Friday, June 23, 2017

Ashton strong in lively Toronto NDP leadership debate

Last night the NDP leadership candidates met in Toronto at what was an '"unofficial" debate organized by the United Steelworkers. Perhaps due to this the debate was the liveliest and most interesting to date with telling exchanges and real energy in the room.

In part this was directly attributable to the fact that the organizers lifted the idiotic and deadening "no applause" rule of all the official debates. This allowed candidates to see when their lines or messages were resonating and to, in some cases, feed off of this. Hopefully the NDP's debate brain trust will take note and nix this silly prohibition.

The debate format also allowed for more actual interaction between the candidates and produced some notable moments. While the debate was still dominated by platitudes and rhetorical flourishes (some less successful than others) it also saw differentiation around specifics or the lack thereof.

Two of the clearest instances of this put Jagmeet Singh on the defensive both times. In the first Guy Caron noted that Singh's poverty reduction plan for seniors included the elimination of universality for the Old Age Security (OAS) benefit. Caron correctly stated that this was a repudiation of the NDP's historic commitment to universality, would open the door to the "stigmatization" of those receiving it if it became means tested, and would be something that the party would absolutely oppose if proposed by the Liberals or Conservatives. It was the highlight of an otherwise quite weak outing for Caron.

Singh countered that his plan would use focused and targeted programs to eliminate poverty among seniors and did not in anyway back down on his proposal which certainly puts him at odds with traditional positions on this issue within the left.

In the second case Ashton questioned whether Singh's plans for more progressive taxation went far enough. She contrasted her commitment to taxing capital gains at the same rate as income with his proposal to raise the capital gains rate to 75% while also stating that his idea of introducing new and higher personal tax rates on those making $350,000 and up was too high a bar that left out a great number of very wealthy people. Singh was left to state that he was open to other ideas on the matter and also highlighted his call for a tax on estates valued at over $4 million, though without noting that this valuation would exclude principal residences making it a tax that would apply to only a very tiny number of them.

Similarly, Peter Julian went at Charlie Angus for the lack of any numbers or specifics in Angus' proposal for a hard carbon cap. Angus answered with the non-answer of saying that it would all be decided by a future committee of scientists. Angus generally turned in a rather forgettable and paint-by-numbers performance that seemed tired and neither built on nor offered anything new versus the past outings.

Singh on the other hand, despite the two moments above, was quite dynamic with considerable support from the crowd while displaying his genuine charisma and oratorical skills. He had powerful points as when he said the NDP had to resist and oppose any attempts to privatize public infrastructure projects and came out with solid proposals such as creating a comprehensive urban agenda (he was the only candidate to really show an understanding of the importance of this and of having specific polices centred on cities like Toronto) and banning the practice of carding by the RCMP across Canada.

Likewise Julian rebounded from his lackluster St. John's appearance. He was charming, likable and at times even rousing getting one of the biggest rounds of applause when saying that if temporary foreign workers are "good enough to work" in Canada they are also good enough to live in Canada. On policy Julian stuck to his themes emphasizing such things as environmental issues and free tuition plans to good effect.

The night, however, was truly Ashton's night. She was focused and on point with her message throughout delivering not just her strongest debate so far, but the strongest outing of anyone in any of the contests yet. From the first question to last she had nary a misstep while working to clearly differentiate herself from the rest of the candidates, and while hammering away at the Liberals, neo-liberalism and issues from precarious work to pensions. Even when the questions were those that produced considerable consensus her responses stood out.

This led to a closing statement in which she directly positioned herself as the champion of the left by saying that she was the only candidate calling for "fundamental change", that incremental change "won't cut it", and by referencing and drawing inspiration from Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn.

It was a fitting end to a debate that will have no doubt fired up her supporters.

See also: Fourth NDP leadership debate sees some actual debate bucking the tedious trend

See also: The winner of the Sudbury NDP debate was the terrible format

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Plea for Social Justice - Extracts from the Speeches of J. S. Woodsworth, M.P., in the House of Commons, 1930-33 (Part III)

Vintage Leftist Leaflet Project

See the end of this post for details on the project.

