Workers Movement: Canada
The Human Factor/Social Consciousness
With the ratification of a three-year contract, Local 1005 members have concluded the latest battle for their rights and dignity. Local 1005’s conscious act to resist U.S. Steel’s unjust eleven-month lockout has opened a new path for the Workers’ Opposition and deepened Canadians’ understanding of how to defend the rights of all during this period of neoliberal globalization. Resistance exposes the enemy for all to see and deepens our social consciousness and understanding of how to prepare for the even greater battles that lie ahead.
The owners and executives of U.S. Steel stand exposed as alien creatures that bring nothing to Hamilton except their big egos and thieving aims. The self-serving practice of U.S. Steel shows that Canada’s socialized economy cannot develop and provide security for the people with U.S. and other monopolies in control of our basic sectors. Their anti-social interests stand in sharp contradiction with the rights and interests of Canadians. Their aim to build their empires blocks Canadian nation-building. Nothing is sacred to those who see Canada, its workers and natural assets as means to fatten their empires.
The struggle of Local 1005 reveals that our future in the face of monopoly right is found in uniting, mobilizing and -organizing the working class to stand up for itself and fight for its security and rights. Workers themselves, armed with their own thinking and social consciousness are the human factor on which Canadians can depend.
Local 1005 repeatedly held the federal and Ontario governments responsible for the defense of Canadians and their rights, in this case steelworkers and their steel mill that were under attack by a powerful foreign predator. The federal and provincial governments refused to lift a finger as U.S. Steel attacked over ten thousand active and retired Canadians and young workers just starting out as steelworkers, shutting down and putting into danger a viable Hamilton steel mill capable of producing enormous wealth to meet the needs of the people. Local 1005 repeatedly pointed to the disinforming role of the local newspaper as it attempted to undermine the resistance of steelworkers and serve up the Hamilton community and its members to the anti-Canadian interests of a foreign monopoly. Workers and their allies supported this work, showing proof of the fact that once the organized worker’s opposition solves the problem of the weakness of a worker’s movement which does not develop its own independent leading role, governments and the monopoly-controlled media will be held to account for their refusal to stand with Canadians in defense of their rights and security.
Local 1005 did not rely on governments or the monopoly-media to carry its banner. It relied on the unity and determination of its own members, retirees and allies in the community and across the country. It mobilized those directly involved with weekly meetings to sort out their independent views and strategy. Local 1005 through its own efforts established its own media with members writing and disseminating their Information Update and taking their views to fellow Canadians using billboards, street discussions, demonstrations, rallies and meetings with all who would discuss the difficult situation facing the Canadian working class and the way forward.
The activities of Local 1005 put its own voice in the fore in defense of the rights of all. It did not rely on those vacillating forces that have consistently shown they do not have the best interests of workers and Canada at heart. It did not get sidetracked either by those who claim to represent the highest ideals but take responsibility for nothing. By taking a bold step forward to involve its members and retirees in discussion on strategy to the best of its ability and possibilities and to act as a tribune on behalf of themselves, Local 1005 has opened new ground in building the working class movement.
The eleven-month attack, which began as a shutdown of the blast furnace and turned into a phony lockout, is a consequence of the owners and executives of U.S. Steel and their hirelings and fifth column in Canada hoping to smash the backbone of the Hamilton working class. This did not happen, far from it! The Hamilton working class has proved in practice with the staunch resistance of Local 1005 and its allies at the head that it is coming to grips with the new conditions in the post-social contract era. This is but the opening shot in the new era of resistance! The battle will only be won when the rights and security of all have been secured in law, politics and practice with the working class in control of its own fate and the destiny of the country! Local 1005 has demonstrated the way forward in practice; let working class organizers and politicians, and all workers and their allies take up the battle in defense of the rights of all with renewed vigor. Let us together build an effective and powerful Workers’ Opposition. (TML Weekly, cpcml.ca)
On Saturday, October 15, members of Local 1005 USW ratified a three-year contract with U.S. Steel. With 612 of 733 eligible voters casting a ballot, 61 per cent voted in favor of the contract and 39 per cent were opposed.
