Tuesday, December 18, 2007

[Le Drapeau Rouge] At Last the PQ Shows Its True Colours!

The below article in Le Drapeau Rouge; i felt it was well worth translating and sharing with you all.

At least in its newspaper, the Revolutionary Communist Party (the canadian one, not the Avakian outfit in the u.s.) is providing welcome leadership in opposing the rise of racism in Quebec, without ambiguity or compromise. While on the ground in Montreal most of the anti-racist organizing against the "reasonable accommodation" bullshit has come from groups like No One Is Illegal, the RCP benefits from greater organic ties to the Québécois revolutionary tradition, witness the forthright analysis of Pauline Marois' agenda in the Parti Québécois which follows:

Pauline Marois Demands a Makeover

At Last the PQ Shows Its True Colours!

With her proposed Québécois Identity Bill, the new Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois has shown that there is no limit to how low she will stoop to get back in power – even hunting for support on the ADQ’s terrain and leaping into racist and xenophobic manure. After several days of debate in which she did her best to defend her infamous Bill, the Lady of Île Bizard[1] once again tried to justify herself during the November 4 PQ commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the death of its former leader René Lévesque.

Sharing the stage with a follower of the Church of Scientology (the popular singer France D’Amour), Pauline Marois first denounced her Liberal and ADQist adversaries “who are using a populist and demagogic approach but have no concrete proposals” as to how to affirm Québécois identity. “Well I do!” she added proudly. It is true that on top of joining the others in adopting a populist and demagogic approach, the new deputy from Charlevoix had done them one better, shamelessly proposing that certain civil rights be withdrawn from immigrants who, having already obtained Canadian citizenship, fail to show an “appropriate knowledge” of the French language.

It is obvious that this initiative from the PQ’s leader is simply politics, as she is sure to have known that her Bill had no chance of being adopted, and even if it was passed it would have likely been struck down by the courts. Ever since the last elections, the Parti Quebecois has been worried that the conservative section of its traditional supporters might leave it permanently for the ADQ. So, under the influence of political strategist Jean-Francois Lisée (the king of all gimmicks, who has himself just written a pamphlet in defense of cultural nationalism[2]), Pauline Marois decided to outflank Mario Dumont on his right and do her part in feeding the climate of fear and xenophobia which has polluted public debate in Quebec for over a year now, all in the hopes of leading her troops back into the fold.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if her Bill becomes a dead letter: public opinion will remember that Marois wants to put “the others” in their place (the others being all those who are not like us) and oblige them to conform to the dominant bourgeois ideology in Quebec. The PQ is betting that this rhetoric will pay off in terms of votes. And what does it matter if the verbal attacks, mainly against the Arab and Muslim communities, end up also leading to physical attacks: this would just be “collateral damage” in this PQist march back to power.

When she delivered her first speech to the National Assembly on October 16, Pauline Marois devoted most of it to defending cultural nationalism and stigmatizing the “foreigners,” going so far as to beseech Québécois, “don’t give up your place to others.” She joined the chorus insisting that everyone must submit to the famous “common values” imposed by the Québécois ruling class, which boil down to speaking French, complete secularism and that famous “equality between men and women,” which apparently constitutes one of the most important elements of Quebec society. Need we remind Pauline Marois that Quebec was the last Canadian province to grant women the right to vote in 1940? That it was only in 1980 (quite a bit less than a century ago!) that women in Quebec won the right to sign a mortgage? That not so long ago the dominant model was still the woman in the home, submissive to her husband, whose main role was to bear children and perpetuate the “French Canadian race” (remember Lionel Groulx?).

The PQ leader – and all those others who are condemning, in the name of gender equality, the fact that Muslim women “dare” to wear the Islamic headscarf – would do better to worry about the fact that the song of the year which was crowned at the last ADISQ[3] gala (a demagogic hymn entitled Dégéneration, from the reactionary group Mes Aïeux[4]) sings the praises of “the good old times when our grand mothers had fourteen children,” and when, of course, we did not have that awful right to an abortion… we think that things like that are much more worrisome than the purely hypothetical possibility that one day a woman wearing a niqab might ask to vote without showing her face.

The silence emanating from the “PQ left” regarding this racism and xenophobia is deplorable, but not at all surprising. The leaders of SPQ libre[5], Marc Laviolette and Pierre Dubuc (or as we have called them, the Laurel and Hardy of left nationalism), narrowly avoided the new leader’s cutting block, as Marois apparently wanted to dismantle their “political club.” Marois finally agreed to leave them their toy, but not before she grilled them and seems to have received the promise that they would stay in their place and not criticize her in any way. In any case, these two representatives of the alleged “left” of the PQ are 100% in agreement with the turn towards identity being carried out by Marois, as they were already attacking the “civic nationalism” promoted by her predecessor, Andre Boisclair.

The only criticism from within the ranks of the PQ has come from the Groupe d’action politique des Québecois et Québecoises issus de l’immigration, which is the body responsible for questions of immigration within the party. In an open letter published on October 18 in the newspaper le Devoir, the group’s spokesperson Kerlande Mibel protested against the emergence of a “populist cultural nationalism” within the PQ, “which demands that everyone share the same values and way of life.” “If tomorrow everyone must share the same values as white francophone Catholics, that isn’t progress,” notes Mibel, adding that every Quebecker should have “the same rights and responsibilities” – a position which is clearly not in step with the rest of the PQ!

One is forced to admit that Pauline Marois is at least consistent: her right turn on questions of identity is perfectly in step with her social and economic positions. Remember that when she was crowned in June, Pauline Number One came with certain conditions, “take it or leave it”: amongst these was the “rejuvenation” of the PQ’s social-democratic rhetoric, in the style of Tony Blair’s British Labour Party.

Under her leadership the PQ will adopt the line of the “lucides”[6] (which is not at all surprising when you note that the “lucides” included many well known PQists). From now on the emphasis will be on “creating wealth before we redistribute it.” Amongst other things, Pauline Marois has come out in favour of the university tuition hikes proposed by the Charest government. Loyal members of the Lady’s Praetorian Guard that they are, over the past few weeks the young PQists within the student movement carefully maneuvered to sabotage the campaign for a general student strike which had been initiated by the Association pour une solidarite syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), and which as we know ended in failure.

The fact that the PQ is a reactionary bourgeois party is nothing new to Quebec workers, who have been subjected to its policies for 17 of the past 30 years. That the party is finally getting rid of its “progressive” window-dressing may have some noteworthy consequences. The PQ seems to be trying to compete with the ADQ to claim the political space traditionally held by the bleus[7] (i.e. the conservative right) in Quebec. As to the army of “followers” and civil servants which the party has generated within the civil society organizations, the question is how far are they willing to go down this path? There is a question which it is still too early to answer.

As workers, perhaps we should take advantage of this “political recomposition” within the Quebecois bourgeoisie to get rid of this scum once and for all; without a doubt, that would be the best result we could hope for.

Serge Gélinas, Le Drapeau Rouge Nov.-Déc 2007 translated by Kersplebedeb

all footnotes by the translator

[1] Marois, who was elected to represent the riding of Charlevoix, actually resides in a three million dollar mansion on a 41 acre estate in the suburb of Île Bizard.

[2] i have translated the term “nationalisme identitaire” (literally, “nationalism having to do with identity”) as “cultural nationalism.” Whereas the terms may not be a perfect fit, it strikes me as a more accurate translation than “ethnic nationalism.”

[3] Association québécoise de l'industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo : the Quebec Association of the Recording, Festival and Video Industry.

[4] My Ancestors.

[5] A social democratic ginger group within the PQ.

[6] In 2005 the debate about which way forward for Quebec became characterized by two public manifestos, “For a Lucid Quebec” representing the economic right-wing and “For a Quebec in Solidarity” representing the social democratic position.

[7] Traditional party colours in Quebec have the liberals being the reds (!) and the conservatives being the blues.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Red Brigades in the 21st century

A comrade sent me the following article about the capture of some people trying to re-establish the Red Brigades in Italy. It's from the Wall Street Journal, and so bound to be neither sympathetic nor necessarily even accurate, but nevertheless worth a quick read.

For more on the historic Red Brigades, be sure to check out the first chapters of the book Strike One to Educate One Hundred, scanned and uploaded on the Kersplebedeb site.

