Friday, May 22, 2009

Inequality Proven Unnatural and Harmful

THE SPIRIT LINK Reviewed by the Workers Solidarity Movement of Ireland

This book sets out to show that unequal societies are bad for everyone in them. It does this by collating decades of research in the areas of health, crime, trust, mental health, obesity, education, teenage pregnancy and social mobility, all of which demonstrate statistically the connection between social inequality and social problems. The authors explain that, in hierarchical societies that are unequal in wealth and status, our social class affects all aspects of our lives. From an Irish perspective, one of the most interesting points they make may be about the connection between inequality, levels of trust in society and corruption. ---- The authors, one of whom is an anthropologist, argue that research now proves that, for most of human history, we lived in fairly egalitarian societies that were based on values of cooperation and fairness. It is the unequal class-based societies in which we now live that are abnormal for us.

It’s not surprising then that the more unequal the society we live in, the more anxiety and depression we suffer from. We even comfort eat more, the more unequal the community we live in is! The book debunks the myths that social problems are caused by ‘bad people’, ‘culture’, or lack of morals. Those notions have been overtaken by research in the real world. The great contribution this book makes is in giving all of us access to research that can help us to understand the real roots of our problems, and therefore solve them.

The book also makes the connection between equality and freedom that was once commonly understood. It suggests that the miserable failure of the authoritarian communist states such as Russia led people to believe that equality wasn’t compatible with freedom.

The authors remind us that there was a reason why the French revolutionaries called for 3 things, ‘Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite’. The Spirit Level now provides the hard evidence that freedom for all of us to achieve our full potential is only possible in societies based on egalitarian values.

Where the book fails is in its proposed solutions. The logical conclusion of all of their evidence is that an egalitarian society is the one that we humans thrive best in. This is, naturally, what anarchists have consistently argued. The authors propose employee-owned and controlled enterprises as a solution.

This is another word for the workers’ control which anarchists demand.
However, the authors are not prepared to challenge the core issue of eliminating hierarchy itself. They presume that workers will still be prepared to have a CEO who earns many times what they do. They would like to merely reduce inequality. This is a laudable aim, but once we understand that something is so detrimental to us, why does it make sense to keep any of it?

They don’t argue that a little crime is a good thing, or that a little poverty is healthy, or that a bit of inequality is good for us, so why the timidity of the solutions? This book is a good first step and provides hard facts for those who instinctively know that something is not right in our society. But if we want lasting solutions then we’re going to need a little more imagination than the authors are prepared to provide.

The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (Allen Lane) £20.00 / €23.65
Related Link:

Monday, May 18, 2009

The BC Green Party in Myth and Reality

The idea that the Green Party is right-wing or has been taken over by right-wingers has been circulating for a number of years now in the Canadian politocosphere. Now, it is certainly true that some of the international Green Parties are quite nasty, the Mexican Partito Verde is hostile to the left, and of course, the German Greens supported the attack on Yugoslavia. The Canadian national Green Party I cannot vouch for, nor any of the other provincial parties, but I have examined the BC party.

What a party is all about is contained in its platform, and if it has any access to power, how it enacts that program. The platform of the BC Green Party is contained in it's Green Book.

Here are what I consider its main points:

Stop privatization of water, forests and public lands. Water management in public hands only. Sale of any public lands must be approved by local govts and First Nations.

Restore publicly managed billing, food services, cleaning and security in both hospitals and schools.

Ban the private export of electricity, Ban water exports and raw log exports.

Repeal "Projects Streamlining Act" which has allowed the Provincial Govt to force development decisions on municipalities. Prevent further withdrawals of land from the Agricultural Land Reserves.

Direct election of municipal police boards to oversee police

Put pressure on the Federal Govt. to legalize marijuana

Make Provincial Govt. engage in Ethical Purchasing – fair trade and local products.

Create community owned and run health clinics. End fee for service for doctors, pay them a salary.

A Guaranteed Livable Income based upon the Low Income Cut-Off measure to replace welfare and other forms of assistance. Abolish the 2 years out of five requirement for welfare eligibility.

Pay equity for women, full right to strike for workers. End $6.00 per hour "training wage." and set minimum wage to Low Income Cut off standards.