Local 1005 pointed out after the vote that all members were well informed about the contract. “We wanted to make sure all our members were fully aware of the situation they face and of the responsibilities towards not just themselves and their families, but also towards the retirees, the future generation of workers, their union and their community,” Local 1005 President Rolf Gerstenberger pointed out.
It is also clear that practically nobody was pleased with the contract which contains the two major concessions U.S. Steel would not budge on -- it gives up indexing on pensions and deprives new hires of a defined benefit pension plan. Despite this, to the best of their ability and for as long as it still had meaning, active and retired members of Local 1005 showed U.S. Steel in no uncertain terms that Hamilton steelworkers will kow-tow to no one.
Information Update asked Rolf what he thought of the view of the Spectator in particular which seems to be going out of its way to say that this contract is virtually the same contract we would have gotten 11 months ago.
“Despite the setback, there is no reason to be disheartened,” Rolf emphasized. “The Spectator and some side-line commentators who never believed in the fight in the first place are the ones saying that what the company offered today is virtually the same as it offered eleven months ago. This is simply not true but their aim in making these meaningless evaluations is to say that we should not have resisted, we should not have organized to get another outcome.
“Not only 11 months ago, but as recently as a couple of weeks ago, the Company still thought it could get away with dictating whatever it wanted. It found out it could not. There is nothing virtual about the difference between now and eleven months ago. It is only when a union takes a militant stand in defense of the rights of its members and its own role as their bargaining agent in the context of defending the rights of all, that it becomes clear how matters really stand. Everyone saw what it takes to defend what belongs to us by right. In the case of the Company, everyone saw what it means to defend the most narrow self-serving money-grubbing interests of a few big shots. They saw how dangerous it is to put Canada in foreign hands and we got an inkling of the fight which lies ahead to hold not only these companies like U.S. Steel to account but also governments.
“As a result of the militant stand taken by the active and retired members of Local 1005 and the community, everyone is now fully aware of what U.S. Steel is and how its word means nothing.
“Right from the beginning we said our security lies in the fight for the rights of all. This whole process has taught all of us the necessity to stand together. We not only upheld our dignity which the company sought to trample underfoot, but we understood first hand that this is the only way forward in the future as well.
“You can see how the Company tried to break its promises under the Investment Canada Act with impunity and that it thinks that there is one law for them, the law of getting away with whatever serves their momentary interests, and another law for the rest of us, who lose our houses if we don’t pay our mortgages.
“Because the workers fought they were able to show the entire community how cynical and self-serving a company like U.S. Steel is, and the dangers Canada faces in foreign hands.
“Far from this fight being to no avail, it will stand us in good stead to deal with the serious challenges facing us going forward.
“The truth of the matter is that the workers’ security lies in the fight for the rights of all. Did we break new ground? Yes, certainly. In a very practical manner we understood that we have to fight all over again to establish a regime which favors those who work and create the wealth Canada depends on for its well-being. The new regime of labor relations the Government of Canada wants to impose on the entire country, and the concerted attacks which are being escalated against unions are just the tip of the iceberg of what lies ahead. Even as workers thought they would be enjoying their retirement in security or providing for their families with security, we now have a better idea of the fight this country faces. Workers across the country have to join forces in a very real way like we did in this fight. We have broken new ground by defining our fight. Now we have to carry it forward. Together we worked out what was to be done and what could be achieved at this time. We have to do no less in the future as well. And we will become better at it. The refusal of U.S. Steel to publicly commit to making the pension fund solvent and its constant repetition of a decontextualized interpretation of the law which tries to distort its intent tells us something about the fight facing us going forward. We will make sure it is held to account.”
On behalf of Local 1005 USW, Rolf expressed profound gratitude to the community for its support throughout the lockout, especially to the workers’ families and pensioners, the many union locals and businesses, city councilors, the Mayor and many others. “We will continue to stand with all the pensioners who deserved better. We will continue to fight for a strong union,” Rolf concluded.