Googling, i found a few more things about these busts. Vincenzo Sisi writes a short defense of the fact that he was active in the trade union movement at the same time as he was trying to prepare for armed struggle, entitled Who are the rotten apples?; i particularly liked this paragraph:

How dare you say I’m an infiltrator amongst the workers and in the union. Epifani (a union leader) said we were rotten apples. He never worked three shifts, he was put there by the party system, which sold out the working class. I come from a working class family that paid for their union card and helped fill his plate with our blood. Who is the infiltrator in the working class? Who, me or him, is the rotten apple? At the congresses I said what I thought. My union are the workers! In conversations amongst the committees I always represented what was important for us delegates, the ability to build autonomy spaces at our places of work to stimulate the protagonism of the workers. But however well you do it you stay within the boundaries of the economy struggles in the factories. While the superiority of the union leadership, after years of retreats and defeats, becomes an instrument to control the class.
There are two other short texts by Sisi in english on the Secours Rouge Internationale website here as well as a text in french by Sisi and three other militants.

also in french there is an article from le monde up on the PCMLM website...

if i see anything else i will let you know, in the meantime here is the Wall Street Journal article - thanks to my correspondent for sending it to me:

In Europe, Some Still Cling To Dreams of Revolution; Group Nabbed in Italy Appears to Hark Back To Lethal Red Brigades
Gabriel Kahn and Kristine M. Crane. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Dec 13, 2007. pg. A.1

GASSINO TORINESE, Italy -- One night in February, 40 police officers in ski masks burst into a house in this small town near Turin and arrested Vincenzo Sisi. The charge: running an armed terrorist group.

Giancarla Lorenzin, his wife of 26 years, thought it was a mistake. Her husband, a press operator at a factory, had no criminal record and professed nonviolence. They spent weekends hiking, bicycling and gardening. "I'll see you in a few days," she told him as he was hustled out by police. He caressed her cheek and shook his head no.

Mr. Sisi knew things she didn't. For years, he had lived a double life, appearing as a model citizen while secretly running a radical group that plotted bank heists, bombings and assassinations, police say. They describe Mr. Sisi and more than a dozen others arrested that day as the new face of the Red Brigades, a violent left-wing group that haunted Italy during a bloody era of the 1970s called the "Years of Lead."

Some of those arrested had been underground for years. Mr. Sisi, for one, is 54 years old. Others weren't yet alive in the 1970s; they include 20-something factory hands, a call-center operator, a pony- tailed mailman and a student named Amarilli Caprio.

Ms. Caprio, 26 when arrested, seemed above suspicion. She came from a middle-class family in Padua, had good grades in high school, wrote poetry and was studying languages at a Milan university.

Police uncovered clues they say make clear members of the group were armed and preparing to act. Dogs sniffed out a Kalashnikov assault rifle buried under the garlic bulbs in Mr. Sisi's garden. They found a cache of automatic weapons buried near an abandoned farmhouse, sophisticated surveillance equipment in a Milan basement, ingredients for explosives and fake police uniforms. Among the group's targets, police say, were the Milan headquarters of oil company Eni SpA and a professor of labor law.

Hearings to decide whether the matter goes to trial began this week. Attorneys for both Mr. Sisi and Ms. Caprio said their clients planned to fight the charges but declined to discuss the case. From jail, Mr. Sisi has written letters calling himself part of the "politico- military wing . . . preparing for the struggle to finally end the barbarism of exploitation." Ms. Caprio, before a transfer to house arrest, signed prison letters "as always, with a clenched fist."

Beneath the archaic rhetoric and sweeping ambitions is a remarkable story of a political movement's survival. Long after Soviet communism collapsed, traces of a left-wing dream of revolution live on in corners of Europe, sometimes in virulent strains.

Adherents say they're motivated by profound disappointment with how political struggles from a generation ago have played out. Instead of a more equitable society, they see one more out of kilter. Partly through years of strikes, European workers have won greater job and welfare protections. But debt-laden governments can no longer pay for it all, and a system of haves and have-nots has emerged. Young people chafe at a rigid job market with few opportunities.

Communist parties espousing workers' rights still garner support. Italy has two, each with ministers in the government; France has five far-left groups. The parties retain the trappings of a militant era, like the hammer-and-sickle symbol, but most have lost their edge as they join governments and forge compromises.

One result is that some who still cherish the dream of revolution have been forced to the margins of society or gone underground. Although the mass worker movements that fed the political violence of the 1970s have long vanished, left-wing political terrorism retains a romantic appeal. Italian movies such as "The Best of Youth" and "Buongiorno, Notte" -- co-written by a former Red Brigades member -- paint a seductive picture of idealism and violence that resonates with some.

Investigators were struck by the sympathy the arrests kicked up. Graffiti in support of the Red Brigades and those arrested appeared on factory walls around Padua, and there were two protest marches. A Molotov cocktail was left, unexploded, at the home of a police investigator. That has left investigators with nagging worries. "We have dismantled this wing, but we don't know if there are others," says Bruno Megale, head of Milan's investigative police unit. "I think the siren call of revolution is buried deep inside this society."

In the 1970s and '80s, a bloody ideological struggle in Italy pitted workers against bosses and left against right. Communists garnered up to 34% of the vote in elections. Strikes were frequent and often violent. Some elements, impatient with the pace of change, began seeing the unions and even the Communist Party as obstacles to a profound transformation.

A group with roots in the sociology department of the University of Trento in northern Italy evolved into the Red Brigades. Highly secretive, they counted 5,000 members, many with training in explosives, firearms and forging documents. Their attacks were brazen, including bank heists and prison breaks, and hit factory owners, politicians, journalists, police and military officers.

Attacks organized by the Red Brigades and other extremist groups killed more than 1,000 and wounded thousands. In 1978, the brigatisti kidnapped former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro in broad daylight, killing his bodyguards. After 55 days, they shot him and left his body in a car trunk in central Rome. The brutishness of the assault isolated the Red Brigades from many of the workers they claimed to represent, but it didn't stop them. Attacks continued, including the 1981 kidnapping of a U.S. general, James Dozier, who was later rescued.

Authorities who'd infiltrated the movement finally broke the back of it around 1984.

History seemed to do the rest: The Soviet Union collapsed, China embraced capitalism. Yet on a spring day in 1999, a man stepped from a parked van near the University of Rome and shot to death Massimo D'Antona, a professor and government labor adviser. In a dense manifesto, a group calling itself the Red Brigades took responsibility. In 2002, Marco Biagi, an economic adviser to the government, was slain with the same gun.

Not long after, Mr. Sisi, unknown to his wife, began recruiting militants to plot more attacks, according to his arrest warrant and other police reports.

Mr. Sisi had quit school at 15 for a factory job. He joined a union to fight for better pay and safer conditions. By the time he met Ms. Lorenzin in a disco in 1975, he was deeply involved in the ideological battles of the time.

Three decades later, he was still at the bottom economic rung, making around $1,900 a month after tax, according to his former employer, for operating a press at an auto-parts supplier. He was still fighting the same battles, railing against his employer over working conditions and safety standards.

At home, he and his wife focused on eating healthily, cooking the vegetables from Mr. Sisi's garden. "He doesn't have vices. He doesn't smoke, drink coffee," says Ms. Lorenzin, sitting in her living room under a crocheted "No Smoking" sign. Yet in between pursuits such as his garden and bicycling or hiking, Mr. Sisi was cultivating a violent plan, police say.

One thing he did, they say, was procure false documents and plan a clandestine border crossing for an associate from decades earlier. The comrade, Alfredo Davanzo, had been on the lam in France for 15 years after drawing a seven-year Italian prison sentence for subversive activity and arms possession. Investigators say Messrs. Sisi and Davanzo, with a third longtime radical, Claudio Latino, formed the core of the group.

In 2004, they began anonymously publishing a journal called Aurora, which pushed a Maoist-type strategy of "long-term class warfare." The plan was to recruit followers in places where social tensions ran high, such as certain factories, universities and immigrant neighborhoods. The chance discovery of sophisticated surveillance equipment and bomb-making manuals in a Milan apartment building's basement storage area put police on their trail. But they took elaborate diversionary measures when they got together.

While walking to a meeting, Mr. Sisi would duck behind a wall and emerge a moment later with a different-colored shirt, up to three or four times in a single outing, according to a police surveillance report.

