BC Referendum on Proportional Representation
Meetings on Proportional Representation
Most recently, on October 24, the local Council of Canadians branch in Williams Lake organized a meeting at which Jay Sanders, from Fair Vote Prince George, gave a slide show talk about the benefits of PR. Peter Ewart, from the Stand Up for the North Committee -- well-known for its work fostering discussion and actions on how people can gain more control over their lives and communities -- delivered a presentation on some of the misconceptions being promoted by the No to PR side and certain big media outlets. An in-depth discussion unfolded with many attendees making thoughtful comments and asking insightful questions.
On November 1, at another successful community information session, this time in Quesnel, Sanders and Ewart again gave presentations on PR. The meeting was chaired by Dawn Hemingway from the Stand Up for the North Committee. More than 45 people were in attendance and, as in the Williams Lake meeting, the discussion and questions from the audience were excellent. Many of those in attendance signed up to receive further information about PR and the activities of Stand Up for the North. Discussion continued for some time after the meeting concluded, with participants commenting that they felt proportional representation would be an improvement over the first-past-the-post voting system in that it would better represent the intention of voters. When leaving the event, many people requested flyers and information for their family, friends and neighbours.
The next community information meeting in the region is scheduled for November 7 at 7:30 pm at the Main Branch of the Public Library in Prince George and is organized by Fair Vote Prince George. Both Jay Sanders and Peter Ewart will be speaking and everyone is invited to participate.
As Wikipedia describes it, a fairy tale is a fanciful story that "typically features entities such as dwarfs, dragons, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, griffins, mermaids, talking animals, trolls, unicorns and witches."
And what a caboodle of strange tales the No to PR BC spokespersons are conjuring up in their attempt to discredit proportional representation (PR) in the upcoming referendum.
One of the most bizarre has to be the claim that the existing first-past-the-post (FPTP) system in BC is a non-party system and that MLAs are non-partisan. If there is one place in the world where this is least true, it would have to be BC which has had an extreme party-based system since 1903 when the big parties took over the process.
Yet this is precisely what the No side spokespersons are claiming in their attacks on PR. They tell the cozy little tale about how FPTP is, in effect, a non-party system which means MLAs are non-partisan and, like Mother Goose, will welcome constituents into their office no matter what their politics. They claim that, if PR is adopted, this will all change for the worse and, like the miller's daughter in the story of Rumpelstiltskin, MLAs will become beholden to and controlled by the backroom imps of the political parties.
In spinning such tales, the No side attempts to use the constituency side of MLA work (which would be the same under any voting system including PR) to gloss over the legislative side, which in BC is extremely party-based.
Instead of a fairy tale, let's look at the cold, hard reality of politics in BC today. MLAs are selected and nominated by the political parties, not by the general electorate. Once elected, they are under the thumb of the political parties. They must follow the party line on all major and even most minor issues, otherwise they face repercussions including expulsion from the party. In the last few years that latter fate has happened in BC's Central Interior to both Liberal MLA Paul Nettleton and NDP MLA Bob Simpson.
To say that MLAs are non-partisan is even more laughable when we look at the MLA voting record. In the last Legislative session, about 100 bills were passed by 87 MLAs from the three parties in the Legislature. That amounts to about 8,700 separate votes. Of those 8,700 votes, it has been calculated that only five did not follow their party lines.
In BC's Central Interior and North, all the current seats are held by Liberal MLAs in what amounts to a regional monopoly. The 30 to 40 per cent of voters who cast a ballot for other parties have no expression for their votes (i.e., their votes are "wasted"). On Vancouver Island, a similar problem prevails where the NDP has 40 per cent of the vote but 70 per cent of the seats, while the Liberals, with 30 per cent of the vote, have only one seat. In both cases, there is no doubt that these are partisan regional monopolies.
How will PR be different? One thing for sure, it will mean the end of regional monopolies by one party or the other. If parties get 30 per cent of the vote, they'll get 30 per cent of the seats, no more, no less. The result will be that in any given region, rather than regional monopolies, there will likely be MLAs both in government and in opposition.
To cause confusion, the No side is also spreading a second fairy tale that PR will mean "Farewell to your local MLAs." They are even circulating a sensational pamphlet that claims PR will "strip rural communities of their locally-elected MLA and eliminate the voice BC's small communities have in government."
Part of the disinformation is that, instead of local MLAs, there will be MLAs chosen by "party bosses" who will be parachuted in from Vancouver to take over seats in Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince George and other rural locations.
This is not true. Under all three of the proposed PR options, local MLAs will be directly elected by voters in each of the expanded ridings just as under FPTP. Furthermore, in two of the choices (Rural-Urban and Mixed Member), voters will have the added bonus of also voting for several regional MLAs. If an open list system is adopted, which is likely as all parties in the Legislature have indicated support for it, these regional representatives will be chosen directly by voters in the region.