Last August, more than 140 prominent Africans expressed opposition to NATO’s imperial war against Libya. South African signatories to an open letter included former President Thabo Mbeki, former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils, former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad, and ANC National Executive Committee member Jesse Duarte.
Their letter, in part, said:
Africans have long “been subjected to the fury of war by foreign powers which have clearly repudiated the” UN Charter.
Security Council Resolution 1973 resolved, “to take all necessary measures....to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya....”
“(T)he Security Council produced no evidence” such attacks occurred. Nonetheless, “they empowered themselves openly to pursue the objective of ‘regime change’ and therefore the use of force and all other means to overthrow the government of Libya....at variance with” its own founding document and other international law principles.
Contrary to UN Charter provisions, the “Security Council authorized and has permitted the destruction and anarchy which has descended on the Libyan people.”
As a result:
• war substituted for diplomacy;
• regional countries were destabilized, including “Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauretania,” among others;
• violent intervention denied Libyans the right to determine their own destiny;
• many Libyans died, were wounded or maimed;
• vital infrastructure was destroyed; and
• Libyans were impoverished and immiserated.
As a result, prospects for Libya and North Africa are “increasingly ominous.” In vain, signatories demanded NATO end its “war of aggression in Libya...immediately.”
Former Congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, Cynthia McKinney, spent weeks in Tripoli last summer.
In a June 30 article headlined, “The War Against Libya,” she said:
When Americans are being asked to make sacrifices, “teachers are receiving pink slips....healthcare (is) in crisis (for millions), and the US government is in serious threat of default, our President and Congress have decided that a new war (against) Libya is appropriate.”
At the same time, about “$3 billion per week (is spent) for war against Iraq and Afghanistan....Additionally, U.S. Admiral Locklear admitted to a Member of Congress that one of NATO’s missions was to assassinate Muammar Qaddafi.”
He was not exaggerating about a mission now accomplished, no matter how outrageous and lawless.
In Tripoli, McKinney “witnessed NATO’s targeting of civilians: NATO bombs and missiles landed in residential neighborhoods, hit schools, exploded near hospitals, destroyed parts of the public broadcasting infrastructure, and narrowly missed killing students at Al Fateh University.”
These and similar incidents are grievous war crimes. Military powers never admit them, never say they are sorry, or explain that military strategy uses terror tactics to crush resistance.
They know nothing about Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans and others throughout the region who revile imperial aggression and will not quit struggling until it is expunged.
Libyans and other oppressed people “have the right to self-determination. They have a right to ‘resource nationalism.’ They have a right to live in peace. They have a right to determine their future,” and resist NATO terror without compromise.
On October 25, Reuters quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying:
America and other Western powers want to “plunder” Libya’s oil and other wealth, adding:
“Some people said they killed (him) to make sure he would not be able to say anything....” Calling the Security Council an “organization with no honor,” he denounced its resolution used as authorization to wage war.
“Any decision that would strengthen the presence, domination or influence of foreigners would be contrary to the Libyan nation’s interests,” he stressed. “The expectation of the world of the Libyan nation is that they stand and run (their) country themselves,” free from imperial intervention.
AP quoted Hugo Chavez urging mediation to end Libya’s war. He called it “disgusting” that America, Britain, France, and other NATO partners attacked a nonbelligerent country.
“More death, more war. They are masters of war,” he said. “What irresponsibility. And behind that is the hand of the United States and its European allies,” wanting to colonize and exploit another country.
“They want to seize Libya’s oil. The lives of Libya’s people don’t matter to them at all. It is deplorable that once again the warmongering policy of the Yankee empire and its allies is being imposed, and it is deplorable that the (UN) lends itself to supporting war, infringing on its fundamental principles, instead of urgently forming a commission to go to Libya” and stop the carnage.
