September 24, 2016 - No. 37

Trudeau Government's Electoral Reform

Unrepresentative Consultations Will Not Legitimate an Unrepresentative Democracy

Update on Work of Special Parliamentary Committee
on Electoral Reform

Trudeau Government's Imperialist Globalization and Empire-Building
  • Canadians Need Human-Centred Nation-Building Which
Upholds the Rights of All

Control of International Trade
- K.C. Adams -

Campaign to Elect a War President for the United States
Strengthen the Struggle for Rights and an Anti-War Government!
Elections and the Danger of a Hot Civil War
- Voice of Revolution -

All Out to Support Peace Agreement and Ceasefire in Colombia

The Factors for Peace
- Margaret Villamizar -
Process for Adoption of Colombian Peace Agreement and Implementation of Measures Related to Disarmament
Political Declaration of the 10th National Guerrilla
Conference of the FARC-EP

Trudeau Government's Electoral Reform

Unrepresentative Consultations Will Not Legitimate
an Unrepresentative Democracy

The Trudeau government is conducting consultations on how to reform the electoral system. These consultations are part of the Liberals' election promise that "2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system." According to the Liberals and others who are participating in these consultations, how votes are counted is key to making the electoral system representative. Accompanied by the greatest fanfare, the consultations involve not only the government and ministers but a Special Committee of Parliament and a significant number of MPs, some experts and academics and some civil society organizations. In fact, despite claims that they are consulting Canadians, they involve a select few people from official circles but very few members of the public.

Of all the policy reviews the Trudeau government has launched since it came to power, including a Defence Policy Review, a Review of Canada Post and a National Security Review, the consultation on electoral reform is supposed to be key because it involves the democratic institutions themselves which are broadly seen to be unrepresentative. But how can unrepresentative consultative consultations lead to a representative system? Far from conferring legitimacy on whatever reforms the government will propose, the way the consultations are being conducted in fact provides a clear example that the Trudeau Liberals do not want discussion on the problems the people face with the electoral system. Their aim seems to be to block providing any of these problems with solutions.

In this regard, the proposals being put forward for reform comprise an agenda the people had no part in setting. The choices (first-past-the-post, proportional representation or ranked ballots) do not allow them to deal with the issues of the system that brings political parties to power and is manipulated by the ruling elite and private monopoly interests to further concentrate power in private hands. Matters such as the right to an informed vote and the need for mechanisms to hold representatives accountable to the people are also kept outside the scope of the consultations.

The hearings of the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform, part of the consultations, are also not helpful. The only Liberal members of the Committee are backbenchers whose declared claim to fame is that they have no opinions on electoral reform. This suggests the real power to make decisions lies outside of their purview. Furthermore, while the  Committee is mandated to deliver its final report to the government with its recommendations before December 1, the government is not bound by any of its recommendations.

Since June 21, this parliamentary committee has held 23 meetings in Ottawa where it has heard from mostly academics, as well as political personalities from official circles and former civil servants. It is conducting surveys via online questionnaires and will accept written briefs until October 7. It is also in the midst of a national tour of 17 cities. The tour began on September 19, the day Parliament opened and features presentations by those the Committee invites and public interventions at the end of each meeting on a first-come, first-served basis with each intervenor given two minutes to make their case. Security at the hearings is by some accounts intimidating.

Members of Parliament and others are also holding townhall meetings on the choices for electoral reform identified by the government. As of September 22, 154 townhall meetings were listed on the government's website, of which ten were organized by advocacy groups such as Fair Vote Canada and Fair Vote Waterloo and political and local civic organizations. A formula for the townhall meetings is brief presentations on what the government and cartel parties say are the choices for electoral reform followed by attendees being asked a series of questions about these choices, either individually or as a group. MPs are supposed to turn the results of their townhall meetings into reports, to be received by the Special Committee and incorporated into its report. The deadline for MPs to submit their reports is October 14.

Complaints are already circulating that preliminary reports seem to put forward the views of the party the MP belongs to rather than the discussion at the meetings, however limited. For instance, NDP Democratic Reform Critic Nathan Cullen said that according to townhall meetings he attended, there is "overwhelming" support, between 90 and 95 per cent, for some form of proportional representation, the system preferred by his party. Similarly, Conservative MPs report that Canadians want a referendum on such an important matter as reforming the electoral system and that they favour the status quo.

Meanwhile Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef is holding her own separate track of consultations via a "Federal electoral reform community dialogue tour" with 20 stops between August 29 and the beginning of October. Reports indicate that the Minister of Democratic Institutions intends to also deliver her own recommendations to Cabinet.

From the outset of this tour, the government and Minister have been in a pickle to claim that any of the meetings are representative of anything. In some cases participation is so low that the Minister's official Twitter account shows a photo of a city landmark rather than the meeting to prove, in any case, that she was there. To cover up the narrow scope of the consultations, the monopoly media spin says the meetings are attended only by "democra-geeks" and that Canadians have no interest in or problem with the electoral or political system. Hence the Minister has now added private meetings with spokespersons of civil society groups that are part of the Liberal base as a stand-in for the participation of the people themselves.

In Gatineau, Quebec on August 15, Minister Monsef held straw-poll votes among members of the audience about the "option" they preferred among those the government has identified for how to count ballots, and said this was done to show that no consensus exists. Monsef then stated, "We" will make recommendations to the government and "We hope that at the end you are able to see yourselves reflected in the outcome. We hope that you will hear your voice in that final outcome." The Minister's talk about making recommendations, the lack of a consensus and the "hope" that people will be happy with the result is neither serious nor acceptable. It is aimed at preparing Canadians for the government to impose whatever it chooses with the excuse that no consensus was found and, in any case, the government has "a mandate" to reform the system and must do so to comply with its election promises.

While the government and media give the impression of a broad democratic discussion involving the Canadian people, all evidence shows that input is kept superficial such that no public opinion can be formed even within the context of the choices the government is offering. This is besides the fact that very few people attend the so-called townhalls and meetings with the Minister. This does not bode well for the government given that one of the main aims of embarking on this reform of how votes are counted is to give legitimacy to a democracy which is broadly viewed as unrepresentative. The question bears repeating: How can unrepresentative consultations confer legitimacy on unrepresentative institutions?

The government seems to be preempting the likelihood of people drawing such a conclusion. With just a couple of weeks until the consultations finish, things are going from bad to worse, with the government emphasizing that there can be no "clear consensus" on what reforms should be implemented but that the Minister can say what the "underrepresented" really want.

To prove her point Monsef is holding invite-only meetings alongside her tour to hear from what she describes as "marginalized communities" and those "traditionally underrepresented" upon which she is going to base her own recommendation to the cabinet after she receives the Special Committee's report. "We're building relationships across the country with organizations and stakeholders that have relationships with these marginalized communities and so come December 1, when that report comes over, I want to make a recommendation to cabinet," she said.

For example, in Scarborough the Minister met with "ethnic leaders" to discuss electoral reform, Scarborough Liberal MP Salma Zahid said. In Toronto, she met with "student leaders from Ryerson University to discuss youth engagement in Canada's democratic institutions," media reported. This was an hour-long meeting with four executive members of the Ryerson Students' Union.

To make matters more confusing, Monsef said in an interview, "What is really clear is that there is a select few who like to engage in the highly technical aspects of the different systems... But we're finding that people want to talk about these values that are so important to them." In other words, even limiting Canadians' participation to choosing between predetermined options of "reforms" is manipulated. Monsef's public statements simply claim that Canadians agree with the buzzwords the Liberals use to describe their reforms. "At every stop [on the tour], it is clear: Canadians expect greater inclusion, transparency, engagement and modernization from their public institutions," Monsef said on September 15.

Meanwhile, a poll by the firm Ipsos issued August 31, near the end of what was hyped as "the summer of electoral reform," found that only 19 per cent of respondents were aware that the government is consulting on electoral reform while 81 per cent said the government had not begun such consultations. Of the total number, three per cent said they were closely following the process and 13 per cent were following "a bit here and there."