A third fairy tale promoted is that under PR the entire political power base of the province will suddenly move to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. What this ignores is that, in terms of population and seats in the Legislature, the Lower Mainland has dominated for the last 100 years and will continue to dominate whichever of the two voting systems is in place. Indeed, the reality is that population has been staying the same or decreasing in many rural areas while increasing in the Lower Mainland. At least under PR, rural voters will have more than one MLA to represent them, whether these MLAs are in local ridings or are regional.
A fourth fairy tale claims that the "deck is stacked" in the referendum engagement process and the mail-in ballot is faulty. The reality is that the provincial government, under current legislation does not even have to conduct a referendum to change the voting system. It is entirely arbitrary and up to the sitting government. In fact, the last time the voting system in the province was changed was in 1952 and it was done by a Liberal coalition government, with no referendum and no engagement process whatsoever. Furthermore, in the last twenty years, two mail-in ballot referendums were conducted during the term of the previous BC Liberal government each of which it claimed was a legitimate process.
Perhaps the biggest fairy tale of all being promoted by the No side is that somehow the sky will fall if PR is adopted -- neo-Nazis and racists will take over the Legislature, the economy will collapse, and voters will be disenfranchised.
The truth is that the sky will not fall if PR is brought in. For that matter, it will also not fall if voters choose to stick with FPTP. Life will go on no matter which system is in place.
That being said, the adoption of PR will mean more accurate and proportional election results. Very importantly, it will be a success for the people of BC getting into action, empowering themselves and working to set an agenda for further democratic renewal in the province.
And that is not a fairy tale.
Canada Pension Fund Profits from U.S. Private Prisons
Canadians demand control over their pension savings
The state-owned enterprise Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) has increased its investment of retirees' savings in GEO Group and CoreCivic, the two largest private U.S. companies that own and control many U.S. prisons. Prisoners held in their private prisons include both regular inmates the state has legally sentenced to jail, and entire families of migrants attempting to enter the United States to begin new lives. The prison companies have become billion dollar concerns with guaranteed government contracts to incarcerate prisoners with little regulation over their operations. The CPPIB increased its holdings in the two U.S. private prison companies despite widespread opposition.
According to filings of the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), CPPIB now owns US$5.9 million of market exchanged stock in GEO Group and CoreCivic. The Canadian state pension fund recently increased its 12,000 shares in GEO Group, the largest operator of U.S. private prisons, almost 13-fold to 153,500 shares worth $4.2 million. CPPIB also grew its investment in the second biggest private prison company, CoreCivic, to 73,700 shares from 33,000 shares, worth around $1.7 million.
The role of private prisons has greatly increased following the U.S. government's "zero-tolerance" crackdown on migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America and elsewhere. The U.S. state assault on humanity includes indefinite detention of all refugees, and for a time during the summer, the forced separation of children from their families. CoreCivic and GEO Group alone hold in their prison facilities 70 per cent of the immigrants the U.S. government has detained, according to statistics from 2017 obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center.
The media of the financial oligarchy report that the Trump administration's policies have created a "positive profitable outlook for U.S. private detention companies such as CoreCivic and GEO Group." In recent conference calls, corporate executives for both companies told investors and analysts that they expect federal contracts to detain immigrants will continue to grow.
A JP Morgan analyst wrote, "We believe an increased reliance on private prisons will likely be required to handle the inflow of detainees owing to federal prison populations that are at 120 per cent of designed capacity." Both companies, he said, "provide a favourable dividend yield of about seven per cent, which means each investor receives a steady seven per cent return of their investment."
The CPPIB manages $366.6 billion in pension savings of around 20 million Canadian contributors and retirees with increasing amounts in private security companies, the war economy and sectors under intense criticism for their lack of consideration for the people's health and the social and natural environment. According to SEC filings, CPPIB holds a $186 million investment in ExxonMobil, a $202 million investment in the tobacco giant Philip Morris International, $18.7 million in the military contractor General Dynamics and $36.8 million in another company in the war economy, Raytheon.
Despite widespread criticism, the executive managers of the CPPIB defend their practice of investing in the war economy, private prisons and other questionable enterprises that are in opposition to modern nation-building and the growing movement for an anti-war government and to humanize the social and natural environment. Responding to the rebuke of investing in private prisons, a CPPIB spokesperson said, "Our passive programs replicate broad-based stock market indexes.... CPPIB's objective is to seek a maximum rate of return without undue risk of loss. This singular goal means CPPIB does not screen out individual investments based on social, religious, economic or political criteria."
The words represent the soulless lack of principles of imperialism where the absence of the human factor/social consciousness can excuse any depraved activity. More and more Canadians are outraged at how the CPPIB invests their pension savings and demand change. The opposition reflects the growing movement of working people for empowerment and nation-building to gain control over the economy and politics of the country and deprive the global financial oligarchy of the power it now holds over all aspects of life in Canada including investment of the people's pension savings.