Mr. Sisi's arrest warrant says he would arrive in Milan from Turin by train and switch to the subway. He would take a zigzag route, jumping out of a subway car just before the doors closed and then taking another subway in the opposite direction.
Mr. Latino would arrive by bicycle. To elude a possible police tail, he would ride the wrong way down Milan streets and run red lights. He looked over his shoulder so frequently, say police, that more than once he crashed his bike into parked cars.

Arriving at their destination, usually a Milan street corner, the three didn't greet one another but loitered on opposite corners. One would begin to walk and the others would follow at a distance. They might walk for miles before stepping into a cafe; or Chinese restaurant, never the same one twice. Ms. Lorenzin says she wondered about Mr. Sisi's absences: "He would leave for whole days and not tell me where he was going, and not answer me when I asked him." She assumed his trips had to do with union activism.

In the summer of 2006, the couple rented a cottage in the Alps. When Mr. Sisi and his wife returned after a walk, he would check to be sure nothing had been moved, according to the police surveillance report. He insisted testily that his wife never say "Milan" or "leaving" on her cellphone. When she told him he was being too cautious, he snapped, "You just don't think about anything."

Police were indeed watching. Through surveillance that sometimes included 30 agents across a single Milan neighborhood, they began to piece together the outlines of the group's plans, such as amassing explosives.

On Aug. 31 of last year, at a meeting in a bar across from Milan's Teatro Piccolo -- recorded by the police -- Mr. Latino said he had moved two people from Padua to Milan, where they had enrolled in the university to canvass students and "see if there are others who might be interested." One of the two was Amarilli Caprio.

The daughter of a middle-class engineering consultant and a high- school literature teacher, who had named her after a demigod in a Virgil poem, Ms. Caprio attended the University of Padua. She also worked in a customer-service call center and became active in the local union. A co-worker recalls her as "combative but hard-working."

Ms. Caprio was eager to earn financial independence, but the call- center job offered meager pay and few prospects. Like many other students in Italy, she languished in the university, with no degree six years after high school. In 2006, Ms. Caprio told her parents she was leaving Padua to enroll at the University of Milan. She said she wanted to learn languages that would allow her to teach Italian to foreigners, and there were more immigrants in Milan, recalls her father, Roberto Caprio. "She was independent," he says, and he saw nothing odd about her move.

In Milan, Ms. Caprio and her boyfriend held meetings with other students and advanced a radical agenda, police say. The warrant doesn't say whether they recruited anyone. After Ms. Caprio's arrest, police say, they found her notebooks to contain lists of possible targets, the same ones discussed by others.

Her arrest came at 5 a.m. one day last February, in the Milan apartment she shared with her boyfriend. When her father in Padua got home that evening, his wife told him something terrible had happened and turned on the TV news. "I thought: 'My daughter?' I felt the whole world coming down on me for something that couldn't be true," Mr. Caprio says.

It was five days before he and his wife could visit Amarilli in jail. When they did, "she looked at her mother and said, 'I did it for love,'" Mr. Caprio recalls. The love, he says, was for the working class.

In solitary confinement at first, Ms. Caprio spent her days writing poems, as well as letters home and to a radical Web site. In one poem, she saw herself as part of a long struggle of the working class. "We have callused hands," it began, forged by "centuries and centuries of exploitation."

Ms. Caprio turned 27 in jail on June 19 -- a date, her father notes, that is recognized as the international day of political prisoners. In September, a judge let her finish her pretrial custody under house arrest at the home of an uncle near the town of Urbino, hundreds of miles from her home in Padua.

"When I can't sleep at night, I try to make sense of what's happened," Ms. Caprio's father says. "She was accused of proselytizing. We all do some form of proselytizing. Look at priests." He adds, "Why couldn't she have just taken to golf or something?"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Justice for Quilem Registre! Protest This Police Murder-By-Taser!

WHEN: Saturday, December 15, 2007

This past October 18, 2007, Quilem Registre died as a result of injuries suffered after a brutal arrest by police. Subjected to at least 6 Taser Gun shots, as well as the excessive brutality used by the police, Quilem died several days after his arrest.

[translated from the original French]

[Press Release (in French) linked HERE. ]

WHEN: Saturday, December 15, 2007

This past October 18, 2007, Quilem Registre died as a result of injuries suffered after a brutal arrest by police. Subjected to at least 6 Taser Gun shots, as well as the excessive brutality used by the police, Quilem died several days after his arrest.

Should we continue to submit to this kind of abuse by the police? What can we do against this? Come march with us this Saturday, December 15, 2007 from 11am. The goal is to denounce these abuses and others that are kept silent.

The meeting point of the demo will be at the corner of St-Michel and d’Hérelle, and we will march to 23e Avenue and Jean-Rivard (where Quilem was arrested). We will be heard! Let’s struggle together in peace against police abuses in the name of all victims! Enough!

[Organized by the Registre family with the support of the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP).]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière
Collective Opposed to Police Brutality
(514) 859-9065
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Aqsa Parvez, Rest In Peace

Sixteen year old Aqsa Parvez was murdered by her father, who strangled her to death, we are told, because she did not want to wear hijab.

She had already tried moving out of her Mississauga home, ongoing conflicts about how to dress and behave becoming too much to bear. She went home to get some things and ended up on the front page of the Toronto Sun.

Oppressed people, and most especially women, suffer for being metaphors to their oppressors. How they talk, walk, fuck and dress "represent"/"symbolize"/mean so much to their menfolk, and so controlling/punishing/murdering them becomes a compensation prize for not being able to control much else. Because once he has lost control of his daughter/wife/sister he has symbolically lost control of all that matters.

In life, how Aqsa Parvez dressed and acted meant a lot to her father. She died because of this.

As we focus on the next link in the Great Circle Jerk of Oppression, that patriarchal chain of being, it is only normal that Parvez' death is going to mean so much to so many writers, spokespeople, bloggers - until of course her five minutes are up and we all move on.

Needless to say, white volk are already keen on de-gendering her death. She wasn't killed at the hands of male violence, or as a result of teenagers having so few options when they decide the need to leave home. She was killed by Islam, by Immigrant Culture, by Multiculturalism and a lack of Western Values.

Blog the google on Aqsa Parvez and you'll see what i mean.

At the same time , you can be sure that others will be intent on de-Islamicizing her death, of insisting that her murder is just like the murder of any other woman, except that in her case she is to be denied any specificity at all (always the curse of those who die inconveniently). People will talk about how teenagers in all cultures and religions are having trouble with their parents, as the racist use of her death makes us recoil, hoping to find refuge in an explanation which whitens the whole affair.

In point of fact, in death the sixteen year old Parvez joins two sororities. She is one of the hundreds of Ontario women and children who have been murdered by the Head of the Family, by the One Who Wears The Pants. She is also one of the hundreds of thousands of women who have been killed for wanting to negotiate their own relationship (or lack thereof) to Islam and the various interpretations of its rules.

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Trade Unions Line Up for a "Neutral" Racist Quebec

Well, you know what i think: this is a white stain on the Quebec trade union movement, certainly not the first and certainly not the last.

In the present context it is clear that arguing for a "ban on religious symbols" is at best riding the wave of racism for one's own purposes, and we know that in politics, to ride a wave is to contribute to it. (At worst, well, at worst such a position is just a chickenshit way to promote one's own racism.)

Never mind the fact that "neutral State" is an oxymoron. It is always someone's State, meant to serve someone's interests. This is not about keeping the State "neutral," it's about establishing (once again) whose State it is, whose interests it will serve. For people on both sides, the hijab is becoming a powerful symbol, and women's bodies are once again metaphors , stand-ins for social conflicts. And in Quebec, when we talk about men forcing women how to dress, we are talking about men forcing women to reveal their faces as an ersatz pledge of allegiance to "our" nation.

Of course, a certain abstract class analysis pretends that the State only belongs to a few thousand of the wealthiest citizens, that everyone else is equally oppressed. Those who like this fairy tale then see no issue with trade unions asking the State to enforce "neutrality", because as far as they are concerned their interests, their culture, their heritage is indeed neutral. If the State's decision is not clearly biased in favour of Westmount (or perhaps Ste-Foy) well then it's not really biased, is it? Or at least, not in a bad way...