Leaflet: A Plea for Social Justice - Extracts from the Speeches of J. S. Woodsworth, M.P. , in the House of Commons, 1930-33 (Part III) 

This booklet published in 1933 (selected by Grace MacInnis) has nearly 80 pages of extracts from the speeches of Canadian Socialist icon J. S. Woodsworth. Woodsworth, a critical figure in the history of the Canadian left, was the first leader of the CCF, the precursor to the NDP.

As the booklet is quite lengthy we broke it up into 3 posts of which this is the final one.

To see the first part, click here.  For the second, click here.

The third part today shows the sections "Canada's Constitution", "Finance: The Power Behind the Constitution" and "Humanity First".

The booklet is a fascinating and remarkable piece of and look at Canadian leftist and social history.

This final part shows clearly that Woodsworth felt that Canadian democracy was being undermined by and was often beholden to the interests of the banks and financiers. He also showed how the law was not being equally applied to workers and the wealthy.

Finally it ends with a stirring quote about capitalism from the manifesto of the League for Social Reconstruction that reads:
In the advanced industrial countries it has led to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small irresponsible minority of bankers and industrialists whose economic power constantly threatens to nullify our political democracy. 
The result in Canada is a society in which the interests of farmers and of wage and salaried workers - the great majority of the population - are habitually sacrificed to those of this small minority. 
Unregulated competitive production condemns them to alternate periods of feverish prosperity, in which the main benefits go to speculators and profiteers, and of catastrophic depression, in which the common man's normal state of insecurity and hardship is accentuated. 
We are convinced that these evils are inherent in any system in which private profit is the main stimulus to economic effort. 
We therefore look to the establishment in Canada of a new social order which will substitute a planned and socialized economy for the existing chaotic individualism and which, by achieving an approximate economic equality among all men in place of the present glaring inequalities, will eliminate the domination of one class by another.

(Click on images to enlarge)











(Unfortunately pages 73 & 74 are missing)




When The Left Chapter began part of what I wanted to do on the blog was to show and highlight vintage public leftist election/political leaflets and booklets. While many of these have been offered with commentary to date, a very large collection of hundreds of them from several different sources remains and to preserve these often quite rare documents we will be posting them on a regular (almost daily) basis now often without or with minimal commentary so that people may have access to them as quickly as possible as an historical resource. 

While these will all be leaflets from a variety of different leftist viewpoints and countries, they are being posted as an historical/study resource and the views or opinions expressed in them do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog or blogger.

All of these posts (as well as posts made to date) will be listed on the page: Vintage Communist/Socialist Leaflets (which is still being updated with past posts).

If you have any public, vintage leaflets or booklets you would like to contribute to this project please contact us via theleftchapter@outlook.com

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

NDP needs to remember that it is really the centrists and 'Third Way' that lost in the US and UK

In what can only be read as a rather defensive and bizarre apologia for the NDP's election strategy catastrophe in 2015, former National Director of the NDP Karl Bélanger has penned an op-ed (in the Toronto Sun no less!) called "NDP needs to remember that Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders lost". It is the saddest attempt that I have seen to date from a Canadian 'progressive' to downplay and minimize exactly what it is that Corbyn recently accomplished in the UK.

By doing so he presumably seeks to caution against attempts to change course from the more centrist NDP campaigns run by Layton (whose senior press secretary he was) and then Mulcair (for whom he worked as Principal Secretary). He also frames the success (insofar as he is willing to grant it) of Corbyn and Sanders as being primarily about "millennials" with seemingly no sense that was about a lot more than that including more importantly the return of left-wing class politics and the simmering of a revolt against grotesque inequality and the devastating consequences of a generation of neo-liberal austerity.

Bélanger's analysis is deeply flawed in a number of ways.

First, the 'losing' campaign of Sanders is not actually analogous to the UK election or to the next general one in Canada for the simple reason that what he didn't win was a rather unfair and corrupted nomination process against a party establishment that actively worked to stop him. He did not 'lose' the presidential election as he was not given the chance to. The centrist, mainstream candidate Hillary Clinton did that! Whether he would have won the general election or not we will never know but to say Sanders 'lost' in the same way Layton or Corbyn did is simply wrong.

Trying, one assumes, to seem fair, Bélanger draws an analogy between Layton in 2011 and Corbyn, noting "Despite the spin and euphoria created by the Orange Wave, the stark reality was that Stephen Harper won the election while the NDP lost."