(With files from The Guardian, various news agencies and Documented, a news website/daily newsletter that covers immigration news in New York City and beyond. Photo: VOR)
For Your Information
The following are excerpts from the article "For Private Prisons, Detaining Immigrants Is Big Business," published by the New York Times, October 1.
A surging inmate population in the 1980s led to a boom in for-profit prisons. Today, privately run prisons have become the government's default detention centres for undocumented migrants.
Mr. Beasley, as a co-founder of Corrections Corporation of America in 1983, and with a get-tough-on-crime spirit ascendant in the country, he sold lockup space to federal and state governments that were jailing people faster than they could find room in their own institutions.
Mr. Beasley's company, renamed CoreCivic two years ago, became a leader in what is now a roughly $4 billion-a-year American industry: for-profit prisons, privately owned and operated ... A key function these days is watching over undocumented immigrants. Their detention centres, located mainly in the South and the West, are where the government sends most people caught trying to enter the United States illegally.
The treatment of migrants has new urgency in the Trump era, given this administration's efforts at strict border control, which include detaining large numbers of children. Data obtained by The New York Times showed that in mid-September, 12,800 migrant children were held in federally contracted shelters, five times the number in custody a little over a year earlier.
One picture of private prisons captured in a video (of a private detention centre run by GEO Group) includes barely edible food, indifferent health care, guard brutality and assorted corner-cutting measures ...
Last year, detainees staged a hunger strike to protest their treatment at the GEO Group prison in Adelanto California. Prison guards beat and pepper-sprayed them, they say, and they are now suing GEO and federal and local authorities for what they say were rights violations.
"The conditions in the detention centre, they're bad, right down to the food," (a former detained migrant) Mr. Cortez Diaz told Retro Report. He added, "They don't care if someone is sick, if the food goes bad. That's how we came to say we have to protest."
Complaints about private prisons are not new. They go back almost to the advent of the prisons themselves in the 1980s. Those were the Reagan years, when government sought to shift some of its functions to private hands ... Thus, cellblock populations rapidly grew, and prisons became alarmingly overcrowded ...
At federal and state levels, private prisons now operate in more than two dozen states, often in relatively remote regions where jobs can be scarce. It is not unusual in some states for big city crime to become a rural area's economic development ...
Critics of private prisons cite moments like a 2015 riot to protest poor conditions at a prison in Arizona run by another major private player, Management & Training Corporation ... Stories abound of scrimping by prison operators, with bad food and shabby health care for inmates, low pay and inadequate training for guards and hiring shortages. At immigrant detention centres, operators see little need to offer extensive educational programs or job training, since people held there are mostly destined for deportation.
"To maximize profit, you minimize your expenditures," Rachel Steinback, a lawyer for Adelanto hunger strikers, told Retro Report ...
Private companies house about nine per cent of the nation's total prison population of about two-and-a-half-million. But they take care of a much higher share of immigrant detainees -- 73 per cent by some accounts. Alonzo Peña, a former deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), acknowledges that the companies have all too often fallen short. "It wasn't their priority to ensure that the highest standards were being met," Mr. Peña said.
ICE, Mr. Pena said, deserves some blame. "We set up this partnership with the private industry in a way that was supposed to make things much more effective, much more economical," he said ... Studies suggest that governments save little money, if any, by turning over prison functions to private outfits. And in 2016, under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department concluded that private prisons were in general more violent than government-operated institutions ...
The Trump administration leaves no doubt that it will detain as many undocumented immigrants as it can and send them to for-profit centres. And to help make sure that happens, the companies spend millions on campaigns and lobbying efforts (not unlike businesses that sell cars, real estate or hamburgers).
The sharp rise in the detention of migrant children has been the focus of recent Times coverage. A federal review from 2016 found private prisons are more dangerous than government-run prisons for both guards and inmates; the Trump administration indicated earlier this year that it will expand their use.
Review of American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment, By Shane Bauer
[A new guard at Winn Correctional Center a private prison in rural Louisiana] gets four weeks of training -- when his instructors show up, that is -- and the pay starts at $9 per hour. Bauer soon discovers that all guards earn that rate, no matter how long they have worked at Winn. The only way to earn more is to make rank, but most don't stay long enough to get promoted. Turnover is so high and staffing so short that Bauer himself is asked to begin training cadets less than seven weeks into his tenure.
The company's main concern seems to be maintaining parity with the local Walmart, where the pay is comparable, and the conditions presumably less anxiety-inducing. "People say we'll hire anybody," the prison's head of training tells Bauer and his fellow cadets. "Which is not really true, but if you come here and you breathing and you got a valid driver's licence and you willing to work, then we're willing to hire you." (Yes, that is an exact quote -- Bauer carried a recording device concealed in a pen.)