That there is hypocrisy and open racism amongst those who wish for the State to be simply anti-Muslim, or post-Catholic, like the ADQ argues, should not obscure the fact that there is also racism, and there is also hypocrisy, in the "progressive" option of riding the racist wave to suddenly pass a "Charter of Secularism," one which we all know would never come into existence without the current Islamophobic brouhaha and which in practice will be enforced primarily against Muslim women who wish to work in the public sector.

(As a corollary to all this, let it be noted that the public sector remains one of the most highly unionized work sectors, that the public sector already discriminates overwhelmingly against people of color and immigrants, and that exclusion from unionized sectors has been identified as a key factor pushing immigrant communities into the poorest layers of the Quebec proletariat, separate from and oppressed by the greater national class structure.)

To be clear: a State does not become a theocracy, or "religious," because a schoolteacher or a secretary or a bureaucrat or a politician does or does not wear a hijab, yarmulke or crucifix. That is not what constitutes a religious state, any more than a revolutionary State is one where some public sector employee wears a Che Guevara t-shirt. (joke: i guess an anarchist State would be one where a civil servant goes to work naked?)

Here's the article from today's newspaper. Now excuse me while i go and puke.

Unions against religious symbols
WANT THEM BANNED IN CIVIL SERVICE This would ‘ ensure the secular character of the state,’ SFPQ vice- president says

No public servant – including Muslim teachers and judges – should be allowed to wear anything at work that shows what religion they belong to, leaders of Quebec’s two biggest trade union federations and a civil-servants union told the BouchardTaylor commission yesterday.

“We think that teachers shouldn’t wear any religious symbols – same thing for a judge in court, or a minister in the National Assembly, or a policeman – certainly not,” said René Roy, secretary-general of the 500,000-member Quebec Federation of Labour.

“The wearing of any religious symbol should be forbidden in the workplace of the civil service ... in order to ensure the secular character of the state,” said Lucie Grandmont, vice-president of the 40,000-member Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec.

Dress codes that ban religious expression should be part of a new “charter of secularism” – akin to the Charter of the French Language – that the Quebec government should adopt, said Claudette Carbonneau, president of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux.

Such a charter is needed “to avoid anarchy, to avoid treating ( reasonable- accommodation) cases one by one,” Carbonneau said yesterday, presenting a brief on behalf of the federation’s 300,000 members at the commission’s hearing at the Palais des congrès.

Same point of view at the 150,000-member Centrale des syndicats du Québec, which includes 100,000 who work in the school system, the commission heard.

Quebec needs a “fundamental law” akin to the Charter of Rights that sets out clearly that public institutions, laws and the state are all neutral when it comes to religion, said Centrale president Réjean Parent. The new law would also “define (people’s) rights and duties ... in other words, the rules of living together.”

Under a secular charter, employers would understand that they don’t have to agree to accommodate religious employees if, for example, they ask to be segregated from people of the opposite sex, Carbonneau said.

Similarly, religious students in public schools would understand they can dress as they like, but not if it means wearing restrictive clothing like burqas, niqabs and chadors, which make communication difficult, she told commissioners Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor.

And in the courts, “there are cases that are clear – I wouldn’t want to see a judge in a veil,” she said. Judges need to appear “neutral” so as to inspire confidence in their judgment, she added.

The unions’ anti-religious attitude – especially the CSN’s idea to ban hijabs on teachers – got a cold reception from groups as disparate as a Muslim women’s aid organization and the nationalist Société St. Jean Baptiste of Montreal.

“What that would do is close the door to Muslim women who want to teach,” said Samaa Elibyari, a Montreal community radio host who spoke for the Canadian Council of Muslim Women. “It goes against religious freedoms that are guaranteed in the (Quebec) Charter of Rights.”

Elibyari said Muslim women routinely face discrimination in the workplace. They don’t need unions on their back, too.

“When a young teacher calls a school to see if she can do an internship, and is asked on the phone straight out: ‘Do you wear the veil?’; when a cashier at a supermarket is fired and her boss tells her: ‘The customers don’t want to see that,’ referring to the veil; when a secretary gets passed over for promotion even if she succeeds in all her French exams, and is told: ‘Take off that tablecloth’ – is that not discrimination?” Elibyari asked.

The commission is holding its final week of hearings this week in Montreal, bringing to an end a cross-Quebec tour that began in early September.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Immigrant Workers Centre Statement On Racist Reasonable Accommodation Bullshit

Here is an excellent statement on the racist "reasonable accommodation" hearings in Quebec, from Montreal's Immigrant Workers Centre:

Whose Reasonable Accommodation ?

The debate raised in Quebec on ‘reasonable accommodation’ is built on a number of false assumptions about the relationship between majority groups (‘we’) and minorities (‘they’) and what ‘we’ believe the correct behaviours of ‘they’ should be. It is the wrong debate. Reasonable accommodation should begin with the rights of workers. Accommodating reasonably implies the protection of basic rights, decent wages, rapid recognition of credentials, and terminating ‘guest worker’ programs that deny rights. We have to remember that historically Canada/Quebec has been created and developed through the colonization of First Peoples on the one hand and the exploitation of migrant labour on the other, in order to build the ‘nation’. These processes continue unabated.

The public debate on ‘reasonable accommodation’ remains how ‘they’ should modify their customs to accommodate ‘us’. It assumes, dangerously, that there are common values, as though such things actually exist. We are writing this because we do not believe in this false consensus, this tendency to homogenize all things except food, custom and costume. ‘Cultural accommodation’ blinds the public to the realities of migration, and how the middle and owning classes of Quebec society benefit from the exploitation of the ‘they’. The connections between immigration and labour are absent from the debate and we believe that it should be at its centre.

Let’s briefly review some of the trends in immigration and labour over the past 30 years and ask ourselves is this ‘reasonable accommodation’? Most immigrants arriving during this period are from countries in the South (Asia, Africa, Latin America) and therefore they are not white. The economic forces that push them out of their countries are the same ones that shape their conditions here. They are ‘the other’. They have arrived with high levels of education and skills. Yet over that time, most have not had their skills and training recognized and therefore, they have been forced to take jobs that many “Canadians/Quebecers” reject. They do the work that remains hidden: the caring for children and the elderly, the services and cleaning that allows the ‘we’ to function. In these jobs, there is little protection. Minimal labour standards exist on paper, but are not posted in workplaces or in private homes for caregivers and domestic workers. There are few inspectors and where these standards are abused, it is incumbent upon the workers her/himself to challenge her/his boss. They are often isolated and with few other employees. For people who are struggling to raise children and send remittance payments to family members in their countries of origin, this is a great risk. It takes enormous courage to stand up for their labour rights when the chances of their winning anything and keeping their job is remote. You might say that this is a situation of ‘reasonably accommodating’ the class interests of employers by providing a pool of skilled, cheap labour (trained and educated elsewhere) who are prepared to work in almost any conditions as the price of migration to a better place. In addition, there is little evidence to support the myth that ‘things get better for immigrants with time’.

Many Canadians and Quebecers are unaware that we have programs for ‘guest workers’, who are brought in for limited periods and sent back to their home countries when the work is done. This is the case of agricultural workers. Domestics, through the Live-in Caregiver Program, are brought in and if they comply as live-ins can apply as permanent residents. The federal government likes these programs and intends to increase their use because they allow labour to be brought in without any real ‘accommodation’ as strict rules regulate the conditions of exploitation. Workers in these programs have little recourse to protection from the laws and policies for ‘us’ and remain the ‘they’ of the labour market. Even worse off are the many workers without formal status- who remain hidden as cleaners, cooks, dish-washers and domestics, facing arbitrary and well-below the minimum wage and labour standards, not eligible to making any claims but available nonetheless to be exploited.

As the policies of the provincial and federal governments have been to open up markets and reduce ‘expensive’ state programs, immigrant labour has been one of the ways of filling the gaps left by the inadequacies of neo-liberal policies. We don’t need as many decent nursing homes if immigrant women, often trained as nurses, can provide cheap care at sub-standard private ones or in peoples’ homes. We don’t need as much public childcare if we can import nannies. We do not need to increase wages and improve working conditions if the international labour pool will continue to bring workers here who are pushed into sub-standard jobs. Accommodation implies justice for immigrant workers as a precondition for any other discussion.

