This report was carried in the latest issue of TML Weekly which had a whole section on the WWI Centenary

Never Again — Theme of Windsor Commemorations

The Windsor Peace Coalition convened a meeting on September 27 of all those interested in ensuring that the anti-war conscience of the working people of Windsor-Essex is affirmed in commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Attending the meeting were long-time activists from the Peace Coalition, Women in Black and the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, veterans of the Canadian and U.S. Armed Forces, a local member of the Royal Canadian Legion, a number of active and retired teachers, artists and others.

The meeting opened with the reading of the Peace Coalition’s statement for Labour Day. It drew attention to how the Ford government in Ontario is attempting to invoke the memory of those who died in the Afghanistan war in this centenary year of the end of World War I, in keeping with subordinating Canada to the cause of U.S. wars of aggression today, which must be opposed. Everyone was invited to speak about why they had come and to give their views on how the centenary could be commemorated, which virtually everyone did. A common thread running through what participants said was that they wanted to see the anniversary marked in a way that affirms Canadians’ anti-war conscience rather than suppresses it. Various aspects of what Remembrance Day has become were raised during the discussion as well as what people felt should be remembered on such a day. Some recalled how the day had been used as an occasion to remind the youth of the horrors of war, to remember all its victims, not just those of Canada, and in keeping with the slogan Never Again, that war should not be the means for settling conflicts between nations.

A member of the Legion explained that veterans do not glorify war or their participation in it. They often just talk about their individual experiences with their comrades-in-arms but not about the war itself. She said it was important that we know that many veterans do not support a rendering of Remembrance Day that glorifies war or uses the sacrifice of those who have died to justify further wars.

Others raised important concerns about the threat of nuclear war being used by the U.S. president, attempting to reverse the long-held consciousness that with nuclear weapons all of humanity loses, not simply the country attacked. What is called modern warfare is not “surgical strikes” as it is presented, with few casualties, another person said; that way of talking is just how the aggressors cover up the true extent of the destruction and devastation they cause.

Others pointed out that the weapons in use today destroy the natural environment and make the world unlivable for future generations and on that basis wars cannot be permitted. The importance of discussion on what conditions are required for peace was also raised in terms of ensuring that people’s needs for such things as food, housing, education and health care are met, rather than settling for a narrow definition of peace as simply an end to hostilities. Questions were posed and opinions were expressed about how to ensure that the war in defence of humanity waged by peoples and countries during World War II is not equated with the war for empire of World War I or the new wars of conquest today. In this regard, the importance of taking a clear stand to oppose any attempts to present the war in Afghanistan as just or a war that brought peace was emphasized, as there is no peace and the situation has only become worse for the people there.

Others spoke about the poppy and how they felt it was used by some to promote war and militarism as opposed to what it actually stands for, and whether to consider wearing a white poppy as a symbol of peace instead of a red one.

Talk then shifted to possible actions and events that could be organized so the discussion begun at the meeting could be opened up to the public to make the remembrance and reflection a collective action. Everyone agreed that a commemoration of some kind would be held as part of the World War I centenary to affirm the stand Never Again as the basis of remembrance and that this be done in a very broad manner that opposes any attempt to construe it as being “against the soldiers” past or present, so as to dismiss it.

At a follow-up meeting a week later a number of events and activities were decided upon:

– A film night will be held on Friday, November 9 at which the movie Outskirts, set in a small town in Russia during the years 1914-17, will be shown.

– The Windsor Peace Coalition will hold its weekly picket on Saturday, November 10 on the theme of Remembrance based on Never Again.

– A wreath with a sash that says Never Again will be purchased to lay at the Windsor Cenotaph as part of the Legion’s Remembrance Day ceremony on Sunday, November 11.

– Circular black 1″ lapel pins with Never Again inscribed in white will be produced. They can be placed in the centre of red poppies for people to affirm their conscience for how they are commemorating the centenary. Proceeds from the sale of the pins will go towards covering the cost of the wreath and any other activities. The first order for pins came in right after they were announced at the October meeting of the Windsor and District Labour Council.

