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Archive for February, 2009

Another communist interpretation of Roosevelt’s New Deal…

From The Worker August 1933. The blue eagle represents Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act, I assume the gear is the “wheels of industry” or something like that. The communists in the 1930s were very aware of the potential for a declaration of war by capitalist countries against the Soviet Union, as a way for the capitalist countries to deal with their economic depression and the “red menace.” (On a side note, the USSR aparently did very well during the 30s, experiencing massive growth and near zero unemployment.) Thus, the increased military spending that apparently was part of the new deal plan was seen by the communists as part of the general pro-military, pro-fascist, i.e. anti-communist, trend at the time, hence this cartoon showing the blue eagle turning into a swastika….

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On the New Deal, a 1930s communist perspective. Rings surprisingly true

An article from The Worker, the paper of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC), from July 1933. There is a lot of talk these days about the New Deal, and Obama’s stimulus pacakge, and Harper’s as well. The media seems to me to represent the New Deal as a very progressive or even socialist moment in American history, when massive social programs and spending were brought in to relieve unemployment and class divisions. This may be true, I don’t really know. But, this article, by American communist leader Earl Browder, at least offers a different perspective on the New Deal, albeit from 1933 shortly after it was brought in. Perhaps I will find more articles from later dates to see how it was perceived by the CPC later on.

Browder argues, among other things, that the New Deal is essentially a plan to give (or continue) tax breaks and public money (in the form of loans) to the leaders of finance and owners of capital, and shift the burdenof the depression to the middle and lower classes. Sound familiar?? Corporate bailout anyone??

Hilarious excerpt from The Worker, June 1934

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The above text describes part of women in an incident at a mine near Stellarton, Nova Scotia. A group of miners was trying to break away from their old union (the United Mine Workers of America) and reaffiliate with the Amalgamated Mine Workers of Nova Scotia (AMW), a more millitant union associated with the Workers Unity League, a centre of communist labour unions in Canada. Both the UMWA and the AMW had been striking to protest a pay cut proposed (or forced) by the coal mine owners. The UMWA accepted the pay cut fairly easily, while the AMW continued to strike to fight it. As a result, the UMWA allied with the owners to attempt to break the AMW and force its members to join the UMWA, which (falsely) claimed to represent the majority of the workers. So, the owners bar the AMW men from working, and as a result the AMW men picket the mine, to stop what UMWA men as are willing from going down the mine. Of course, the RCMP show up to escort the scabbers down the mine (only 12 were willing to scab). Anyhow, the above snipit picks up what happened when the scabbers came up from the mine. Esentially the wives of the AMW men jump them and beat them up, etc. Murdock Wilson, refered to in the clip, is actually one of the AMW leaders, meaning the women were so angry that even the leader of the union they were supporting couldn’t reign in their fury….

A People’s History of American Empire by Howard Zinn

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I recently finished  A People’s History of American Empire by Howard Zinn, which is a graphic novel adaptation of part of his larger book A People’s History of the United States. The book covers the history of American “adventures,” from the indian wars and the American domination of the continent marked by the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 to the invasion of Iraq and Afganistan following 9/11. One general comment of mine is that I was surprised to learn that American corporations had been for so long tied into American imperialism and general warmongering. For example, the invasions of the Phillipines and Cuba in 1898 were encouraged by american business interests…

This book to me reinforces the value of “people’s history,” which I would define as the telling of history through the actions of average people acting in extraordinary ways against state or military power. As opposed to conventional history, which seeks to make forgotten the stories of the people who were there on the ground. Lately, in my studies of the Canadian working class during the years 1930-36, I have been amazed by how little I (and presumably that average person) know about what actually happened to average people during this time. Or more so, shocked by the incompassionate, selfish, violent, and occasionally murderous actions of the political class and their main weapon, the RCMP.

On a bus in Tegucigalpa…..

Came across this video the other day while looking through old pictures (double-click to play/pause)……

It shows what bus travel in urban Honduras is like. Old school bus, loud latin pop/dance music, dust, young men drivers, noise, bumps, air horns, dudes hanging out at the front, etc.

Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story

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Recently Laura and I watched Prarie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story, which I must say is a rather inspiring film for a lefty. The film is 3 hours long, and obviously quite low-budget, but the acting is good and the story is excellent and important. It is worth the 3 hour committment to get to know what made canada’s greatest citizen ever (according to CBCers…) tick. I was also amazed to learn of the other progressive and foresighted policies and programs that the TD government brought in besides public healthcare. For example:

  • a bill of rights (preceding the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms by 35 years, and the UN Charter by 18 months)
  • public automobile insurance
  • rural electricity
  • public energy corporation

the list goes on and on these are just a few….a full list is here.

I was also struck by a quote of his, near the end of his life:

The only test of our character that matters is how we look after each other, not how we look after ourselves.

Seems obvious, but well-put.

Goražde by Joe Sacco

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Recently finished Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95, by Joe Sacco. This is a graphic novel that came out in 2000 detailing the experiences of the author in Gorazde, a predominantly Muslim area in eastern Bosnia that was entirely surrounded by the Serbian army during the war.

Joe Sacco visited Gorazde near the end of the war and listens to the stories of the local people who have lived through the trials of war. He writes their history, somewhat confusedly, as though he were there as well, which he wasn’t (he came at the end) and this is slightly confusing…However, Sacco tells of the peaceful times in Yugoslavia under Tito (a communist) who united the country’s three different cultural-linguistic groups, the Serbs (christian orthodox), the Muslims, and the Croats (roman catholic). After Tito’s death, the peace began to fall apart as pro-nationalist agitators on all sides fomented separatism along racial/religious lines. Anyhow, when Serbia invaded Bosnia there were several muslim pockets left in the east, the largest of which was Gorazde. Various attrocities took place in the town as Serbian militias attacked the town, including schools, hospitals, etc. The format of graphic novel is excellent for (literally) illustrating the devastation of places and people. The story, as toldand drawn by Sacco, is a truly mesmerizing and devastating example of the hardship and evilness of war as lived by the average citizen. Now, some criticism.

Before reading this book, I knew very little about the war in Yugoslavia, indeed I would still claim to know very little. However, as I was reading the book I was struck by the very positive light which was shone upon the NATO airstrikes. They were, to the people of Gorazde, a saviour from above, driving away the serbian militias which were penning the survivors into an increasingly small area. But, as far as I knew or remembered, there was great controversy around the NATO airstrikes, and as far as I know, the left was critical of them. So I asked GPS about it.

Though the war took place after the fall of the USSR, it can still be seen in the light of the cold war. Aparently, the Serbian leaders (including Milosovic?), had an anti-western pro-socialist stance whereas the Croats had a pro-western stance (and backing). As well, attrocities were committed on both sides. So it seems that neither side was objectively “right” and thus the decision by NATO to back the pro-western Croats can be seen as an anti-communist move, and as fitting into their general domino theory of international aggression.

That being said, Sacco’s story has a decidedly anti-serbian stance and it may well be justified since wikipedia tells me that in the war 83% of the civilian casualties were Bosniks (muslims). But still, little mention is given to the politics of the Bosnik leaders, nor to the evil acts comitted by the Croats against Serbs. Who knows. Read it.