Some socialist ideas for responding to the COVID-19 crisis
Services and products for people in need are going to be a problem in the coming weeks. Supply chains are complex and some businesses along those chains will not be able to support production during this crisis – or support the necessary ramp-up in production needed. To sustain production, the state is going to have to step-in and direct procurement and investment. As such, nationalized production should be on the table if it looks too complicated to coordinate the private sector to get the goods we need to the people that need them. Here is a list of recommendations outlining how socialists should be framing their demands during this time.
Unions, democracy, and labour reform for building worker power
When we are debating how best to build worker power through their unions it is usually in the context of winning demands at the bargaining table. But, under advanced capitalism, union power is mostly measured in terms of how badly we are losing. This is not useful as a metric for discussion of labour law reforms attempting to impose balance in labour relations between unions and capital. If we think of unions as structures of democracy, then we can shift the narrative around power simply to refer to winning or losing the battle for our own democracy. And, democracy, unlike worker power at the bargaining table, is entirely in the hands of workers. Socialists should focus on building democracy in discussion on labour reform. Then, no matter what we are able to win in terms of power at the union's bargaining table or reforms that raise standards for workers outside unions, we are helping to build the socialism we want.
Union dues and the struggle for democracy
To avoid the need to rebuild our democratic organizations – and thus waste valuable time – we must defend our current institutions of democracy. We must defend them even though they can, from time to time, be lead by flawed individuals – we are human, after all. It is not the people we defend as leadership can and will be replaced, but the institution. This defense is part of the historical fight for our right to practice and perfect our own democracy. (Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash)
Technological change and automation in the workplace
Working people have been dealing with changes in the application of technology in their workplaces since the beginning of capitalism. The recent interest in the subject has largely been driven by the tech industry's promises of automated production and job-destroying robots, which will still somehow deliver a type of techno-Utopia. It is time for workers to take back the discussion and drive an agenda for the future based on clear analysis and the broader community's interests. In this full-length article, we revisit some of the issues and concepts around automation and its affects on workers.
Graduate student issues and the academy | Graham Cox
A version of this article was presented to the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario 2018 general meeting. The domination of the neoliberal view for the previous nearly four decades has meant that all public spending has to be couched as supporting the private economy. Even for something as basic as higher education cannot be described as having an inherent value, it must be commodified and linked to some private sector profit. In the case of university, public funding is only available because it is part of the private sectors desire to have skilled workers. As such, a post-secondary education degree is only talked about as a pathway to a job, and not as a valuable process by itself.
Alberta Conservatives Start Governing by Attacking Worker Rights and Future Generations
The newly elected United Conservative Party under Jason Kenney announced in the speech from the throne that their main priority is to drive wages down for workers, remove protections for workers at work, defund their political opposition, and undermine future generations in Alberta and around the world. Bill 1 is to attack the environment – kicking them while they are down. Bill 2 is going to attack workers, their unions, wages, youth, and health & safety for employees.
Ontario Budget 2019 undermines the academic system | Graham Cox
The Ford Government’s cuts to the university sector puts additional strain on an already stressed funding system. The new budget drives an aggressive free-market agenda obsessed with short-term results that does not work in a university setting and will undermine teaching, learning, and research in Ontario. The announced direction for Strategic Mandate Agreement’s (SMAs) will drive universities to align their teaching and research priorities with short-term labour market demands. This will undermine of the long-term research and teaching objectives at the heart of quality academic education and research. In short, the budget is a disaster for the academy and will bring hardship to the workers, students, and faculty on our campuses.
The Green New Campaigns in Canada | Graham Cox
In the US, the Green New Deal has gained deserved momentum because it is being promoted by charismatic elected officials, propelled to power on the basis of their broad left-wing credentials – and not only because of their focus on climate. We cannot bypass this step in Canada. This means that unapologetic socialist elements in our labour party must also be propelled into a position to promote such an agenda.
Ford's cynical politics and higher education | Graham Cox
The announcement on post-secondary education by the Ford government was a showcase of the new cynical politics of the right-wing. It was painful to watch. The minister, looking as excited as a drowned cat, delivered an announcement of massive and destructive change to higher education in this province using an ugly caricature of Orwellian language.