On September 26, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro gave Chavez’s speech to the UN General Assembly, stressing Charter provisions to “sav(e) future generations from the scourge of war.”
Calling it “a dead letter,” he said wars since 1945 “inexorably increase(d) and multipl(ied) themselves. We see, once again, Libya destroyed and bloodstained by the will of the powerful.”
“(S)ince September 11th, 2001, a new and unprecedented imperialist war began, a permanent war, in perpetuity.”
“Why does the UN do nothing to stop Washington?”
“What is behind this new Armageddon? The absolute power of the military-financial leadership which is destroying the world in order to accumulate ever more profits....”
Libya is “a new imperial kind of colonialism: that of military interventionism backed by anti-democratic organisms of the (UN) and justified on the basis of prefabricated media lies.”
NATO’s Libya war resulted from “intense propaganda by the western media, who lied about the alleged bombing of innocent civilians by the Libyan Air Force....This premeditated bunch of lies was used to justify irresponsible and hasty decisions (for NATO’s planned) regime change policy....”
“And the same imperialist pattern is being repeated (in) Syria.” Paraphrasing Bolivar on Yankee imperialism in 1818, he added:
“(W)e have had enough of the weak following the law while the strong commit abuses (by) destroying and plundering us.”
He concluded citing Ali Primera saying “peace involves radically reversing all that impedes humanity from being humane.”
America’s imperial agenda excludes humanitarian considerations altogether. They don’t exist in its vocabulary.
AP cited Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega calling accusations against Qaddafi “overblown or unproven.” Like others, he said imperial powers want Libya’s oil and are “putting out fire with gasoline.” Bolivia’s Evo Morales condemned military intervention, saying powerful countries like America “invent a problem, and the problem is wanting to take control of oil.”
Fidel Castro asked why the Security Council exists, and said NATO wields such colossal military force that it “serves only to show the waste and chaos generated by capitalism.”
On October 24, Castro’s Prensa Latina opinion piece headlined, “NATO’s Genocidal Role,” saying: “This brutal military alliance has become the most perfidious tool of repression known in the history of humanity.”
Soviet Russia served as pretext for NATO’s creation. After its dissolution, NATO became more powerful and destructive than ever. “Its criminal purpose became obvious in Serbia,” a Slavic country that fought Nazism in WW II. In 1999, NATO lawlessly attacked Serbia/Kosovo. Earlier, Castro published “nine
Commenting on Qaddafi’s murder, Castro said Qaddafi was “mortally wounded by NATO’s most modern fighter planes, (then) was captured alive and....assassinated by men armed by this organization.”
“His body was seized and exhibited as a war trophy, conduct which violates the most fundamental principles of Islamic norms and other religious beliefs around the world.”
At the same time, NATO and TNC officials claim they will establish “a democratic state which defends human rights,” which they have systematically destroyed for eight months.
Tens of thousands of Libyan graves bear testimony to their real intentions.
Survivors will keep struggling to assure they did not die in vain, no matter how long it takes.
Qaddafi’s will “pledge(d) that I will die as Muslim.”
“Should I be killed, I would like to be buried, according to Muslim rituals, in the clothes I was wearing at the time of my death and my body unwashed, in the cemetery of Sirte, next to my family and relatives.”
On October 25, Qaddafi and his son Motassim were buried secretly at an undisclosed desert site to prevent its location from becoming hallowed ground as a shrine. He also requested that “my family, especially women and children, be treated well after my death. The Libyan people should protect its identity, achievements, history and the honorable image of its ancestors and heroes. The Libyan people should not relinquish the sacrifices of the free and best people.”
“I call on my supporters to continue the resistance, and fight any foreign aggressor against Libya, today, tomorrow, and always.”
“Let the free people of the world know that we could have bargained over and sold out our cause in return for a personal secure and stable life. We received many offers to this effect but we chose to be at the vanguard of the confrontation as a badge of duty and honor.”