A serious issue in holding what are called public consultations is how the views of Canadians are brought together and translated into a course of action. Consultations can either be used to enfranchise or disenfranchise the people and likewise participation can either empower or disempower. In the case of the current consultations on electoral reform, there has been no discussion whatsoever, beginning with the establishment of the Committee, of how the Committee and then the government will turn information from disparate sources into a coherent reflection of the will of Canadians.

However, the perception that reforms to the electoral system are self-serving did not start with the current government and was raised by the Spicer Commission in 1991. Since then, instead of engaging in the renewal of the democratic institutions that Canadians demanded, the introduction of consultations through electronic means, polling and unrepresentative meetings has only made matters worse.

One example is the consultations on the government's anti-communist memorial project that concluded in early 2016. The Liberals released only a vague and distorted interpretation of the results. A close look at the responses to multiple-choice questions and the types of responses according to how they were classified by the government showed that the vast majority were opposed to the project. Nevertheless, this conclusion was not part of the "results." Similarly, none of the actual responses written by Canadians were ever released and there is no requirement that the government release the results of consultations in the future.

Another issue is the significant role now played by private polling firms in government consultations. For instance, the online consultation for the Liberals Defence Policy Review was managed by market research firm Ipsos (the same firm responsible for the poll released in late August on Canadians' awareness of electoral reform consultations).

During the tenure of the Harper Conservatives they too claimed that they would enhance democracy and voter participation through electoral reform and contracted out consultation to private polling firms. For instance, on January 9, 2007 via the website of Public Works and Government Services Canada, a tender was posted for "Public Consultations on Canada's Democratic Institutions and Practices." The contract was open to polling companies and think-tanks who could make a joint bid to perform the required services. This appeared to have been the second time that a private contractor had been used for "public consultations," the first being as part of the Romanow Commission on Health Care in 2001-2002.

The solicitation for bids referred to the April 4, 2006 Speech from the Throne. It stated that "the government intended to fulfil its commitment to involve citizens by holding public consultations to examine the challenges facing Canada's democratic institutions and identify the priority, values and principles, which Canadians believe should inform changes that might be made to these institutions so as to improve how they work. Citizens will be asked to provide their views on various options for change."

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada noted at the time in a brief to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that the "...announcement that polling has become an entrenched practice is an alarming development in the further erosion of the democratic institutions. It replaces duly constituted public consultations with a network of extra-parliamentary private sector organizations serving as advisory bodies to Cabinet. Such mechanisms have one intention and one intention only: the concentration of power in the Cabinet. The important role of members of parliament as representatives of their constituents, the role of Parliament and the Senate and their committees to deliberate on the problems facing the polity and the legislation required to address these problems will be further undermined. Political parties which are supposed to serve as primary organizations within the system have become and are seen to be the courtiers declaring that the Emperor is wearing a fine suit of clothes."[1]

The Liberals' consultations also take the form of advisory bodies to the Cabinet and Prime Minister's Office. Alongside the appearance of participation and soliciting views, decision-making power becomes further concentrated. The Cabinet and Prime Minister's Office then function not as the direct representatives of those who participate in the polling or consultations but of the private interests they were put in power to champion.

It is also no accident that so few Canadians have been involved in the "dialogue." The Trudeau government's consultation on electoral reform is not serious in any way. People are not informed or involved and the outcome can be rigged in whatever way those who hold political power deem suits their purposes.

It remains to be seen how the Liberals are going to claim legitimacy for the reforms they decide to introduce. How will they have a system of counting votes said to better represent the people based on consultations that most people are not aware of and which everyone can see do not represent them? It is a shell game that even the Liberals will be hard-pressed to pull off.


1. Brief of the MLPC to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on Bill C-16, An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act, February 14, 2007.

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Update on Work of Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform

The Special Committee on Electoral Reform issued an update on its work on September 7. The Committee was established by a House of Commons motion on June 7 "to consult broadly with Canadians to identify viable alternative voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting." The update summarizes the Committee's progress in what it describes as three phases of its work.

Phase 1 -- consulting "relevant experts and organizations" and "examining relevant research and international examples" -- has been completed. The Committee heard from 54 witnesses, described as "a wide range of recognized Canadians and international experts in electoral systems, constitutional and electoral law, and democratic engagement." International experts hailed from Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland, all of which use systems other than the first-past-the-post system.

The Special Committee notes that some witnesses "emphasized the importance of and the challenges involved in engaging Canadians in democratic reform." In this regard, some witnesses proposed that Parliament should simply enact the reforms while others proposed "citizens' assemblies or other public forums and/or a referendum."

Phase 2 is described as "consulting with Canadians." The Committee reports that its on-line consultation webpage was launched in August and will be open until October 7. As of September 7, this webpage was used by "more than 746 Canadians," while 99 submissions and briefs were received along with 467 letters and emails. The Special Committee's update does not provide information on the character of townhall meetings conducted by MPs.

On September 23 the Committee also launched an "electronic consultation" made up of a questionnaire found under the "work" section of its website. It includes a number of slides that summarize information on three electoral systems (plurality or majority, proportional representation or mixed) provided by the Library of Parliament. The first slide entitled "Electoral Systems 101" begins: "At its most basic, an electoral system sets out how votes get translated into seats in a legislature." The questionnaire then asks respondents to indicate which of the three electoral systems outlined they prefer on a scale of 1 to 5 indicating their level of agreement or disagreement with various statements about each system.

The Special Committee began its cross-Canada tour on Monday, September 19. The tour is made up of formal hearings and public sessions "where Canadians can share their views on electoral reform, online voting and mandatory voting." The hearings began in Regina, Saskatchewan and have visited St-Pierre Jolys and Winnipeg, Manitoba; Toronto, Ontario; Quebec City and Joliette, Quebec. For a list of meetings, click here.

The hearings are divided into two parts: witness panels and open mic sessions. Scheduled witnesses have been announced for each week's hearings and are posted on the Committee's website. Members of the public who wish to speak at the open mic sessions must register on-site at least 30 minutes before the start of the public session. The list of speakers is determined on a "first-come, first served" basis. At the discretion of the Chair, each speaker is allotted approximately two minutes. The Committee notes that "members of the public must clear security and provide photo identification before they can be granted access to the meeting room. Lines could be expected."

The Committee delineates the following questions as the framework for the consideration of Canadians to prepare for their participation. "1. Why is electoral reform important to you? 2. What do you understand to be the strengths and challenges of Canada's current electoral system and of other systems? 3. Do you consider Canada's current electoral system to be 'fair?' 'inclusive?' 'representative?' Why or why not? 4. What do you think about mandatory voting? 5. What do you think about online voting? 6. What do you think should be the future steps for electoral system reform (such as a citizens' assembly, a referendum, etc.)? 7. Each type of electoral system emphasizes certain purposes and values/principles. What values and principles do you think ought to be prioritized when designing an electoral system for Canada?"

Once the Special Committee completes the final stage of its consultations, it will enter into Phase 3. Here it will "consolidate the information, briefs and testimony that it has received into a report." The report has a deadline of December 1, 2016.

At this stage, the Special Committee highlights "three recurrent themes" it has heard from witnesses:

"1. Canada's electoral system is one component in a broader democratic framework. A number of witnesses highlighted the importance of considering how electoral system reform will fit within the broader context of Canada's democratic institutions, including how government is formed, how Parliament operates, and how the executive branch of government interacts with Parliament.

"2. Different electoral systems prioritize different values/principles and outcomes. Several witnesses noted that each type of electoral system has its advantages and disadvantages. They suggested that choosing an electoral system begins with identifying what purposes and values/principles ought to be prioritized above others. These are examples.... discussed by witnesses: effectiveness; legitimacy; fairness; local representation; accountability; efficiency; proportionality; diversity and inclusiveness; consensus-based decision-making; simplicity (user friendliness); reliability; security.

