In 1886, 127 years ago, European immigrant workers marched in Chicago to demand an eight hour work day. The massacre and execution of trade unionists that followed has been commemorated every year since, in almost every corner of the world on May 1st – International Workers Day.
Since then, working people have waged a continuous struggle, from social reforms to revolutionary alternatives. In this country, these struggles have produced important reforms including the minimum wage, pensions, a retirement age, and many social programs and rights including access to health care and primary education. International Workers Day is also a day to celebrate these victories, especially at this time when we are compelled to organize to protect these vital gains from capitalism’s latest offensive, so-called “austerity”. This agenda is being orchestrated from the highest levels of international finance right down to municipal governments, a program to advance the redirecting social wealth from state-sponsored social programs to the richest.
The colonial foundations of this country, including the systematic theft of land and attempts to destroy the culture and social fabric of indigenous nations, remains the most pressing internal issue in this country today.
The ‘Idle No More’ movement has brought the issue of internal colonialism to the world, and especially to the public in Canada that has largely ignored this reality. Indigenous communities continue to wage campaigns over land claims, the inexcusable number of missing indigenous women, as well reparations for crimes committed by the residential school system, just to name a few.
The Canadian state has also been increasingly playing a role as an imperialist political, economic, and military actor. While Canada has been active in foreign military campaigns since before WWI (participating in military actions in South Africa) over the last decade Canada has gone from being a major component of the military offensive and occupation in Afghanistan to also participating in the NATO-led bombing of Libya, with the prospect of military involvement in Mali, Syria with North Korea currently under discussion. Moreover, the Canadian state has backed and assisted in the proliferation of Canadian mining companies and their operations all over the planet. In many cases, not only do these companies engage in labour exploitation and environmentally destructive practices, which have catastrophic impacts to local communities and ecosystems, but they have also been connected to targeted acts of violence against workers as well as environmental activists, from Colombia to Tanzania.
There are many more – too many – examples of the injustices and crimes that occur here and around the world, crimes that are committed to maintain the capitalist order. All over the world, the wealthy and powerful are using the governments they control to push the same relentless, criminal agenda of pursuing profit at the cost of the rights and lives of people. Whether it be by robbing people’s money as they are doing in Cyprus, or by robbing a nation’s resources through military means as in Libya, or by unrelentingly attacking social programs and workers’ rights as is happening here, their agenda and their system must be stopped.
There should be no mistake. We are not simply talking about going back in time, rewinding the clock to the supposed heyday of the so-called “welfare state” in Canada. This welfare state was at the same time pursuing its genocide of indigenous peoples through residential schools and pursuing its criminal war of aggression against the people of Korea. We cannot continue to pretend that, as Stephen Harper said, “Canada has no history of colonialism”. We can no longer pretend that Canada acts as a ‘peacekeeper’ on the world stage and that transnationals are altruistically ‘providing jobs’ as they outsource jobs here while exploiting workers and resources abroad.
On International Workers Day, we march to build a Solidarity City. Solidarity City is a unified struggle for: Respect for Indigenous Sovereignty, Status for All, an End to Imperialism and Environmental Destruction, an End to Austerity and Attacks on the Poor and Working class, continued resistance against Patriarchy, Racism, Ableism and Homophobia and Transphobia’.
On this International Workers Day, the organizations of the May 1st Movement call for:
Support for the struggle for Indigenous peoples’ liberation including:
The defense of ancestral lands and support to frontline land defenders; and
The recognition of the right of Indigenous genuine self-determination, including their right to determine all their economic and political affairs.
Pushing back on attacks upon working class and poor communities including:
Rejecting all forms of the capitalist ‘austerity’ agenda, reject the cutting of services and trampling on worker and civil rights;
Curtailing police abuses and impunity by reducing of police budgets, dismantling of the bogus Special Investigations Unit, and its replacement with a genuine community-based civilian oversight groups;
Rejecting the continued neoliberal drive towards privatizations, eliminating public incentives and tax breaks for large corporations, and resisting outsourcing by placing regulations and restrictions on these practices.
Supporting concrete campaigns that address immediate needs of workers, including:
Extending access to services without fear of deportation, while fighting for regularization of undocumented people, and extension of permanent residency to any worker in Canada while re-regulating migrant labour to eliminate laws that exempt these workers from the rights and benefits that other workers enjoy; and
Increasing the minimum wage to $14.50/ hr, re-adjustment of social assistance rates to lift people out of poverty whiling indexing both of these to inflation.
Exposing Canadian Imperialism and reasserting our support for liberation struggles abroad including:
The withdrawal of Canada’s military from all foreign outposts and immediately halting any preparations for foreign military campaigns;
The subjection of Canadian mining companies to strict regulations to protect the rights of workers, the protection of the environment and communities where mining may take place, and the rights of people to benefit from any extraction that may take place;
The immediate halt to the practice of labour import which utilized temporary immigration status to regulate and discipline labour; and
The extension of different forms of support to liberation movements abroad from peoples organizations and social movements in Canada.
Of course, there are many other issues that impact different sectors of the working class in different ways and this is but a short list of changes we demand and deserve. Perhaps more importantly, we cannot expect the Canadian state to simply ‘give’ us these things and more. We stress the need for building people’s power in communities, in workplaces, on the streets and in the reserves, if we are going to actually achieve these.
This system is not and will not work for us, the majorities, the working people both here and abroad. We are the ones who build and make things, who perform the tasks and services that make societies progress, and it is our ancestral lands that are being plundered to feed this system.
This May Day, while the same class of politicians who live well off the public dime tell us that we need to tighten our belt and that we need to blame unions and immigrants for this mess, we need to understand that this system, and those that protect it, are the problem. We must stand with each other, in solidarity, so that when any government or corporation looks to trample on one community, one union or one group, we all stand together.
LIBERATION FOR FIRST NATIONS AND ALL OPPRESSED NATIONS!
HANDS OFF OUR SOCIAL PROGRAMS AND RIGHTS!
BUILD A SOLIDARITY CITY!
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
by Binnadang Migrante Canada
The Cordillera Day event is a uniting activity held in our home country of the Philippines and here overseas. In these yearly celebrations, it would serve us well to look back in time to where we came from, the difficult paths that we had to go through in order to be where we are today.
Cordillera Day is on its 29th year of celebration in our native land (the Cordillera region of the Philippines) and its 5th year here in Toronto. On May 4, we will be guided by the theme “Strengthen unity in the indigenous people’s struggle for self determination. Uphold the rights and welfare of migrants and families. Support the politics of change.”
Binnadang – Migrante is spearheading the celebration. We are an organization of indigenous migrants to Canada that is advocating for our rights as migrants and actively engaging in the struggle of the indigenous peoples in the Cordillera for self-determination and for the Filipino peoples’ struggles for genuine freedom and democracy.
Cordillera day was born out of the struggle of the Cordillerans. It provides us a venue to give tribute to our martyrs who courageously defended and protected our indigenous people’s rights for our land, life, honor, rich culture, and vast resources of the Cordillera region in the Philippines. Ama Macling Dulag, a respected tribal chieftain, helped unify tribes in the Northern Cordilleras from the late 70’s to early 80’s to resist the construction of the World Bank–funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dams. On April 24, 1980, Dulag was brutally killed by the Philippine military. Up to now, no justice has been served for his murder.
Today, we reflect, learn, derive inspiration and gain further guidance from our Cordilleran martyrs’ perseverance in various struggles throughout the past decades. As migrant workers, we have been forced to leave our families and live under exploitative and oppressive conditions abroad by the very same reasons why Ama Macling struggled before and why many of our people are still struggling now.
The land, life and livelihood of the Cordillerans are under attack! Across the region, the adverse effects of large scale mining have resulted in irreparable damage to the natural environment and local agriculture, the economic and even physical displacement of indigenous communities, and the aggravation of climate change impacts. Human rights are trampled through militarization, employment of union busters, private armies and pseudo-unionists who do not really serve the interest of the people.
The problem of development aggression and security continue to intensify the worsening phenomenon of forced migration. Most of the Cordillerans live on the graces of our fertile lands. But the richest of our lands are claimed by foreign capitalists and local elites. Thus many of us were left with no choice but to migrate overseas, a condition that makes us vulnerable to different forms of exploitation.
The indigenous people together with the other toiling masses of the society are left with no recourse but to resist. We want to finally go home to a country where there is an opportunity for a decent life, where Cordillerans are the ones who benefit from the riches of Cordillera, where our culture is respected and where the Filipino people are free and our society is truly just.
November 2012 in Toronto there was an OIPRD conference on police complaints that put forward the Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (PAVIS), the new model of policing. In response to this, KW Occupy, The Spot Collective, and Basics Community News Service interviewed 70 people from the East end and downtown of Kitchener to come up with our own understanding of policing and the PAVIS model.
Experience With Police
Several people mentioned good experiences with officers who have been kind and sympathetic, but this seemed to be the exception and more due to with the individual officers and not systematic policing practices. The most common experiences people had with police were being stopped and searched without being placed under arrest, being asked for their ID, being questioned without counsel present, or even before they have had their Rights read. Other less prevalent but still common experiences were the use of excessive force in arrests, being arrested on charges that are later dropped, having to stay in jail because of lack of bail, being targeted and pressured into giving information on friends or “people of interest”, and being denied basic rights while in custody.
Those who were targeted tended to be homeless people, marginalized communities and racial groups. Political activists are also targeted, especially if they belong to or are organizing one of those groups. There was heavy police presence in the downtown core, East end, Paulander etc.; places where there is higher unemployment, poverty, and immigration.
