October 10, 2009
October 9, 2009
October 7, 2009
Roll back the corrupting intersection between private accumulation and public service!
Blade Nzimande, General Secretary
On Sunday 4 October 2009, the SACP held a lively and vibrant rally to launch its national 2009 Red October Campaign in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. It was one of the best attended rallies in that part of our country, and once more underlined the mobilisational capacity of the SACP through campaigns that capture the hearts and minds of the workers and the poor of our country.
There are three inter-related aspects to our 2009 Red October Campaign: building an affordable and quality health system for all; intensifying the struggle against corruption in all of society; and disrupting the intersection between business and public service interests.
In this publication we have before said a lot about the centrality of the establishment of a national health insurance scheme (NHI) for the provision of accessible, affordable and quality health care for all South Africans. The fundamental principle of an NHI is that of ensuring that every South African, rich or poor, black or white, employed or unemployed, is covered by this scheme. The aim of the scheme is to ensure that no South African must be expected to make an upfront payment for health services, whether in the public or private health care sector. In addition, those who have resources must subsidise those who do not have, and that we build an equitable health care system, where we move away from the current unequal and unjust, regime, where more than 60% of resources poured into health services benefit only about 14% of the population, which happens to be on private medical aid schemes.
The reason for the mobilization of our people around the NHI is two-fold. Firstly, to explain the principles and objectives of an NHI; and how such a system is going to benefit the overwhelming majority of our people. Secondly, to counter the reactionary efforts by the capitalist classes in the private health sector to defeat or undermine government`s efforts towards the establishment of the NHI. It is our conviction, as has been consistently shown in the past that only mobilized popular power can defeat the greed of capitalism and ensure that the workers and the poor themselves drive programmes for their own benefit.
To this end, we shall use our 2009 Red October Campaign to convene thousands of red forums, in communities and workplaces, to discuss the NHI and ensure that it is properly understood by all our people. Where necessary we shall also be calling marches and demonstrations to expose the greed of capitalist health institutions and mobilize our people to roll back the market in the provision of health care.
The second and major focus of our 2009 Red October Campaign is that of disrupting the relationship between private business interests and public service. Most promising revolutions, especially in capitalist environments, have faltered and even rolled back because of the triumph of money and moneyed interests over the interests of the workers and the poor.
Some of our detractors, both inside and outside our movement, argue against this focus of our campaign is inappropriate on the grounds that ours is a multi-class movement that embraces all social classes. Yes, this is true, BUT:
Much as our movement is a multi-class movement, and that is precisely where its strength lies, at the same time it is a movement biased towards the workers and the poor. Such a bias is informed by the fact that our struggle is about fighting poverty and to drastically reduce social inequalities in society. In order to achieve these objectives the interests of the overwhelming majority of our people (the workers and the poor) must be at the centre of our ongoing national democratic revolution. The very concept of a national democratic revolution is premised on the leading role of the working class in the transformation of South African society.
Being a multi-class movement does not equal to class neutrality. In fact class neutrality is a myth, and is often used as a cover to privilege the interests of elites over those of the masses.
* We are also faced with the very real danger of two, but deeply interrelated, threats. The first one is that of the use of access to state power or holding of public office as a platform for private capitalist accumulation. Existing in our society today is the practice of use of public office to give out tenders by those who hold such office for their own benefit and to dispense patronage. This is what our 2009 Special Congress discussion document refers to as `the throwing of the javelin` or `tenderpreneurship`. In fact such practices are completely unfair to those entrepreneurs, especially SMEs, who are working hard to build their businesses, whilst those occupying state office and simultaneously issue tenders for their own benefit have a hugely unfair advantage. The second threat is that using business influence to try and capture the state so that it serves such private business interests. It is for this reason, amongst others, that both the ANC and SACP have taken resolutions for their leadership collectives at various levels to declare their business interests and associations.