"3. Public education and engagement is essential. A number of witnesses emphasized the importance of building an extensive public education and outreach component as part of proceeding with any process of electoral reform."

For a list of the stops on the Committee's national tour, click here.

The update from the Special Committee on Electoral Reform includes an appendix entitled "Electoral Systems 101" which outlines the basics of various voting systems presumably under consideration. The full report can be read here.

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Trudeau Government's Imperialist Globalization and Empire-Building

Canadians Need Human-Centred Nation-Building Which Upholds the Rights of All

London demonstration against CETA, September 25, 2014. Participants hold signs naming Canadian cities which have taken stands against CETA.

Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland was in Europe recently to promote the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which the Trudeau government is trying to get signed at the fastest possible speed. In an interview with Bloomberg Television in Berlin on September 20 she eloquently expressed the Trudeau government's position that there is no alternative to neo-liberal globalization and its accusation that anyone who does not go along with the austerity agendas of the private interests which have seized the institutions of the state in Canada and various European countries is a protectionist, a right-winger and, by implication, a xenophobe, etc.

Canadians are not to sum up their experience with free trade because, Freeland says, it is what makes us "an effective open society, a society with a confident middle class that embraces opportunities in the world." In her opening remarks to the Toronto Global Forum before she left for Europe, she also throws Karl Marx into the mix, for good measure, to underscore that to think otherwise is a kind of false consciousness to be rejected (see excerpts below).

"The story is very tough right now for trade and I would say for the idea of an open global economy overall," Freeland said in her interview in Berlin. She cited "the rise of sometimes quite ugly, protectionist anti-globalization sentiment in Europe -- we're seeing a lot of those feelings being expressed in the U.S. election campaign."

As many as 320,000 protesters marched in seven German cities on Saturday, September 17 to oppose CETA and the proposed U.S.-EU trade accord, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking at the Global Progress Summit held in Montreal on September 14 and 15 chose to deny the nation-wrecking which the global monopolies have carried out in Canada. Trudeau declared globalization to have no historic meaning because it is all about openness according to him and that Canada is an example of "good globalization."

Globalization is linked with humanity's development of the productive forces. Decontextualized opposition to globalization is similar to such opposition to industrial mass production: it misses the point of who decides and who controls -- the actual producers of goods and services for the betterment of all humanity and society, or a privileged class of imperialist exploiters and oppressors to serve their narrow private interests and class privilege.

Imperialist globalization and their empire-building projects are the corruption of what could be truly uplifting and unifying for humanity and a way to solve its social and other problems. Instead of uniting working people through globalized trade of goods and services for mutual benefit and development, imperialist globalization is the rampage of competition, war and empire-building controlled by monopolies and cartels that answer only to those who own and control them. The cartels and monopolies and those who control them use the states and military/police powers under their rule to steal and extort worldwide with impunity, trample on the rights of all, wreck nations and subsume what is left into their empires.

Imperialist globalization and their empire-building projects intensify the exploitation of working people, plunder and rip natural resources from the ground and seas despoiling the social and natural environment. The ruling imperialist elite engage in reckless parasitic schemes for private profit through derivative buying and selling of already-produced value. They refuse to resolve the obvious contradiction left over from the overthrow of petty production between the socialized forces of industrial mass production and their ownership and control by a tiny ruling elite, personified in the contradiction between the transitional merchant/bourgeois class, which has become the imperialist ruling elite, and the actual producers of goods and services, the working class.

The ruling imperialist elite impose their will on the parts of the economy they control engaging in constant conflict with other parts and the whole. They and their expert toadies dismiss with gross indifference the recurring economic crises using banal dogmatic phrases learned by rote. They refuse to address the intractable social problems made worse through persistent poverty and disastrous relations amongst the peoples poisoned with ideological pressure aimed at sustaining the rule, domination and class privilege of the imperialist elite. They do everything in their power to depoliticize the working class and keep it from assuming its rightful central role in modern life. They engage in endless predatory and inter-imperialist wars, war preparations and military blocs without care for the catastrophic consequences, guided only by their motivation to defend and enlarge their private wealth and empires.

Human-Centred Globalization

Human-centred globalization is the negation of and alternative to imperialist globalization. The organized and political working class is the social force that can bring human-centred globalization into being and make it a reality. The movement begins in opposition to imperialist globalization with nation-building projects of the working class under the control of the people with sovereignty vested in them through democratic renewal and a new pro-social direction for the economy.

The organized and political working class holds high the human factor/social consciousness in the battle to deprive the ruling imperialist elite of their power to deprive the working class of its rights, in particular, its right to oppose imperialist globalization and bring into being human-centred globalization. The organized and political working class holds high and wages conscious class struggle to bring into being its nation-building projects under the sovereign control of the people with a new pro-social direction for the economy and modern relations of production in conformity with the socialized forces of industrial mass production.

Such a transformation to the new would complete the transition from petty production to the modern era of industrial mass production and human-centred globalization under the control of the actual producers; it would complete the transition from the autocracy of class privilege to mass democracy and control by the actual producers over their lives, production and society.

Let the organized and political working class and its allies get on with the task to complete the transition to the modern world of mass democracy and human-centred globalization through conscious class struggle to deprive the imperialist ruling elite of their grip on power, class privilege, imperialist globalization and everything old and rotten from the autocratic rule of the previous era. Organized and political, the working people can forge a path to complete the transition to the modern world and open a glorious way forward for all humanity.

For Your Information
Chrystia Freeland's Opening Remarks to the Toronto Global Forum
- September 12, 2016 -

Speaking to the Toronto Global Forum on September 12, Chrystia Freeland continued pushing the self-serving neo-liberal rendition of globalization and trade.

I think that this today is the most protectionist environment we have experienced in my lifetime, and I would even say since the Second World War. These are really serious trends. We're seeing them very much picked up in an important election not too far from where we are, but we're seeing them also very much in Europe. We've had the Brexit vote. There is a big election coming up in Austria where these themes are really significant.

[...] It's certainly about protectionism, but there's also often a lot of anti-immigrant, xenophobic sentiment stirred in there. I would say more broadly it's about a really powerful backlash against globalization more generally that is sort of looking around for what is the culprit to blame.

My first point to make to everyone here is it's incredibly important for us not to be in denial about the power of these sentiments which are sweeping the western industrialized world. This is real. Those of you who are older may remember there used to be a very, in the sort of '60s and '70s, a very popular Marxist notion of false consciousness. The idea was, if only the workers would be right thinking, they would understand who they needed to support.

I sometimes think in environments like this, in groups like this, we can fall into our own version of false consciousness and think if only we explain to people better how good the open society was, how good trade is, how bad protectionism is, everything would be okay and they would lose their false consciousness and support all these great things that we all support.

[...] The reality is the past three decades, a time of a tremendously powerful technology revolution, a time when globalization has been very successful, have also been a time when the middle class across the western industrialized world has felt and has been right to feel it's been falling behind.

[...] Only if you have a secure and confident middle class at home that feels confident about its economic prospects and the economic prospects for our children, only then can you have a country that embraces the open society, that embraces the world.

[...] But at a moment when so many countries are being deeply buffeted by these xenophobic sentiments, these protectionist sentiments, Canada really is one of the most powerful voices in the world for the open society. We remain a country that more than ever before is open to immigrants and immigration.

[...] for us a huge competitive advantage that we can gain from being an effective open society, a society with a confident middle class that embraces opportunities in the world, is at a time when so much of the world is saying no to trade and saying no to the global economy, Canada is in a position to say yes. I really believe we are working hard for it to be a historic year. We're working hard for it to be the year when CETA, the Canada EU Trade Accord, is signed.

This Cleopatra, a real Queen of Denial, tells us;

[....] it's very important not to be in denial about the criticisms of globalization.

One of the most important things our government did right after taking office was to listen to the critics of CETA, both in Canada and in Europe, and to understand some of the concerns, some of the legitimate concerns people had particularly about areas like the investment chapter.