– An Open Studio reception will be hosted by the artists at One Ten Park following the Legion’s Remembrance Day ceremony. A window installation for the centenary will be unveiled and there will be poetry readings and other forms of remembrance.

To purchase a Never Again pin ($5 each plus mailing cost, if applicable) e-mail: windsorpeace@hotmail.com

 

 

Who Knew? “Cybersocialism Before the internet, Chilean socialists devised the Cybernet. Will Stronge reports on an early attempt at high-tech economic organisation.”

Perhaps the most interesting use of the Cybersyn technology was in 1972, when truck drivers, backed by the US, walked out in an attempt to destabilise Allende’s administration. The action almost brought the country to a standstill. Without trucks to supply food and raw materials, and with many roads blocked, it could have been the end of the socialist government. However, the many workers sympathetic to Allende took matters into their own hands, using Cybernet to relay key information from the shop floor. Together, the government and workers coordinated a substitute truck service that could supply the country with the resources it needed. Factories banded together, trading supplies and materials to maintain production, and community organisations such as mothers’ centres and student groups began to run supply networks.

Full Red Pepper Article

Response to Windsor Star Column October 14, 2018

RE: Jarvis: The hospital and the election

One cannot engage in a discussion of the mega-hospital site selection without accounting for years of government austerity management – that is, attending to the needs of the investor class rather than the meeting the needs of citizens – that passes for modern politics, and the industrialization model of healthcare.

The industrial model of healthcare involves centralizing hospitals while outsourcing more and more services to private clinics. On top of this, our vaunted public health system has been undercut by successive federal governments while provinces are allowed to defund coverages over time thereby forcing us to pay an increasing number of fees and co-pays.

But crucially to the local debate, the mega hospital site selection is developer driven, not needs driven. The mega hospital site decision is about profit over people and it’s undemocratic. It’s about an entrenched local elite using hospital development as a tool to enrich themselves and/or advance careers. They have ensured an ugly ‘us vs. them’ debate pitting Windsor against the county instead of holding meaningful consultations before deciding among themselves an outcome. The game is always the same – someone wins and someone loses.

Downtown Windsor is in desperate need of revitalization and the county needs adequate infrastructure. As other cities know, healthcare infrastructure firmly anchors a city core. Only a truly broad consultation capped by a referendum can identify actual needs. The chaos now evident around the Urgent Care Centre location is proof the whole process is not thought out.

Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN) and hospital board positions should be elected by citizens. All of this will require a fully engaged citizenry to counter a fully engaged elite.

Appeal for donations: Leamington Indonesian migrant workers lose all possessions in fire

Migrant workers Ana Yuli Astutik and Muji Rahayu work in Leamington at Sunrite Greenhouse Ltd. In Canada for four years to help produce vegetables, they recently lost everything in a fire that gutted Darina Shawarma & Bakery at 10 Erie St. N. They lived in an upstairs unit.

It’s important to note that Ana and Muji are not here as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP); rather, they are here on a Work Permit for four years. Such workers will usually be living on their own as opposed to SAWP workers here for the season and have accommodations provided (for a fee) by the employer. So a loss of possessions in a fire is truly devastating as their are no social services such workers are entitled to.

Leamington Apt Fire Location Sept 2017

Umi Kulsum, a worker in Leamington contacted me for help to see if donations could be arranged for the fire victims. I contacted Joan Golding, a Leamington resident and social justice ally who primarily works with Jamaican workers. Earlier today (Sunday, Sept. 24) I met with Joan and Umi in Leamington to get a better idea of the help needed.

Here is the situation: while Ana and Muji have a temporary home thanks to a local family, they need to find a new apartment with a maximum rent of $700.00 – a difficult task in the town of 31,000 people flooded with workers. That will take some time, and in the immediate term they need everything else – notably clothing, mattresses and bedding. If you are connected with the Leamington rental community, the workers need a 2 bedroom apartment renting at $600 – $700 per month. Ideally a furnished apartment would be ideal. The workers are employed and have an income.