Community-owned land trusts and coop housing to create affordable housing.

Direct election of representatives to Regional Transit Board.

First Nations to have access to, and control of, resources to enable self-sufficiency. Rejection of assimilation policies.

And, of course a plethora of environmental concerns. I have read the entire platform and can find nothing that could be construed as right-wing.What we have here is the COMPLETE REJECTION of the neo-liberalism that even many erstwhile social democrats have endorsed. Thus tarring the GPBC as 'right wing", is as I have suspected all along, nothing more than an example of sectarianism.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Anarchists, Social Democrats and Greens

"People before ideology." is the adage I have lived by for the last 30 years. This does not mean "anything goes." What it does mean is that people's true needs – for a better life, for greater freedom etc., are more important than any ideological construct, party line or theory. Not to take this approach, is in my opinion, the first step in the direction of the killing fields.

In practice, if a party or government proposes or enacts legislation, say, that increases the minimum wage, makes it easier to join a trade union, or increases public transit, I would admit that these were positive steps and demand their implementation. I would do this without going rah-rah for the party and plainly separate this positive element from the other aspects which I think worthy of criticism.

I would like to see a lot of these genuine reforms. Trouble is, social democrats today don't seem to have much imagination in that regard, many of them having bought into neo-liberalism. In BC the forces of reform are divided between the NDP and the Greens making any hope for even minimal positive changes through government impossible. Thus, even though an outsider, I encourage social democrats and Greens to get their act together. Simple really – reformists work together = more reforms = better life for working people = better life for me.

Is not such an approach at variance with anarchism's revolutionary nature? Not in the least. A beaten down people rarely revolt. It is when the situation begins to improve that such sentiments arise. Workers in BC have been subjected to an unending series of defeats beginning with the failed general strike of 1983. While the activist core certainly exists, the population as a whole seems demoralized. We need some victories. Had the so-called Liberals been defeated and the NDP backed by the Greens, reversed the give-away of our rivers, scrapped TILMA, took back BC Ferries and BC Hydro from the piratizers, the cycle of defeat would have been broken and would have created demands for further progressive action.

While some parts of the world are in a revolutionary situation, Canada is plainly not. In a such non-revolutionary situation, progressive change develops in a pattern. (1) Each progressive ideology, whether reformist or revolutionary, parliamentary or anti-parliamentary, has its function within that process. Change starts from below, engenders forms of public protest and direct action. A mass movement emerges which then influences reformist parties. These parties then enact legislation which generalizes the reform. The function of anarchists and other visionaries is to initiate change and build the mass movement. The function of the reformists is to come on stage in the last act. The problem today is that the reformists do such a poor job of being reformists, and thus needed reforms are blocked.

Admittedly, the system may well be broken beyond repair and reform a product whose selling date has expired. Working people may will continue to be battered from pillar to post until they cannot take any more, finally in desperation rising against their tormentors. But until we have proof the system is incapable of reform, NDP, Greens, get your shit together! In the meantime, we anarchists will continue to implant ourselves within the communities and work places, encouraging the the idea of popular power and self-management.

1. See my article on the function of ideologies at


Saturday, May 16, 2009

BC Election - the Decline in Voting

One of the most important outcomes of the election was the fact that only a minority – 48% - of the population voted. This represents an all-time low and is a good representation of a general malaise effecting both the province and the country as a whole. Two questions immediately come to mind; what caused this malaise? and what will come of it?

Anyone with any familiarity with BC politics and recent history ought to be able to list some of the political causes. Beginning in 1983 with the betrayal of the almost general strike, working people have endured a series of defeats. Living standards have declined and government services privatized. NDP governments, once a fount of hope have stabbed their supporters in the back, as we saw with the arrests at Clayoquot Sound and the violent attacks on First Nations people at Gustaferson Lake. Remember also, it was the NDP government that first suggested the Olympics boondoggle.

All three major political parties have – at least in their public pronouncements - come to resemble each other. The right-wing Liberals have re-created themselves as environmentalists. The Green Party has become so moderate that many people see them as to the right of the NDP.

The other aspect of the decline in voting is more sinister. This is the general atomization, inward-turning, "personal privatization" that has been going on. Due to suburbanization and the domination of consumer culture, people have lost connection with each other and a sense of the overall picture. Community has been rapidly dying and with it participation in the public sphere.