We made some significant changes because we want this deal. I believe it is now the most progressive trade agreement ever created, an agreement where labour and environmental standards really are at the centre of it. I think if we want to move forward with trade, we have to take on those issues and find ways of addressing them. I think we can do that.

[...] had a whole bunch of German trade unionists for a barbecue in my house on Thursday night, the day after I got back from China, and I'm spending all week in Europe next week. I can assure you I am definitely doing my bit, as is the Prime Minister, but this is really a moment when we can do something which is big and important and creates jobs and opportunities for Canadians and Europeans, and also crucially goes beyond -- we're going to have great conversations today.

I am confident about how important the global economy is and openness and keeping the trade lines open. This is a chance for us to really do something. Please help me. Let's get that deal done.

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Control of International Trade

Control of international trade is a contentious issue. In official circles of the ruling elite, discussion of international trade is usually reduced to free trade, sometimes characterized as globalization versus anti-trade, sometimes characterized as anti-globalization or protectionism. The view of the working class that trade is extremely positive and beneficial when under the control of the actual producers and based on mutual benefit and the all-round economic development of the trading partners is rarely discussed.

The Trudeau Liberal government is squarely in the camp of free trade and denounces any detractors as protectionists who are opposed to globalization and economic development. The Liberals are promoting both the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) for free trade between Canada and the European Union and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which involves the U.S., Japan, Canada and nine other Pacific Rim countries but not China.

The use of the term free trade is fanciful as it means in practice that international trade within free trade agreements is meant to be free from government regulation, standards and oversight. Those involved in the actual trading, usually the largest global monopolies, are free to act in ways that benefit their private interests and which may harm the public interest and economies involved. The public interest represented through a public authority is not free to act and regulate or curtail the trading activities of the monopolies, and that lack of freedom is the freedom the monopolies seek and mostly gain through free trade agreements.

The Liberal government's International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland speaking on September 12 at the Toronto Global Forum said, "We're working hard for it to be the year when CETA, the Canada-EU trade agreement, is signed.... At a time when so much of the world is saying no to trade and saying no to the global economy, Canada is in a position to say yes."

Freeland characterizes opposition to CETA as opposition to trade, development and globalization. In reporting on her comments, Reuters wrote, "[CETA] faces opposition from Austria and anti-globalization groups and risks being caught up in a growing public backlash in the West against free trade and globalization, which critics blame for factory closures, depressed wages and a widening gap between rich and poor."

Taking up this theme, Reuters reports Freeland as saying, "When you think about this protectionist environment, if we can get CETA done that will be incredibly valuable for Canada, a huge competitive advantage, and also it will be a very powerful message to the world."

The Liberal government and media present two camps: free trade versus protectionism; globalization versus anti-globalization. But life itself presents a reality that is quite different. Globalization is a fact of modern life and will not disappear just as industrial mass production is a fact of life and will not disappear. The problem is not globalization or industrial mass production but who controls globalization, who controls international trade and industrial mass production.

The U.S. imperialists use international trade to attack others by restricting their ability to engage in trade. To accomplish this they employ boycotts, embargoes and control of the international organizations that manage trade and finance, such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements. They use their military and other means both to force unequal trade on trading partners and exclude certain countries from participating in international trade such as Cuba, Iran, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and even Russia at this time. They use their control of prices and the supply of key commodities such as oil to exert enormous pressure on countries and make them submit to their dictate. They send agents into countries to finance regime change if the current regime is not in agreement with the terms of trade within the U.S.-led imperialist system of states.

The entire continent of Africa has been a free trade zone for the most powerful global monopolies and their state machines and empire-building throughout the modern era. The only fight over globalization and free trade with regard to the scramble to exploit Africa has been the fight over which imperialist power has control over which region.

The working class movement has its own views on globalization and international trade that are similar to those regarding the economy in general and they centre on the issue: "Who Decides?" "Who Controls?" The social force in control has the power to determine the terms of trade and who benefits. The working class has no interest to exploit other countries as this violates its principles opposing exploitation and oppression, as workers are the main victims within the current relations of production both at home and abroad.

The working class puts the issue squarely by asking how it can sort out problems in its own economy if it does not have control over commodities leaving and coming into the country and the determination of their prices, and over where major investments are made. Without control over trade, the dominant monopolies more easily manipulate the economy to their advantage, which does not necessarily mean to the advantage of a vibrant self-reliant economy on the home front. For Canada, monopoly control has meant a lopsided economy for most of the country and its regions, an economy lacking a lively, broad and consistent manufacturing sector and without the necessary investments in public services and social programs that any modern economy requires.

The issues of control and in whose interests international trade and globalization are conducted need to be sorted out in any trade deal, and must be based on mutual benefit. Monopolies cannot be in control of trade because their private interests are too narrow. Control of trade has to be in the hands of a public authority that represents the broad interests of the people and different regions, and all sectors and parts of the economy. International trade and the determination of prices cannot be left under the domination of the monopolies. They must be in the hands of a public authority accountable to the people, in particular the working people who work in the economy and are most broadly and deeply affected by decisions concerning trade.

Public authorities have to deprive monopolies of their power to control trade. Trade has to be oriented towards mutual benefit and development of the trading partners and their nation-building projects, which must include a broad-based self-reliant economy. What good is trade if it damages the home economy and blocks its development? The monopoly-controlled free trade movement giving monopolies the freedom to act in their own narrow private interests and empire-building free from public regulations and accountability is a disaster not only for Canadians but for people and their economies around the world, especially the oppressed countries, which have not had an opportunity to develop a broad-based stable internal economy.

Free trade for the monopolies to promote their empire-building is irrational, anti-social, anti-conscious and opposed to the progressive trend of developing harmonious relations with peoples around the world. Monopoly-controlled free trade is a recipe for economic crises and war. It must be replaced with trade under the control of a public authority that is accountable to the people and which upholds principled harmonious relations and terms of trade with trading partners based on mutual benefit, cooperation, development and friendship.

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Campaign to Elect a War President for the United States

Strengthen the Struggle for Rights and
an Anti-War Government!

The U.S. presidential elections continue to reveal a ruling class with no solutions to key problems, especially those connected to the economy and questions of war and peace. Voters are broadly speaking angry with an electoral set-up that produces two candidates, Clinton and Trump, that the majority do not like or want as president. At an NBC Commander-in-Chief forum, the general issues of illegal U.S. aggression, drone warfare and torture -- and ending them so as to contribute to peace -- were not even addressed. Instead the focus was on the past, like Clinton's emails and Trump's regrets. People are bombarded by media disinformation about this or that comment by either Clinton or Trump or their supporters or detractors and continuous prattle about the constantly changing polls as to who is ahead where. None of the substantial issues are addressed, let alone permitting discussion on solutions. This will likely be the case in the upcoming debate to be held on September 26 at Hofstra University in New York City. The aim of the campaign is not to inform the public and seriously discuss problems, but to divide the American people while the ruling elite try to arrive at some sort of consensus so as to stop a Civil War scenario from unfolding further.

In this vein, the U.S. election campaign is showing the deepening conflicts among the rulers and their inability to find a way out of their crises, and that U.S.-style democracy is in tatters at home and abroad. They hide their failures behind the slogan Make America Great Again -- which only applies to the very, very few who benefit from its striving for world domination.

A Clinton presidency will complete the program for change brought in since the presidency of Bill Clinton in 1993. This refers to arrangements where all powers are concentrated in the presidency. All public authority and prior federal/state division of powers are now concentrated in the police powers under the command of the Commander-in-Chief. The definition of government with social responsibility to the people, or at least the pretense of it, is effectively eliminated while only the arbitrary police powers above the government of laws and use of force to resolve problems remain.

Trump also strives for empire-building. He presents war as negotiation, with no political aim and where the main objective is to smash everything, as he has indicated in his "plans" to eliminate ISIS "everywhere." Nowhere in the campaign is discussion permitted on the demand of the people to end U.S. wars and bring the troops home so as to contribute to peace worldwide. This is a direction the American people have been demanding for years which the current campaign for the presidency serves to block.

