What's Left 2015-11-15 Volume 35

by Editors (What's Left) last modified 2015-11-16T12:23:20-04:00
Socialist solidarity and struggle around the world is based on the understanding that all people deserve liberty, justice, and peace. We continue to fail in this mission so long as there is global war and strife taking the lives of innocent victims. The most recent attacks on the peoples of France and Lebanon is another indication that our local struggles for a better world cannot ignore the plight of people from all corners of the planet.

FEATURE

The response to war is peace and solidarity

Socialist solidarity and struggle around the world is based on the understanding that all people deserve liberty, justice, and peace. We continue to fail in this mission so long as there is global war and strife taking the lives of innocent victims. The most recent attacks on the peoples of France and Lebanon is another indication that our local struggles for a better world cannot ignore the plight of people from all corners of the planet.

There is really no such thing as a localized war. Ever since the Cold War, violent tantrums between national powers have been fought through proxies. Today, the fight for control of global wealth, combined with the struggle to monopolize weapon production and profit, means that innocent people are terrorized while lives and communities are destroyed in unending proxy conflicts. The chaos in the Middle East is, in part, a result of actions taken by the major imperialist powers that seek to control that region’s resources.

Opportunist war machines continue to exploit ethnic and racial divisions to build continued support for military expansion. These actors do not stop at exploiting local ethnic bias, they capitalize on existing “us versus them” narratives to secure support for their campaigns at a global level.

In both Paris and Beirut, dozens upon dozens have been killed and hundreds injured. The organizers of such acts of juvenile violence are intent on inflicting death and despair, as well as creating impossible acts of sympathy and solidarity with those who continue to suffer at the hands of these warring groups in the Middle East. In the case of Paris specifically, it is no coincidence that these attacks happened at a time when there has been growing popular support for accepting refugees into Europe. These innocent refugees are as much the target as the people of Paris.

We hear a lot from State governments about “not letting the terrorists win”, but as socialists we must be more thoughtful and constructive in our response. Our reaction to war cannot be the continued casual ignorance of history, global conflict, and the part our nation states have played in instigating ethnic, religious, and political violence. Our response must show a different path forward.

We must work to expose the human impacts of war. We must work to ensure that society views the global refugee crisis with renewed compassion and understanding. We must continue to advocate for truth from our governments about their investments in war, and insist that our money be put toward helping people, not hurting them. We must demand that solidarity, justice, and compassion are put before violence and profit – even in the face of rabid reactionary violence.

More: Paris attacks: Unimaginable horror but imaginable violence

CANADA

Ottawa Taxi drivers engage in direct action

Last week, taxi drivers in Ottawa occupied the offices of Coventry Connections in an attempt to force the company to end its greedy bargaining tactics. The drivers have been locked-out since August and the company is attempting to dramatically increase rates for airport pickups, cutting into the already minimum-wage earnings drivers depend upon.

The situation is dire for 250 families in the Ottawa region who are depending on these jobs. It is clear that the taxi industry is facing many threats, including precarious working conditions and cut-throat competition from anti-worker companies such as Uber. The fact that an employer is able to treat its workers with such contempt without being held to account, and while waging a public relations battle on the backs of taxi drivers is disgraceful. It serves as yet another example of how the economy is structured to marginalize and exploit workers.

More: Protesters storm Coventry Connections office in “day of action”

More: Unifor occupies Coventry Connections

ELSEWHERE

Fast food workers strike in record numbers

Exactly one year from Election Day in the United States, low-wage workers were on strike in record numbers across the country. Their demands include increasing pay to a \$15 minimum wage and asserting their rights to organize as unions. With a year to go, there is hope that this movement will expand and intensify, making this an issue in the the upcoming U.S. national elections, forcing candidates to consider workers’ rights and pay priority issues.

More: Low-wage workers rally for union rights, higher pay in cities across US

More: Fast Food Workers Plan Tuesday Strikes In 270 Cities, Vow To Take \$15 Wage To Voting Booth

The problems with polls

These days, it seems that political reporting is limited to polling. Almost every day of the 2015 Canadian election campaign, one of the top headlines was the result of a recent poll. There is a corporate media obsession with polling numbers as they seem to show movement in sentiment on a daily basis. They claim to show who is winning and who is losing, and how people feel about different issues. They are easy to digest and people love to talk about them.

But, are polls actually constructive? Do they do anything to help the electorate better understand issues, candidates, or party positions? The polling industry is actually very lucrative, and has often prospered with the claim that public polls enhance democracy. However, it’s likely this has never been the case. The New Yorker has published a detailed history of polling in the United States and tackles many of these questions.

More: Politics and the New Machine

Why too much choice is bad for us

Free markets and voting with one’s wallet have been held up as virtues of capitalism, but as it turns out, more choice may actually be a bad thing. It’s annoying for individuals because choosing between 100 different mobile phones is often frustrating and stressful. It’s bad for the workforce since the more pension and health plan options made available to employees, the lower the participation rates. It’s even bad for the economy, since more choice tends to drive down consumption. The Guardian has a fascinating piece on how, under capitalism, choice is marketed as being good for us, but in the end leaves us unsatisfied and worse-off.

More: Why too much choice is stressing us out

Building a better world through science fiction

Imagining a better world is an important exercise for the left. Envisioning what a better future on Earth could look like for all peoples is, in many ways, an essential step in developing a political and social program to get there. Through history, science fiction has often been a tool for socialist writers to conduct this exercise: either by describing humanity’s downward spiral through distopic extensions of current crises, or by depicting what a prosperous and equal future could mean for humans in a utopic world.

It is interesting to see a renewal in the use of utopic fiction to imagine a path out of the current climate crisis. While the need to act is more urgent than ever – and humanity seems unable to give itself the political and economical means to act – perhaps the creative exercise of casting imaginations forward a few hundred years to a sustainable world can help inspire today’s social movements.

As winter sets in, the recommended readings below provide an opportunity to stretch the imagination, fuel common struggles, and encourage us to believe that a better world is possible.

More: The New Utopians

More: 19 Must Read Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels by Women of Color You Must Read

More: 50 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Works Every Socialist Should Read

More: 11 Sci-Fi Books Every Woman Should Read

More: Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements

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