Every management decision at Winn, Bauer discovers, is dictated by one imperative: maintaining profitability by squeezing expenses. This begins with the low pay, which leads to staffing shortages dire enough to threaten the safety of both guards and inmates. But the crisis at Winn goes much deeper. During his four-month tenure, Bauer documents a dozen stabbings; scores of "use of force" incidents (far more than at comparable state-run units); cell doors that can be opened by inmates; atrocious medical care; and a seemingly preventable inmate suicide. He records guards shamelessly admitting that they trained bloodhounds by using actual inmates, beat inmates outside the view of cameras and routinely failed to perform the most basic elements of their jobs.
"Ain't no order here," a convict says. "Inmates run this bitch, son." It is less of a boast than a complaint, because the situation is dangerous for everybody involved. If Conover (an investigative reporter who went undercover into the public prison Sing Sing) set out to discover what it's like to be in charge of a prison, Bauer asks a different question: What is it like to work -- or serve time -- in a prison where nobody is in charge?
His survey of profit-driven incarceration begins in the mid-19th century and strikes a familiar theme, that mass incarceration in the South was simply slavery by another name. But Bauer adds new details, especially about the history of convict leasing, in which entire prisons -- filled mostly with African-American inmates -- were rented out to individuals or companies to provide a captive work force. Convicts did more than plant cotton. The textile mill inside Texas' first penitentiary became the largest factory in the state, and inmates were used throughout the South to dig mines and build railroads, generally working under horrible conditions. Death rates were staggeringly high; convicts, unlike slaves, cost nothing to replace. As much as anything, this is the story of the South trying to compete with Northern industry without disturbing the region's existing power structure, which is to say, without labour unions. Inmates were the original scabs.
Prisons operated by companies like CCA (recently rebranded as CoreCivic), which was founded in 1983 and is now a $3.04 billion publicly traded concern, don't typically grow crops or manufacture anything of value. Inmates themselves are the commodities, and money is made by persuading legislators that a private operator can confine and care for them more cheaply -- in Winn's case, $34 per inmate per day -- than the state. Of course, penny-pinching and staff shortages are found at state-run lockups, too (especially in places like Louisiana), but there is another consideration when a profit-seeking middleman gets involved: what happens when setting a prisoner free is detrimental to a company's bottom line? Bauer discovers that a Winn inmate was held for a full year after he was eligible for release, ostensibly because he had no address in Louisiana that would take him in -- a technicality that presumably earned the company an additional $12,410 from his continued incarceration.
It's not just the convicts who are being exploited. Most of the guards at Winn, like Bauer himself, are afraid of their charges and resentful of the chaos that makes their jobs more dangerous ...
Bauer's takeaway is that private prisons like Winn can't be fixed, that the profit motive inevitably drives companies to take risks and cut corners ...
Today the industry is thriving thanks to a bull market in immigrant detention.
As for Winn, conditions at the unit continued to deteriorate until personnel from a state-run prison stormed in and temporarily regained control. Two weeks after Bauer left, CCA voluntarily withdrew from its contract, essentially admitting that the facility was a lost cause. Louisiana officials didn't see it that way, however. Another company, LaSalle Corrections, promptly took over management of Winn, though the state is no longer paying CCA's bargain rate of $34 per day.
LaSalle agreed to do the job for $24.
Get Canada Out of NATO!
From October 19 to 21, the troops of the next contingent that will take part in Operation REASSURANCE used the regional municipalities of Portneuf and Jacques-Cartier for training. They surveyed the roads of Portneuf, Cap-Santé, Saint-Basile, Pont-Rouge, Fossambault-sur-le-Lac, Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, Shannon and Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier on foot or in armoured vehicles.
The activities were presented as safe and harmless for the population. Scenarios played out in public areas focussed on the observation and collection of information for military recognizance purposes. Tactical settings on private lands included an ambush and chemical, bacteriological, radiological and nuclear threats, which involved the use of personal weapons, blank ammunition and pyrotechnics.
Just like the spying exercises on the streets of Montreal in September during the provincial election, the exercises are aimed at ensuring that soldiers are able to conduct operations in urban areas. They are treated as routine activities over which the people have no control, as Quebec is already integrated into the U.S. imperialist war machine.
The way the exercises are presented minimizes their warmongering nature and is aimed at diverting attention from the fact that the training of these forces is part of the aggressive activities of NATO, a key player in the imperialist domination of the world on behalf of U.S. imperialism, of which Canada is an active member.
Operation REASSURANCE deploys the military forces of many countries in Central and Eastern Europe to reinforce "NATO's collective defence" and "the strength of Allied solidarity." In January 2019, these troops will join the "Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia" as part of Operation REASSURANCE. NATO has deployed four similar battle groups in the Baltic States and Poland.
On the eve of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the demands for Canada to withdraw from NATO, for Quebec and Canada to be zones of peace, and for an anti-war government are more urgent than ever. The slogan "Never Again" guides us in our actions. It is our collective responsibility to contribute to genuine peace, the sovereignty of nations and the security of all.
UN Vote Rejects U.S. Blockade of Cuba
Cuba's resolution on the "Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba" was supported overwhelmingly for the 27th time by member states at the United Nations on November 1. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 189-2, with only the U.S. and Israel voting against it, as occurred last year. There were no abstentions.