Nowhere is the institutional racism of the U.S. state -- expressed in the current police killings of African-Americans and attacks on Native Americans and Puerto Ricans, in mass incarceration, inequality in jobs and education and more -- on the agenda for solution. Along with poverty and the environment, these problems demand answers. In a situation where the large majority think the country is headed in the wrong direction and do not think the elections will change that, it is worth examining more generally the role of the presidential elections and their impact on the movements against war and for rights.

For the information of its readers, in this issue TML Weekly is publishing below extracts from the presentation delivered by Kathleen Chandler of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization (USMLO) at a seminar on the national and international situation held by CPC(M-L) on August 14 in Ottawa which dealt with some of the salient features of the U.S. presidential campaign.

Presentation by USMLO

"The presidential elections in the U.S. have two main aims," Kathleen Chandler said when she addressed the Seminar on behalf of the USMLO. "One is to divert and smash the movements of the people against war and for rights, so as to keep the people out of power. A second is to resolve conflicts among the rulers so as to preserve the union and prevent a hot civil war, including conflicts between the presidency and military and other contending authorities."

She continued: "On this latter issue, conflicts continue to intensify, as various military generals openly back one or the other candidate. Trump, at the NBC Commander-in-Chief forum, spoke of 88 generals and admirals he says are backing him. This raises the problem of where their loyalties will lie after the election, if he loses. The same holds true for those military and intelligence forces backing Clinton."

In terms of how the elections are used to attack the anti-war movement and those fighting for rights, Kathleen said, "This was done mainly using both the Bernie Sanders campaign and that of Trump. The entire presidential campaign as a whole -- despite the failure of U.S-style democracy at home and abroad, despite the massive amounts, estimated at $15 billion now for all the campaigns, despite a billionaire able to run simply because he is a billionaire, despite exposure of the undemocratic character of the whole process -- pushed the illusion that change can be brought about through the elections.

"Sanders, from the beginning, had the role of activating the youth and attracting those from the anti-war movement and the struggle for rights into the presidential campaign. This included various demands around lowering student debt, providing free education through university, while also speaking generally about opposing the 'billionaire class' and having a government that "serves all of us, not just the 1 per cent." Though he, like Trump and Clinton, generally remained silent on issues of war and peace, he sought to divert the anti-war forces from their fight against war and into backing him as a source for change.

"Sanders attempted to play on the growing sense among the people that the existing set-up is dysfunctional and not legitimate and to promote instead what he termed a 'political revolution.' He presented himself as someone against class privilege, while also putting forward that there can be a 'government for all of us,' that deals with inequality, poverty, etc. In this manner he appears as a force for change while in reality drawing people into the existing set-up that necessarily upholds class privilege and class rule by the monopoly owners. As a reflection of this and as expected, he endorsed Clinton despite broad opposition by his supporters, including at the convention, both inside and outside. Many youth and activists demonstrated with 'Never Clinton' signs and are refusing to support her.

"To in part contend with such opposition, like Obama before him, who formed an organization called 'Organizing for Action' based on his campaigns and which exists as a force to follow him as a 'leader,' Sanders is launching what he calls 'Our Revolution,' in an effort to also maintain an organized force for his agenda. Both are striving to especially mobilize youth into these organizations.

"In a letter to supporters shortly after the convention, Sanders put forward his basic plan:

On the very first day of our campaign, I wrote to my supporters and said, "This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It's about a grassroots movement of Americans standing up and saying: 'Enough is enough.' This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires."

That is as true today as it was then. That is why Our Revolution will focus on three distinct areas of work:

Revitalizing American democracy by bringing millions of working people and young people into the political system.

Empowering the next generation of progressive leaders by inspiring, recruiting and supporting progressive candidates across the entire spectrum of government -- from school board to the U.S. Senate.

Doing what the corporate media does not do: elevating political consciousness by educating the public about the most pressing issues confronting our nation and the bold solutions needed to address them.

Together we can revitalize our democracy, empower new progressive leaders, and educate the public about the critical issues facing our country.

"What is evident here are the new arrangements of the rulers, where the presidency is supreme and Congress and the political parties are dysfunctional. There is an effort to further eliminate political parties and legitimize individuals running for the presidency and a 'public life' centered on supporting the presidency. Sanders is organizing to keep people in a system that is actually eliminating politics and depoliticizing the people, not transforming politics in a manner that favours the people. U.S.-style democracy cannot be revitalized as it never served the interests of the people. A democracy of our own making that empowers the people and a public life that is human-centred, where public right is recognized and upheld, is the order of the day. Sanders specifically diverted from this issue of who decides and people's empowerment as the way forward."

Speaking to how to contend with these attacks, Kathleen spoke of how USMLO intervened at both conventions to bring the issue of war and the fight for an anti-war government to the fore. "We promoted the necessity of opposing the U.S. imperialist striving for world domination and war preparations abroad and escalation of a police state at home. This included our banner, present at many events, demanding Unite and Fight for an Anti-War Government and slogans such as Killer Drones, Killer Cops = Government Genocide and Defend Rights Abroad and at Home. The tremendous pressures and diversions of the campaigns meant there was an absence of more anti-war content in the demonstrations, compared to the past -- and in a situation where U.S. wars and war preparations are escalating. At the same time through our broad discussions and distribution of Voice of Revolution, it was evident that people are conscious of the silence imposed about war and peace and the need to counter it. Many stopped to discuss and take pictures of the banner, for example." Continuing efforts to counter these pressures and advance the fight for an anti-war government and people's empowerment are critical during the rest of the elections and beyond.

Trump Campaign

Addressing the Trump campaign, Kathleen brought out that it was also used to divert and disinform those fighting for rights, particularly those fighting to defend the rights of immigrants and those fighting against government racism and police killings. The media, Sanders, Clinton and Obama have all made a big effort to paint Trump as the most dangerous and racist candidate and continue to focus attention on him as unfit to be president. The media promoted every racist comment and claim against immigrants and Muslims made by Trump. This was in part an effort to divide the people and promote American chauvinism, something supported by all the rulers. Clinton, at the Democratic convention, promoted a Muslim family whose son was in the military and killed in Iraq, who Trump then attacked. In this manner, support for the military and Muslims who serve is widely promoted, while the broad opposition to U.S. wars among Muslims and the peoples in general, abroad and at home, is silenced.

In addition, every effort was and is being made to divert the immigrant rights movement from its rejection of Obama as Deporter-in-Chief -- deporting more than two million, more than any other administration -- and the Democrats generally as those who have conducted massive raids, detention of families for long periods in what are basically concentration camps, and continued deportations. Nothing is said about the hunger strike by women refugees, opposing their indefinite detention. Instead, Trump and defeating Trump by voting for Clinton is to be the main pre-occupation and the movements for rights contained and diverted.

Kathleen emphasized that what Trump has proposed in words is actually already being done. Syrians already face special vetting and UN recognized refugees commonly wait two years for approval and then are brought in on a limited basis. Muslims have long been a target of the state, including spying on mosques, targeting Muslim student organizations, FBI stings and trumped up terrorism charges and the repeated branding of Muslims in general as terrorists. Clinton was a major force behind the invasion of Libya, plans to invade Syria and possibly Iran. She supports Obama's drone warfare and billions of dollars in U.S. weaponry for the bombing of Palestine, Yemen, Pakistan and more. She is closely tied to the military and is the war president the rulers are rallying around at this time. Yet she is presented as the liberal and Trump as the "most dangerous" fascist. The campaigns have been designed to undermine the resistance of the people and their anti-war, pro-social demands and replace them with support for Clinton.