Increase of Police Violence
More and more police have been used to deal with people with mental health issues. Since they are not mental health workers and lack the training to do so this leads to escalations of violence. Police have also been increasing their use of force toward people whom they perceive as “troublemakers and undesirables” and those considered guilty by association such as friends or family.
Most dangerous is violence by proxy. For example, a native activist was arrested in plain sight, only to be released, given a business card, and told to contact the police with information on another activist, making it look to bystanders as if he was an informant. In another incident, police told activists and gang members that an article written about an informant was about them, leaving the writer open to violence. Police have also played gang members off each other, particularly by giving false information
Police Presence at Community Centers
More and more police are present in community centres and public spaces. Groups that receive public money are “encouraged” to be police friendly. Police in these spaces have asked about other activists, street people and minorities. While some see this as the police being nice, others are worried that police are using this as a way to gather information and intimidate. For example, during the conduction of several interviews for this report, police made their presence known. Another example is that CSIS, an intelligence agency, has advertised to recruit in an immigrant community space. Questions that police ask people when they “chat them up” are also revealing. By asking how is so and so doing, people feel that police are quietly building their friendship maps and keeping tabs on people.
There are less panhandlers downtown, but this has nothing to do with an improved economy. Instead, intensified police presence downtown has focused on the removal of undesirables to make it “more comfortable” for the economic group they are trying to attract. Businesses are quick to refuse service to those not “dressed nice enough”, even if they have money, and use police to remove them by force. Furthermore, people have noticed an increase in ticketing people of lower income as a deterrent for them to be downtown.
Generally speaking, people feel that the police have the final say. Even when the court gives a verdict of not guilty, it does nothing to make up for the time spent in jail. People felt the police complaints process was useless, and of those interviewed, not one has had a complaint successfully resolved. Some felt that protests and the CopWatch program were one way of holding police accountable.
Police and Politics
The people saw the police as a political organization. Those interviewed felt that the police’s effect on grassroots politics is negative; activists were being arrested on charges later dropped, police are infiltrating activist groups and using informants to gather information on political meetings, activists and protests. Some felt that attending demonstrations made them targets, especially if they come from a poor or working class background or were racialized.
Tactics at Protests
Heavier police presence was noted at protests. People had their pictures taken and observed retaliation for attending such as getting picked up later on charges, being followed, or getting “jacked”. People have been told not to attend protests and felt intimidated from openly participating in political activity afterwards, especially if they came from a marginalized background. More interesting are the bail conditions those arrested have faced – they cannot associate with political people or legal democratic political groups, attend demonstrations, etc.
It is obvious to those interviewed that these conditions are aimed at stopping people from participating in political activity and has nothing to do with law and order. People have seen an increase in police attempts to recruit informers, infiltrate political organizations etc.
by Steve da Silva
The moral backlash that Canada’s largest and most profitable bank, RBC, was met with when news broke earlier this month that they were using foreign workers to replace dozens of their IT staff has developed into a wider scandal that is engulfing virtually all of corporate Canada and all of Canada’s political parties.
It is no secret that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been growing rapidly, tripling in a decade to more than 338,000 workers by the end of 2012. As has been pointed out, this is a larger workforce than that of Canada’s smaller provinces.
The moral outrage sparked by the outsourcing of 45 of RBC’s IT staff reflects a sense of indignation amongst Canadians – as if a line had been crossed. Many seem to be reflecting a feeling that they’ve been lied to, and were under the impression that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program had been limited to jobs like being caregivers or tomato pickers (which are actually part of separate programs, the Live-In Caregiver Program and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program), jobs that “Canadians don’t want” or in industries facing only temporary labour or skills shortages. After all, as the government website for the program reads, “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) allows Canadian employers to hire foreign nationals to fill temporary labour and skill shortages when qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents are not available.”
As an employer, here is how you make a “Canadian” job suitable for a migrant worker: Drive wages down to rock bottom, break or block union formation, and minimize safety regulations. Then no one takes your job. But don’t worry! The TFWP will help you! Apply for a Labour Market Opinion from the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada saying that you couldn’t find enough workers in the required fourteen day advertising period, and bang! Not only do you have a cheap labour supply, but you have workers that are stuck with you as an employer, workers who can’t unionize, and who you can pay 15% less than the minimum wage. This trend is sweeping across the economy.
Temporary foreign workers are working in all sectors of the economy. In the weeks following the news, one source reported that eighteen of Canada’s largest fifty employers are on the list of users of the TFWP, including: Shaw, Sun Life, RIM, Maple Leaf, Air Canada, Canadian Tire, Financière Manuvie, Rona, Rogers, Sears, BMO, Bell, Thomson Reuters, Bombardier, Scotiabank, TD Canada Trust, Loblaws. Other notable employers of TFWs include Lulu Lemon, Hudson’s Bay Company, Bank of Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart, Telus, Enbridge, Sobeys, CN Rail, Porter, Tim Hortons, SNC Lavalin, CP Rail, McDonald’s, Suncor, and Talisman Energy. The total number of employers now using TFWs is 33,000. Other noteworthy employers on the list include the Bank of Canada, CBC, and the Girl Guides. With an official joblessness level sitting at 1.4 million people, it should become clear where this outpouring of indignation comes from.
Not only has the scandal spread to virtually all of corporate Canada, it has spread to all of Canada’s political parties too. After some righteous posturing from the Conservatives pretending as if they weren’t aware of such uses of the program and some vague promises about immediate reforms, they have now deflected criticism by revealing active support for the program by the opposition parties. The Conservatives released this past week a series of personal letters written by Liberal and NDP MPs – including Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Status of Women Critic Niki Ashton, and NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar – making personal appeals for the use of temporary foreign workers in their ridings.
So all political parties have more or less supported the Program, and virtually all sectors of economy are using temporary foreign workers. Yet the moral backlash remains centered not on the super-exploitative and often abusive and dangerous conditions that temporary foreign workers have endured for decades, but rather on the concern that the TFWP has begun to cut into “Canadian jobs” and that it has far surpassed the mandate of the program to fill short-term labour or skills shortages. This is a line of thinking that is being actively encouraged by the media, with what seems like ‘two sides’ to the debate arguing over whether this or that job can or should be filled by citizens. And to the extent that this moral backlash in the media reflects popular sentiments of anxieties over people’s jobs and livelihoods, it is understandable. Rising consumer and student debts with fewer job prospects and employment insecurity is a reasonable basis for anxiety. But we can’t let those who are responsible for generating these social insecurities – all levels of government and the businesses that get them elected – leverage them for their own purposes.
The moment we workers – those of us who rely on our labour to survive, who make others rich by our work – buy into this logic of there being certain jobs that are suitable for “Canadians” and certain jobs suitable to foreign workers, we’ve already lost the battle. We’ve lost because we’ve already accepted that a divided working-class is acceptable, divisions which are only hardened by differing immigration statuses and racial lines.
But we don’t have to accept these divisions. Workers looking for real alternatives to capitalism and a way to resist capitalist “austerity” shouldn’t get pulled into this debate of where we draw around which jobs are okay for the super-exploitation of foreign workers. The capitalists and their governments will go on creating whatever hiring practices and wage systems are necessary, no matter how exploitative, to make their profits and “compete” in the global capitalist economy.
In any case, the job of workers is to organize against these capitalists. Just as immigrant workers did in militant and courageous ways in the late 19th and early twentieth centuries, so too we will and must today. Hopefully today, with greater unity and support from workers with citizenship and status.
As the May 1st Movement and its allies have called for this coming May Day, we need a Solidarity City – a city of organizations and alliances united against capitalist austerity, imperialism and colonialism, and united through a network of people’s power in this city and far beyond it that is actually capable of bringing forth a new economy and a new society.
By Barrio Nuevo
On the eve of Presidential elections in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, people from a number of cities came together to form a Canada-wide network to support the Venezuelan process of social transformation, debunk myths and lies perpetuated in the media, as well as denounce acts of aggression or interference by the Government of Canada in the affairs of Venezuelan people.
Organizations and groups from Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Kitchener, London, Hamilton, the First Nations were among those gathered in Ottawa to discuss the actions to support the Bolivarian Revolution, the legacy of President Hugo Chávez, and the future president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro.
The more than 120 delegates agreed to:
• Support the Bolivarian Revolution, the legacy of Comandante Hugo Chavez, the construction of socialism, the independence of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the eradication of capitalism
• Deepen the Solidarity, the exchange, and brotherhood among peoples of Latin America and Canada
• Gather Canadian organizations and groups to join the Venezuela Solidarity Network, in order to support and defend the Bolivarian Revolution.
Further, participants were asked to remain alert to any maneuvers to destabilize the country following the Presidential elections.
The candidate of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) for President, Nicolas Maduro, edged out the right-wing candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski of the MUD by just under 300,000 votes. Capriles, the favored candidate of the western imperialist powers, declared that he would not accept these results and called his supporters to the streets in protest. Supporters of the right-wing parties responded to these calls with violence, killing 6 supporters of the Socialist Party the day after the elections. Moreover, these groups attacked social programs identified with the Bolivarian Revolution including community health centers and people’s markets, while also targeting offices of the Socialist Party and its leaders. Public and community media outlets including Telesur were also targeted and journalists threatened.
“The right-wing has tried to claim fraud in every elections that they haven’t won,” said Santiago Escobar, Toronto spokesperson for the Venezuela Solidarity Network (VSN). “Despite their claims to be democratic and peaceful, their actions show that they are little more than US sponsored fascists who have no regard for the lives let alone the will of the Venezuelan people”.