Supporting Ana yuli astutik and Muji Rahaya
From L to R: Leon, Paul Chislett, Umi Kulsum, Muji Rahayu, Ana Yuli Astutik, Joan Golding (Photo: Handri Oktavianus)

The Appeal:

  • Immediate donations of women’s clothing medium and small, footwear including work shoes, size 71/2 – 8, and mattresses and bedding.
  • Further donations of dishes, furniture, and so on.

For further information and to arrange pickup of donations please contact Paul Chislett at the Windsor Workers’ Education Centre at 519 252 1212 or email: president@wwec.ca

 

Waiting for the bus…March 16, 2017

By Paul Chislett:

It took a minute to see the graffiti on the clear window of the bus shelter. After months of seeing videos and photos online showing people encountering racism in person or scrawled somewhere, I gaped at the words in front of me, ironically on a screen of sorts.

Probably written with a Sharpie, the words singled out immigrants, calling for them to go back to their country, and worse (see photo). It was horrifying, yet not surprising to see. You know when something awful happens in a usually smaller town or city and people say, ‘gee, you hear about this happening elsewhere but I never thought it would happen here’, and I always think, why couldn’t it happen there, we’re all part of this world and no place is immune to natural disasters nor human made ones. That racism is alive and well in Windsor should not be shocking.

Windsor is a mid-size Canadian city, yet we’re ranked as the 4th most diverse city in the country. That’s pretty impressive. Plus, we are the major border crossing of the country across from Detroit, Michigan. For a city this size we have big city issues, yet we generally think of ourselves as a pretty tight knit community compared to the alienation experienced in major metropolitan areas. So, yeah, the words were shocking. Not in this town, I thought. I also thought of the next person coming to the bus stop, a young woman of colour, a recent or established newcomer perhaps, and if I was appalled at the words I saw, I could only imagine the fear she would experience.

I was reminded of the video online recently of commuters in a subway car finding similar racist graffiti in the car and how they banded together to wipe it off, only to find it written with an indelible marker. Someone says hand sanitizer would take it off and so they used that, and there they were all working together to clean off the signs. I tried wiping off the ink in the bus shelter but to no avail and had no hand sanitizer on me. Not wanting to leave this crap for someone else to find I called 311 to report the graffiti so a transit crew could clean it off – least I could do. I got on the Number 2 bus just as the phone call to 311 was ending.

(Photo: Paul Chislett)

This incident, if I am reading it correctly, brings into focus the issue of working class anger so much talked about now – the kind of anger that manifests itself in someone scrawling racist comments on a bus shelter. I know working class anger because I am working class and I’m generally pissed off at the abandonment of public policy that once pointed toward the common good and is now harnessed to further enrich and empower the managerial class; the cadre of professionals networked into government and the market economy, seeking their own rewards out of the system, eager to enrich themselves at the expense of working class people.

Gone are too many decent jobs paying a living wage at the same time as schools and hospitals face cuts and privatization, public infrastructure crumbles, wars never run out of funding, and the very concept of the common good is receding in the rear view mirror of history.  Working class people are right to be angry – just not with each other.

Through the Windsor Workers’ Education Centre I’ve met a number of recent and established new comers, as well as a few men who are recently arrived refugees from Syria. Those young men always talked about needing to work and not being a burden, and many of the recent and established new comers are women of colour who have experienced racism, sexism and harassment in local vegetable packing plants in the area. They are working class just like me. We all belong. No one is illegal. No borders. Wars, borders, oppressive systems of control – these are all constructs the powerful have always used to keep the masses under control. In my experience, working class people cooperate, and seek mutuality. But when austerity and theft of public resources become official policy, too many become afraid and susceptible to race baiting and the promotion of hate.

I believe the worker centre has an obligation to speak to white working class women and men on racism, free speech (as in hate speech is not free speech), working class history, the global economy and trade agreements, austerity politics, and so on, so as to attempt to put in context the anger and fear that seems to be permeating throughout this group of people. And, to ‘put into context’ would be to constructively focus the anger where it belongs: toward the systems of oppression and ‘power over’ wielded by a ruling class so far impervious to working class organizing.