Similarly, the fight against police killings and government impunity is also supposed to be diverted into targeting Trump. The various battles in Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, Baton Rouge and elsewhere, which had increasingly been directed against the racist U.S. state and demanding accountability are now being pressured into a more reactive posture, responding to Trump and his various racist comments. There is an effort, including sending paid non-governmental organization (NGO) organizers into the movement, to reconcile with the police, promote "community policing," civilian advisory boards of various types, etc. That is, the movement is to capitulate to the police and leave aside the demands against the racist U.S. state and its impunity, abroad and at home.

Connected with this were the decisions at both conventions, in Cleveland for the Republicans and Philadelphia for the Democrats, for the police to have a more restrained role. This included no use of tear gas or pepper spray and no mass arrests, as has been common at previous conventions and many other demonstrations. In general police were not in their combat and riot squad uniforms with vests and batons and automatic weapons, but rather in their regular dress. In some cases, they were not obviously present in large numbers.

It is important to note that both Cleveland and Philadelphia even more so are notorious for their racist and brutal police forces. Philadelphia is where they bombed the African American MOVE collective, killing 11 including children and unleashing fires that basically obliterated six city blocks back in 1985. They are cities where police repression is expected. Yet for these conventions this largely did not occur.

At the same time, what did take place was the arbitrariness of police agencies. In Cleveland, a long list of things demonstrators could not carry was promoted. This included backpacks, lengths of string more than six feet long, tennis balls and wooden, metal or plastic poles of any kind. As well, gas masks or any other item to "protect from chemical irritants," as the list stated, were also not permitted. However, for the most part, none of this was actually enforced. It was just used to frighten people and make conditions for demonstrators more difficult. The same is true of the promotion of Ohio as an open carry state for guns, meaning if you have a permit you can openly carry guns on the street and in public areas. This mainly served to frighten local people and prevent them from being present where demonstrations occurred.

In Philadelphia, they arbitrarily decided that "refusal to disburse" and "disorderly conduct" would not be considered crimes and instead people would just be given tickets. In general, police did not even attempt to disperse the demonstrations. Instead, in both cities, the actions were used to test new training by the federal Department of Homeland Security, of what are called "Emergency Response Teams" or ERTs for local, county and state police. These teams are specifically trained to control demonstrations and conduct mass arrests. So they, along with other police, were used for that purpose, using bike brigades and fencing and huge cement blocks to control and direct the various actions.

Additionally, while police in public were more restrained, both conventions included significant military agencies, including NorthCom, the military command for all of North America and NORAD, the missile defence for North America, as well as the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, Secret Service and about 50 agencies in total. Thus just as is occurring with the massive U.S. war games, where the U.S. is striving to gain greater command and control over foreign militaries, the military is also doing the same internally, using events like these conventions. This is consistent with the current direction, where U.S. rulers have no solutions to social problems and all that remains of the public authority is police powers.

Kathleen concluded by emphasizing the need to intervene in struggles, keeping the racist U.S. state as the target. This includes connecting the criminal killer drones abroad and police killings at home as government genocide and denouncing the impunity of the government. What is needed is an anti-war government and a political process that empowers the people and their anti-war, pro-social agenda. This includes fighting to Bring All Troops Home Now! and Defending the Rights of All, Abroad and at Home as part of blocking U.S. empire and efforts to smash the movements of the people.

Elections and the Danger of a Hot Civil War

At the September 7 "Commander-in-Chief" forum broadcast from an aircraft carrier stationed in New York City, Donald Trump went out of his way to say he had secured the support of 88 generals and admirals. Clinton also often comments on the support she has in the military and intelligence agencies. This public display of contention within the military and between the military and presidency is indicative of the difficulties the rulers face in preserving the union and preventing a hot civil war. The old arrangements, where Congress and political parties functioned and served to help resolve conflicts, no longer exist.

The presidency, and its police powers, is increasingly the sole source of power. It is in part for this reason that there is so much emphasis on the president as Commander-in-Chief and not as civilian with social responsibility to the people.

Given this emphasis on the military, the rulers are also having difficulty using the elections to maintain the legitimacy of government. In voting, the people are supposed to authorize the government to govern. Instead, the campaigns have been revealing that the people do not consider the existing government legitimate. They do not support Congress and see it as dysfunctional, there is disgust with the negative campaigning and billions being spent, and a general view that the system is rigged against the people, something spoken to by Obama and Clinton and used as a main part of the Trump and Sanders campaigns. Objectively, when governing is no longer based on rule of law, as is currently the case with the president continually usurping power and acting with impunity in a lawless and criminal manner, it cannot be legitimated. Police powers do not serve to legitimate governance and that is what now remains of the public authority.

The old arrangements of two parties of the rich contending and colluding no longer exist. This is especially evident in this campaign where the destruction of both parties can be seen. Many Republicans, including the Bush family, have openly come out against Trump. Seventy leading Republicans, including top functionaries, have called on the Republican National Committee to stop funding Trump and instead fund those further down the ticket, in the House and Senate. Fifty top "national security" people have issued a letter opposing Trump while some also endorse Clinton. This is in addition to a previous letter signed by 100 "national security" people.

The Democrats are also splintering, as is evident in the continued rejection of Clinton by many Sanders supporters and opposition to Clinton seeking and securing endorsements from neo-conservatives. These endorsements include a number of foreign policy experts among the neo-conservatives, such as James Kirchick, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, all of the Foreign Policy Initiative and Max Boot, a self-described "American imperialist" who said Clinton was "a centrist Democrat who is more hawkish than President Obama."

Support for Clinton as a "more hawkish centrist" comes not only from forces like Boot, but numerous other Bush forces, like Sally Bradshaw, Jeb Bush's top adviser; John Negroponte, director of national intelligence and deputy secretary of state under Bush; Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state and adviser to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; Brent Scowcroft, chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board and adviser to three previous Republican presidents. This support is indicative of the fact that the Clinton and Bush families have long contended to represent the same pro-war militarist faction among the rulers, and Clinton won the race this time around. It also confirms that the new arrangements involve not political parties, but individuals selected for the presidency and a "public life" centred on the presidency and, if the rulers succeed, absent of politics and the political movements of the people for rights. This makes stepping up the building of a political movement capable of achieving an anti-war government and a new direction for political affairs all the more urgent.

Another problem for the rulers and one more directly contributing to a hot civil war scenario, is that the new arrangements have many contending authorities, all vying for the police powers concentrated in the presidency. These vying factions among the rulers are willing to use these authorities, such as that of the military, against the presidency. There are also possibilities for the regional break up of the country, with forces in both Texas and California, for example, calling for these states to secede and form their own independent countries.

The concern of open conflict within the military and other police agencies and between them and the presidency has been sharply evident in this election. General Hayden, George W. Bush's NSA and CIA chief publicly stated that the military would not follow orders from Trump. At each convention retired military generals spoke. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn backed Trump while retired Marine General John Allen insisted Hillary Clinton is the best leader. In an interview explaining why he spoke out, Allen specifically referred to comments by Trump that the military cannot win, "I decried these comments that put us on a potential track for a civil-military crisis, the likes of which we have never seen in this country." Retired Army General Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote a letter published in The Washington Post after the conventions, saying it is unacceptable for his fellow retired generals to get involved in a presidential election.

"As generals, they have an obligation to uphold our apolitical traditions," Dempsey wrote. "It was a mistake for them to participate as they did. It was a mistake for our presidential candidates to ask them to do so." He added, "The military is not a political prize."

These public comments reflect a growing concern that the military will act against the president or not support commands by the president as various generals support other individual leaders. This is taking place in conditions where the various authorities are vying for more power, including the Army, Navy and CIA. All have armed forces to make use of in support of private interests, like the military and energy monopolies. It is also occurring, as the forum indicated, in the context of the president being referred to less and less as a civilian leader and more and more as the Commander-in-Chief. The significance is that in conditions of war for empire and differences among the factions as to how to achieve world empire, these conflicts can give rise to open violent conflicts among the rulers, as General Allen warns.