Immigrant Workers Centre-Board and Staff
Tess Tesalona
Jill Hanley
Eric Shragge
Malcolm Guy
Sid de Guzman
Andre Rivard
Degane Sougal
Julia Jankousky
Valerie Lavigne
Karim Ben-Jemaa
Mostafa Henaway-Staff
Bita Eslami-coordinator

Immigrant Workers Centre Research Group
Eric Shragge
Jill Hanley
Steve Jordon
Aziz Choudry
Martha Stiegman


Onward With the Struggle!
Centre des Travailleurs et Travailleuses Immigrants
Immigrant Workers Center
6420 ave. Victoria Suite 9
Montreal, Quebec
Phone: (514)342-2111 Fax: (514)342-2786

Monday, December 03, 2007

into our second week without internet, thanks to some kind of fuck up on the part of our ISP... in any case, for once i have an excuse not to be posting!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Anti-Racists Attacked by Police Outside "Reasonable Accomodation" Hearings in Montreal

On Tuesday night i was one of a hundred people who gathered on the ground floor at the Palais des Congres conference center to protest against the racist reasonable accommodation hearings being held there (on the third floor) that night.

(i would have posted about this earlier, but have been without internet for a number of days - i'm not actually posting from a public terminal right now)

The protest was organized by No One Is Illegal Montreal, and attracted people from a number of organizations and communities, including Solidarity Across Borders, the IWC, NEFAC, the PCR, and i'm sure many many others whose affiliations i did not get.

There were speeches, some more inspiring than others, some great poetry... and then we went up the escalators to the hearings, leaving some befuddled security guards behind (it's difficult for a half a dozen secuirty to stop a hundred people who want to go somewhere...)

We were up there for hours, more speeches, music, chanting, etc. At about 9pm, after our numbers had thinned, a group of people tried to actually enter the room where the hearings were happening. They were physically blocked by the security guards, and this time they failed to get through. (It's trickier to open a door towards you with security in front of it than it is to just walk up some stairs.)

At which point the cops, who had been lounging around, came to reinforce the conference center security. It was obvious that nobody was getting in to these supposedly "public" hearings, and so we left, at this point numbering perhaps fifty, walking down all those stairs to the ground floor with some now hyped up very young cops shoving people from behind, including people on the stairs who were trying to leave as quickly as was safely possible.

In my opinion, the reason the cops were being aggressive is because they felt stupid for having been caught sitting on their asses not noticing when folks tried to get in to the hearings. They were embarassed that the conference center security staff was left to "guard the gates" on their own, and they didn't like being called pigs by the demonstrators as they were leaving.

What happened next was a perfect symbol of the hearings, of "accomodation" in an unreasonably racist Quebec, and of plain old Montreal policing.

As everyone was milling around on the ground floor, surrounded by cops, it was announced that we all had to leave. It was obvious at this point that there was no point in resisting: there were many people there who could not afford to get arretsed, there were little children, and we were outnumbered.

So immediately, people started filing out of the building. The only reason for some delay was some people had to pick up their things, including a sound system. Nobody was staying behind or resisting, but the cops had already identified a few people they wanted to get, and they moved in to do so, grabbing folks, throwing them to the floor, all the while others charged at the remaining stragglers, shoving them with their batons.

This all happened less than one minute after it was announced that everyone had to leave. There was obviously no intention of allowing the demo to end peacefully.

Four people were arrested. Two inside the building, and two others outside as they waited there, loooking in through the windows at the police and their arrested comrades. Police pulled out their tasers and "shot" them in the air, and were obviously enjoying the fun.

This is reasonable accommodation. This is what it's all about. Hearings thoughout Quebec where the state legitimized the most crazy racist and anti-semitic conspiracy theories, thanking bigots as they make their submissions, making it clear that if nothing else, there is not thought of not accomodating racism.

When the hearings come to Montreal, it is no surprise that they get protested. It is no surprise that activists come out to denounce them.

Now, as i already mentioned i have no internet access. On top of that, i had ot go out of town, so i was not at the follow up demonstration scheduled for last night. i hope there were lots of people there, because it strikes me that the police made an error in attacking people. By marring the second Montreal hearings with arrests and gratuitous violence, there is an opportunity to rip a hole in the democratic mystification surrounding these hearings. Hopefully, this opportunity will be/has been capitalized on.

While today some people have difficulty denouncing the hearings, the idea of "no platform for racists" being less easy when the mass media and democratic politicians are the ones supporting this crap, in the future it will be of obvious importance how one responded to the fragmentation of (social-democratic, "sovereignist" sections of) the Quebec left and the consolidation of a racist political pole in 2007.

What follows is the rpeport from the No One Is Illegal blog:

At least 75 protesters gathered in the lobby of the Montreal Congress Center, before proceeding past security guards upstairs, near the hearing room. The protest was well heard inside by participants. After more than 90 minutes of protesting outside the hearing, at least 20 police officers entered to remove demonstrators. During the police attack, uniformed officers pushed and punched protesters, and used batons; several police had also drawn their taser guns. The protesters included small children, as well as elders, who were pushed.

-- Police attack and arrest anti-racist migrant justice protesters at Bouchard-Taylor Commission

-- Protest and speak-out against the commission to continue on Thursday

MEDIA REQUESTS: Contact Leila Pourtavaf at 514-994-4595

Wednesday, November 27, 2007 -- Last night, No One Is Illegal-Montreal and
allies began pickets and speak-outs against the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on
"reasonable accommodation".

A statement on the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, and the racist "reasonable
accommodation" debate, is available here

At least 75 protesters gathered in the lobby of the Montreal Congress Center, before proceeding past security guards upstairs, near the hearing room. The protest was well heard inside by the some 190 participants.

After more than 90 minutes of protesting outside the hearing, at least 20 police officers entered to remove demonstrators. The protesters proceeded back to the main lobby of the Congress Center, where security had earlier said the protest could continue unimpeded. But, after an eviction order, protesters began to leave. Without provocation, police targeted individuals for arrest.

During the police attack, uniformed officers pushed and punched protesters, and used batons; several police had also drawn their taser guns. The protesters included small children, as well as elders, who were pushed.

Ironically, one officer, who didn't have ID, identified himself as "Stante". When asked if he was Giovanni Stante, the officer said "yes". Giovanni Stante was implicated in the murder of Jean-Pierre Lizotte in 1999. More background info available here: http://www.ainfos.ca/02/aug/ainfos00058.html

During the speak-out outside the Commission, demonstrators addressed issues like poverty, police brutality, racism, immigration status and more, thru speeches, music and spoken word.

Photos and updates from the Commission pickets will be posted at http://nooneisillegal-montreal.blogspot.com

No One Is Illegal and allies refuse to be intimidated by police attacks, and will return to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission this Thursday for another picket and speak-out outside the commission. The protest will begin at 6:30pm at the Montreal Congress Center at the corner of Viger and de Bleury (near metro Place d'armes).

For more info:
No One Is Illegal-Montreal
514-848-7583 – noii-montreal@resist.ca

Friday, November 23, 2007

La Guerre Larvée

Can anybody help me translate this term?

i've looked it up in Le Petit Robert, but can't seem to find it...

translations translations...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NOII Actions Against "Reaonable Accommodation" Hearings, Nov. 27 & 29

Denounce the racist Bouchard-Taylor Commission
Solidarity across borders, not "reasonable accommodation"

TUESDAY, November 27, 6pm
THURSDAY, November 29, 6pm
- in front of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission at the Palais de Congrès, corner of Viger and de Bleury
- by metro: exit at metro Place d'armes; stay inside and enter the Palais des Congrès directly).

No One Is Illegal-Montreal and allies are organizing pickets and speak-outs outside the Bouchard-Taylor Commission's public forums in Montreal next November 27 and 29. We encourage you to join us in large numbers.

The Bouchard-Taylor Commission has been a forum for racists and bigots for the past several weeks. The Commission itself is based on a fundamentally racist premise, which is to stand judgment of immigrant communities. This Commission, sanctioned by the state, is a process of submission, whereby minority populations are forced to justify their very existence in Quebec.

Join us for a speak-out and picket outside the Commission, as we share our struggles of resistance to poverty, precarity, racial profiling, police brutality, war, capitalism and gender oppression. Instead of "reasonable accommodation" we will share our perspectives of organizing against borders, for free movement and status for all.