Political alienation - "None of the parties represent me" - can be positive and lead to a new radical politics. (This is what we anarchists dream of in our often naive belief that abstention is a positive sign.) Social alienation is another kettle of fish. Social alienation directs people away from any kind of action, especially the communal and mutualist kind favored by anarchists, and toward self-destructive behaviour.

The only hope is that conditions will force the population to act. While conditions have declined for working people, in truth, "We ain't seen nothin' yet." The triple crisis – Economic, environmental and energy, has barely made its mark. When it does, people will have to act collectively just to survive. Once in motion, much of the social alienation will shake off and a new politics will arise.

Tomorrow - "Anarchists, Social Democrats And Greens"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The NDP and Greens Self-Destruct in BC Election

This is Kevin Annett's take on the BC election.

When Will They Ever Learn: The NDP and Greens Self-Destruct and Hand an Unearned Victory to the Campbell Crew in
"Beautiful British Columbia"
by Kevin D. Annett

The bare and brutal facts tell it all: Gordon Campbell's Liberals won last night's provincial election by thirteen seats. But in twelve ridings taken by Campbell, the combined NDP-Green vote was actually greater than the Liberal. (1)

Clearly, a Green-NDP coalition would have won yesterday's election, which witnessed the Greens and NDP garnering over 50% of the popular vote, compared to the Liberal's 45%.

Even in Campbell's own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, the combined Green-NDP vote came within 700 votes of unseating him.

This sobering conclusion is indicated by more than simple arithmetic. If the NDP and Greens had have done the sensible thing and joined hands, enough centrist voters would have been wooed from the Liberals to give such a left coalition easy victory.

So why didn't it happen?

Twenty five years ago, I was expelled as chair of the Point Grey Green Party after having publicly called for the Greens to unite with the NDP in the next provincial election. As a founding member of the B.C. Greens, I saw no real difference in policy between both parties when it came to the environment and other basic issues, and to run separately was, and remains, tantamount to political suicide. Yesterday's election results continue to bear this out.

Family feuds are always the most vicious, and the origin of many Green party leaders as activists in or around the NDP compels one to assume that the ongoing and disastrous animosity between the NDP and Greens is simple a battle of egos. Certainly nothing on the part of either party's leadership indicates much political sense when it comes to the need for a strong coalition-building strategy. Indeed, in the face of B.C.'s historically polarized, "first past the post" electoral system, which dooms the Greens from the outset from winning any seats and casts it, as best, as a spoiler force, the continued rejection of such a coalition by both party leaderships make absolutely no sense.

The pro-capitalist parties in B.C., unfortunately, have never suffered from such political stupidity. Ever since the formation of the NDP's predecessor, the CCF, in 1933, a continual anti-socialist coalition of liberals and conservatives has kept the left out of power: the only exception being when the anti-left coalition fell apart in 1972, and the national backlash to Brian Mulroney decimated the right-wing during the early 1990's.

Notwithstanding the virulent sectarianism of many Green activists when it comes to uniting with the NDP, the biggest barrier to a left-green coalition in B.C. is the odd confusion of the NDP itself when it comes to its own political self-identity, as it continues to deny its own principles and legacy in its elusive search for "middle of the road" respectability.

It was not for nothing that former Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent once referred to the NDP as "liberals in a hurry". The trouble is, they're not in much of a hurry anymore: a fact which routinely sours its supporters and prompts desperate spin offs like the B.C. Greens.

The problem is, we are running out of time, and cannot afford the luxury of further political myopia. The grotesque prostitution called the 2010 Olympics and the impoverishment and militarization of the province that has accompanied it is but a symbol of the disaster that is unfolding in B.C., as the land and its wealth is being sucked dry and shipped abroad.

The B.C. Liberals, and their corporate bosses, have a clear and stated plan, and no qualms about following it. It's time the NDP had a similar boldness - and political sense. And the place to begin is by knitting together a new peoples' coalition by approaching the Greens and working next time for a coalition government in B.C.

One can only hope that there is a next time.