Speaking in advance of the vote, Cuba's Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, delivered a powerful speech in which he spoke about the damage the blockade has caused the Cuban people. He began with cases of children with serious life-threatening conditions who are unable to access needed treatments because the blockade prevents Cuba from purchasing drugs and medical equipment from U.S. companies.
He recalled the notorious classified memorandum issued in 1960 by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Lester Mallory, which he said continues as the basis of the U.S. policy towards Cuba. In it Mallory said: "[T]here is no effective political opposition ... the only possible means of alienating [the government] internally is by provoking disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. Every possible means must be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life ... denying money and supplies to Cuba to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government."
Minister Rodríguez denounced the U.S. attempt this year to fabricate a pretext to get an endorsement of its blockade by "amending" Cuba's resolution and calling on other UN members to support the cynical manoeuvre. He accused the U.S. of engaging in lies, deceit and immorality, spelling out the many ways in which it violates human rights at home and abroad -- committing crimes against humanity, breaking international treaties of all types, pursuing "so-called peace" based on force and much more -- showing that it does not possess any moral authority to judge Cuba, much less subject it to a genocidal blockade.
Since 1898 when the U.S. occupied Cuba militarily to prevent it from enjoying its hard-won independence, the relationship has been one marked by the determination of U.S. governments to control Cuba's destiny in opposition to Cubans' unwavering resolve to defend their independence and self-determination, Rodríguez said. Today, Cuba is "an absolutely independent nation and master of its own destiny that develops relations of respect and enjoys bonds of friendship and cooperation with all the countries of the world," he said. Pointing out that this has been achieved with the sacrifice of several generations, he said, Cubans will defend it, whatever the cost.
At sessions of the General Assembly on October 31 and
November 1, member states were invited to speak prior to any
votes being taken. More than 30 representatives spoke in support
of ending the blockade on behalf of global and regional
organizations or in their national capacity. No one but the U.S.
spoke against Cuba's resolution.
Prior to the votes on the eight "amendments"
drafted by the U.S., that raised issues related to "human rights" and
the UN's sustainable
development goals in a cynical ploy to twist
Cuba's resolution into a condemnation of itself, a vote had to be
taken to determine the majority needed for any
of the amendments to be adopted. Cuba insisted that under General
Assembly rules a two-thirds majority was required. The U.S.
maintained that a simple majority was all that was needed. When the
vote was taken, there was overwhelming support for Cuba's position --
the first of a series of defeats the U.S. would suffer.
Next, its eight amendments went down to defeat, one by
one, with only Israel and Ukraine voting with the U.S. For the most
part, 114 countries consistently voted against the amendments while 66
abstained. The biggest win for Cuba came in the vote on the resolution
itself. When the results -- once again almost unanimous -- showed up on
the display board, the General Assembly Hall erupted in sustained
applause for Cuba. Meanwhile for all its trouble the U.S ended up not
only isolating itself, it suffered ten defeats in one, as President
Díaz-Canel put it in a tweet celebrating Cuba's 27th straight
None of what took place sat well with U.S.
Niki Haley who took it upon herself to reproach everyone else for
what happened. Saying she was "taken aback by the applause here,"
she declared there had been no winners, just losers all round.
She claimed the UN Charter had been betrayed -- of course not by her
government or Israel's -- but, ridiculously, by all
those who refused to support her government's attacks on Cuba and
voted in support of ending the illegal blockade! She then tried to
discredit the UN saying, "Faith in it is often misplaced." Finally,
concern for the victims of her government's genocidal blockade,
she declared hypocritically that although the UN and "most world
governments" have abandoned them, the Cuban people could count on
the U.S. -- their true friend and neighbour and "fellow children of
God" -- to stand with them. In contrast to the dead silence that
greeted Haley's harangue, Cuba's delegation enjoyed the
enthusiastic support of diplomats from many countries who filed
by to congratulate and embrace Minister Rodríguez and Cuba's
Permanent Representative at the UN, Anayansi Rodríguez.
Presidential Election Concluded in Brazil
The second and final round of the presidential election in Brazil was concluded on October 28. The candidate of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) Jair Bolsonaro, backed by domestic and foreign financial and big business interests, the military, large landowners and Evangelical churches, and notorious for his violent, uncouth speech, was elected with 57.8 million votes (55.1 per cent of valid votes cast). He will assume office for a four-year term on January 1, 2019. His designated vice president is a retired army general.
Fernando Haddad of the Workers' Party (PT), who with his running mate Manuela D'Ávila of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) represented the coalition Brazil Happy Again, obtained just over 47 million votes (44.8 per cent).