INFO: 514-848-7583 – noii-montreal@resist.ca

-> If you plan on attending the pickets and speak-out, get in touch for more info.

-> Endorse the No One Is Illegal statement on reasonable accommodation which is linked here

et en français:


- Dénoncez le racisme et la Commission Bouchard-Taylor!
- Oui à la "solidarité sans frontières", non au débat sur les "accommodements raisonnables".

MARDI le 27 novembre à 18h
JEUDI le 29 novembre à 18h

- devant la Commission Bouchard-Taylor au Palais des Congrès de Montréal, coin Viger et Bleury
- pour vous y rendre: métro Place-d'Armes, restez dans la station de métro et prenez la sortie qui donne directement sur le Palais des Congrès)

Le collectif Personne n'est illégal-Montréal et des allié-es organisent des lignes de piquetage et des tribunes publiques devant les audiences publiques de la Commission Bouchard-Taylor à Montréal les 27 et 29 novembre prochain.

Depuis plusieurs semaines, la Commission Bouchard-Taylor sert de forum public pour racistes. La Commission elle-même est basée sur une prémisse fondamentalement raciste, celle de faire le procès des communautés immigrantes. Cette Commission, sanctionnée par l'État, est un processus de soumission, par lequel les populations minoritaires se voient obligées de justifier leur existence même au Québec.

Joignez-vous aux tribunes publiques et aux lignes de piquetage qui auront lieu à l'extérieur de la Commission. Ensemble, nous partagerons nos histoires de lutte et de résistance face à la pauvreté, la précarité, le profilage racial, la brutalité policière, la guerre, le capitalisme et l'oppression. Plutôt que de discuter d'"accommodements raisonnables", nous parlerons de mobilisation contre les frontières, pour la liberté de mouvement et pour des papiers pour toutes et tous.

-> Pour plus d'information: 514-848-7583 – noii-montreal@resist.ca

-> Vous pouvez également appuyer la déclaration de Personne n'est illégal
sur les accommodements raisonnables

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Henry Aubin on the Police Murder of Robert Dziekanski

cellphone-video of an RCMP murder:
Robert Dziekanski was killed on October 14 in
Vancouver International Airport

Pulling the plug on Taser deaths
INCLUDING A CAMERA on the electric-shock weapon would help clear up questions on its use

Everyone is appalled by the tragic death of a man in Vancouver after police shot him with a Taser. But you don’t have to go far to find other cases of questionable use of this electric-shock weapon.

So far this fall, two men have died in Quebec after police tasered them. Unlike the death of Robert Dziekanski in Vancouver International Airport, no videos exist of the incidents, and they have received too little attention in the Montreal media.

On Oct. 14, the same day that Dziekanski died, Montreal police stopped Quilem Registre, 38, because of his erratic driving in the St. Michel area. Police say they shot him with a Taser because he was aggressive. Cocaine has been linked to numerous deaths of tasered people, and tests show that cocaine was in Registre’s blood when he was admitted to hospital after the incident. Relatives say he was in a coma for three days and suffered heart problems before he died.

The other case is still more troubling because a witness says the victim was peaceful. Claudio Castagnetta, a 32-yearold translator, was arrested for loitering barefoot and acting strangely inside a small grocery store in Quebec City. Unlike Registre, he had no criminal record.

The store owner who called police because of Castagnetta’s annoying presence told the Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil that when he asked the man what he was doing, “To my great surprise, he was not at all arrogant and was very diplomatic.” The store owner said that when the cops arrived, Castagnetta told them he had the right to be where he was. When police took him to their cruiser and tried to put handcuffs on him, he resisted – not with violence but by making his body rigid.

Two witnesses say police fired a Taser at him not once but at least three times – although they were unable to say how many times the weapon’s two darts hit him. It took six cops to bring him under control while lying on his stomach. Afterward, he was well enough to tell a lawyer that he suffered from bipolar disorder, but he died two days later in his cell.

Let me say right off that there’s not a mote of evidence that the Taser directly caused the deaths of Dziekanski, Castagnetta or Registre. Eight police forces in this province use Tasers (including the Sûreté du Québec and the Laval and Longueuil police), and a spokesperson for Quebec’s public security ministry, which oversees police, stresses that no deaths are directly attributable to the weapon since its introduction here in 2001.

The key word in all this, of course, is “directly.” The fact is that people hit with Tasers have a way of dying shortly thereafter. Amnesty International counts 18 such deaths in Canada and more than 240 in the U.S.

The only time police ought to be able to use Tasers is to defend either themselves or other citizens from life-threatening attack or injury – precisely the same criteria that governs (or is supposed to govern) police use of firearms.

We can’t tell if the Registre case meets that criteria because Montreal police have divulged so little about it. But the Castagnetta and Dziekanski cases flagrantly fail the test. First, neither victim had threatened police or endangered the public in any way. Second, police fired the Taser at them more than once, then pounced on them en masse (possibly inflicting serious injury on Dziekanski when an officer knelt on his neck).

Both times, then, police used the weapon gratuitously as an easy way to master people. Pardon me if I sound like the National Rifle Association, but Tasers don’t kill people, irresponsible police do.

A way exists to deter police from such casual use of this dangerous device. Taser International now makes a camera that clips on to a Taser and records what’s happening in video and audio. The company’s website notes that this “offers increased accountability – not just for officers, but for the people they arrest. Until now, it’s been the officer’s word against the suspect’s word.” If the suspect survives, that is.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has made the camera a precondition for introducing the Taser to his country. This little gizmo might be worth the Charest government’s consideration.

The above is from today's Montreal Gazette - i apologize for not having time to write about this myself, as some of you have noticed i'm posting a lot less these days. Too much work, and it's not showing any signs of abating...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Settler Colonies

French Jesuit Mission of St. Sauveur in Acadia:
corrupting the Wabanaki Nation with christianity

someone emailed me asking what the definition of a "settler-colony" was...

i gave a lame ass answer, but then figured i should post it here so that people can either agree with it or explain to me the places i'm wrong...

this is a paraphrase of what i answered, based on my sketchy memory of high school history class...

i went to high school in Quebec, and from memory we were taught that France was defeated in North America because its mode of colonization was insufficiently settler-oriented. By this what was meant was that instead of building new European-style societies in areas claimed by the French crown, the colonial policy relied heavily on planting flags around the continent and and saying "this belongs to us now."

The strategy was to corrupt the Indigenous nations, to have them reorient their economies to serve as the labour behind the fur trade. The idea was also that these Indigenous nations would provide military support in the recurrent conflicts with the British crown. The idea was not to create a white North America, not even a French-speaking North America - both those goals came much later, and were never taken up by anyone's ruling class, lip service aside - the real aim was to create a Roman Catholic North America serving the economic interests of the increasingly dysfunctional French monarchy.

A few white settlements on the banks of the St-Lawrence were supposed to be the base for mass conversion of francization of indigenous folks across North America. Cultural genocide yes, physical extermination only in exceptional circumstances.

The French were using methods that today we associate with neo-colonialism (fucking with your economy and culture to make you dependent) instead of what we often think of as classic colonialism. Which just goes to show the degree to which what we consider "classic" is really modeled on the British strategy which ended up fathering the United States... perhaps another example of tunnel vision on the u.s. experience?

The French model worked fine for them for centuries in places like the Maghreb, but couldn't compete side by side with an aggressive anglo-capitalism based on settler colonies. which is why although a Quebecois nation exists in a corner of the continent, most of those places claimed by the French crown have been easily anglicized. Just think of all the American cities with French names...

Again according to my high skool history teacher, the reason the English won out was they utilized a different mode of colonization. The details - really only glossed over in skool - being that this model was based on displacing Indigenous peoples or physically exterminating them and setting up settlements of Europeans who might use Indigenous slave labour (or imported Africans) but whose communities were meant to replace, not incorporate, the previous inhabitants' society.

So a colony would be any outpost of a foreign power (in the case of North America, these powers being England, France or Spain) which is meant to be permanent, whereas a settler colony would be a subset of colonies which are based on importing new populations to set up a new society replacing completely that which existed before, either through exterminating the previous inhabitants or else shoehorning them into the new society, generally as a proletarian layer whose labour is used to support the settler population.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Pauline Marois, the PQ's "Quebec Identity Bill" and Divided Strategies on the Radical Left

Pauline Marois: white woman on a mission

On October 18 Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois proposed a new piece of legislation, Bill 195, the "Quebec Identity Act."