While this is true (though, ironically, you would never have thought it listening to Layton on election night that year or to NDP partisans for the next four) it also fails to continue with what then happened next with the NDP's centrist approach which was the relegation of that party back to third party status, the loss of over 50 seats, nearly 11% of the popular vote, and a Liberal majority! The story did not stop in 2011 for the NDP. And I have little doubt that had the NDP instead managed to hold Harper to a minority while picking up seats and increasing the popular vote as Labour did that Bélanger -- and other NDP insiders or columnists -- would have been beside himself in his triumphalism.

(One might also note the result in 2011 led Canada from a Conservative minority to a Conservative majority government while in the UK Corbyn's Labour did exactly the opposite.)

As to the notion that "in Canada, it is Justin Trudeau that is still the millennials’ champion" even if true it is only true as the NDP has ceded to him this ground. That is actually an argument for a new approach and a shift, not against one.

In Canada the centrist approach was supposed to deliver the goods but did not.

The same cannot at all be said of Corbyn and Labour's left shift. As Lee Brown noted, "Jeremy Corbyn just made history with the greatest increase in Labour’s vote share since 1945."  Never mind that, as Jonathan Cook noted (among other things) in his must read "The facts proving Corbyn’s election triumph":
In short, Corbyn has proved himself the most popular Labour leader with the electorate in more than 40 years, apart from Blair’s landslide victory in 1997. But let’s recall the price Blair paid for that very small margin of improvement over Corbyn’s vote. Behind the scenes, he sold Labour’s soul to the City, the corporations and their lobbyists. That Faustian pact secured Blair the backing of most of the media, including Rupert Murdoch’s stable of papers and TV channel. The corporations mobilised their entire propaganda machine to get Blair into power. And yet he managed it with only 2 percentage points more than Corbyn, who had that same propaganda machine railing against him.
Also, unlike Corbyn, Blair did not have to endure a large section of his own party trying to destroy him from within.
That is the true mark of Corbyn’s achievement.
Another point. Blair’s 1997 landslide was the peak of his success. As Labour members realised what he had done to achieve victory, support ebbed away relentlessly until he was forced to step down and hand over a profoundly damaged party to Gordon Brown.
But perhaps more importantly, and what lies at the heart of the push back from those like Bélanger in my opinion, is that Corbyn has shown definitively that it is not necessary to bury principles to seriously vie for power for the left. He has relegated the horrible bankruptcy of that approach to the proverbial dustbin of history. As former Corbyn critic Owen Jones put it:
Blairism, New Labour, whatever you want to call it, is dead. It owed its hegemony to, frankly, despair: the idea that socialist policies were electoral poison, and offering them to the British people would invite only landslide Tory victories. The idea that technocratic centrism in this election would have mobilised voters as Corbyn’s Labour did is for the birds. No, Labour didn’t win, but it won its biggest increase in vote share since Clement Attlee in 1945 and is far closer to government than it was, despite being hobbled with disadvantages such as the loss of Scotland before Corbyn assumed Labour’s leadership. The idea, therefore, that centrism is the only possible route for electoral victory is buried.
That is his even greater triumph. Corbyn has shifted the discourse and not just in the UK.

And this is what the centrists wanting to maintain their ideological hegemony in the NDP really cannot stand.

See also: Corbyn's triumph is a triumph for the socialist left

See also: What victories? -- Why the NDP's right is wrong...and DiNovo has a point!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Moscow 1971 - 32 illustrated postcard images in colour and black-and-white

Today we are going to take a look at a truly lovely set of illustrated postcards that were published in the Soviet Union in 1971.

The set had 16 numbered illustrations of famous Moscow landmarks and the cards themselves are in Russian only. What is unique about the set is that in addition to the colourful representations on the front, each card had an atmospheric black-and-white illustration on the backside as well, something I have never seen.

The artistry here is remarkable and the locations are lovingly rendered.

(Click on images to enlarge)



































You can see links to all our past vintage photography and postcard posts on our Vintage Photography page. 

You can see links to all our art posts on our Art page.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Grenfell Tower, Theresa May, Philando Castile & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List June 11 - 18

This week's list of articles, news items and opinion pieces that I see as must reads if you are looking for a roundup that should be of interest to The Left Chapter readers.

This list covers the week of  June 11 - June 18. It is generally in order of the date of the article's release.