Recently, federal Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis has been working with Venezuelan opposition groups in Canada to target the Bolivarian government. Karygiannis, also the Liberal Multiculturalism critic, went to Venezuela to observe the elections and met with Capriles and other members of the MUD.
The VSN, whose plans include opposing and exposing these plots against Venezuela being organized here in Canada, will hold another meeting this coming fall in Montreal.
by Noaman G. Ali
“I just want to help children,” a voice called out in English from a clothing store in Thamel, a tourist area of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city.
I saw a young white woman walking out of the store, and my curiosity got the better of me. “You want to help children?” I called out.
It was a dark, cold January evening and the narrow streets were lit largely from stores which had no front walls and the signs that hung over them. The woman stopped and turned around.
“Yeah. There are these street girls—and not the glue-sniffing kind—they’re really nice street girls, and they don’t have shoes or socks so I want to buy them socks. That’s a nice thing to do, isn’t it?” she seemed to be pleading.
“I guess,” I said. “But you know there are other ways of helping people here?”
“Like what?” she asked.
“You know about the revolution going on here, don’t you?”
“No. What revolution are you talking about?”
“The communist revolution,” I said, referring to the Maoist movement that has dominated the country’s politics for the better part of the last decade.
“Communism? Isn’t that bad?”
“Why is it bad?”
“Because communists want to take things over and run things and tell people what to do,” she said with conviction.
I tried to explain a bit of what the Maoist communists in Nepal were about, but she wasn’t convinced.
“I don’t know about all of that,” she said. “I’m only here for one more day, and I want to do something nice.”
A few days later, in the small city of Birendranagar in the western district of Surkhet, I was squatting on my haunches watching as barefoot men, women, and children sat next to mounds of gravel and smashed at stones with hammers.
Bits of stone flew in all directions and kept hitting me in the eyes. It took me awhile to realize that these people were producing the gravel.
A toddler wearing a black shirt and no pants—never mind shoes—was hitting at a rock with a hammer as a playtime activity, imitating the older children and adults around.
Other youth, in their teens and early twenties, were collecting large stones and rocks and arranging them in blocks to build a bridge.
The sun beat down on our backs as I asked Veer Bahadur, a 49-year old stone-breaker with dusty, bandaged thumbs, to tell me about his life.
His 35-year old wife, Jitmaya Nepali spoke more. We communicated through a translator, a small-business owner who was showing me around the city.
They explained that they were from the Thapa, a caste of historically-oppressed indigenous (janjati) peoples. Completely landless, they were living in a hut thrown up on some land near the construction of the bridge. They had four children. Only the youngest was in school.
I asked about untouchability, the political, economic, and cultural system by which people from upper castes would refuse to touch people from the lowest of castes, make them do the worst of jobs, and generally treat them with disrespect and contempt.
“There used to be a lot of that,” Jitmaya said. “But there’s not so much of that now.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“The Maoists,” she said.
In the course of a ten-year long People’s War launched in 1996, during which they took control of some 80-percent of the countryside, the Maoists struggled against untouchability and for the rights of oppressed castes and nationalities, women, small businesses and, of course, workers and peasants.
Before the People’s War, Jitmaya explained, she used to do the same work, but earned much less than she does now. “There’s more earning now for us to eat.”
When it came to politics, though, Jitmaya asserted that whoever won the elections, it just didn’t do much for her and people like her.
Still, she noted, “The Maoists are all right. Congress and UML only look out for themselves and for the rich. The Maoists at least look at and talk about the wretched and the poor.”
The Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), or UML, were the largest parties in Nepal before the Maoists came onto the scene. Although they have opposed the attempts by Nepal’s monarchy to take total control, they have also leaned heavily on the highly oppressive semi-feudal landlords and sections of the bureaucracy to support them. The two parties are also often seen as being very close to India, whose control and influence is considered by many to block Nepal’s prospects for economic and political development.
Congress and UML’s reluctance to support the economic and cultural reforms needed to establish a true democracy played into support for the Maoists in the course of the People’s War. But when the monarchy took total control of the country in the early 2000s, the Maoists ended the War and joined hands with Congress and UML in a People’s Movement that decisively abolished the monarchy.
Surprising everybody, perhaps including themselves, the Maoists emerged as the largest party in the Constituent Assembly elections held in 2008. But the following years brought little political stability, as different parties cycled through Prime Ministerships. No administration could last very long—leading to intense dissatisfaction throughout the country.
“What’s politics got to do with us? Why should we go after politics? What will the Maoists do for us?” Balbahadur Viswakarma said when I asked him about his views on politics and the Maoists.
A couple of hours away from Birendranagar, in the “village development committee” of Maintada, Balbahadur is a labourer from the Dalit caste of “untouchables.” 50-years old, Balbahadur was squatting on a pile of rocks, which he was putting together to construct a home, when I went up to speak to him in Hindi.
“I have a little bit of land that can sustain my family for six months,” he explained. “The rest of the time I do this kind of work.”
His view on politics appeared thoroughly pragmatic. “We need development, we need jobs. We’ll vote for whoever gives us bread and livelihoods. The land we live on is not registered in our names, we’ll vote for whoever gets it registered.”
But his words further on betrayed some appreciation for the Maoists’ struggle.
“More people have gotten livelihoods as a result of the People’s War. Before the War, only the children of rich people got jobs and income. Those people who were already big leaders, or owned businesses, or had a lot of land.
“There was also a lot of untouchability and discrimination, but it was reduced as a result of the People’s War. Little people got the opportunity to speak out.”
Still, Balbahadur argued that the People’s War was not a success because the Constituent Assembly had proven incapable of producing a constitution.
Not only that, “Congress and UML are parties of the rich. They won’t do anything for the poor. Revolution is necessary. Things change so fast, but workers and peasants still need jobs, electricity, an end to load-shedding, irrigation. But not in this violent way. So many people died, there was so much loss, it’s not right.”
What is it about these Maoists that people could express, at once, their appreciation for their actions and skepticism about their intentions?
How are Maoists handling their departure from revolutionary politics and entry into mainstream politics?
And just who are these Maoists, who risked life and limb in a ten-year long People’s War against the police and army of Nepal?
Bimila Hamal was suffering from motion sickness and so she spent most of the bus ride to Surkhet half-asleep—on top of me.
Surkhet district is in the western part of Nepal, some fifteen hours west of Kathmandu by bus. The ride is bumpy and winds its way along precipitous mountain paths.
The 26-year old kept apologizing about giving me the trouble, and I sat there awkwardly trying to make sure she didn’t fly out of the seat every time the bus hit a bump, which was often. My head hit the coaster above me several times.
A screen at the front of the bus played a Nepali film, and Bimila was totally alert for one of the songs, explaining that she really liked it. From time to time her phone would go off to the tune of a sweet and sugary Hindi song.
An hour or two away from Birendranagar, as the daylight came up, the usually cheery Bimila turned sombre and pointed out a national park in the lush greenery of the hills and valleys below.
“There are elephants and tigers in this park,” she explained. “During the People’s War, we would have to march through these jungles, mostly at night.”
“Weren’t you afraid?” I asked.
“No. The animals were afraid of us,” she said. “We were afraid of the police.”
Bimila was part of a Maoist artists’ troupe. She joined the Maoists when she was 13-years old, in the middle of the People’s War. Completely banned, the Maoists were totally underground.
Her nom de guerre is Sarala. It means simple.
“We would often walk at night and I was so tired that I would fall asleep while walking! Then someone behind me would bump into me and ask, what happened?”
I first met Bimila in Kathmandu, when delegates and observers were taking a break from the Seventh National Congress of the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist, held in mid-January. I asked her then about how and why she joined up with the Maoists.
Bimila is from a family of small peasants—poor, but not too poor. Her parents supported the Maoists and their ideology of equality and development. Her father was sometimes jailed, and to avoid police he was often not at home.
Bimila’s mother and her daughters faced the brunt of police repression. That just fueled even more resentment against the state and underscored the Maoists’ point that there could be no liberation under the existing political order.
“There was a lot of persecution. The police would harass us. They beat my mother because we would occasionally feed and house Maoist activists. The police slapped me around. My mother told me to go fight.”
So Bimila became a whole-timer (full-time activist) with the Maoists. Because she was young she wasn’t assigned to fighting. Instead, she joined in with the artists, and was trained in dancing. She was also trained in political and social science, public speaking and how to conduct mass work.
“There was so much injustice and persecution, I felt I had to go fight for liberation.”
For several years, Bimila explained, she and her comrades spent a lot of time walking from village to village, from district to district, from region to region, spreading the Maoist message through song, dance and theatre. “I’ve visited much of Nepal, on foot. People really loved us everywhere we went.”
The Maoists and communities that supported them were the frequent target of state repression, so even artists were trained in handling weaponry for self-defense, as well as in first aid.
Many of Bimila’s friends died in the People’s War, but she also remembered it fondly as a time of great camaraderie and solidarity. Bimila got married during the People’s War, and now has a five-year old son—named Soviet.
I bumped into Bimila a couple more times over the next few days, and when I learned that she was going to Surkhet with another comrade from the All Nepal Women’s Association (Revolutionary) (ANWA(R)), I asked if I could come along. That got me on the 15-hour bus ride to the western part of Nepal.
“Sometimes this peace seems like a dream,” Bimila told me. “In those years, I could never imagine that I’d be taking a bus on official roads to visit friends across the country.”