We shall use our Red October Campaign to openly discuss these dangers and spread awareness and ideological consciousness about the dangers of this relationship to our people. This by no means imply, as some of our detractors also say, that people in leadership positions are prevented from pursuing business interests. But these cannot be pursued in a parasitic manner and at the direct expense of servicing the interests of our people as a whole. Disrupting the intersection between holding of public office and using such to pursue private business interests, as well as the opposite phenomenon, is an absolute condition for building a developmental state.
The third component of our Red October Campaign is that of intensifying the struggle against corruption. Whilst this is distinct from the above, but there is a relationship between the two. It is usually on the interface between public office and private business interests that corruption festers. However, corruption is not only found in the public sector, but it is also widespread practice in the private sector as well, and must therefore be rooted out in the whole of society. It is for this reason that the SACP welcomed the initiative by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union to expose corruption and mismanagement at the South African Airways.
Through the convening of red forums the SACP seeks to mobilize our people and build their confidence in exposing corruption. Often people are aware of corrupt practices, but are afraid to act because sometimes it is powerful individuals who are involved. Or even where they point out such maladies no action is taken. We believe that through the organized mass power and awareness of our people we can deepen the struggle against corruption and that appropriate action is taken whenever this happens.
As we say in our Special Congress discussion document, the struggle against corruption is not only a moral struggle, but it is a principled political struggle at the heart of defending and advancing the national democratic revolution. It is an essential condition for the realization of the five priorities of the ANC-led alliance election manifesto.
Once more our Red October Campaign is a call to all communists to be at the forefront of the mobilization of our people… for the sake of our revolution! Let every SACP branch and district convene as many of the red forums as possible during this month and beyond.
October 6, 2009
|The Gap Between Rich and Poor||Belonging and Leadership|
|Learning||Arts and Culture|
Download a PDF version of Research Findings
Reaching record highs only to fall again rapidly, Canada's employment rate has been on a roller-coaster over the past year. Where 2008 began by setting new national highs in job creation and employment participation 1, it ended with Canadian families and communities struggling to cope with the rapid erosion of job security and stability due to the onset of a global economic recession. Canada's 2008 employment rate at 63.6 per cent was slightly improved over 2007 (+ 0.1 per cent), reflecting employment gains early in 2008 that have since been lost.2 Until 2008 Canada's employment rate had shown steady improvement since 1993 3, but since October 2008 it has fallen back to a level last seen in 2002.
Chart 1: Employment Rate in Canada, 1987-2009
GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR
Income inequality in Canada has been growing and current economic challenges run the risk of worsening the trend. A number of measures indicate that the income gap between the richest and poorest in Canada has increased over the past 25 years as, during good economic times and bad, high income earners have gained while lower income earners have seen their wages stagnate or worse, fall 4. In 1980, a family at the 90th percentile of the income distribution earned 15 times the income of a family at the 10th percentile. By 2000, a 90th percentile family earned 32 times as much as a 10th percentile family. 5
Young workers face the worst job market in their lifetimes. In this challenging job market, young workers (aged 15-24) are especially vulnerable. The impact of the recession on their job prospects has been immediate and severe. In 2008, the youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24) was 11.6 per cent, up from 11.2 per cent in 2007 and is growing at a faster rate than unemployment in the general population. Between 2007 and 2008, the percentage-point increase in the youth unemployment rate was four times the percentage-point increase in the overall unemployment rate. So far in 2009 (August) employment among youths has been falling faster than in any other age group and the youth unemployment rate has soared to 16.3 per cent. Among students looking for summer jobs, 19.2 per cent were unemployed this summer and for those who found work, the average number of work hours, at 23.4 hours per week, was the lowest in more than 30 years. 6
Unemployment Rate for Students and Non-Students, Ages 15-24, July, 1977-2009, Unadjusted for Seasonality
The causes of low birth weight are changing and incidence is rising. Low birth weight (<>
Some factors that have historically contributed to low-birth weight are declining across the country, including smoking among pregnant women and incidence of teenage pregnancy. Other contributing factors, however, are rising. Increasing maternal age, use of assisted reproductive technologies, multiple births and use of obstetric intervention like induced labour and caesarean delivery have resulted in a steadily increasing rate of pre-term births. Incidence of pre-term births has increased by 17% over the past 10 years (1995-2004).