The BC Election

Overall results Liberals 49, NDP 36, Greens 0, As percent, Liberals 46.2 NDP 42,06 Green 8.1

In 8 ridings, had the Green vote gone NDP, the result would have been NDP 44 seats , Liberals 41 seats, thus an NDP government. But maybe a third of the Green vote comes from people who might not support the NDP, such as disgruntled left-liberals or otherwise apolitical enviros. In that case only four ridings, Saanich, Oak Bay, Comox and Vernon would have seen NDP victories and the Liberals would have had 45 seats to the NDP's 40. Thus one cannot blame the Greens for splitting the NDP vote.
What is a problem is that the progressive vote is divided and the majority of the population – at least 50.16%, are progressives and are dominated by a reactionary minority.

Given this political division, one should not make too much of the political failings of either the Greens or the NDP, while such weaknesses and errors do exist, in this instance, they are not the major problem. The important failing of both parties is the failure to come to some kind of agreement and defeat the right. The problem, is of course ultimately structural, the undemocratic first past the post system (FPTP) and the failure to introduce a proportional ballot system such as they have in most of Europe. This system allows different left wing parties to exist, gain seats and form coalition governments. However, given the lack of a more democratic voting system in BC, it is incumbent on both parties to work together in some fashion and keep the piratizers and corp[orate welfare scammers at bay.

Seats where a Green-NDP majority exists.

*Saanich North Green - NDP total = 54% Liberal 45, NDP, 44, Grn 11
*Oak Bay 53% Lib 46.6, NDP, 44.5, Grn, 9
* Comox, 51% Lib 47.6, NDP, 42.5, Grn, 8.5
Burnaby-Mougheed 51.5%, Lib 49, Ndp 44.4, Grn 6.6
Burnaby North, 51.5, Lib 48.7, NDP, 44.4, Grn, 6.9
Similkameen, 42, Lib 38, NDP, 32.8 Grn 9.4
Penticton 46.5 Lib 44, NDP, 31, Grn 15.5
*Vernon 49%, Lib 37.7, NDP, 31.7, Grn, 16.5

The STV referendum also failed to pass. This means we are still stuck with the undemocratic FPTP system. But then the STV was highly complicated and people did not understand it and it was even a second grudging choice for the people who supported it. The fact that such a system was proposed in the first place instead of a proportional ballot system – which everyone understands and whose advantages are obvious – has always made me smell a rat. I suggest that it was proposed as a form of counter-insurgency against the demand for greater grass roots democracy. Give the people a weird complicated alternative, they will reject it and democratic reform will be off the adgenda for another generation.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

As the US Descends Ever Further into the Third World.

After the USSR collapsed it was discovered that the Soviet system was like a Third World country with a First world military. The US seems to be following in that direction as its ranking in terms of health, child mortality etc sinks ever lower. See

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Declaring the Times on Parliament Hill

Declaring the Times on Parliament Hill: April 29, 2009
by Kevin D. Annett

I committed treason last week, in front of a throng of RCMP and CSIS goons outside what is called the Canadian Parliament.

I've had it, you see. I've had it with something called "the Crown" getting away with mass murder, fraud and land theft. I've had it with its partner in crime, the Christian churches, absolving themselves of the torture and slaughter of little kids in their "residential schools".

So I figure it's time to get rid of the whole mess.

Picking up the megaphone from a Mohawk elder who stood with me and a score of others, I shouted directly at the Mounties,

"You men are defending murderers and pedophiles. You're standing on stolen land, awash with rivers of blood. You have to ask yourselves what you're defending, and who is profiting from what you do, and who is suffering from it. I tell you, it's time for a new nation, a republic. We need to get rid of the Crown and create a republic where we can finally be equal with the native nations."

I paused, and added,

"I just committed treason here. So arrest me! You say you want to bring me in for questioning. So here I am! But I have some questions for you, too: like why you refuse to bring known criminals to justice for the murder of 50,000 aboriginal children!"

None of the cops responded. They even looked vaguely embarrassed. But the sightseers seemed shocked.

It was like that on April 29 in Ottawa, on the illegally occupied and never-treatyed Algonquin land where Parliament perches.

It was the same day that a guy who calls himself the Pope was pretending to be sorry for what his church did to innocent Indian children, and dishing out lies to his deluded followers. A bunch of us thought it was a good day to respond.