At one point in Surkhet, Bimila showed me two videos of herself dancing. One was filmed in one of the Maoists’ Base Areas during the People’s War. Bimila dances in a circle with other men and women in western Nepali style to a deuda, a man and a woman competing in singing verses—here, revolutionary verses. But in the other video, she dances by herself to a popular Bollywood song, at a picnic in peacetime.
After the War, Bimila resumed her education and is now enrolled in a B.Ed. program. I got the sense she’d like to be some kind of a performer. But, she noted, her husband encouraged her to continue as a leader instead.
Like so many others, Bimila is torn between the need to complete the revolution and the comforts of peace—“a morbid peace” because the efforts and sacrifices of the People’s War did not lead to the outcomes people fought for: No constitution, no government of the workers and peasants, no accelerated development toward equality.
Instead, the deep practices of the state came back, even when the government was led by Maoists. Politicians went back to the kinds of wheeling and dealing, corruption and scandals, and subordination to Indian expansionism that had led to the People’s War in the first place.
It seemed certain that the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (or UCPN(Maoist)) had abandoned its program of revolution. When those who were committed to the goal of revolution decided to split and to form the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (or CPN-Maoist, also called the Dash Maoists for simplicity’s sake) in 2012, Bimila sided with the revolutionaries.
Now Bimila is a regional bureau member of the Dash Maoists, a central committee member of the All Nepal Women’s Association (Revolutionary) and its district in-charge in Surkhet.
She often deals with cases of polygamy, violence against women, sexual harassment and alcoholism—these things go together all over Nepal—organizing ANWA(R) activists to empower women and to bring men around.
“First we try to persuade them, but if they don’t behave then we may slap them around a bit….” She laughed, somewhat apologetically, breaking out a brilliant smile, “Because we have to liberate women!”
Well, all right.
There was some mischief in Kanta Poudel’s eyes.
In Kothikada, on a peak overlooking the Surkhet Valley in which Birendranagar is located, the 30-year old schoolteacher was telling me about the situation of women in her region.
We weren’t alone. We were surrounded by over a dozen men and women listening to our conversation.
“There was violence against women in general and domestic violence as well. Our voices weren’t heard, many times we literally couldn’t even speak,” she explained.
Many of the women nodded or muttered in agreement. The men looked on.
“All we were good for was cooking food and cutting grass. We had no rights to property—in law, yes, but not in reality. Things have gotten better. They are not as good as they should be, but they have gotten better.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because of democracy and peace. There has been education and general social change. Things change with time.”
“Okay,” I said. “But what about struggle?”
“Yes,” and here the twinkle in her eyes was betrayed by the slight, sly smile on her face. “Because of struggle—people’s struggle.”
Among the spectators was Kanta’s father, 72-year old Tikaram Devkota, a small peasant from an upper caste, a committed monarchist and an opponent of the Maoists.
Some ways down from Kothikada in Chhera, I met with 33-year old Balkrishna Bandhari, who owned a small roadside shop from which he sold food (noodles, rice and dal, so on) and basic condiments.
“Politics in Nepal is golmaal [a circular mess],” he said, as the sun settled and we sat around a fire. “What’s happening is bad and dirty. Politicians have no principles. They’re treacherous. And not just any one leader, all leaders are like this. There’s no constitution, no rule of law, no stability. Foreign companies won’t invest because of the war and so there are no jobs.”
“Isn’t foreign investment a problem?” I asked.
“Regulate it! But we need it. We don’t want it like British companies did to India, but we need jobs.”
I asked him what he thought of the parties. “I’m not with any party. I haven’t voted for anyone. There’s UML and Congress and the Maoists and the khaoists”—meaning ‘eaters’—“but I am not with anyone.”
I heard that kind of skepticism in politics from dozens of people all over Nepal.
“I am definitely not with the Maoists, although I had faith in the person of Baburam Bhattarai.”
Baburam Bhattarai is a senior leader of the UCPN(Maoist), and an accomplished academic and intellectual. He was finance minister from 2008 to 2009, and won widespread admiration for his performance, particularly by pressuring the bureaucracy to collect more taxes than had ever been collected by any government before. His administration also managed to control prices of petrol and other essentials.
But the first Maoist administration under the prime ministership of UCPN(Maoist) top leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) was forced to leave government in a struggle with the army and other parties in 2009. Bhattarai then became prime minister in 2011, but instead of delivering on a constitution, he dissolved the Constituent Assembly in May 2012. To make things worse, inflation kept rising as joblessness increased.
Meanwhile, the struggle inside the party between revolutionaries and reformists continued.
In the course of the People’s War, Maoists had set up Base Areas, where the government forces could not enter, and in which they developed organs of people’s power from below. These included people’s councils for governance and administration, people’s courts, people’s micro-industries (including a people’s micro-hydroelectric project), and much more.
Even where the Maoists were not in full control, they had mobile people’s councils and mobile people’s courts, delivering quick dispute resolution rather than having people travel far to district courts. In many areas they took over land from large landowners and redistributed it to poor peasants. It was part of what made them so popular.
But upon ending the War in 2006 and entering the peace process, the opposition set conditions upon them to reverse the land reforms and to dismantle structures of people’s power. Prachanda and Bhattarai accepted this condition, saying they could achieve the revolution through other means. Though the revolutionaries in the party were skeptical, they went along with it.
But six years later, the struggle sharpened, especially after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. The Maoists had suspended the revolutionary process so that they could play the game of parliamentary politics, only to find that they couldn’t play it that effectively. In fact, it seemed like Prachanda and Bhattarai had given in to the logic of the top-down parliamentary process rather than looking to build people’s power from below.
The revolutionaries finally broke in mid-2012, accusing Bhattarai and Prachanda of having no intention of walking down the revolutionary road.
“I used to like Bhattarai,” a small-business owner, who chose to remain anonymous, told me in Birendranagar. “But not anymore. Instead, I support the Dash Maoists,” he said, referring to the faction that had split by its popular name. He was not, however, a member.
I sat across the table from him, talking over dinner in a small hotel. I was having a hard time believing him. “You do know that communists want to take over property and redistribute it?”
“Let them!” he said. “There are people richer than me. Every day, I work from four o’clock in the morning to ten o’clock at night. What for? Eight to ten hours of work is enough But here in Nepal, only a small fraction of the population actually works. Everyone else just eats.”
I was confused. “You mean, most of the people work and a small fraction eat?”
“No. There are a few rich people who live off of exploitation, but go outside, what do you see? You see these youth doing nothing but standing around and playing carrom all day.”
He was right. Just next to the hotel was a dingy, seedy bar-café, with a carrom board outside, around which were half a dozen to a dozen young men. In fact, as I traveled through the countryside for long hours on buses, passing through small villages and towns I saw carrom board after carrom board surrounded by young men. In the city of Kathmandu, in district Nawalprasi in the south and, of course, in Surkhet, I saw it on the ground.
“There’s no electricity so they can’t sit at home watching TV all day. They have no jobs. There’s nothing for them to do but to play carrom, or to go get drunk. They have to live off other people’s money.”
He explained that despite belonging to an upper caste, he came from a poor, landless working-class family. His father worked in other people’s homes. He left Nepal at a young age to study in India but could not complete his university education. So he started working there when he was 18-years old, then in other parts of Southeast Asia, before very recently returning to Nepal. He was now 45-years old.
“I was compelled to go abroad, like so many youth. Our youth have no future in Nepal. They are wasted here. If the communists take my property to create development and jobs for everyone, then I am happy to give it all up!
“I took a loan to start this business, and I make a little bit of a profit that pays it off and feeds my family but everyone should work equally. My prime minister should work as much as I do—and I should work only eight hours.”
So what was his problem with Baburam Bhattarai? By all accounts he was a hard worker, and he was trying to invite foreign investment to the country.
“India’s rulers have always tried to dominate Nepal,” he explained. “India demonstrates friendship, but actually it loots our resources.”
He went on to explain how Nepal has entered into many unequal treaties with India, and that Bhattarai’s government had, in fact, entered into even more unequal relationships like this.
Nepal’s population is some 26 million, whereas India’s is over 1.2 billion. A lot of small business owners and workers flow into Nepal from India—while the reverse also happens. But the major threat appears to be the wholesale exploitation of Nepal’s resources by large Indian companies.
In fact, Bhattarai had signed onto the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) with India, which was roundly criticized even by members of the UCPN(Maoist), never mind the Dash Maoists.
Despite having the world’s second-largest potential for hydroelectric generation, Nepal lags far, far behind, with several hours of load-shedding in major cities and practically no electricity in rural areas. Instead of using state power to raise national capital in order to develop the capacities, Bhattarai’s government was continuing to sign over national resources to Indian companies.
“The Karnali River, I mean the river itself, was all but sold to an Indian company,” he explained. “I am not against foreign investment, let them develop the resources and take money—but then they restricted Nepali businesses from doing the same, they have to take permission from the Indian company! Let them take our money, but not our national property.”
In fact, the Dash Maoists have started a company to try and raise the capital necessary to develop the hydropower project and replace the Indian company, demonstrating the potential for Nepalis to form their own alternatives from the ground up.
“Instead of developing our own resources, Bhattarai has continued our dependence on Western powers.” He explained how the World Food Program was being relied upon to get food to remote areas in Nepal.
“What they need is roads, education, agricultural training, and whatever else is necessary to make them self-reliant and to make our country self-reliant. At first, we will be happy to work twelve to fifteen hours, if that’s what it means to stand on our own feet. How long are we supposed to last on handouts? The first day, okay; the second day, okay; but the third day? Who will keep giving us free food? They’ve ruined our habits. We’ve become dependent on others. We need business, we need jobs.”