It's important to note, however, that the incidence of babies being born small for their gestational age has declined by almost 23% in the same time period. 7 In other words, an increasing number of low birth-weight babies are not small for their age...they're just born too early.
A regional exception to this is Nunavut where the incidence of low-birth weight and pre-term birth are higher 8, as is the rate of teen pregnancy, 9 and smoking among pregnant women 10. It's reported that in northern communities, incidence of high birth weight (> 4,000 grams or 8.8 lbs.), which can also harm babies' health, may be caused by high rates of maternal diabetes and obesity. 11 With severely limited health-care services, including the worst access to a family physician in Canada 12, Nunavut's infant mortality rate is more than three times the national rate. 13
Percent low birth-weight babies, by province and territory, 2005-06 14
- www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/2008/cphr-rspc/index-eng.php andwww.sourceoecd.org/pdf/societyataglance2009/812009011e-07-03.pdf
Especially on reserve and in Nunavut, Aboriginal students are attending and completing high school at much lower rates than the non-Aboriginal population. The high school completion rate of Aboriginal Canadians (15 and older) in 2006 was 56.3 per cent overall, compared to the non-Aboriginal rate of 76.9 per cent. This disparity comes at a high individual and societal cost, including lost productivity, earnings, employment and life prospects.
Of particular concern are the low high school completion rates of the Inuit population at only 39.3 per cent and of on-reserve Aboriginal Canadians at 40.5 per cent. In comparison, Aboriginal Canadians living off-reserve have a high school completion rate of 61.5 per cent. Aboriginal youth (ages 15-19) even attend school at a lower rate (71.3 per cent in 2006) than non-Aboriginal youth (81 per cent) with the lowest attendance in Nunavut (65.8 per cent) and Alberta (65.9 per cent).
When we look at the young adult population (ages 25-34), 90 per cent of non-Aboriginal Canadians have completed their high school certificate or a level of post-secondary education, while only 68 per cent of Aboriginal Canadians have done so (and only 49 per cent of Aboriginal Canadians living on-reserve). Among high school graduates in this age group, Aboriginal students pursue post-secondary education at rates comparable to, or higher than, the non-Aboriginal population in colleges and apprenticeships, but remain under-represented in university programs:
- High school is the highest completed level of education for more Aboriginal Canadians (38.5 per cent) than non-Aboriginal Canadians (24.8 per cent);
- A much higher proportion of non-Aboriginal Canadians (33 per cent) complete university degrees than Aboriginal Canadians (12 per cent). Only 5 per cent of Aboriginal young adults on reserve complete a university education;
- Double the proportion of young Aboriginal Canadians on-reserve (22.4 per cent) have completed an apprenticeship in a skilled trade, compared to 11.5 per cent of non-Aboriginal Canadians;
- College attendance is evenly distributed, with 25.4 per cent of non-Aboriginal Canadians, 27.7 per cent of Aboriginal Canadians and 24.8 per cent of Aboriginal Canadians on-reserve having completed a college certificate. 15
Graph source: 2006 Census
While current economic conditions may bring some relief, so far this decade, housing has become less and less affordable. Diminishing housing affordability has been of ongoing concern across Canada as home prices have continued to rise faster than incomes. From 2000-2006, the national gross income shelter ratio, which represents the average home price as a multiple of median family pre-tax income, rose from 3.23 in 2000 to 4.35 in 2006, a significant decrease in housing affordability. Growth in the ratio since 2003 has been greatest in western Vital Signs communities like Calgary and lowest in Ottawa, Saint John and Sudbury. Kelowna, Toronto and Victoria were the Vital Signs communities with the least affordable housing, with ratios of house prices to income above 5.0 in 2006. With the recession's squeeze on jobs, but only modest impact on house prices, housing affordability remains an area of concern as we look ahead.16
BELONGING AND LEADERSHIP
Fewer donors are giving more. Over the past 10 years, from 1997-2007, Canada's charities benefited from a doubling of charitable donations from $4.3 billion in 1997 17 to over $8.6 billion in 2007 18. But this has come as a result of larger gifts from a smaller proportion of the population. While the median value of charitable donations increased from $170 in 1997 to $250 in 2007, the proportion of tax filers declaring charitable donations decreased from 25.7 per cent to 24.0 per cent.