 

Screening Secret Path to create our own path to make right relations with Indigenous peoples.

Paul Chislett

October 24 2016

The screening of Secret Path last night (Oct. 23) was a success. At least one person said they are being exposed to the history of residential schools only recently and we raised a good amount for the legal defence of Vanessa Gray, Sarah Scanlon and Stone Stewart who had the book thrown at them for their action last December in shutting down the Line 9 bitumen pipeline. More here

secret-path-screening-oct-23-2016
Windsor screening of Secret Path

Stand with the community of Aamjiwnaang First Nation in their fight against environmental racism in Canada’s toxic Chemical Valley

I bought “Up Ghost River” a year ago and finally picked it up to read a few weeks ago on a Sunday. It’s the autobiographical residential school story of Edmund Metatawabin of Fort Albany – I could not put it down till I finished it later in the evening:

After being separated from his family at age 7, Metatawabin was assigned a number and stripped of his Native identity. At his residential school–one of the worst in Canada–he was physically and emotionally abused, and was sexually abused by one of the staff. Leaving high school, he turned to alcohol to forget the trauma. He later left behind his wife and family, and fled to Edmonton, where he joined a Native support group that helped him come to terms with his addiction and face his PTSD. By listening to elders’ wisdom, he learned how to live an authentic Native life within a modern context, thereby restoring what had been taken from him years earlier. Metatawabin has worked tirelessly to bring traditional knowledge to the next generation of Native youth and leaders, as a counsellor at the University of Alberta, Chief in his Fort Albany community, and today as a youth worker, Native spiritual leader and activist. His work championing indigenous knowledge, sovereignty and rights spans several decades and has won him awards and national recognition. His story gives a personal face to the problems that beset Native communities and fresh solutions, and untangles the complex dynamics that sparked the Idle No More movement. Haunting and brave, Up Ghost River is a necessary step toward our collective healing.

I take to heart that, and I am not sure where this is from, we are all treaty people. People who look like me are in ‘this’ together with Indigenous peoples and while I cannot do anything about the past, I can recognize that the past is the present – we have not made right the still existing injustices carried out against Indigenous peoples. Today, it’s pipelines, prisons, and reserves where especially young people see suicide as an option better than living.

The political economy of capitalism still serves the purpose of colonial conquest and the denial of legitimate expressions of autonomy by Indigenous peoples, and today we all suffer the effects because too many people who look like me can’t see that we are indeed all treaty people. If we got that, we could dismantle the deadly apparatus of oppression and control to free all of us in the pursuit of the peaceful sharing of the land and all resources the world over.

I remind myself not to pity those who suffered and died, nor pity the survivors like Edmund Metatawabin. It is not pity that changes the world, it’s a resolve to stand in solidarity, to not take personally the white history of oppression and death, and accept the responsibility we all have to help change the system to one of autonomy and life.

Here is a short list of books (in no particular order other than they have stuck with me for years) I’ve read over the years that have helped me understand the real history of our land. There are others and still more I’ve yet to read:

Strangers Devour the Land

“First published in 1974, Strangers Devour the Land is recognized as the magnum opus among the numerous books, articles, and films produced by Boyce Richardson over two decades on the subject of indigenous people. Its subject, the long struggle of the Crees of James Bay in northern Quebec—a hunting and trapping people—to defend the territories they have occupied since time immemorial, came to international attention in 1972 when they tried by legal action to stop the immense hydro-electric project the provincial government was proposing to build around them.”

Accounting for Genocide:

is an original and controversial book that retells the history of the subjugation and ongoing economic marginalization of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Its authors demonstrate the ways in which successive Canadian governments have combined accounting techniques and economic rationalizations with bureaucratic mechanisms—soft technologies—to deprive Native peoples of their land and natural resources and to control the minutiae of their daily economic and social lives. Particularly shocking is the evidence that federal and provincial governments are today still prepared to use legislative and fiscal devices in order to facilitate the continuing exploitation and damage of Indigenous people’s lands.”