To him, Bhattarai and Prachanda’s leadership had shown itself to be incapable and steadily more corrupt.
“They’re doing what other politicians have done, eating up our tax. There’s a 13% value-added tax on everything we buy. Where does it go? What are they doing with it? Prachanda and Baburam used to be like us, but now they’re living in palaces. They’re getting cozy with big capitalists who are themselves cozy with and depending on foreign powers.”
He repeated a joke popular among the Dash Maoists, “These are the Dash Maoists, but Baburam and Prachanda are the Cash Maoists.”
“Well, all right,” I said. “But development takes time. It won’t happen in a day even if the Dash Maoists come to power. So how can you blame the ‘Cash Maoists’ for that?”
“Yes, development takes time and will take time. But where is the Cash Maoists’ plan for development? Where is their plan for irrigation in agriculture, for electricity, for industries? There is no constitution now and that’s because those in power never accept demands unless we back them up with force.”
The next morning he took me around the city to meet with the stone-breakers and to see his own homes. He had a modest, solid home in which his sons lived as they studied—one of his sons had quit his studies and, typically, was working abroad—and another home was just a shack, out of which his wife operated a little store selling some biscuits, snacks and tea. Behind the shack was a tiny plot of land on which he wanted to build a solid house.
There were goats tied to slim trees and posts. “We’re raising these goats to sell them. You’ll find just about every middle-class family in Nepal doing three or four things to make ends meet,” he said. “The poorer don’t even have these options.”
He also showed me a couple of large plots of land he said were government owned. “There’s nothing going on here, they lie empty. Do something, anything. Build housing, give people a place to live. Start a factory, give people work to do. People in Nepal want development. Too many of them think it’ll come from shanti [peace], but unfortunately those in power have left us no choice but to get it through kranti [revolution]. I support the Dash Maoists, but ultimately all of these leaders put together won’t set the path. We, the people, are the ones who have to do it.”
“The geography really helped us,” Khagendra Rana said to me, as we stood on the roadside in rural Surkhet, looking at the majestic hills covered magnificently from bottom to top in dark green trees. “We would walk through these jungles on these hillsides.”
At one point as we drove through the hills, he perked up. “This is the spot where we ambushed about a hundred Nepal Army soldiers. There were maybe five of us. We retrieved a lot of weapons that time.”
I wasn’t entirely convinced. “How could five of you ambush a hundred soldiers?”
He explained. “They were in two trucks. We set up an IED on the roadside, that flipped over one of the trucks.” I looked down, it was a dizzying tumble into the lush green brush.
“The rest we scattered from up above.” I looked up. Rocks and trees provided extensive cover.
The 30-year old is a former guerrilla, he used to be a battalion commander in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). His nom de guerre was Jalan—it refers to a feeling of burning.
Jalan was in India over ten years ago studying to become a medical doctor when the People’s War picked up. He left his studies midway and came back to Nepal to get involved in the struggle.
“We started off by cutting the tails of the landlords’ and government agents’ horses and buffaloes. They would ride around on their horses and people would laugh at them,” he said with a mischievous smile. From there, the youth graduated onto more militant, and then armed activities.
“We had nothing but simple weapons at first. The clothes on our back, a t-shirt and a pair of pants. I didn’t even have slippers when I carried out that ambush. Afterward we went back to command and the villagers celebrated and got us flip-flops. I remember how proudly I received those flip-flops that day.”
At some point, we talked about courtship and marriage during the People’s War.
“During the People’s War, if you met someone you liked, you had to get the permission of your party committee to court them,” Jalan explained to me. “The courtship period had to be for one or two years, so that you could get to know your potential partner properly.
“Sometimes a party committee might suggest it was time for you to get married. That’s what happened to me. I wasn’t even thinking about it, but party leaders said I should start thinking about marriage, and even encouraged a partner for me.”
The party, in some ways, had come to replace the role of parents and families. It was the party that would approve and conduct marriages. “But it wasn’t to the kind of arranged marriage where people would be forced to marry.”
Bimila had told me how worried people would be for their partners. She married someone from the PLA, and because their assignments were so different—he, like Jalan, a roving guerrilla, and she a roving artist—she would often have no news of her husband for months on end.
They would meet at party functions, like secret rallies or meetings, or could arrange to meet if they found out their assignments were close-by.
The emotional toll of these fragmented relationships was heavy as well.
“I met my wife twice in two years before I got married to her; and I met her twice in the three years after we got married,” Jalan said. “When we would part, there was no guarantee that we would return.”
Over 15,000 people were killed or disappeared during the People’s War, mostly by government forces (though the Maoists seem to count both party and government combatants as martyrs).
“Once I led a mission of forty-seven men near Pokhara. Only seven returned. Thirteen were arrested. The rest died.”
Pokhara is the country’s second-largest city. The arrested were taken there.
“I myself was arrested,” Jalan said to me. “I still can’t believe how I escaped alive. I was surrounded on all sides by cops, but I broke free and lashed out. I injured seven of them. I jumped on a motorbike and got out of there. It was like a miracle.
“In the main city of Pokhara, I blended into the crowds and got out of there.”
“We were fighting for world revolution,” he sighed.
Bimila once said that her unit was told that after they liberated Nepal, they would go and help liberate people in other countries.
“We were told that, too,” Jalan said. “We were going to help liberate oppressed and exploited people around the world.”
But then, without the completion of the revolution, Maoist leaders completely disbanded the PLA. In 2011, Prachanda and Bhattarai signed a Seven-Point Agreement with opposition parties to effectively liquidate the PLA. A few thousand former guerrillas could opt to join the Nepal Army while others would be given compensation packages ranging from 500,000 to 800,000 rupees.
“In my cantonment, about half of us just walked out—we were about 1,500. We went to the main square in Birendranagar and burned the Seven-Point Agreement. I could have opted to become a major in the Nepal Army. I would have been getting training right now and a nice salary.
“But I fought for revolution. We gave up so much for the revolution, and in the end our leaders gave up the revolution. It was nothing less than a betrayal of the revolution.
“It was wrong of the party to turn Prachanda into a god-like figure. It was wrong for the now-leaders of the Dash Maoists to not tell us sooner about the contradictions in the united party.
“After the PLA was demobilized into cantonments, we’d get a monthly stipend of 3,000 rupees, and many of us would give 1,000 rupees back to the party in Prachanda’s name.
“During the War and after, we used to think that death was inevitable, but hoped it would happen only after seeing Prachanda’s face.”
The sense of betrayal runs deep among thousands of former guerrillas, as does the sense of loyalty to Prachanda. A sizeable portion of the former PLA broke with the UCPN(Maoist) and went over to the Dash Maoists, looking to complete the revolution. Many remained with the main party out of a sense of loyalty.
“There are honest PLA even in the Prachanda faction,” Jalan said. “One former commander burned his uniform rather than hand it over to the Nepal Army. He also refused to hand over his arms to the Army, depositing them directly with Prachanda instead.”
A third section simply took the compensation and abandoned both.
A former guerrilla couple I met at the Kohalpur bus stop on my way to Surkhet had used the compensation they received to start a small roadside café serving passengers who got off from buses for fifteen minutes. The wife sat nursing a baby, and the husband spoke to me as he prepared tea.
“We don’t have faith in either the UCPN(Maoist) nor the Dash Maoists. Let them earn our faith now. And if they want to revive the struggle then let it be in the streets. We’re done with guns.”
There was a tiredness etched onto the faces of even those former guerrillas who hadn’t abandoned the idea of eventually returning to arms.
Jalan showed me the river and the bridge that used to separate a Base Area from a “red zone” village, an area that was under Maoist influence but still very accessible to the government due to the main road.
The village was built on a hill that sloped down to the river. As we returned from the bridge and climbed up the slope toward the main road, the dashing Maoist was as out of breath as I was.
“I used to run daily when we were in the cantonments, but since then, not so much,” he said somewhat sheepishly.
After the end of the War, many of the guerillas had turned to civilian pursuits, even if they were in the cantonments. Many took up their studies again. Jalan had completed his B.Ed. and planned on getting his M.Ed. and eventually his PhD.
He had a daughter to look after now as well.
I bumped into some members of the UCPN(Maoist) at a hotel restaurant in Surkhet, while I was with Dash Maoist members. We sat at two tables next to each other, eating lunch.
Getting to the heart of the split between the UCPN(Maoist) and the CPN-Maoist means looking past the confusing jumble of alphabet that their names represent and looking at the subtlety of their different theoretical positions. I’m going to try and do that in this section, bear with me.
Narbahadur Bista, an elected member of the former Constituent Assembly and a regional committee member of the UCPN(Maoist), began commenting on the size of the Dash Maoists’ recently elected central committee.
The central committee is a representative body elected from delegates sent to a communist party’s general congress. The Dash Maoists had elected 51 central committee members at their congress. Although the UCPN(Maoist) was yet to hold its congress, its delegates would end up electing 99 and leaving it up to the provisional central committee to select an additional 55 or so.
Basically, Bista was saying that his central committee was bigger than Bimila’s. Bimila was responding that it wasn’t size, but what you did with the central committee that mattered.
In classic Maoist theory, the goal of a revolution in a “semi-colonial, semi-feudal” country is to rally the popular, democratic class forces—workers, peasants, middle-classes, and nationalist business classes—into a United Front, but under the leadership of the workers and peasants.
The United Front has to defeat imperialism and feudalism, both the actual representatives and armies of these forces, and the political economic system they embody. This means that the revolution must redistribute lands to producing peasants and then begin collectivizing farms to achieve economies of scale and production, and also must promote then appropriate the resources of the capitalists, in order to build the infrastructure necessary for a socialist society.