There were 8.6 million spoiled ballots (7.4 per cent of all votes cast), reported to be the highest number since 1989 and 60 per cent more than in the last election, held in 2014. In addition, there were 2.5 million blank ballots cast (2.1 per cent). The total number of spoiled or blank ballots was 11 million, an increase of 7.5 per cent over the first round vote where turnout was slightly higher. Abstention was 21.3 per cent, (in Brazil it is compulsory for literate citizens between 18 and 70 years of age to vote).
From the beginning the election was stacked against the people, a continuation of the coup initiated with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. The focus then shifted to former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the PT's original presidential candidate, who was subjected to relentless persecution in the media and by a politicized judiciary determined to prevent him from being re-elected and reversing the direction Brazil was being taken under the outgoing coup government. Lula was convicted and jailed not on any material evidence, but on the testimony of a convicted criminal whose plea bargain was rewarded with a reduced sentence and the ability to keep some of his assets. This was followed by the unconstitutional denial of his right to continue as a candidate from prison and a ban on his giving media interviews, no doubt because this could have boosted the chances of a PT win.
But other dirty work took place as
well. Less than two weeks before the election one of Brazil's biggest
daily papers published a story which reported that an illegal slush
fund was being used to carry out an ugly smear campaign against
Fernando Haddad and Manuela D'Ávila over WhatsApp, a popular
messaging application. The paper alleged that the fund was created by
businessmen with deep pockets and linked to Bolsonaro.
In spite of all the obstacles thrown in their way the people's forces, often led by women, mobilized themselves in large numbers and in different ways in an effort to stave off the electoral coup that was in the making. Massive "Not Him" marches warning of the dangers of electing Bolsonaro and the possibility of Brazil's return to a military dictatorship took place all across the country and around the world. In the final week of the campaign people posted photos of themselves going out in the streets with signs inviting their fellow citizens to chat over coffee about what was at stake in the election, the threat posed by a return to power of the counterrevolutionary forces, and the importance of voting to prevent it.
Even though polls showed that Bolsonaro's lead diminished considerably during the final days of the campaign as the momentum grew, it was not enough to produce the hoped-for upset. In his concession speech after the results became known, Fernando Haddad said Brazil is going through a period in which all the institutions are being tested and in which civil, political, labour and social rights are at stake. It is not a time to be afraid he said, but to take heart and act together with courage, putting the interests of the Brazilian people above all else.
For his part Bolsonaro said he was going to "rescue Brazil," stating in his first pronouncement after being declared president-elect, "We cannot continue to flirt with socialism, communism, populism, and the extremism of the left." One of the first to call Bolsonaro and congratulate him was U.S. President Donald Trump whose spokesperson said the two were looking forward to "working side by side" as "regional leaders of the Americas." More recently, during a speech to the anti-Cuban mafia in Miami, Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton welcomed the election of Bolsonaro as a "positive sign" for Latin America, giving the U.S. a new ally against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The Communist Party of Brazil, the Popular Front of Brazil and the Fearless People's Front, all part of an alliance that came together in support of the candidacy of Haddad and Manuela released statements in which they acknowledged the challenges ahead and expressed their determination to immediately take up the fight for democracy and in defence of Brazil's sovereignty and for rights.
The PCdoB pointed to the necessity of organizing resistance and a vigorous opposition within all political and social sectors of the country and of building broad unity to be able to wage an effective fight in defence of democracy and the rights of the people, and to prevent the return to a state of exception in Brazil.
The fact that democratic and patriotic forces have lost
no time getting into action again right after the election is a
positive sign. By discussing how to proceed, building on the momentum
developed over the past months, and putting their numbers and
organization into play they are sure to make headway in the fight to
deprive the reactionary forces of the power they have usurped to
deprive the people of what is theirs by right. The working people of
Canada and around the world stand as one with them as they prepare for
the battles ahead.
(The Intercept, Prensa Latina, Vermelho, PT, Brazilian Report, CNN, The Hill)
The election of Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential election establishes a new political period in our country, marked by threats to the democracy, to the national patrimony, the sovereignty of the nation and the rights of the people. He was elected president of the Republic determined expressly to establish a dictatorial government, and to implement by fire and sword, an ultra-liberal, neo-colonial program.
The electoral ticket of Fernando Haddad as president and Manuela d'Ávila as vice president received more than 46 million votes and provided a converging point for the nation's democratic consciousness, laying the foundations for a vigorous opposition that begins right now.
There is a turn towards regression, deconstruction, and even the destruction of historic gains and achievements based on which, despite serious problems that persist, Brazil and the Brazilian people have risen up and flourished.
This became very clear in the run-up to the
campaign, when the Republic's institutions, such as the Federal
Supreme Court (STF) and the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), were
threatened. Likewise, basic guarantees of the Federal
Constitution, such as freedom of the press, to demonstrate and to
organize political parties were attacked. The autonomy of
universities was trampled underfoot. During the campaign, the
president-elect pushed violence, intolerance and hatred among
Brazilians, and vowed to imprison or ban the country's "red"
citizens who disagree with him, and criminalize people's
movements and entities.