“Even if we do not win immediately, we will give a lesson to future generations that choosing to protect the nation is an honor and selling it out is the greatest betrayal that history will remember forever despite the attempts of the others to tell you otherwise.”
Building a Pretext to Wage War on Syria
According to NATO figures, coalition aircraft delivered 415 key strikes on the town of Sirte in Libya between Sunday August 28 and Thursday October 20. This is comparable to the bombing of Guernica. […]
In addition, the rebels, described in NATO circles as a ‘proxy army” were allowed by NATO to indiscriminately shell the town with tank fire, heavy mortar fire and artillery. It is crystal clear that NATO, who was patrolling the skies above and bombing the town, purportedly to protect civilians, was making no attempt to protect the civilians of Sirte from this indiscriminate use of heavy weaponry. NATO has declined to comment on why it did nothing to protect the civilians of Sirte and why it has been complicit in these war crimes.
As rebel infantry moved in on the destroyed center of Sirte, video footage shows that the civilian infrastructure of Sirte, including its buildings, water and sanitation systems, had been totally destroyed. It appears that every building was targeted in a systematic attempt to ensure the town is uninhabitable.
Atrocities in Sirte
In what should be the final death-blow to the notion that NATO air power combined with undisciplined and in some cases genocidal mobs supplied with NATO weaponry on the ground can effectively ‘protect’ a civilian population it has become clear that fifty-three people were summarily executed by the rebels in the garden of the Mahari hotel in Sirte.
Ironically the bodies were found by Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch (HRW). Some of the bodies had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot. In addition, some of the bodies had bandages over serious wounds, suggesting they had been treated for other injuries prior to being executed, a stark reminder of the earlier murderous rampage of the rebels through the Abu Saleem hospital in Tripoli. […] Some of the victims had been in Ibn Sina Hospital in Sirte, after being treated for injuries – the same hospital which was treating children with the horrific injuries.
On the walls of the hotel were the names of the following Misrata brigades: the “Tiger Brigade” (Al-Nimer), the “Support Brigade” (Al-Isnad), the Jaguar Brigade (Al-Fahad), the Lion Brigade (Al-Asad), and the Citadel Brigade (Al-Qasba). Misrata brigades have already been responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Misrata and genocide of the Tawergha.
Meanwhile, Red Cross officials have said they have found two hundred and sixty-seven dead in Sirte, most of whom they believe were killed late on the day of “liberation.”
As HRW point out, violence and murder, inflicted during an armed conflict on combatants who have laid down their arms or are in detention, is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC has jurisdiction in Libya for all crimes within its mandate committed since February 15, 2011. Under the court’s treaty, criminal liability applies to both those who physically commit the crimes and to senior officials, including those who give the orders and those in a position of command who should have been aware of the abuses but failed to prevent them or to report or prosecute those responsible.
As Peter Bouckaert says:
“This latest massacre seems part of a trend of killings, looting, and other abuses committed by armed anti-Qaddafi fighters who consider themselves above the law.”
The ICC prosecutor has not pursued action against pro-NATO forces, in fact he has been involved in spreading propaganda and inciting racial hatred during the conflict. Furthermore, the NTC leadership are deeply implicated in the attacks on the civilian population of Sirte. Mustafa Abdel Jalil visited the brigades laying siege to the town on 11 October and declared that: “You have the support of all the members of the transitional council.”
In addition, Mahmoud Jibril infamously gave the green light to the permanent ethnic cleansing of Tawergha by the Misrata brigades at a meeting in Misrata Town Hall.
Currently what is left of Sirte is being thoroughly looted – with flat-bed trucks loading up cars and personal possessions to take back to Misrata.
Meanwhile, according to the BBC’s Wyre Davies reporting from Sirte, the town will be the last in Libya to be reconstructed or may not be rebuilt at all “but instead left in its destroyed crumbling state as a memorial to Colonel Qaddafi’s victims.” […]
It is clear that the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine is […]a reincarnation of the “white man’s burden” and justification for NATO imperialism and military adventurism.