Stolen Continents:

is a history of the Americas unlike any other. This fascinating volume chronicles the conquest and survival of five great American cultures— in their own words. Ronald Wright gives voice to the Aztec, Maya, Inca, Cherokee, and Iroquois, quoting their authentic speech and writing, and illuminating their unique views of history. Through their eloquent words, we relive their strange and tragic experiences.

Covering the five hundred years since Europeans first set foot in the “New World,” Wright weaves together contemporary accounts with his own incisive historical narrative to create an indispensable record, one that is powerful, vivid, accurate, and classic.”

A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada:

“In this startlingly original vision of Canada, thinker John Ralston Saul unveils 3 founding myths. Saul argues that the famous “peace, order, and good government” that supposedly defines Canada is a distortion of the country’s true nature. Every single document before the BNA Act, he points out, used the phrase “peace, welfare, and good government,” demonstrating that the well-being of its citizenry was paramount. He also argues that Canada is a Métis nation, heavily influenced and shaped by aboriginal ideas: egalitarianism, a proper balance between individual and group, and a penchant for negotiation over violence are all aboriginal values that Canada absorbed. Another obstacle to progress, Saul argues, is that Canada has an increasingly ineffective elite, a colonial non-intellectual business elite that doesn’t believe in Canada. It is critical that we recognize these aspects of the country in order to rethink its future.”

The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy:

“Sale views Columbus as seed-bearer of a European civilization of conquest, violence, ecological plunder and intolerance. Cast as a magnificent voyage of discovery into Columbus’s psyche and the character of the New World, this demythologizing biographical adventure profiles an isolated, unattached explorer given to self-deception, full of millennial obsessions about the end of the world. Sale ( Human Scale ) credits Columbus with the birth of American slavery and of Euro-colonialism. Examining Jamestown, “the second successful invasion of America,” and its aftermath, he explores how native North American societies, for the most part peaceful and communitarian, were devastated by epidemics and whites’ encroachments with attendant environmental destruction. His wide-angled history represents a major rethinking of the relationship between Europe and America.”

Three Day Road (Fiction):

“Set in Canada and the battlefields of France and Belgium, Three-Day Road is a mesmerizing novel told through the eyes of Niska—a Canadian Oji-Cree woman living off the land who is the last of a line of healers and diviners—and her nephew Xavier.

At the urging of his friend Elijah, a Cree boy raised in reserve schools, Xavier joins the war effort. Shipped off to Europe when they are nineteen, the boys are marginalized from the Canadian soldiers not only by their native appearance but also by the fine marksmanship that years of hunting in the bush has taught them. Both become snipers renowned for their uncanny accuracy. But while Xavier struggles to understand the purpose of the war and to come to terms with his conscience for the many lives he has ended, Elijah becomes obsessed with killing, taking great risks to become the most accomplished sniper in the army. Eventually the harrowing and bloody truth of war takes its toll on the two friends in different, profound ways. Intertwined with this account is the story of Niska, who herself has borne witness to a lifetime of death—the death of her people.

In part inspired by the legend of Francis Pegahmagabow, the great Indian sniper of World War I, Three-Day Road is an impeccably researched and beautifully written story that offers a searing reminder about the cost of war.”

When 140 characters isn’t enough: Paul Chislett August 2 2016

WARNING: Middle Class generalizations ahead!

The views expressed here are mine alone.

Frankly, it’s not that often I get into a Twitter debate (Twitterbate?). But when I do there’s only so far one can go with 140 characters at hand.

Recently I posted on Twitter (@chislettshakeup) an article, “America’s hidden homeless: Life in the Starlight Motel” by Carolyn Bick (@CarolynBick).