This, in a nutshell, is the theory of the New Democratic Revolution—a continuous but prolonged move from an underdeveloped economy to a socialist society.
In theory, a revolutionary party has to be tightly disciplined if it’s going to defeat the organization of the ruling classes—that is, the imperialists, the feudal classes, and the capitalists who are allied to them rather than to the nation.
So during the People’s War in Nepal, the Maoists had a very tight, highly disciplined underground party, even though it was vast and commanded the support of millions of people organized into all kinds of mass associations and unions.
Adding many people to the Central Committee makes more sense when the party comes to power after a revolution. But here, the UCPN(Maoist) was doing that before the completion of the New Democratic Revolution, meaning it was building A kind of a mass party more geared toward parliamentary elections.
That meant wheeling and dealing to bring a lot of people with vastly different theoretical and ideological positions into the same party. It probably couldn’t be focused in the same way on revolution any more.
It wasn’t all that simple for the Dash Maoists, either, given their broad membership of 160,000 or so. But they were trying. So did that mean that the UCPN(Maoist) was abandoning revolution?
“There’s no truth to that,” said Kamalesh D.C., a journalist and a district committee member of the UCPN(Maoist), who I met along with Bista. The Dash Maoists had left me alone with them.
“Marxism is not dogmatic, it has to be creative and respond to social phenomenon. We can’t apply it here as if this is Russia or China or Vietnam or Peru.”
The Maoists had ended the War because they decided that, although they had occupied most of the countryside, they simply could not penetrate the heavily fortified cities—large and small alike. So the party decided to enter into a peace process to gain access to the cities.
The idea was to launch an insurrection, and something of the sort was attempted in May 2010 but the Maoist leadership called it off after a few days.
“There is no fixed date of insurrection. What we are saying is that we have to use the People’s War and the nineteen-day People’s Movement [that overthrew the monarchy] as the basis to move forward,” Kamalesh said. “We have to preserve and institutionalize the changes, that is, the republic.
“Besides, we now think that peaceful change is possible. Armed bloody revolution is not in the interests of the people. If we hold the state mechanism in our control, then class struggle doesn’t need to take the same form everywhere.”
I asked Kamalesh how what he was saying, about peaceful transition to revolution through parliamentary government, squared with revolution, which was about smashing the old state institutions and their replacement with people’s power. In fact, at that time, the Supreme Court, in alliance with the status quo parties, appeared to be going after Maoists with a vengeance.
“Well, yes, not all state institutions are under our control, but we are in government. And we keep the class struggle going in all these institutions.”
“But why dissolve the organs of people’s power that were developed over the course of the People’s War? Couldn’t they be expanded into a people’s state?” I asked.
“The dissolution of people’s power was a step back. We had to take a step back so that we could take a step forward. We had to agree to the peace process, and that meant we had to agree to these conditions.”
This was one of the cruxes of the disagreement between the Prachanda faction and the Dash Maoists. The Dash Maoists saw the dissolution of institutions of parallel, people’s power as a tremendous mistake. It meant that from now on, the Maoists would have to play the political game by the rules of the existing political order rather than putting forward a politics of oppressed classes from a position of strength.
The point of New Democratic Revolution is that state institutions are under the control of the workers and peasants. But the UCPN(Maoist) appears to have a strictly economic approach to the question.
“New Democratic Revolution means what? It means capitalist revolution. For us to get to New Democratic Revolution we need to achieve economic development first, and we are doing that through the stage of the capitalist revolution.
“People are disappointed because they think that the New Democratic Revolution is complete, but it is not complete. We have to go to the people and tell them that the revolution is not over, we have to finish it. We may eventually need armed revolution to complete the transition, but just now there is no situation of armed revolution. It’s philosophical, we haven’t given it up.”
This is the other crux of the problem. New Democratic Revolution does not wait for the capitalist revolution to happen first. Workers’ and peasants’ control of the state is supposed to be the condition necessary for developing capitalist relations and replacing them with socialist relations.
In effect, it appeared to me that the Prachanda-Bhattarai UCPN(Maoist) position was that Nepal needed to achieve a capitalist revolution before workers’ and peasants’ power could be established, that the transition to socialism could be achieved peacefully and through parliamentary means.
In theoretical terms, this is the complete opposite of the positions that led to a crystallization of Maoism as revolutionary politics in the first place. In fact, the UCPN(Maoist)’s congress later passed precisely this line of capitalist revolution, sidelining the New Democratic Revolution.
What’s more, in my time there, Bhattarai’s focus seemed to be on building or improving roads in certain areas of the country—those likely to attract foreign investment. Prices for essential goods kept increasing and there was little respite for the poor. There appeared to be no effort toward developing and implementing social welfare programs.
In many areas of the country, agricultural land was being sold off not for productive purposes but for real estate development. In Nawalprasi I saw the board of a developer showing how a site was to be divided into plots for homes. Dash Maoists claimed Bhattarai and Prachanda were facilitating such processes.
Even if they weren’t, they didn’t appear to have a plan to stop them, and that might have been a result of their preoccupation with political matters.
But even under non-revolutionary, social democratic developmental theory, the state is supposed to take a more active role in guiding investment, pooling together capital, and making investments itself. It’s domestic investment, not foreign investment, that leads to substantial industrialization and economic development. Agriculture is supposed to be promoted through subsidies and focused planning, not replaced with real estate.
It seemed that not only had Bhattarai gone from being a revolutionary Maoist to a supporter of capitalism, he was doing it in a way that submitted Nepal to policy prescriptions of neo-liberal international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund! That could only end up benefiting the already-rich, as well as companies in large countries like India and the United States, not the masses of Nepal. Cash Maoists, indeed.
If this is the case, then what was the point of the People’s War and the whole fight for revolution? No wonder so many see it as betrayal.
“We draw a line on the blackboard and we ask, ‘Can you erase this line without rubbing it?’
“They say, ‘No.’
“So we ask them, ‘If you cannot erase this line without struggle, how can you change society without struggle?’
“Then we ask them, ‘If you go on the street by yourself and struggle, can you be successful?’
“They say, ‘No.’
“So we ask them, ‘If you cannot struggle without a collective, then why don’t you join us?’”
Bishal Giri, 23-years old, was explaining to me how he approaches and recruits students to the All-Nepal National Independent Students’ Union (Revolutionary) (in Nepali that mouthful is abbreviated to Akhil Krantikari). He was a member of ANNISU(R)’s Nawalprasi district committee, in the southern plains.
Bishal’s simple exposition reminded me of that Western woman who wanted to help barefooted children in Kathmandu.
Can social change be accomplished without struggle? Can it be restricted to a few charitable or NGO programs? Or does it require mass transformation?
The People’s War may have given a shock to some of the worst aspects of social discrimination against oppressed classes and women. But it doesn’t seem like it changed any of the class structures that made that discrimination so potent.
At the ground level, many people realize this, largely because they find themselves unable to feed their children adequately, or if they can feed them then to educate them, or to get them jobs even if they are educated.
For all the NGOs and charities operating in Nepal, people find themselves all the more pressured every day.
Meanwhile, having mobilized hundreds of thousands of people across the country, and tens of thousands of actual cadres, the Maoists did nothing with their enthusiasm and the political and administrative skills they developed over the course of the People’s War.
The Base Areas were dismantled. People’s power and people’s courts were dissolved. Land reforms were often reversed. Micro-industries and agricultural communes that had developed in the Base Areas, and that could have served as a starting point for a real people’s economy, were all but abandoned.
What’s worse of all is that the passion and movement of the masses was stopped in their tracks.
Cadres at the grassroots of the Maoist party recognized this, just as radicals in the leadership did. But it was primarily members of the artists’ front and the guerrillas—people like Bimila and Jalan—who pushed to have the debates at the top tiers of the party spread throughout its rank and file.
Ultimately, that cleared the ground for the Dash Maoists to break away and form a party seriously committed to revolution. There are two major obstacles they face.
Not only are they up against international powers, other parties that want to maintain social inequality and their own privileges, but they are also going to struggle against their former friends and comrades who were, once upon a time and not so long ago, right there with them fighting for revolution.
They also face the skepticism of the masses whose hopes were brought up when the Maoists first put forward and fought for their program of class, caste, gender and ethnic equality—only to be shattered and brought back to the ground.
The CPN-Maoist’s members know that they have to practically demonstrate that they are not hungry for seats or power, but that they are committed to serving the people and agitating for their needs and rights.
And they plan on doing just that, through agitations for Nepal’s sovereignty and for the rights of the people, and through programs that serve the people and organize their power autonomously from that of the ruling classes.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, they face the task of putting together the pieces of the once mighty struggle of the workers, peasants, women, oppressed castes and nationalities, to revive structures of people’s power, and to complete the revolution.
These artists, these guerillas, these students, these business-owners, these 21st century revolutionaries are not throwbacks to another era of armed struggles and people’s revolution. They fight not only for their own country but with a keen awareness of the fact that the success of their struggle can have reverberations around the world.
Where, in Libya, Syria, Egypt and all of these other places, people’s struggles seem to be heading to no popular and democratic resolution, they pose a model for revolution that puts the process firmly under the hands of the oppressed and exploited classes.
Just like Hugo Chávez was not merely the comandante of the Venezuelan revolution, but, because he stood up to neo-liberal policies on a world scale, a comandante of the anti-imperialist revolution worldwide, we need to understand that the Maoists in Nepal fight not just for themselves but for all of us.