Given the importance of Brazil -- which has an economy among the ten largest in the world -- this reactionary rupture will have a strong regressive impact on Latin America.
The trigger for it all was the coup of August 2016,
now being consolidated with the extreme right forming the
government of the Republic. There is a rupture in the
construction of democracy, restarted in 1985 after the end of the
military dictatorship, through an electoral process that took
place with the Democratic Rule of Law suffocated by the State of
Exception. The elected candidate's preaching with a fascist tone
emerged from this, though not without being confronted by the
democratic forces -- a trend that will certainly be strengthened
in the new political scenario.
The integrity of the elections was corrupted to favour the right-wing candidacy, through illegal means, in the style of the so-called hybrid war that entails the large-scale use of false, so-called fake news, an enterprise financed criminally by big business people, as denounced in the press. Illicit means such as these, among others, interfered in the results of the polls. They are rightly under investigation in the Electoral Court, from which thorough and swift instructions are expected, with decisions in accord with the seriousness of what happened.
The resistance of the democratic, progressive, popular and patriotic forces begins, backed by the strong vote obtained by the Fernando Haddad-Manuela d'Ávila ticket and stands taken by personalities and institutions that have spoken out to defend democracy and the Constitution.
Resistance and vigorous opposition must be organized within the whole political and social life of the country, beginning with the National Congress and other legislative bodies, extending to social movements, working class organizations, sectors of the business community, academia, intellectuals, artists, the legal world, religious sectors, and even the members of institutions of the Republic. Governors and mayors of the democratic camp will play an important role in this endeavour.
With this new reality, which represents a break with the cycle of advancement of democracy initiated in the so-called New Republic, the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), as it has always done throughout its history, stands firmly in the trench of the uncompromising defence of the nation, democracy and the Brazilian people.
The Communist Party of Brazil, an almost hundred-year-old legend, since the time of the Old Republic has fought together with the other progressive forces of the country against all the authoritarian and tyrannical governments and regimes that have infested the history of the Republic. Based on this experience, the PCdoB conveys to the Brazilian people the certainty and confidence that, despite the serious threats that menace the country, it will not be easy for Bolsonaro to accomplish his obsession with burying Brazilian democracy. It has put down deep roots in the country's soil, costing the nation many struggles and lives. Progressively, from the millions and millions who voted for and supported the candidacy of Haddad as president and Manuela as vice president, a majority will rise to defend democracy, and it will win once again.
To this end, the PCdoB addresses the people and the democratic forces of the country and calls on all to begin, as of today, building a broad unity with the objective of opening horizons for a civic, patriotic, democratic and popular journey, and to create barriers against the return of a State of Exception regime and in defence of democracy, Brazil and the rights of the people.
October 28, 2018.
Luciana Santos, Member of Parliament, President of the Communist Party of Brazil
National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Brazil
(Edited for clarity and style by TML.)
November 7 -- Anniversary of the Great October Revolution
The 101st anniversary of the Great October Revolution in Russia is coming at a particular time in history when not only the first ever socialist workers' state has been destroyed but all old forms of governance based on liberal democracy and a bourgeois civil society have passed away as well. All over the world, new forms based on democratic principles and forms of governance must vest sovereignty in the people in a manner which is consistent with the needs of the 21st century.
Today, the countries in the imperialist heartlands are
everything in their power to make sure this does not take place.
They are privatizing all state property, resources and political
power and ensuring that class privileges and exploiting classes
remain the dominant feature of the social and political order.
Social and political conflict, anarchy and violence prevail in
these societies with warfare between nations, nationalities,
religions and on any other ground possible taking their toll.
Capitalist societies are characterized by millionaires and
billionaires on one pole and increasing numbers of unemployed,
poor and homeless on the other.
None of this in any way lessens the significance of the Great October Revolution to human history. It actually increases its worth manifold. It really tells where the demarcation line is in the society and the world is now waking up to take stock of what it means to have a society with full employment, free education and health care, no taxes and equality before the law, full democracy to elect and be elected, no class privileges and no exploiting classes. It affirms that peace, prosperity, freedom and fraternal unity of the peoples are not merely a utopia, a pipe-dream. They are not only attainable but the necessity of our times. The conditions of the present are forcing all concerned to look at the most important events of the past with the eye of the present, to assist in securing the future.