This piece of legislation would create two classes of citizen within Quebec. You would have Canadian citizens, and then within this group you would have a second set, those who would pass a French exam and pledge allegiance to the Quebec nation.

Only those in this separate group would have the right to run in provincial, municipal and school board elections, or address petitions to the national assembly. Obviously, once this second tier of citizenship was established it could be tied to any number of other rights or privileges.

A bit of background perhaps...

For those from elsewhere: Pauline Marois is the head of the Parti Quebecois, which has revolved through the provincial government in Quebec (taking turns with the Liberals) for over thirty years now. When i was growing up people still talked about the PQ as if it were a progressive party, and many leftists a generation older than me still feel that way. And at one point in time there was some truth to this, as the PQ combined social democracy with an officially unracist nationalism.

(Of course, there were those who were clear on the actually racist underpinnings of the nationalist project, and the bankruptcy of social democracy, even back in the seventies.)

The PQ jettisoned social democracy early on, but continued to pay it lip service whenever this helped to rally the troops. It similarly rejected those separatist strategies which would upset the North American capitalist applecart - the PQ when first elected disappointed many people by not declaring independence, rather it would hold referenda asking for a specific mandate to "enter into negotiations" on the subject, or else later to establish a "sovereign" state which would retain all of the colonialist and capitalist hallmarks of the present "un-sovereign" one.

This watering down of both the left-wing and separatist elements in the party led to further confusion between these two different aspects of its program, and to the development of a "left" within the party which saw its "leftism" as having as much to do with being more nationalistic as with being more committed to social democracy or "socialism".

All of which is in a sense irrelevant, or at least of purely historical interest at this point.

The year two thousand and seven can be seen as a turning point, a watershed of sorts in Quebec politics, as certain (decades old) changes in the class structure and the demographic balance finally found their corresponding political expression.

The PQ, which has at all times since the early seventies been either the government or the official opposition, was relegated to being a third rate rump party in the spring elections. Under the blandly center-right leadership of Andre Boisclair, the endless watering down of its nationalist content and the final erasure of its left-wing pretensions brought about the predictable results, as the party was eclipsed by the more openly and honestly right-wing and xenophobic ADQ.

Following the March elections, which were preceded by a wave of media-instigated racism around the "reasonable accommodation" soap opera, the PQ was confronted with a necessity to act, and act boldly, or risk permanent eclipse.

Boisclair resigned, and longtime party-insider Pauline Marois - who had already failed in two previous attempts to run for party leader - won the leadership by acclamation.

The task immediately confronting Marois's PQ has been to win back voters who had drifted to the ADQ, and the way in which this is to be achieved is to further imitate the latter. So it is that "sovereignty" has been put on the back burner, replaced with the same amorphous, and essentially racist, concept of nationalism as that put forward by Dumont's ADQ.

What we have seen since has been a calculated and deliberately public embrace of xenophobia, a public relations strategy of which Bill 195 is simply the latest and most obvious example.

Marois racist "Quebec Identity Bill" has been denounced privately and publicly by all manner of establishment voiceboxes. Including many longtime PQ supporters. It has been declared illegal, unconstitutional, unacceptable and a betrayal of all kinds of things good people hold dear.

In conversation, many point to the surrounding context of the racist reasonable accommodation hearings, and say that given this context, now is certainly not the time for any such piece of divisive legislation.

Which is a really curious criticism, if you think about it.

Marois obviously put forward this piece of racist legislation because of the surrounding "reasonable accommodation" shit. She is well aware of what she is doing: riding the wave. The fact that "to ride a wave" in politics is also to contribute to it, is no skin off her back.

The criticism that "this is not the time" begs a certain question, namely when would the right time be to legally establish two classes of citizenship?

This confusion says something about the mixed up ideas and unfinished thoughts which make up the left of the nationalist project, or also those leftists whose understanding of nationalism bleeds into sympathy.

The particular kind of racism which has popped up all over Quebec this past year bears perverted witness to changes in the class structure of Quebec and changing meaning of nationalism here over the past forty years. What has been going on is an example of what we discussed last August, the way in which "Quebecois nationhood" plays a role in people's consciousness similar to "whiteness" in the united states, and as such racism is the likely response to social crises and tensions:
But where this increasing similarity is relevant is that white Québecois – and most especially nationalists – are liable to resist this globalized capitalism in ways that have more in common with white US workers than with the radical labour movement of the 70s. (Never mind the Patriotes!) Pat Buchanan-style, not Malcolm X-style, if you know what i mean: with an increased openness to racist demagogy and national chauvinism. Even (or perhaps especially) amongst people who admire Che, loathe Bush, and consider themselves to be social-democrats or even “socialists.”
Today the mandate to put immigrants in their place, to "let them know who's boss", runs like a knife through every political grouping, of both left and right. Quietly, often unreported in the media, and loudly, with banner headlines, individuals and groups are positioning and repositioniing themselves around this question, conveniently labeled "reasonable accommodation."

Marois has risked alienating many of the PQ's longtime supporters, but it's a risk she is wise to take. The PQ can't survive indefinitely on nostalgia for the Quebec nationalism of thirty years ago. It can't attract voters based on what their class interests used to be.

Chances are most who are scandalized by Marois' bill will continue to support the PQ anyway. And among those broad swathes of society who have come to identify more and more with a certain style of racism, the PQ can only gain.

Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of her proposal, a Leger marketing poll clearly showed how she had played her cards right: 35% felt she was the leader who best defended the "Quebecois identity" (as opposed to 30% for Dumont and 18% for Charest) and 52% of francophones supported Bill 195 (38% opposed).

On the left, two different anti-racist positions seem to exist in regards to the ongoing "reasonable accommodation" racism. For want of better terms, let's call them the "anti-racism through secularism" and the "pluralist anti-racism" positions.

"anti-racism through secularism" position has been adopted by certain people in NEFAC, and in l'aut journal, and in the historically "progressive" sections of the nationalist movement.

Noting that the "reasonable accommodation" brouhaha centers on religious practices of certain racialized groups, these people argue that the best way to defuse the rise in racism is to expose it for what it is. They propose doing this by insisting on greater secularism in all spheres of life and for all religions. These people agree that Islam, Judaism and Hinduism should not be catered to, but wish to deracialize the issue by also insisting that Christianity be pushed out of the public sphere. Muslim women not allowed to wear hijab, Jews not allowed to wear kippa, Sikhs not allowed to wear a turban, Christians not allowed to wear a crucifix, etc.

This position, spelled out for instance in some of the comments left on my blog here,
is an organic expression of the historical secularism of the Quebecois left, a direct consequence of the role the church had in propping up corrupt and oppressive governments for 150 years in this province. It also caries with it the imprimatur of the Quebecois feminist movement, which is very much the sister of the left nationalist movement that emerged here in the 1960s.

The second anti-racist position, that of "pluralist anti-racism", has been elaborated by the (maoist) Revolutionary Communist Party and various anti-authoritarian groups based in Montreal like Solidarity Across Borders and No One Is Illegal, who just today spelled out their position condemning (amongst other things), the fact that "
so-called progressives and feminists have used the [Bouchard-Taylor] Commission platform to promote their own sophisticated brand of racism."

The pluralist position
challenges without compromise the idea that the State or para-state institutions like trade unions or school boards should have any power to regulate or control how immigrants (or anyone else) expresses their culture or religious feelings. The pluralist position does not actually state that concerns about religious fundamentalism and sexism are red herrings, but at the same time it does not address these.

Despite the serious differences between these two positions, it is striking how little debate or criticism there has been between them. This is an example of the fragmentation of the radical left, and even of the anarchist section thereof, where the "pluralist" camp is very much based in Montreal, and seems to have weak ties to the francophone working class.

The "anti-racism through secularism" position strikes me as wrongheaded through and through. It seems to be a case of instrumentalizing racism rather than opposing it outright. i write that knowing some people who hold this position, and knowing them to be sincere comrades and anti-racists. But this is a point on which we disagree.

Mario Dumont and the ADQ rode the wave while making it, and did so to great success this spring, catapulting the "fringe" party into the center of Quebec politics. Pauline Marois has shown that she understands how this game is played, she has upped the ante, and unlike those mired in the past she's giving the ADQ a run for their money - and she may just come out ahead.