Their revolution is not just their own, it is ours, too—a revolution to put people’s democracy and socialism back on the world’s agenda.
We can help them, at least a little bit. They don’t want our handouts—a few socks and shoes. They want us to put pressure on our governments to stop interfering in their country’s matters in ways that try and undermine the revolution. Hell, what they want is for us to make socialist revolution in our own countries!
Given the intensity and speed with which the political and economic system around is experiencing crises after crises, that may not be a long ways off. But as we prepare the ground for our own struggles, it’s up to us to give these revolutionaries in the Third World the moral and political support that they deserve.
Noaman spent almost a month in Nepal from January 7 to February 4 in 2013 for research and reporting. He can be reached at noaman [dot] ali [at] gmail [dot] com.
By Rhea Gamana
I used to say that activists, especially the youth, were just complaining, paralyzing the traffic, and that they should do more productive things rather than going out to yell on the streets. I used to say to myself that they should just go abroad and earn a living. Then they would have a better life and could be able to provide their families. I changed my attitude when I reunited with my mother. Now I understand why they do those things. I am now one of them.
My mother used to be a government employee in the Philippines, but since her salary wasn’t enough to provide for us, she decided to come to Canada and be a live-in caregiver. She left my brother and I behind. This is a common story for Filipinos.
In the last four decades, a Labour Export Policy (LEP) has been implicitly implemented to address the economic crisis in the country. This is not a long-term and people friendly solution to poverty.
The Philippine economy does not have a national industrialization plan to end underdevelopment. Instead it depends on remittances from overseas Filipino workers. Their numbers continue to rise under the administration of current President Benigno Aquino III. The LEP divides families. There are now 4500 leaving every day to work in different countries. The Philippines is the number one source country of migrants to Canada.
I was a good student and daughter in the Philippines. I took care of my family. Yet I was always sad that I couldn’t speak to my mother face-to-face if I needed advice from her.
When the time had come that we were going to reunite with her, I was nervous but happy. Prior to coming here in Canada, we attended a few orientations where they told us that Canada was a better place to achieve the future I wanted.
My Philippine educational attainment was considered nothing here in Canada. I had graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English, and wanted to become a lawyer or a teacher. A week after our arrival here in Canada almost 7 years ago, I applied for a job at a fast food chain.
I resigned myself to working as a part-time cashier while waiting for the right time to go back to college. After working for almost a year, my workplace got robbed. I thought I would die that day. The robber pointed the gun towards my stomach, and hit my head on the cash register.
That day changed me. I was diagnosed with PTSD, and that lasted for three years. This was not what I expected from a country like Canada. It was not what was described to us in the pre-departure orientation session we received in the Philippines.
According to a study titled “Filipinos in Canada: Economic Dimensions of Immigration and Settlement” by Dr. Philip Kelly of York University, Filipino immigrants have the highest educational attainment of all migrant groups yet still tend to be deskilled. For example, if I was a nurse in the Philippines, I could only work here as a nanny or personal support worker. In my case, I wasn’t able to use my education here in Canada at all.
Research also shows that children of Filipino migrants make less money than their parents and have a lower educational attainment. According to Statistics Canada, 32% of first generation Filipinos have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 28% of the second generation.
The Philippines is a semi-colonial country, which means that the country itself is not independent and remains under the control of Western imperialism. The Philippines is a semi-feudal nation. Big business landlords and elites exploit the natural resources and the cheap serf-like labour of the country. This results in the displacement of families who then migrate to urban areas or to other countries to find a better living.
It makes me wonder why the Canadian government only allows one family member to come to Canada if they need more people here.
The Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) is a program of the federal government allowing Canadians to import temporary migrant live-in caregivers, known around the world as domestic workers.
If they complete the program they can become Canadian citizens and sponsor their family through the reunification program. This takes an average of seven years, sometimes more. That’s a long time to be separated from your family. A long time spent taking care of the children of others, while your own need you at home.
This aspect of the program causes damage to family relationships, one that affects the children deeply—this I can tell you from personal experience.
Canadians need to be aware that we are part of this system. Not only here in Canada through our immigration policies, but also in the Philippines where Canadian imperialism contributes to forced migration. Part of our taxes goes to fund Canadian companies in the Philippines (especially in the mining sector), and Canadian military training of the Philippine armed forces to help protect those companies and forcefully displace Filipinos from the countryside through militarization.
I want a Philippines with true democracy and true independence. I want justice for the marginalized and underrepresented.
Today I am the Chairperson of Anakbayan-Toronto. We advocate for human rights, and we struggle for national industrialization that will keep Filipino families intact and ensure that no one will have to leave the country for a better life. I don’t want any child to suffer what I went through.
Anakbayan-Toronto will not stop calling for national industrialization and genuine land reform in the Philippines, This is the only way that Filipinos will be able to work decent jobs, and not have to leave the country.
On December 30th of 2012, members of both the Onkwehonwe [First Peoples] of the Haudenosaunee 6′Nations Confederacy and the Canadian Tamil community met in Scarborough. This event fulfilled an invitation extended to Tamil activists and their community in 2010 by the Men’s Fire of 6′Nations, when 6′Nations activists became aware of the Tamil community’s historic protests trying to raise awareness of the Sri Lankan state’s genocide of the Tamil people and nation.
The Onkwehonwe participants shared with the Tamil community the principles of The Great Law of Peace, The Two-Row Wampum, the traditional stories, treaties, culture and language that could be the basis of new relationship between all racialized immigrant-settlers and Onkwehonwe of Turtle Island [First People of North America]. Tamil activists connected the struggle for Tamil Eelam with the struggle of Onkwehonwe nations, especially the struggle to resist the colonialism and imperialism the Canadian state propagates locally and internationally.
Participants pointed to similarities between how the Canadian state used the residential school system to destroy Onkwehonwe spiritualities, languages and cultures, European colonial and missionary education during the colonization of Ceylon which continues as Sri Lanka’s use of internationally-funded Sinhalese-medium Buddhist schools to destroy Tamils’ traditional language and cultures. Omnibus Bill C-45 (which would simultaneously abolish fundamental Onkwehonwe treaty rights, attack the rights of refugees and new immigrants, and remove environmental protections in favour of polluting development of thousands of essential rivers and lands in Onkwehonwe territory), has both given rise to the Idle No More Movement, and shown the need for practical forms of solidarity and joint struggle between racialized peoples and Onkwehonwe peoples and nations. Participants of the event, therefore, outlined four commitments and demands that should be taken up by all principled members of the Tamil community. It is our assertion that adopting these principles is crucial to both the struggle for Tamil liberation, and the liberation of indigenous peoples globally and particularly on occupied Turtle Island:
While the Tamil participants, who came from a varied and representative cross-section of the community, came up with these four principles/demands cooperatively, several practical concerns remained. One issue was whether the Tamil community has the legitimacy or power to call for Indigenous sovereignty while being a newly arrived immigrant community with many members holding precarious residency status. The Onkwehonwe speakers pointed out that while deportation of individuals was a possibility, that the Canadian state could only threaten individuals; it couldn’t deport the thousands a mass movement would involve. Furthermore, while Bill C-45 is already establishing laws that would restrict the most precarious migrants of the Tamil community, The Great Law of Peace that underwrites Onkwehonwe sovereignty would confront such xenophobia and further de-legitimize such attacks because the Canadian state acts illegitimately and illegally as a colonial occupier. Finally the issue of the Tamil communities’ historic ‘silence’ on indigenous issues was also raised by Tamil activists. Further discussion highlighted the fact that the Tamil community in Toronto, as a relatively young immigrant community, hasn’t had much experience with or information about Onkwehonwe people and nations of this land, besides the colonial education system of the Canadian state. The importance of a program of education and cultural exchange became paramount. This program of education must be taken up by Tamil community members to the best of its capacity, as this first event was not the conclusion of such a process, but the first important step in establishing a growing and reciprocal relationship. Acknowledging this urgent need, and the literal fashion in which Bill C-45 has tied our communities struggles together, we ask these four principles and their endorsement by Tamil community organizations be taken up as a struggle to educate, decolonize and build true and lasting relationships between Onkwehonwe Nations and the Tamil Nation.
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Today we celebrate International Human Rights Day. We believe that the resistance borne of the struggle for the rights of the people is truly something to celebrate. That said it is also fair to ask ‘why?’
Well the truth is, we don’t celebrate Human Rights, we celebrate the rights of people.
As Wendy Brown writes in “Human Rights and the Politics of Fatalism:”
[H]uman rights are vague and unenforceable; their content is infinitely malleable; they are more symbolic than substantive… in their primordial individualism; they conflict with cultural integrity and are a form of liberal imperialism; they are a guise in which super-power global domination drapes itself; they are a guise in which the globalization of capital drapes itself; they entail secular idolatry of the human and are thus as much a religious creed as any other.
In contrast People’s Rights look at the rights of the people as a whole; the rights of communities over the benefit of the individual; the right to rebel.
That said, when I asked my collective for input on this talk, a couple fairly questioned what there was to celebrate, considering the sad track record in the Philippines.
From 2001, under the regime of president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to September this year under Noynoy Aquino, there were a total of 1320 extrajudicial killings, 218 enforced disappearances, thousands upon thousands of people internally displaced, and 386 political prisoners remain incarcerated.
Approximately 30% of the country’s land area (66% of the Cordillera region) has been signed over to mining exploration or operations. Many of these companies are listed in the Toronto Stock Exchange. Making matters worse, late last year President Aquino made the potential for violence greater when he legalized the hiring and operation of private militias by foreign mining companies.
