public Transportation
Website of the Week
Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières
ESSF is an association for international solidarity. Its website
informs on peoples struggles as well as on in-depth debates. It seeks to
be a tool for all those fighting for a world of solidarity.
Find them here
Keywords: Internationalism - Solidarity
Book of the Week
Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation
By Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams
Because it aims squarely at replacing capitalism with an
ecologically sound and socially just society, Creating an Ecological
Society is filled with revolutionary hope. Fred Magdoff and Chris
Williams, who have devoted their lives to activism, Marxist analysis,
and ecological science, provide informed, fascinating accounts of how a
new world can be created from the ashes of the old. Their book shows
that it is possible to envision and create a society that is genuinely
democratic, equitable, and ecologically sustainable. And possible -- not
one moment too soon -- for society to change fundamentally and be
brought into harmony with nature.
Keywords: Economic Alternatives - Environmental Crisis
Film of the Week
I, Daniel Blake
I, Daniel Blake is a 2016 film
directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty. It stars Dave Johns
as Daniel Blake, who is denied employment and support allowance despite
his doctor finding him unfit to work. His attempts to navigate and
confront the Kafkaesque world of Britain’s social services bureaucracy
make for a compelling film laced with anger and humour.
Find out more
Keywords: Social Welfare - State Bureaucracies
Counter Mobilization: an Effective Response to Right Wing Speech
It’s natural for any compassionate, thinking person to be angry
at the notion of a right-wing extremist being given a prominent
platform to promote their reactionary ideology. The question is: what
should we do about it? What’s the best way to counter right wing
propaganda? How can we most effectively shift the narrative from the
phony answers offered by the right to the genuine solutions championed
by the revolutionary left? How can we best ensure that the right wing
talk doesn’t become right wing action? And critically, how can we best
harness the power of the 99% – the working class majority – in this
ideological, social and economic battle?
Keywords: Civil Liberties - The Right
Sanitising the Suffragettes
Why is it so easy to forget an unsavoury aspect of Britain’s
recent past? Why is it so easy to forget an unsavoury aspect of
Britain’s recent past? Historians have a unique opportunity in 2018 –
the centenary of British women gaining the right to vote – to re-examine
a pervasive silence at the heart of the story: that of the nationwide
bombing and arson campaign carried out by the Pankhursts’ Women’s Social
and Political Union (WSPU). Between 1912 and 1915, hundreds of bombs
were left on trains, in theatres, post offices, churches, even outside
the Bank of England; while arson attacks on timber yards, railway
stations and private houses inflicted an untold amount of damage. Yet
the lives of the women who did this have been largely forgotten and
erased from history, as a long-standing desire to sanitise the actions
of suffragettes and portray them as perfect activists, or perfect
Keywords: Suffragettes - Women’s History
From the Archives
In Sudan, Rediscovering Ancient Nubia Before It’s Too Late
Long ignored by white archaeologists as a mere footnote, modern
scientists are now racing to document what’s left of the ancient African
civilization. The region known as Nubia -- home to civilizations older
than the dynastic Egyptians, skirting the Nile River in what is today
northern Sudan and southern Egypt -- was paid relatively little
attention in archaeology. The land was inhospitable, and some
archaeologists subtly or explicitly dismissed the notion that black
Africans were capable of creating art, technology, and metropolises like
those from Egypt or Rome. Modern textbooks still treat ancient Nubia
like a mere annex to Egypt: a few paragraphs on black pharaohs, at most.
Today, archaeologists are realizing how wrong their predecessors were —
and how little time they have left to uncover and fully understand
Nubia’s historical significance.
Keywords: African/History - Archaeology
March 24, 1853
Founding of the Provincial Freeman
The abolitionist newspaper the Provincial Freeman is
founded by Mary Ann Shadd and Isaac Shadd in Windsor, Ontario. Published
from 1853 to 1857, the Provincial Freeman proclaims itself “Devoted to
Anti-Slavery, Temperance, and General Literature.” Mary Ann Shadd is the
first African-American woman publisher in North America.
March 25, 1911
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
A factory fire in New York City kills 146 garment workers,
129 women and 17 men, most of them recent Jewish and Italian
immigrants. Factory managers had locked the doors to the building to
prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks. Trapped workers try to
escape the flames by leaping from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors.
The owners of the factory are charged with manslaughter, but quickly
acquitted. Their insurance payout substantially exceeds their financial
losses from the fire, netting them a profit of about $400 per dead
worker, this at a time when an average worker earned $7 per week.