At present, the endorsements and financial backing for Clinton indicate the ruling circles have rallied around her as a war president. Meanwhile, media continue efforts to discredit Trump.

There is also an attempt to further undermine the anti-war movement and fight for rights under the banner Make America Great. Trump says make it great again, while Clinton says it is already great and she will make it greater. This content was repeated in various ways at both conventions and since. So too is the notion that the U.S. is exceptional and the only one that can lead the world -- this in a situation where U.S.-style democracy is in utter disrepute and is being rejected abroad and at home. The whole electoral process is being exposed as undemocratic yet it is supposedly the source of change.

The call to Make America Great is an effort to whip up U.S. chauvinism so as to disinform the anti-war movement and fight for rights. It is being promoted in a situation where Native Americans, who have long contended with U.S. genocide, are demanding their rights; where African Americans are being gunned down in the streets by police and people are so angered they are rightly refusing to stand for the national anthem, as members of sports teams from the NFL to Little League are doing. Make America Great is to counter this growing consciousness that so long as the monopoly rulers remain in power, genocide, state racism and government impunity will characterize the U.S.

There is also an effort to eliminate the consciousness that the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine and Yemen matter, that people-to-people relations of mutual respect and benefit matter and must be nurtured, as anti-war activists have been doing. This spirit of One Humanity, One Struggle for Our Rights, with people of the U.S. an integral part, is to be smashed -- replaced with the notion that only the U.S. and its striving for empire matters and all must submit or face war and repression.

It is essential to escalate work to strengthen the political movement of the people for rights and an anti-war government. This can be done on the basis of opposing U.S. imperialist wars and aggression and all its striving for world domination along with escalation of a police state at home. An anti-war government is an aim the people can unite and rally around, contributing to blocking U.S. plans for broader war and contributing to world peace. The fight for a new direction for political affairs that empowers the people themselves to govern and decide is an integral part of this. Let all join in organizing for the anti-war, pro-social agenda of the people and do so on a pro-active independent basis, fighting for an anti-war government and our right to govern and decide.

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All Out to Support Peace Agreement and Ceasefire in Colombia

The Factors for Peace

People in Argelia in the Department of Cauca say Yes to Peace with Social Justice.

On October 2 Colombians will vote in a plebiscite to approve the Peace Agreement negotiated between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) and the Government of Colombia. Nearly 600,000 Colombians registered abroad, including in Canada, will be eligible to vote.

Colombians across many sectors of society, and especially the youth, are going all out to ensure that their sentiments for peace and against military solutions to social and political problems are expressed in the plebiscite and that the forces for war and aggression are defeated. However there are also attempts to destroy this coherence by characterizing the commitment by the FARC-EP to disarm, if conditions in the Agreement are met, as the main determinant of peace, as if the resistance of those who fought state-organized military and paramilitary violence was the cause of the conflict and their laying down of arms will end it.

Some have also suggested that the successful negotiation of a Peace Agreement to end the war between the government and the FARC-EP can serve as a model for those facing "global terrorism," as if Colombians' armed resistance to state-organized military and paramilitary terror is terrorism while the state is the defender of peace.

The Factor for Peace

The peace established by the Agreement was achieved with the implementation of the bilateral and permanent ceasefire that was agreed to on June 23 and took effect August 29. This halted the military conflict and further opens the path for a political and lasting solution to the 52-year internal armed conflict.

During the four years of negotiations in Havana the FARC-EP implemented unilateral ceasefires a number of times to facilitate the dialogue towards a peace agreement. The last one was declared in July 2015 and was never lifted. These actions were what kept the space open for dialogue and for peace. All along the FARC-EP sought to get the government to join it in a bilateral ceasefire, but the government refused, agreeing only to suspend its aerial bombardments until the final agreement was reached.

Throughout the four years of negotiations government forces continued attacking FARC-EP camps and killing its members, including a member of its peace delegation. Before that, in November 2011, while preliminary exploratory talks were taking place Colombian special forces were dispatched to kill the FARC-EP's Commander-in-Chief, Alfonso Cano in a targeted assassination. In spite of all this, the FARC-EP refused to be provoked, remained at the table and continued to press for a bilateral ceasefire alongside its demands for solutions to the social problems that have plagued Colombia. They were joined by a significant and broad section of the Colombian people in these demands. This is what ensured that the negotiations would not be derailed and opened the space for political and social solutions to be reached to political and social problems that war and the use of force serve to make worse. It prevented the pro-war forces in Colombia, backed by the imperialists who financed and directly intervened in the war, from being able to declare that a negotiated settlement was not possible and that there was no alternative to the neo-liberal project for Colombia.

Famous Colombian athletes past and present, including Rio 2016 medallists, soccer star “El Pibe” Valderrama and others say Yes to peace

The invitation to many different sectors of Colombian society to submit their proposals for solutions to Colombia's social programs and participate directly in the deliberations in Cuba, as well as forums organized inside Colombia allowed many people, especially those traditionally excluded and abandoned by the state, and the victims of the war, to occupy the space the peace process opened up. It permitted the people to contribute directly to the achievement of a political settlement, reconciliation and the creation of conditions for peace in a new Colombia.

It is precisely such social and political transformations that the warmongers in the Colombian establishment and their foreign imperialist backers would never allow. The end to the armed conflict and the popular demand for a non-military approach to the many problems of Colombian society has diminished the ability of the U.S. to fuel the internal war and use it as a pretext to base its military forces in the region and threaten neighbouring countries. This contributes to fulfilling the broadminded call to make Latin America a zone of peace.

The Question of Disarmament

The disarmament of the FARC-EP is a separate issue but related to the permanent bilateral ceasefire now in effect. It involves the transition of the FARC-EP to an open legal political entity with safeguards for its members to prevent the repeat of past bitter experiences with previous failed attempts at ending the war. One such attempt occurred in 1984 when the Union Patriotica (UP) political party was founded by, among others, FARC-EP members who had laid down their arms as a result of negotiations with the government of the day. Within a few years over 5,000 UP members, including two of its presidential candidates, eight Congress members, hundreds of mayors and municipal councilors and thousands of its local activists were murdered, disappeared and tortured at the hands of state and paramilitary forces. This is the history from which much of the current FARC-EP leadership emerged, so it is obvious that several factors must first be in place before disarmament occurs this time.

It is important to note that since the signing of the Peace Agreement paramilitary killings and threats against human rights defenders, community leaders and other activists continued and even increased. Colombians need to defend themselves from the violence of the state, especially in rural areas, which is one of the main reasons Colombian peasants took up the armed resistance in the first place. This makes it clear once again that attempts to lay the blame for the conflict on those who resist simply will not do.

(Photos:, Colombian birders' facebook page, futbolred)

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Process for Adoption of Colombian Peace
Agreement and Implementation of Measures
Related to Disarmament

People in the Department of Boyaca support peace.

On August 24, the Heads of the Peace Delegations for the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army (FARC-EP) signed a Final Peace Agreement in Havana. It encompassed all the partial accords reached previously during almost four years of negotiations in Cuba.

Below are key dates and significant matters related to the adoption and implementation of the agreement as a whole and pertaining in particular to the issues of ceasefire and cessation of hostilities and disarmament of the FARC-EP:

August 29 - Definitive bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities took effect

September 17-23 - Tenth National Guerrilla Conference of the FARC-EP held where delegates considered and unanimously approved the Final Agreement and announced plans for the organization's permanent transformation into an unarmed political party

September 26 - Official signing of the Peace Agreement by the Colombian government and FARC-EP to be held at a ceremony in Cartagena, Colombia.