The founder and leader of the Communist Party of Canada
(Marxist-Leninist), Hardial Bains, pointed out that CPC(M-L), the
political party of the working class, looks at the Great October
Revolution in a partisan way, with a great deal of objectivity:
It looks at it from the perspective of the content it brought forth, the forms it gave rise to and the human forces it brought to the fore. It looks at the political power and the social system, the means used as well as the results, the role of the working class and that of the Bolshevik Party, all with the keen eyes of a political party which is dedicated to ensuring that it is the working people who make their own life and that enlightenment and human concerns prevail over any other consideration. It analyzes that experience in which the ending of exploitation of persons by persons became the very aim of life itself. It draws inspiration from it as only a political party can which, proclaiming its responsibility to the working class and through it to the society, looks at events critically. It does so by looking at the world from the angle of the present, going into the past so as to secure the future for all. It draws the lessons of this period as it does from any other event, as they occurred in history. It copies nothing uncritically as it works to bring about the renewal of democracy, an end to class privileges, the conditions to abolish exploiting classes and create a classless society. It is acutely aware that the events which occur in history and the stands which are taken also leave their imprint and it is keenly conscious that conditions in Canada and internationally at the present time are far different to what they were (at the time of the October Revolution). It also recognizes that the most distinguishing feature of the October Revolution, as differentiated from all others, was that it put as its target the elimination of all exploitation of persons by persons by abolishing all conditions which gave rise to it in the first place. It does not forget that everything in Russia was revolutionized and modernized within a matter of some twenty years, that the Soviet Union was created as a union of equal and independent states within a matter of seven years and that all the best minds of the time, including top figures in the scientific and artistic as well as political and diplomatic fields, hailed the developments in the Soviet Union as great achievements of humankind.
Not only did the October Revolution bring an entirely
class to power, the working class, but it also inspired the
workers and oppressed of all lands to embark on the same path.
The national crisis created out of the First World War was
resolved in favour of the people. It also ended this bloodiest war in
history which was being fought between the imperialist
powers for the re-division of the world. The Russian Revolution
brought into power those forces which lay latent in the bosom of
the old society. The workers, peasants and the intelligentsia and
other working people established a power which favoured them for
the first time in human history.
This was the first revolution which created an entirely new society. Socialism appeared on the world historical scene as predicted by Karl Marx, and the practice of the proletarian revolution ushered in an entirely new period, the period of ending the exploitation of persons by persons and of creating a socialist and communist society on the world scale.
Hardial Bains emphasized that during the entire period which followed the October Revolution, "people have been profoundly imbued with change. Everything points to a great upheaval in the making for the renewal of the society again at this time. Workers cannot but draw the conclusion that prejudices and dogmas are no substitute for a clear conscience and scientific analysis, on the basis of which the crisis in the sphere of ideas can be overcome and cognition can take place in favour of the people and that this is the necessary ideological preparation for renewal. Far from making it a bone of contention and an aim of stern ideological struggle, this period in history is increasingly bringing forth the necessity to look at all events in history with an open mind, by depending on the body of knowledge and experience of life itself to come to pertinent conclusions. A grasp of the present, a strong handle on what is going on in front of one's eyes, has become vital to ward off that blindness which presents events in history as the work of some evil forces, instead of recognizing them as important milestones on the high road of civilization."
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) hails the Great October Socialist Revolution and all the architects of the New, past and present. During the period since the October Revolution, as predicted by the great Lenin, earth-shaking changes have taken place on the world scale. Not only was socialism constructed in the Soviet Union for a period but the national liberation movements which Lenin had foreseen changed the complexion of the globe.
Today, imperialism is caught in a quagmire. It is moribund and is taking the world once again to war but the working people of all lands are demanding change. Even though imperialism and world reaction and its social props are battling against change which favours the peoples, the voices for change are being raised all over the world and the workers are demanding the creation of a new society. The experience of the heroic Soviet peoples and the peoples of the former people's democracies and the writings of their leading personalities such as V.I. Lenin deserve a thorough treatment such as the Party carries out in a thoughtful and critical manner.
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) hails
Great October Revolution with a great deal of revolutionary
optimism, by always keeping in mind that it is the working people
who are to decide their future themselves, as Hardial Bains pointed
out. It is their stubborn persistence for renewal of the world
today which reinforces the Party's resolve to continue until
The world is in transition from one system to another. The workers of the world and progressive peoples are striving to bring a new world into being. They are taking stock of the present situation in which democratic renewal has emerged as the most important demand in order to humanize the social and natural environment. What people are demanding is to take control of their lives, their decision-making, their political power. The working class is the most important part of this struggle for renewal in which abolishing class privileges and discrimination based on race, culture, religion, gender, language and privileges has become the battle cry. The content, the words, the analysis and observations, and the demands which the working people are putting forward far exceed the possibilities that the existing forms can provide. As a result, they are calling for a change in the forms to ensure that they can bring about the necessary changes for the resolution of the conflict in their favour. Increasingly, the political processes are coming under fire and the politicians have to resort to even greater deception and anti-people, anti-social laws.
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), taking into consideration all the developments of the past more than 100 years since the triumph of the Great October Socialist Revolution, calls on the workers to stand steadfastly behind their cause. The experience of this entire period is very instructive. CPC(M-L) calls on the workers to join with the Party to leave behind everything which has been negative, especially the influence of the bourgeois world outlook, in favour of elaborating their own reference points which help them make heads and tails of unfolding events and work out what can be done to turn things around in their favour.
It Can Be Done! It Must Be Done!
Website: www.cpcml.ca Email: firstname.lastname@example.org