The sun smiled on the twenty or so of us, mostly Mohawk traditionalists from Kahnawake, as we crossed the river into Ottawa from the Quebec side. Under a banner that declared, "All the Children Need a Proper Burial", and held aloft by three Mohawk children, our little army descended on three of the architects of genocide in Canada: Indian Affairs, the "Supreme Court", and Parliament itself.

Our first stop, at Indian Affairs, featured us trying to speak to manicured ex-Indians in fancy clothes who gaped at us from behind their office windows, or hurried past us lest their white masters spotted them listening. Two of them stood in the doorway and smirked at us. But many others stared soberly at the words on our banner, and at the little ones clutching it.

It was these children who drew all the quiet stares all along our route. The kids led us down the street and over the bridge. Police cleared the way for us, lights flashing, as we were accompanied too by so many spirits.

"Assholes!" yelled a white cab driver at us, as Stuart Miyoh of the Mohawk Traditional Council exhorted those nearby to remember the disappeared children. The silence that echoed back at us was deep, as from a grave.

"Truth" and "Justice" were the words emblazoned on the edifice of the Supreme Court as we fanned out on its steps. Taking them at their words, one of our people, a young native woman, said through the bullhorn,

"All we want is justice, and not to be criminalized whenever we defend our sacred mother earth. But this court makes us the wrongdoers and lets logging companies rape our mother. We'll never get justice in Canada's courts."

I asked her for the bullhorn and began to name the names of the judges who had been accused of pedophilia in Canada. One cop gawked at me, shocked.

"That's the bravest thing I've ever seen" the woman told me, as the cops looked troubled. But one of them approached me as we neared Parliament and said,

"People can hear you better if you're right up on the steps".

Smiling, I felt the whole shaky edifice crumble a bit. That's when I launched into my call for a new republic in front of the phalanx of mounties.

Stuart was busy speaking to a group of high school students on a Parliamentary tour, declaring,

"You kids should know that people your age were murdered every day in the Indian residential schools, 50,000 of them! Learn what your country is really like. Read hidden from history dot org and stop supporting murderers in high places ..."

An outraged teacher began shooing the dumb struck students away from us, his arms stretched out like a panicking mother hen. But the crowds were forming around us by then, and for a half hour we stood and waved our banner and showed the country its lies and its crimes.

I was flying by then. During one of my speeches, when I got to the part about the Crown being a fictitious body with no jurisdiction over us, one of the bald-headed suits in shades with a wire in his ear sauntered over to me and said that I could expect to receive a warrant for my arrest soon.

And so it goes.

Near the end, we all decided to return to the same spot in even greater numbers on June 11, the first anniversary of the Hollow Apology of Steven Harper to survivors of the residential schools genocide.

Carry it on.

Monday, May 04, 2009

“Communism” vs. Communism

The Fundamentals of Communism - The Case of the Czech Republic

By Milan Valach

The current power elites’ greatest fear is represented by the revitalization of the left-wing ideal. That’s why they keep reminding the public about the repulsive practices of the Soviet Union and its controlled countries.

Every attempt at its renewal has to firstly cope with the practices of the ruling communist parties in the so-called eastern block. It was these parties that announced their rule as truly communist. I will try to show that this statement was and still is not true. That is why the discussion about the essence of communism is still very much alive. It is topical because we still really don’t understand what communism was, and because of efforts to use one interpretation or other of the past for current purposes. Every attempt to objectively examine the totalitarian past fails immediately if it’s not based on clarifying the concepts that are being worked with and if ideologies, including their historical background, are not separated from the practice of them. Ideologies must also be separated from those who - rightly or not - called themselves their implementers. In the case of communism it is therefore important to separate its ideology, as it was gradually created in the environment of west-European philosophy and mainly its most in-depth Marxist version, from the practices of the political regime that arose in Russia after 1917. Whether this Leninist-Stalinist political model was in fact carried out according to Marx’s philosophy, or whether it had completely different roots, is to be examined only after the aforementioned is thoroughly clarified. Preconceived judgment that already knows the “answer” has nothing to do with science and testifies to ideological prejudice, or even to the blindness of a persons thinking.

Article continues HERE

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