Much of the land appropriated for mining is on the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples and sadly from March to October this year, a total of 28 indigenous persons, mostly anti-mining activists, were killed – four of whom were women and four others children.
All this contributes to the background for the undeclared three front protracted civil war that has been active since the late 60s between the forces of the elite, those of the proud Filipino Muslims in the south, and the people’s war across the countryside of the archipelago.
Because by celebrate we don’t mean to say that the crisis is not severe. It is.
Because by celebrate we don’t mean to say that the people don’t suffer. They very much do.
By celebrate we celebrate our resistance, we celebrate all those who, that despite the odds, despite the gravity of the risks real struggle entails, stand proudly for the rights of people, and for the very right to struggle.
We celebrate the bravery of those that choose to resist, be that through legal means via peoples organizations like those within the BAYAN alliance, or be that through armed resistance.
We celebrate because what we do is important, has forced victories from the unwilling hand of the powerful, and, above all, because the movement is growing, is strong, and that we who are part of it are part of something greater than ourselves–and THAT is something to recognize, to honour, and yes, to celebrate.
Today is already the 10th of December in Manila, and it marks the culmination of ManiLakbayan, a journey of thousands of kms for community leaders of indigenous people (collectively called “lumads”) and Moro leaders from Mindanao (the southernmost island in the archipelago) to bring their resistance to the Philippine government. It began on the 23rd of November, the International Day to End Impunity. Since then they have held summits, community dialogues, rallies, and press conferences to bring light to the unacceptable hardships brought by imperialism to their ancestral lands.
These leaders faced hardships that would break most: assaults, theft of land, resources and livelihood, threats to their family and community (some of which resulted in extrajudicial killings), forced displacement, and more.
They fight on, and we fight with them.
Earlier this year we were honoured by the visit of human rights defenders, including two newly released female political prisoners who came to present the Philippine situation to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights in Canada’s Parliament.
Angie Ipong, a woman in her late sixties, was held for six years. She was the oldest political prisoner in the country before her release. She suffered torture, sexual abuse, and illegal arrest. Her “crime” was that she was a visible, vocal, and effective defender of the rights of the people.
Dr Merry Clamor was one of the Morong 43, health workers providing free health clinics and workshops in underserved communities in the countryside. They were arrested in December of 2010 again on trumped up charges.
Dr. Clamor reported various forms of physical, psychological, and sexual torture during their imprisonment. Even her family was threatened if she didn’t confess to being a ‘terrorist.’
Charges were eventually dropped, after ten months, and two pregnant companions giving birth.
Irwin Cotler, Liberal MP, Justice and Human Rights Critic, and vice-chair of the Subcommittee said this in response to their testimony, “I think it would be a very good thing if the Subcommittee… paid a visit to the Philippines. We need to see the HR situation on the ground. I think this has not gotten the attention that it warrants… [and] a broader, public appreciation… so that we can act on this.”
As yet Canada has done little since to speak out against the Aquino regime, or cut off Canada’s explicit support of the Philippine governments tactics. Instead last month PM Harper visited the Philippines to boost trade, migration, and sign an arms deal.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines Angie and Dr. Clamor continue their work with an even greater passion borne of their experiences.
They fight on, and we fight with them.
This past November 28-29th in Manila, the International Migrants Alliance, International League of Peoples Struggle, International Women’s Alliance, and the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants held the first international tribunal on migration.
They found 37 governments, of course including Canada, guilty of using migration to advance neoliberal globalization policies and of violations of the economic, social, cultural and political rights of migrants by sending and receiving states.
Irene Fernandez, a Malaysian migrant and human rights activist said this,
“they have the gall to call it a ‘tool for development’ when it fact it results in the decimation and break-up of families, the exploitation of millions of workers and the uneven distribution of wealth and power in the world.”
Right now approx 4500 people leave the Philippines everyday in order to support their families. All because the semi-feudal, semi-colonial Philippine government has no intention to act in the interests of the people, because it refuses to enact a national industrialization policy, and because in reality democracy there is sham and they act only to protect their own class interests.
In doing so they force Filipinos to become commodities for international trade.
Yet they fight on, and we fight with them.
We fight because we believe that people should go before profit.
The drive for cheap mineral wealth drives the violation of people’s rights, which results in just resistance, which results in HR abuses, all of which drives the mass exodus of everyday people in the search for the means to support their own families.
The labour export program that uses Filipino people as an economic driver of the neoliberal economy has long been an implicit policy for the Philippine government. It’s the natural result of the planned underdevelopment of the country by the US colonial powers when it granted us “independence” after WWII.
The struggle for rights of people must be fought for within the context of a national democratic movement. One that works towards a government that prioritizes national industrialization.
Our proposed Peoples’ Mining Bill is an example of how this could be forwarded.
Large-scale corporate mining has long cast a shadow over human rights, environmental rights, and the rights of indigenous people (to name just three). The very recent disaster this August and September in Benguet by PhilEx corporation is a prime example: more mine tailings have spilled into the Balog river than in the Marinduque Island spill which resulted in internationally outcry and the shutdown of the Canadian owned mine.
And yet the mineral wealth derived from mining is necessary for any national industrialization plan. So what is to be done and how do we ensure that the people both make the decisions and derive benefit from those decisions?
Currently the Philippine mining act allows for 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of profits, long tax holidays, and exemption from certain environmental laws.
The economic advantages to the upper classes are clear both in its direct profits, and in the creation of a cheap, exportable labour force.
The question is, how to reverse this, how to make the natural riches of the country benefit its own people.
Our proposal reverses the liberalization of the industry. It gives the people, with a focus on the locally affected peoples—especially national minorities (eg. the indigenous and Moro peoples)—the primary responsibility of when, where, why, and how mining is to be conducted. It considers mining the shared responsibility of national and local governments, corporations, and communities.
Only Filipino corporations would be allowed to hold mining permits. And all firms would pay appropriate taxes, fees, and shares to the government and communities. Use of paramilitary forces would of course be banned. And rehabilitation would be a necessary part of all mining contracts.
Mineral production, processing and distribution would be for the primary benefit of the domestic economy and toward the goal of self-sufficient national industrialization. It should help spur more domestic investments, increase agricultural production, and produce both consumer and producer goods and manufactures.
The People’s Mining Bill is an example of the seriousness and thoroughness of our work. We are not activists that are merely content to criticize. When we see the grave problems in our homeland we don’t see it as simply a matter of bad people doing bad things.
We know that the problems we face are systemic, and must be met bravely—which means having a view of a different way of doing things, of having the political will to take power away from the defenders of that system, and to replace it with a system that truly is of and for the people.
Now of course we have no illusions that this change will come easily. Nor do we think that involvement within the imperial political system will make these changes for us.
If the people are to succeed WE need to make it so.
We all have our role to play if we want a better world, and there have been many recent events that show us that people worldwide are fed up.
We are cautiously optimistic that people across the globe are again waking up to the “We.”
Worldwide movements show us that we don’t stand alone, that we have allies, and that we can think bigger.
The time is now here for us to reinvent activism in Canada. It is time for us to be clear about where we stand.
We all need to realize that our enemy is organized collectively: they have the IMF, the World Bank, NATO, and more…
They are organized. They work for their collective best interests. It’s high time we on the Western Left form collectives to counter their collectives. It’s time to drop our decades long self-doubt and again demand what is our right.
We need to recreate international solidarity. And we’re talking about true solidarity. It’s not enough to merely state it, or to buy some product in support of something, or to make a donation, etc.
We need the solidarity of common purpose, common goals, and common action. The solidarity of struggle for collective improvement. The solidarity of common shared risk.
Solidarity isn’t safe. But in it we find the seeds of a different way of doing things, of a true sense of collectivity, of community, of belonging.
It’s time we reasserted the primacy of capitalisms fundamental antagonism: class struggle.
And it’s time for us to stop demanding things from Them.
Today we must demand from ourselves the collective commitment to make real change. We demand that we realize the need for real systemic change—you might even call this a revolution.
We don’t want a change of the exploiters face, but a change to the entire regime that requires exploiters.
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BAYAN-Canada Toronto spokesperson / Anakbayan-Toronto organizer
by Louisa Worrell
Wednesday, November 14th at about 6pm in front of Concordia University, over 100 people gathered in protest of the intense air strike of the Gaza strip by the Israeli military. This scale of attack has not been seen in the Occupied Territories since Operation Cast Lead in 2008 with its 1,300 dead, and 53,00 injured.
The Montreal protest had been called hours earlier by the Concordia chapter of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). Police vehicles blocked off the road and the entire block ahead of the protest. This effectively cut off the large group from the bystanders and people in their cars. This tactic of seperating and isolating protests and their message from the general population was also used during the Tamil occupation Rideau street in Ottawa during the 2009 attacks of the Sri Lanken government on the Tamil population.
The bi-lingual group began marching through Montreal’s downtown core, chanting «Israel Terroriste! Harper, complice! », «From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! » and other chants in Arabic. The cold air did not deter the group, whose voices echoed down St. Catherines’ business district, bouncing off the walls of the multinational corporation Chapters-Indigo, a company that actively participates in funding and promoting the Apartheid State of Israel.
Once arrived at the Square, a woman from SPHR spoke about the importance of standing up to this military operation and how the head of Hamas’ military branch, Ahmed Jabari, was killed along with 26 other people (primarily civilians). Tadamon!, a Montreal based group that organizes in solidarity with Palestinians, has called for a larger demonstration on Sunday. On Thursday, the Human Sciences Student Association at UQAM (AFESH-UQAM) voted unanimously in a general assembly to support this call.