March 26, 1974
The Chipko Movement
A group of peasant women in Reni Village in the state of
Uttarakhand, India surround and hold on to trees in their forest to
prevent them from being cut down by a lumber company given cutting
rights by the government. The confrontation grows out of growing
resistance to the commercial logging that is destroying the traditional
forests that local people rely on for their livelihoods. On this day,
knowing of the villagers’ resistance, the government has used a ruse to
lure the men of the village to a distant location so they will be away
when the loggers arrive. However, when loggers appear on the scene, the
women of the village rush out to confront them. When it seems that
logging will begin regardless, the women start hugging the trees to
prevent them from being cut down. After a four-day stand-off, the
loggers leave. When news of the success of the tactic reaches other
villages, a movement of resistance to commercial logging quickly
spreads, leading to hundreds of grassroots actions. The tactic is
originally known by the Garhwali word “angalwaltha” but becomes more
widely known by the Hindi term “Chipko”. .
April 3, 1851
Frederick Douglass rallies anti-slavery movement in Toronto
American abolitionist Frederick Douglass addresses a large
anti-slavery audience in Toronto. A cheering crowd of 1200 fills St.
Lawrence Hall to listen to Douglass, himself a former slave, speak on
the evils of slavery.
April 11, 1972
The Common Front strikes in Quebec.
Over 200,000 public sector workers go on strike against the
government, and Quebec grinds to a halt. The workers’ demands include a
pay increase to match inflation, a say in working conditions, and equal
pay for equal work. The Quebec government tries to break the strike with
injunctions, arrests, huge fines imposed on striking workers, and
finally back-to-work legislation, imposed on April 21.
When the striking workers go back to work after April
21, the government sets out to teach them a lesson, and jails the
leaders of the big three union federations. Within hours, workers walk
off the job again, and this time the strikes spread far beyond the
public sector, turning into a general strike with more than 300,000
workers off the job. Workers seize control of 22 radio stations, and
force anti-union capitalist newspapers to stop publishing.
In the end, the government agrees to free the jailed union leaders, and the workers agree to return to work.
March 29, 2018 - Toronto
The Contradictions of Pension Fund Capitalism
Kevin Skerrett (Research Officer for the Canadian Union of
Public Employees) and Chris Roberts (National Director of Social and
Economic Policy for the Canadian Labour of Congress) discuss the
significance of their edited book, The Contradictions of Pension Fund
Capitalism (Cornell University Press, 2018). Heather Whiteside and
Janice Folk-Dawson speak to the issues the book raises for the trade
union and working class movements today..
April 5, 2018 - Toronto
Excessive Force: Toronto's Fight to Reform City Policing
Excessive Force takes the reader inside the G20 debacle; the
police push for an ever-growing budget; the battle over carding, which
disproportionately targeted the Black community; the police treatment of
its own members in mental health distress; and the battles with an
entrenched union that pushed back on Mukherjee's every move toward
April 26 – 29, 2018 - Chicago
International Rosa Luxemburg Conference
Rosa Luxemburg dedicated her life to the fight against war,
poverty, exploitation and any kind of suppression. Yet today in the age
of neo-liberalism, we have the same problems as in the beginning of the
20th century. Luxemburg, a versatile Marxist theoretician, excellent
journalist, and effective agitator has left us a body of work that may
support and impact on the present left. We invite you to present
relevant papers on the life and work of Rosa Luxemburg and her close
May 29 – June 1, 2018 - Regina
Socialist Studies 2018: Rekindling the Socialist Imagination
This year the Society for Socialist Studies meets on Treaty Four
territory and the homeland of the Métis. Regina is where the Cooperative
Commonwealth Federation penned its 1932 Regina Manifesto, which laid
out a program for eradicating capitalism and replacing it with a planned
socialist economy. It is also the site of the 1935 riot, which resulted
when homeless and unemployed men demanding dignified work by trekking
across Canada to Ottawa were stopped and attacked by the RCMP and city
police. The symbolism associated with the Regina location of this
meeting gives us a chance to re-evaluate the past and present of
socialisms. In this moment of severe austerity in Saskatchewan and
elsewhere, we are in desperate need for new and rekindled visions of
just socialist futures.
This year we invite papers inspired by broad socialist
traditions including anti-racist, feminist, eco-socialist, and
anti-colonial, and we encourage conversations between socialisms and
other freedom struggles, including Indigenous and Black liberation
struggles, among others. We especially encourage papers that look at the
successes and failures of past and present socialisms, from the CCF’s
slide toward social democracy to the current enthusiasm for democratic
socialism in the US and UK. We invite critical reflections on what has
been left out of socialist visions and how we might put social
movements, ecology, decolonization, and opposition to all forms of
oppression squarely at the centre of our rekindled socialist movements,
theorizing, and praxis.
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This issue was edited by Ulli Diemer.
812A Bloor Street West, Suite 201
Toronto ON M6G 1L9 Canada
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