1) Theresa May's election victory will prove pyrrhic indeed

Larry Elliott, The Guardian

All Labour needs to do is sit back and watch as the Tory party tries to clean up its own mess for a change.

Read the full article.

2) Two more weeks and Labour would have been in power, says McDonnell

Toby Helm, The Guardian

Labour intends to push for the adoption of its popular manifesto policies in parliament, says the shadow chancellor.

Read the full article.

3) New Labour is dead. Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet must stay as it is

Owen Jones, The Guardian

The idea that people won’t vote for socialist policies has been comprehensively debunked. Why change tack when Labour is in the ascendancy?

Read the full article. 

4) 'Déjà vu' for First Nations women, as Ottawa seeks more time to rid Indian Act of sexism

 Marc-André Cossette, CBC News

​As the federal government seeks more time to remove gender-based discrimination from the Indian Act, some First Nations women say they've waited long enough.

Read the full article.

5) Hunting the Manosphere

Peter C. Baker, New York Times Magazine

In the final days of May, after police in Portland, Ore., reported that Jeremy Joseph Christian stabbed three men on a train, killing two of them, an unusual theory as to why the attack occurred emerged in certain parts of the internet. Mainstream commentators had already pointed to Christian’s alt-right flavored racism, which seemed obvious enough; the victims, after all, had been defending two Muslim women from his Islamophobic abuse, according to the police. Others raised the possibility that Christian was mentally unstable. But according to this new theory, the primary blame lay not with Christian at all and instead with an ideology internalized by the victims.

Read the full article.

6) Grenfell Tower was covered in material to make it look better. That’s being blamed for multiple deaths

Andrew Griffin, The Independent

The cladding that might have led to the horrifying blaze at Grenfell Tower was added partly to improve its appearance.

Read the full article.

7) Sex assault victim jailed after Crown, police refused to pick up hotel bill

CBC News

A homeless sex assault victim jailed while testifying against her attacker could have stayed in a hotel, but no one was willing to pick up the tab, CBC News has learned.

Read the full article.

8) City of Vancouver officially becomes living wage employer

 Liam Britten, CBC News

Mayor Gregor Robertson says Vancouver is now the largest living wage employer in Canada.

Read the full article.

9) 7 Things To Know About How Armed Cops Came To Be In Toronto High Schools

Desmond Cole, BuzzFeed

A program that hosts armed police in local high schools will be debated Thursday at the Toronto Police Services Board meeting. Police and schools first collaborated on the controversial School Resource Officer (SRO) program in 2008. Toronto’s version of the program suffers from several challenges, especially regarding community consent, useful program data, and risks to racialized and undocumented students. Here are seven things you need to know about police in Toronto’s schools.

Read the full article. 

10) Towards universal child care in Canada: A tale of two policies

Morna Ballantyne, Behind the Numbers

When the Ontario government rolled out its five-year child care action plan for children under 4 years earlier this month, the child care movement applauded—perhaps for the first time, and more or less enthusiastically, since the Paul Martin Liberals introduced their Canada-wide “QUAD” plan in 2004, which advanced quality, universal inclusivity and accessibility with a developmental focus.

Read the full article.

11) Grenfell Tower Fire: Jeremy Corbyn Calls For ‘Luxury’ Properties To Be Taken Over To House Residents

Paul Waugh, The Huffington Post

Jeremy Corbyn has called for empty “luxury” homes owned by foreign investors to be used to help those left homeless by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Read the full article.

12) Gerry Adams tells Theresa May she is 'breaking Good Friday Agreement'

Tom Peck, The Independent

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams has said he told Theresa May that she is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

Read the full article.

13) With Grenfell Tower, we’ve seen what ‘ripping up red tape’ really looks like

George Monbiot, The Guardian

For years successive governments have built what they call a bonfire of regulations. They have argued that “red tape” impedes our freedom and damages productivity. Britain, they have assured us, would be a better place with fewer forms to fill in, fewer inspections and less enforcement.

But what they call red tape often consists of essential public protections that defend our lives, our futures and the rest of the living world. The freedom they celebrate is highly selective: in many cases it means the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor, of corporations to exploit their workers, landlords to exploit their tenants and industry of all kinds to use the planet as its dustbin. As RH Tawney remarked, “Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows.”

Read the full article.