October 2 - The holding of a national plebiscite on the Peace Agreement with citizens asked to respond "Yes" or "No" to the question: "Do you support the final accord to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?" The participation of at least 4.5 million voters, or 13 per cent of the electorate is required for the results of the plebiscite to be adopted. Whichever option receives the most votes above the 13 per cent threshold wins the plebiscite. The result is binding on the President alone. If the plebiscite approves the Agreement, the President is obliged to implement it. If it is not approved, the President must not implement that particular agreement. The enabling legislation for the plebiscite does not preclude for example the Congress entering into and approving a different agreement, or legislation being enacted to change the powers currently held by the President with respect to the Peace Agreement. However at this point Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has indicated that should the plebiscite not pass, the process will end. The FARC-EP, on the other hand, has indicated that if the plebiscite fails they will decide how to proceed and that it is not a given that it means a return to war on their part.

Only Colombian citizens registered to vote in previous elections either in Colombia or at Colombian consulates in over 60 countries are eligible to vote in the plebiscite. The government says it has not provided for registration of new voters based on the short time available for organizing the plebiscite.

Amnesty Law and Disarmament

If the plebiscite passes, the text of a law providing for amnesties and pardons for FARC-EP members and those accused as such, convicted or charged with what is considered the "political crime" of "rebellion" and "connected crimes" is to be given immediately to the Colombian Congress for expedited passage.

A number of parameters for how the amnesty and pardon provisions will assume the force of law are contained in the text of the agreement, but this is obviously a step where there is much at stake and those pro-war forces who do not want the accords to be implemented will no doubt try to block Congress from passing the amnesty law regardless of the outcome of the plebiscite.

Spectator bring sign to soccer game.

In a clarification dated August 30 regarding provisions in the Peace Agreement for the movement of its members to special transition zones around the country in preparation for disarming, the FARC-EP stated: "Our movement to the Transitory Normalization Areas and Transitory Normalization Points will occur when the Havana Agreements are firm and when the agreed requirements have been met, like the entry into force of the law of amnesty and pardon."

The Peace Agreement contains a timetable for the various stages of the movement of FARC-EP members into 23 temporary "normalization" zones and eight smaller camps where disarmament and preparation for transitioning to civilian life is to occur over a six-month period. In the text of the Peace Agreement, reflecting the partial agreement reached earlier on in the negotiations, the timetable pertaining to the operation of these zones is to start running the day of the official signing of the accord (referred to in the text as "D-day"). However the FARC-EP has pointed out that since the legislative act passed in July authorizing the holding of the plebiscite states that the accords will only enter into force after their ratification by the Colombian people through the plebiscite, it will not begin moving its people until after this occurs.

All stages of implementation of the Peace Agreement during the 180 days for disarmament to be completed will be monitored and verified by the United Nations through tripartite teams made up of representatives from the Colombian government, the FARC-EP and unarmed international observers.[1] The timetable for example stipulates that by Day 30 FARC-EP members, including its militias, should have completed movement from their current locations to the special "normalization" zones and camps. The routes for travel are to open as of Day 5 and remain secret, with security along the way provided by government forces. A one kilometre security area around the normalization zones and camps is to be supervised by local monitoring teams. Beyond that limit, security is to be provided by forces of the Colombian state.

No doubt because the date by which the amnesty law contained in the Peace Agreement will enter into force is not known, given that it must be passed by the Colombian Congress after a successful plebiscite, there is provision for arrest warrants to be suspended once FARC-EP members begin traveling to the special zones and camps. Incarcerated FARC-EP members who receive amnesty once the law is in effect are to be released and sent to the special zones as well.

Anyone from any side accused of crimes against humanity and serious war crimes connected to the internal armed conflict will not be eligible for amnesty but must be tried by a Special Peace Tribunal which will have different options available to it for punishment, as well as a Truth Commission in keeping with the system of transitional justice that has been adopted. By Day 180 the removal of all weapons by the UN is to be complete and the special zones will terminate, with FARC-EP members free to disperse and join civilian life. The decommissioned weapons will be melted down and used to create three monuments to peace -- one in Colombia, one in Cuba and one at the United Nations in New York.

The Peace Agreement permits changes to be made to the timetable for implementation of its provisions by mutual agreement of the parties.


1. The UN has announced that training by representatives of the FARC-EP, Colombian government and the UN Mission in Colombia for those who will form part of the tripartite monitoring and verification mission for the ceasefire and process of disarmament of the FARC-EP began August 31. It has also announced that its international observer team includes representatives from eight countries from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC): Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay.

(Photos:, El Pais, Two cartoons for peace by Alberto Martinez, one of the main cartoonists at Colombian newspaper El Espectador)

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Political Declaration of the 10th National Guerrilla Conference of the FARC-EP

Women members of FARC-EP attend the 10th National Guerrilla Conference.

The war is over, let's all build peace!

The guerrilla delegates from all structures of the FARC-EP throughout the national territory that have come from deep inside Colombia, gathered at the 10th Conference that was held from the 17th to the 23rd of September this year at Brisas del Diamante in the Savannas of Yarí, send the Colombian people and society in general our fraternal and cordial compatriots' greetings. At the same time we declare that:

We have carried out a beautiful and momentous Conference amidst the broadest democratic participation and camaraderie, which has reasserted the coherence and internal unity of our organization. We would like to highlight the full and active participation of our female guerrillas and young political cadres.

After a thoughtful discussion on the Agreements of Havana, Cuba, Territory of Peace, reached between the FARC-EP and the Government of Colombia for the termination of the conflict and construction of a stable and lasting peace, the Conference, our highest decision-making body, has determined to approve them in their entirety and instruct all blocks and fronts, our leaders, the guerrillas, militias and all our FARC-EP members that they be accepted and respected. We have thus ratified our unrestricted commitment to the fulfillment of all that has been agreed. We expect the government to do likewise.

Street vendors for peace.

We are convinced that the Final Agreement contains great potential for the opening of a political transition towards the transformation of Colombian society, for its real democratization and the realization of its rights, and especially for the well-being and welfare of the humble women and men of the countryside and the cities, the working class, ethnic peoples, indigenous and those of African descent, the LGBTI population, and especially the youth and our future generations. We call upon them to embrace and protect the agreements, to make them their own, to accompany and demand their implementation. By joining forces, we will achieve the common goals of consolidating the prospect of a peace with social justice, national reconciliation and of an advanced democracy for the New Colombia.

The Final Agreement reached in Havana, Cuba, contains the minimums necessary to give continuity through political forms to our historical aspirations for the transformation of the existing social order. For this reason, we decided to put in place all the means necessary for the progression of our political-military structure towards a new political party whose founding congress will be held at the latest by May 2017 if the agreements are implemented as agreed. It will be the Party's role to provide continuity for our strategic political aims for the social construction of power for the people. The Conference empowers the National Leadership of the FARC-EP to convene a plenary session of the Central High Command and to define the broadening of the new leadership that will be responsible for the preparation of the Congress, the political program, the statutes and the political line, as well as the organizational and operating conditions.

We are committed to providing all our strength and energy for the unity of progressive, democratic and revolutionary sectors of the country, as well as the political and social movements, the many sectoral and advocacy organizations at the national, regional and local levels. We want to be part of a Great National Convergence that covers the spectrum of social and popular struggles, that advocates for real political, economic, social and cultural democratization of the country, and whose platform, organizational foundations and coordination must be the result of a collective elaboration. The Great National Convergence must have the ability to build social, political and popular power from below, and at the same time challenge for State power in the institutional spaces of election and representation.

We will work for a new government, for the building of peace and national reconciliation starting from the definition of a minimum program, which in addition to a commitment with the implementation of the Final Agreement; will take up the most deeply felt social aspirations of the population in an immediate sense.

We call for the invitation to "all parties, political and social movements and all the active forces of the country to put together a great national political agreement to define the reforms and institutional adjustments needed to meet the challenges that peace demands, initiating a new framework of political and social coexistence" as stated in the Final Agreement, to be made a reality. Favourable conditions for that aim are found in the momentum for an open constitutional process that leads to the convening and holding of a National Constituent Assembly.

The war is over, let's all build peace!

Brisas del Diamante, Savannas del Yari, September 23, 2016

(Photos: FARC-EP, TeleSUR. English translation from FARC-EP, slightly edited for grammar and style by TMLW)

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