Among Vital Signs communities, there was a wide variation in the proportion of tax filers declaring charitable donations. Oakville had the highest proportion, at 31.2 per cent in 2007. Ottawa and Guelph-Wellington followed closely with 29.9 per cent and 29.3 per cent respectively. Grand Forks, Red Deer and Medicine Hat had the three lowest proportions at 20.0 per cent, 22.6 per cent and 23.8 per cent, respectively. With increasing reliance on the generosity of a smaller proportion of the population, what has yet to be seen is the impact of the recession on these crucial donors.
Charitable Donors as a Proportion of Tax Filers in Canada, 1997-2007
Canada continues to become safer with large declines in the most violent crimes.Canada continues its 15-year trend of steadily declining violent crime, including homicide, attempted murder, assault, sexual offences, abduction and robbery. At 932 incidents per 100,000 population in 2008, violent crime has fallen 12 per cent overall since 1991, with the largest declines in the most violent offences. Assault and robbery accounted for 98.5 per cent of all violent crimes in Canada in 2008. Since 1991, both have declined, by 10.5 per cent and 18.3 per cent respectively.
Among Vital Signs communities, Guelph-Wellington, Ottawa and Kitchener all had violent crime rates of less than 600 incidents per 100,000 people in 2008. Kelowna had the highest incidence at 1,532 per 100,000, followed by Saint John (1,463). All Vital Signs communities have experienced declines in violent crime except Saint John and Kelowna.
Widespread adoption of recycling shows Canadians' willingness to do their part for the environment. The Blue Box is less than 30 years old 19, but in that time Canada has become a nation of recyclers of glass, paper, metal and plastic. By 2007, recycling programs reached 94 per cent of Canadians and 98 per cent of people with access to a recycling program do recycle. These figures are relatively consistent from region to region, however, Saint John experienced a decline in its recycling rate from 92 per cent in 2006 to 84 per cent in 2007.
ARTS AND CULTURE
Canada's global economic prospects rest in part on the economic prospects of our arts and culture workers. The United Nations reports that "creativity, knowledge and access to information are increasingly recognized as powerful engines driving economic growth and promoting development in a globalizing world..." 20 Canada's ability to foster a thriving 'creative economy' that promotes innovation and original ideas affects our economic competitiveness.
One important component of this is how we support our cultural workers. In 2005, Canada counted 96,215 full-time, full-year workers involved in a wide range of professional occupations in arts and culture, including librarians, curators and journalists. 21 Their median earnings for full-year, full-time work were $44,010 in 2005, down from $44,823 in 2000. 22
Canada's cultural workforce is significantly larger, however when self-employed artists, representing 42 per cent of Canada's artists, are included. A closer look at nine of the arts professions and including the earnings of self-employed artists reveal average earnings of only $21,606 in 2005. Self-employed artists earned less than paid workers in seven of the nine professions and earnings fell in most occupations between 2001 and 2005. 23
- The full list includes: Librarians, Conservators and curators, Archivists, Authors and writers, Editors, Journalists, Public relations and communications professionals, Translators, terminologists and interpreters, Producers, directors, choreographers, Conductors, composers and arrangers, Musicians and singers, Dancers, Actors and comedians, Painters, sculptors and other visual artists.