The article examined the lives of several people living in a U.S. motel as the only option they had other than a shelter or a tent city. Bick showed the human drama of suffering in an economic disaster – the classic human interest piece. For me, if we don’t go beyond the personal and ask what has happened to cause these working class people to be living in a motel one step up from a tent city or perhaps suicide, then what’s the point other than to be a voyeur of the suffering of others?

I Tweeted the article because I believed it was well written and showed what poverty looks like and how people struggle to make the best decisions they can with what they have. My comment in the Tweet was “welcome to the post-industrial nightmare. Neither #Trump nor #Clinton have a clue”.

I use social media in large part to ask those larger questions in an attempt to give deeper meaning to the suffering I may read about. Especially in this case of this story I attempted to put myself in their shoes. Isn’t that part of the promise of social media – to be able to experience the plight of others, good or bad, in order to learn and take some kind of action no matter how small to help bring about change? Think social media and the Arab Spring and Occupy.

In my day to day activities, and here as well I make no judgement or pretend I’m doing more than someone else, most of my time is at the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre where non-union workers have nowhere else to turn, many of them are recent and established women newcomers of colour, and the very definition of the precarious reality of  the working class is routinely ignored by the media. So I am not surprised to see a story on families living in motels, cars, and tent cities.

So, left unexamined in the article is the ‘why’ of such poverty. From my own study and observations, the false promise of free trade and globalization coupled with the abandonment of citizens to varying degrees by governments has led to the undeniable and extreme inequality around the globe and right here in this city. Governments have become enablers of global capitalists. I suppose to some it’s a leap to read these very sad personal stories that include family members cutting others out of a will and link the poverty to the larger political and economic structures. But link them we must if we are to organize for real systemic change. (Read about the Solidarity Economy)

The Twitter exchange about the article between a local journalist and me began when she focused on the personal evil of one brother cutting his sibling out of a family will and thousands of dollars. She called it morally wrong, and so it was. Yet such actions by ordinary people in their personal lives affects, maybe, several people directly. Those responsible for the economic and political system that drains wealth into the coffers of a few, who wage war over resources and strategic control of parts of the earth, who manage to siphon literally trillions of dollars into off-shore accounts for wealthy clients, thereby depriving governments of tax revenue – these are decisions that affect billions of people – and are deliberate and calculated. My point was that it does no good in the struggle for justice to judge people already down.

The fight needs to be taken to the wealthy and powerful for it is their decisions that leave working class people in motel rooms wondering what the hell happened, while billions are spent on weapons and war. It’s their system of exploitation, war, and social abandonment that needs to be grappled with. It is this blind spot – this refusal – to take on the hard work of resistance to an insane system, and fighting for something fair, equitable, and just on the part of many middle class people that is so very frustrating to see. It seems it’s just so easy to bash the poor from some moral high ground while letting the real culprits off the hook.

We can sit in judgment of others (poor bashing) and continue with our daily lives and vote for tax cuts and freezes, or we can examine the moral outrages of those who manage the system – moral outrages that dwarf the failings of individuals who are struggling as if drowning.

The existing economic and political systems have been deliberately constructed over the last 30 years and were designed to dismantle the re-distributive role of government. The post-war Canada that many of us knew was not created by charitable giving. It came into being when working class people fought for the right to unionize, fought to elect governments that created socialized medicine, a public pension plan, income support like unemployment insurance and welfare, affordable housing ensuring, and so on.

Today, middle-class suburbanites clamour for tax cuts and give to charity as if that’s political action. Middle class suburbanites (remember I’m generalizing here) bought into the free-trade era mantra that taxes are a burden rather than an investment, that government is too big and too wasteful and only the private sector can properly manage affairs; that free trade will raise all boats, and that a knowledge economy would free workers to – well – starve.

That’s where we’re at and working class people are suffering, politicians offer whatever  focus groups say will sell, and what’s left of the middle class contents itself with illusions that the status quo will protect their interests – or they do get angry and then vote for the likes of Stephen Harper or get bamboozled by the likes of Justin Trudeau.

If, as they say, you sign the back of your pay cheque rather than the front: you are working class and we better get organized for systemic change, not sit in judgement of our peers.