These people are neither stupid not confused. Opposing them is our task. We need to move in that direction.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Upping The Anti #5 Now Available from Kersplebedeb

Another issue of Canada's best radical journal of theory and action, or should we say activism...

That's two this year, for those keeping track...

here's a look inside:

  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Social Democracy and Anti-Capitalist Renewal in English Canada

  • The Fight for Feminism (Sunera Thobani)
  • The Tradition of Resistance, on Indigenous Anti-Colonialism (Gord Hill)
  • From the Perspective of Resistance (Michael Hardt)

  • Into a Black Hole: Tar Sands and Oil Production in Western Canada (Macdonald Stainsby)
  • Strength in Numbers? why radical students need a new organizing model (Caelie Frampton)
  • The Three Way Fight Debate, on Islam, Fascism and the Left, with Rami El-Amine and Michael Staudenmeier

Roundtable: You Can't Jail the Spirit
  • The Movement to Free Political Prisoners (Bryan Doherty and Tom Keefer)
  • Interviews with Ashanti Alston, Robert Seth Hayes, Susan Tipograph and Sara Falconer
Book reviews by Chris Harris (of Muhammad Ahmad’s We Will Return in the Whirlwind), Anna Feigenbaum (of Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology and Peter Gelderloos’ How Nonviolence Protects the State) and Matthew N. Lyons (of April Rosenblum’s The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere)

& don't forget those ever-interesting book reviews and letters to the editor...

You can order copies by emailing me at info@kersplebedeb.com or to order by using paypal just click here:

$15 postage included

To order back issues you can also email me or else visit the Upping the Anti page on the Kersplebedeb website.

Friday, October 26, 2007

[Toronto] Nov. 8 Launch Party for Certain Days Calendar!

The Certain Days Freedom for Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War Calendar is having an official launching party in Toronto in a couple of weeks... put it in your agenda now!

(And if you don't live in Toronto, feel free to email me for copies of the calendar - or go here for more about it!)
Toronto Launch Party!

Certain Days: 2008 Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar
Legacy of the Panthers

Friday, November 9, 2007
The Concord Cafe
937 Bloor Street West

$5 or $15 with a calendar

doors at 8 p.m.

with DJs
Nik Red (Afrotransit, CKLN 88.1FM)
Syrus Marcus Ware (Resistance on the Sounddial, CIUT 89.5FM)
Saira Chhibber (Superfly, CHRY 105.5FM)
Haque (Rose from Lal!)

Brought to you by Certain Days, CKLN, and the Prison Book Access Project

BRING BOOKS for the Prison Book Access Project: dictionaries, language books, general fiction, and popular/pulp fiction. Books should be softcover, newer than 1995 and in good condition.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Two New Pamphlets from Kersplebedeb

The Road Ahead and the Dialectics of Change
by C. Lundrum

The rather long subtitle of this short pamphlet reads: "applying the science of dialectical and historical materialism to the prison construct as it exists within California prison system today." And that is just what ths is: an attempt by a California prisoner to analyze the continuing deterioration in prison conditions and the possibilities of resistance, using the tools of dialectical materialism in the spirit of Mao. (Though for you anarchists who are wincing,i should point out that this aspect of Maoism has nothing inherently unanarchistic about it.) With an introduction by Ed Mead.

Kersplebedeb Publications
26 pages
ISBN 1-894946-26-X

The Theory and Practice of Armed Struggle in the Northwest
by Ed Mead

Examining the history, growing pains, and context of the George Jackson Brigade, a group of anarchists and marxist-leninists who between 1975 and 1977 carried out a series of bank robberies,and bombings in the Seattle area, and also successfully broke a comrade out of prison. Subjects examined include the political environment during the 1970s, the rationale of those engaged in armed actions against the State and a critique of the tamed left. Ed Mead was a member of the GJB who served a total of eighteen years in prison as a consequence of his activities. This text was written while he was incarcerated; it is published here for the first time.

Kersplebedeb Publications
45 pages
ISBN 1-894946-25-1


To order either of these pamphlets just send me an email at info@kersplebedeb.com

For a complete list of pamphlets and books published and/or distributed by yours truly, visit the Kersplebedeb Literature page.

Incarcerated Six Nations Man Threatened by Institutional Staff

The following just in frmo Janie Jamieson at Six Nations:

Skylar Williams, a Mohawk Wolf from Six Nations has been held without bail at the Hamilton Barton St. Jail since the illegal arrests at Stirling Street September 19, 2007. Today we held a rally for him outside the jail where he has been in the "hole" for two days.

We have reason to believe if Skyler is harmed in anyway, we know he is the target of planned and deliberate threats and violence by jail institution staff members.

A few days ago Skylar woke up to find the plumbing in his cell on range 5 was backed up. He notified institution staff on his range. He was accused by staff of backing up the plumbing. The mess was left. Skylar asked for a drink of water, he was told by staff to drink from the toilet. Skylar responded, "there's sh*t" in there. The institution staff's paid professional advise to Skylar was to "take the sh*t out and then have a drink." Skylar refused and notified his lawyer of the situation. At this point Skyler was without clean water for approximately 18 hours.

Skyler's lawyer then notified another institutional staff member with a higher ranking position. The plumbing was fixed. Skyler left his cell but at lockdown upon his return, Skyler discovered the plumbing was mysteriously backed up again. The higher ranking institutional staff attempted to solve the problem by moving Skyler to another cell.

After this incident Skyler was approached by an institutional staff member and taken to a room with two other staff. At this point Skyler was told by the one of the staff that that particular staff member referred to himself as being "GOD" at Barton St. Jail. He then threatened Skyler by telling him if he and his lawyer didn't stop causing sh*$ for him, he was going to "fu*$" Skyler up. He also said he would have it arranged so Skyler's lawyer would have no access to him.

This staff member went on to inform Skyler of his plan to "fu*$" him up. (There were 2 other staff present when this threat occurred.) According to the staff member Skyler's fate is supposed to happen in three steps...

1. Skyler would be given a "misconduct" by the institutional staff.

2. Skyler would then be sent to the "hole" for 3 days.

3. After Skyler was done in the "hole" he would immediately be sent to the range 3 of the jail.

Range 3 is where the men who are waiting to be tried for rape, murder and other serious crimes are held. Some of these men have already been convicted of such crimes and are waiting to be shipped off to federal institutions.

This is where men who have nothing left to lose are sent. In this range the inmates do special favours for the institutional staff for as little as an extra meal or coffee. It's a place where you simply do not "rat" on the institutional staff. Inmates are pitted against one another. It's also a place where Skyler was told, there are men as big as 321 pounds that could really "fu*$" him up. (The jail staff asked Skyler how much he weighed just to verify Skyler would be quite smaller and at greater risk of being injured if sent to Range 3.)

Skyler was also told by the institutional staff the last guy they had "fu*$ed" up had to crawl to the jail cell door covered in blood. Skyler was told there were men in Range 3 "waiting" for his arrival. Skyler was advised by this paid government employee to "quit his bitc*ing" and "to take his lumps."

Skyler's lawyer spoke with the high ranking institutional staff and was told by him the only thing he could do to guarantee Skyler's safety was to put him in isolation where he would be under 24 hour video surveillance, however Skyler would have to give up the staff members' names who were threatening him.

Skyler's lawyer has already filed a motion for "habeus corpus" to have Skyler physically present in court tomorrow for his bail review.

Skyler's cell mate contacted his family this morning and informed them in the last 24 hours Skyler has been given a "MISCONDUCT" by staff and has been placed in "the hole" for 3 days.

The instituional staff member has kept his promise to threaten Skyler's life and safety. This staff member's plan is gone passed the first two stages.

Something needs to be done immediately to guarantee Skyler's safety and security. If there is interference in Skylers safety and security or if his life is put at risk we believe it would be the direct result of mistreatment at the discretion of institutional staff. We believe they are abusing their authority to ensure Skyler's life and well being is put at risk. We believe their attempts at intimidating Skyler are deliberate and being somewhat overlooked by senior institutional staff.

Let's hope Skyler will gets out of Barton St. Jail safely with his life. His bail review is at the Cayuga Courthouse tomorrow at 9:00am.

Please forward immediately.

niawen, skennen

Janie Jamieson
Six Nations