October 5, 2009
Maria Obst's new graphic novel,"One Love One Heart" is set to be published this December. It is about the ordeal of Omar Khadr. Check it out. Not all points in the book we would agree with. For example, the image here says "we want him tried humanely." Presumably that means a Canadian trial? In actual fact Omar doesn't need any more trials. He should never have been arrested, he has broken no laws since it is not illegal to resist an invading army -- irregardless of whether or not he killed the US medic he is accused of, which now seems unlikely -- and also since the laws he is being tried under are violations of International Law. Omar is a child soldier who must be rehabilitated as a young adult into society -- not put on more trials.
Although Barry Hertz of the National Post called it "a meandering, nearly laugh-free picture" I think the latest Trail Park Boys movie, Countdown to Liquor Day, is funnier than their last movie. If you like this kind of rough humour, check it out.
This is a comedy, but it is also political. That may seem an odd claim, and I doubt director Mike Clattenburg’s aims are radical social critique. But his intention is to capture reality through the familiar “mockumentary” style. And reality itself is radical – or radicalizing.
Fans of the TV series will recognize the return to Sunnyvale Trailer Park, near working class Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Surprisingly, Sunnyvale has been shifted to a new, clean-cut park with manicured lawns and fancy mobile homes on different section of the property – except the new place doesn’t have proper sewage. In fact, Julian’s old trailer is blocking the only place where you can run proper sewer lines. The drama begins.
We get only a hint of life without a proper toilet system. In the background of one scene, a resident enters an out of place make-shift plywood outhouse. That’s just a tiny side note, however. The situation is left to your imagination. But generally beauty and progress is proven to be superficial. My Layhee slips back into alcoholism. The grinding cycle of poverty is everywhere.
Julian’s latest scheme is painting cars. As the movie opens we see their probation hearing. Julian tells the officers his plan after jail is to start a small business called “Success Auto.” Ricky is brutally honest and says he’ll go back to selling drugs. He then gets into a fight with his interviewers over a smoke. Both are let out. The boys immediately steal a prison van and rob a liquor store.
In fairness, where else could the boys get the capital needed to start a small enterprise? Of course, most small businesses fail – J-Roc nails it when he says Julian’s operation should be called “un-success auto” – and with no customers and Ricky failing his Grade 12, the boy’s wind up deciding to rob a bank.
En route to this event we meet corrupt prison guards and police thugs, and get some food for thought about love: between Bubbles and cats, and between people – mainly between men (why does Julian say that Randy dances well in a dress?) although there are some surprising and not surprising “romances” with women. But women exist on the sidelines. This is a boy’s land. It is also a place where nobody seems to get really hurt -- Mr. Layhey even winds up living the good life in “Communist Cuba”. Yet as readers of Rebel Youth blog and People’s Voice know, Canada's poverty, police and prisons are all miserable, brutalizing, and cruel.
What creates this oppression? Who has stolen these people’s dignity? How do we get out of this? While Countdown to Liquor Day gives us the message that bad choices have a socio-economic context, you won’t find answers to these questions in the movie. After all, that wouldn’t be so funny and feel-good.
And it’s not the point. You’ve got to emphasize with these lovable rouges. They’re a bit like what historian Eric Hobsbawm calls “social bandits” – Robin Hood outlaws, on the edge of society, beacons of resistance. The Trailer Park Boy’s don’t fall out of the elite, the come from our class. Aren’t most of our families just a job-loss and home eviction away from this kind of “un-success”?
So maybe there is a critique. Their major crime operation, after all, is a real ‘big dirty’ – robbing a bank. All this reminds me of two quotes. The first is in words: communist playwright Bertolt Brecht once said that “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?” The second is an image: a cartoon. A bank executive sits comfortably looking from his office at a robbery in progress in his bank. The robbers point their guns at a teller. The CEO says: “what amateurs.”
And that is exactly what the Trailer Park Boys are.
Who knows, they could have even been stealing bail-out funds. But for that kind of reclamation to be successful, we’ll need a rather broader, stronger and more powerful social movement that's on a bigger countdown than just liquor day.
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