14) A Very Political Tragedy

Dawn Foster, Jacobin

Today’s horrific fire in London's Grenfell Tower is a symbol of a deeply unequal United Kingdom.

Read the full article.

15) Grenfell Tower: Using fire-resistant cladding on Kensington block 'would have cost £5,000 extra'

Jon Sharman, The Independent

Installing fire-resistant cladding at Grenfell Tower would have cost just £5,000 extra, it has been claimed, after the spotlight fell on the building's facade as a factor in Wednesday's devastating fire.

Read the full article.

16) Theresa May was too scared to meet the Grenfell survivors. She’s finished

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

That tomb in the sky will be forever Theresa May’s monument. Grenfell marks the spot and her visit marks the moment the last vestiges of her career were finally rubbed out. She made it her own yesterday by that fateful “visit” to a handful of senior fire officers, guarding her from any contaminating contact with the bereaved and newly homeless. Dead to emotion or empathy, she sealed her fate.


17) Rigged

Brett Murphy, USA Today

Talavera was a modern-day indentured servant. And there are hundreds, likely thousands more, still on the road, hauling containers for trucking companies that move goods for America’s most beloved retailers, from Costco to Target to Home Depot.



Kristy Kirkup, The Toronto Star

The NDP leadership candidate says Canada needs to commit to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, adding this means saying no to both Kinder Morgan and Energy East.



Andrew Kurjata, Medium

The Vancouver Sun published an op-ed by Martin Collacott titled “Opinion: Canada replacing its population a case of wilful ignorance, greed, excess political correctness.” It is, explicitly, racist.



Rossalyn Warren, The Guardian

Last summer, Lance Hart shot dead his wife, daughter and himself, four days after the family had left him. His sons talk frankly about life before and after.



Ryan Miller, USA Today

After a jury found the Minnesota police officer who killed Philando Castile not guilty on Friday, Castile's mother Valerie pushed back against the decision.
"People have died for us to have these rights and now we're devolving. We're going back down to 1969. Damn. What is it going to take? I'm mad as hell right now, yes I am," she said.


While this last article was published last year it is worth revisiting in light of the terrible verdict in this case:


Melissa Chan, Time

Colleagues and parents on Thursday remembered Philando Castile as an ambitious man who served as a role model for hundreds of children before he was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota.




Friday, June 16, 2017

A Plea for Social Justice - Extracts from the Speeches of J. S. Woodsworth, M.P. , in the House of Commons, 1930-33 (Part II)


Vintage Leftist Leaflet Project


See the end of this post for details on the project.

Leaflet: A Plea for Social Justice - Extracts from the Speeches of J. S. Woodsworth, M.P. , in the House of Commons, 1930-33 (Part II) 

This booklet published in 1933 (selected by Grace MacInnis) has nearly 80 pages of extracts from the speeches of Canadian Socialist icon J. S. Woodsworth. Woodsworth, a critical figure in the history of the Canadian left, was the first leader of the CCF, the precursor to the NDP.


As the booklet is quite lengthy we will be breaking up these posts into 3 parts.

To see the first part, click here. 

The second part today shows the sections "Safeguards for Individual Freedom", "Militarism" and "The International Situation".

The booklet is a fascinating and remarkable piece of and look at Canadian leftist and social history.

The second part is notable for, among other things, Woodsworth's defense of the rights of Communists and protesting in parliament the imprisonment of several Communist leaders (which would have included Tim Buck) in Kingston, as well as his very positive impressions of the Soviet Union after his trip to it. The fifth section should also be read through the lens of his pacifism.

(Click on images to enlarge)
















When The Left Chapter began part of what I wanted to do on the blog was to show and highlight vintage public leftist election/political leaflets and booklets. While many of these have been offered with commentary to date, a very large collection of hundreds of them from several different sources remains and to preserve these often quite rare documents we will be posting them on a regular (almost daily) basis now often without or with minimal commentary so that people may have access to them as quickly as possible as an historical resource. 

While these will all be leaflets from a variety of different leftist viewpoints and countries, they are being posted as an historical/study resource and the views or opinions expressed in them do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog or blogger.

All of these posts (as well as posts made to date) will be listed on the page: Vintage Communist/Socialist Leaflets (which is still being updated with past posts).

If you have any public, vintage leaflets or booklets you would like to contribute to this project please contact us via theleftchapter@outlook.com