Music featured on the program:
“Devil on my Mind”
“Dead King’s Rise”
Rick Taylor: Clown River
The new UWindsor Chapter of Cinema Politica is pleased to announce its inaugural screening, Myths For Profit, on Canadian foreign policy, Thursday September 17, 7 pm, in 1120 EH. Yves Engler, author of The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, will make a presentation and take questions. Admission is free and open to the public.
Cinema Politica UWindsor Presents:
MYTHS FOR PROFIT
CANADA’S ROLE IN INDUSTRIES OF WAR AND PEACE
A Documentary Film by Amy Miller of Montreal
‘MYTHS FOR PROFIT’ is a dramatic, exposé documentary which explores ‘Canada’s role in Industries of War and Peace’. What are the motives and who gains by promoting misconceptions about our foreign policy. Only by breaking down these myths can we hope to understand how these systems of power operate, and help empower people across Canada to change them.
With a presentation by:
Author of The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy
Thursday, September 17th
7 p.m. Erie Hall 1120 University of Windsor Campus
Free Admission Open to the Public Donations accepted
In association with: The Council of Canadians, Windsor Essex, Windsor Peace Coalition, OPIRG Windsor
Dr. James Winter,
Professor of Communication, Media & Film,
University of Windsor,
Commentary: Paul Chislett
It’s hard to not overstate the dire straits this country is in. The electoral system doesn’t meet the needs of a multi-party political reality, the country is gripped by a warmongering and racist government, and the corporate and political elites control the media and when there will be an election – or not. As if this all were not enough, the working class in this country has no consciousness of its own potential and power. This sad state of affairs doesn’t need to be. There are many good reasons to bring down the Harper regime: the war in Afghanistan, the Tar Sands, racist actions toward immigrants and Canadian citizes who were born in other countries.
Jack Layton and the NDP is failing to stand up for the working class. The party is on the slow march to extinction and the working class in this country had better be ready to become a political force or else the liberal/conservative coalition will continue, the slaughter in Afghanistan will continue and the country and its assets will be further stripped down and sold off – just look at Nortel and the fight former employees are in for their pensions. The war in Afghanistan should be the number one election issue. The billions the Harper government is pouring into the Afghan mess should be an affront to every citizen. As well, that billions in “stimulus” money is made available to capitalists who may hire some people at minimum wage with no benefits, should be called for what it is: corporate welfare. The scraps Harper is making available in EI as a toss to Layton is outrageous political manipulation that anyone can see through. The working class of this country need direct income support, a public pension plan, publicly funded tuition, and a real worker created plan to transition from an industrial/consumer spending economy to ne which produces what people actually need in a way that doesn’t destroy the planet.
Come on Jack! Leaders lead so show us you can or get out of our way!
Separatists + socialists + coalition = Framing 101
Harper scores, everyone else loses when he sets the terms for debate. (And don’t even think about a trade elephant.)
Dateline: Tuesday, September 15, 2009
by Ish Theilheimer
Once again, Stephen Harper has shown he is a champion at framing the debate.
It wasn’t just the now-infamous Sault Ste. Marie speech where Harper twinned “separatists and socialists” as the real threat in a coalition government. Some people speculate that Conservatives, not a Liberal, were responsible for leaking the video, because it gets their message out so effectively.
Harper has used the “separatists and socialists” line repeatedly in public for months, so it clearly isn’t the case that he’s trying to keep his contempt for the Bloc secret from Quebeckers. This reality weakens the theory the video was leaked.
Layton is taking a hammering from commentators about playing footsie with the Harperites after lambasting the Liberals for the same sin.
The Prime Minister has played the Liberal leader like a hungry fish-pond yearling. First Harper goaded Ignatieff into risky threats, which the neophyte leader made without covering his flank. Then, Harper got Ignatieff to repeat Harper’s own frame, over and over, in denying accusations.
Last week, Ignatieff was thrown off message by reporters’ questions at a news conference on EI asking whether he would support a coalition. Ignatieff took the bait and went on at length about his dislike of coalitions, sort of like Richard Nixon’s famous “I am not a crook” speech. He should have ducked the questions and stayed on course with EI.
Michael Ignatieff has shown questionable political judgement on more than one occasion. Buying into Harper’s anti-separatist line is a good example. The Liberals need Quebec more than anyone. If Ignatieff cannot make the distinction between Quebec separatism and nationalism — and help other anglo Canadians do so — he has no more hope than Harper there.
Most of all, if Ignatieff continues to discuss Harper’s issues in Harper’s terms, he has no hope of changing the subject to whatever it is that’s on his mind — which hasn’t, to date, been all that clear.
The NDP’s Jack Layton has his own framing issues. Last week, he referred to an election as a “head-butting exercise”, thereby feeding into the conservative frame that all politicians are bad. And Layton is the person who is really on the hot seat now.
On Monday, Layton indicated in a terse two-paragraph intervention — with no questions taken — that he is likely to let the Conservatives govern a while in exchange for the extremely modest concessions Harper has made on employment insurance. The Conservatives’ EI proposals are worth little. They don’t help many of the groups most hurt by the economic crisis — young workers, immigrants and women.
If Layton lets Harper govern much longer, there’s no end to the odious legislation and pork barrel appointments the Harperites can be expected to ram through. The odious Colombia trade treaty springs to mind
So it’s time for Layton to do some fast framing. At the moment, he’s taking a terrible hammering from commentors (and the Liberals) about playing footsie with the Conservatives after repeatedly blasting the Liberals for the same sin.
Lacking an undertaking from Harper to stick to less controversial measures — hardly likely — the NDP should get ready for battle ASAP and come up with a resounding battle cry that sounds more like a vision and an urgent call to action and less like a strategic message.
Without belabouring the coalition theme, which Straight Goods has been hammering since before almost anyone, Layton urgently needs to talk about his vision for Canada and Canadians. The details of this vision need to be framed as preconditions — not merely coalition bullet points — for cooperation with other parties in the next government. And he needs to get out there and sell his message to the public.
For example, Layton could say: “We encourage other parties, and all Canadians, to join our fight for nothing less than survival of life as we know it in Canada and on Planet Earth. We’ve got to make polluters and resource users pay for their damage and change wasteful ways. We have to crack down on greedy speculation and usury, hanky panky with workers’ pensions, and the sell-off of Canadian resources. We need win/win trade arrangements, not stacked decks. We must put money into human infrastructure — training, education, health care. We must truly commit to fairness and equality for all. This is a Canadian agenda for survival.”
Compare that kind of speech to what the NDP have been saying lately: “Elect more of us so we can make Parliament work, hold the other parties to account, etc…” A real call to arms might motivate more people to get talking and actually go to the polls and vote.
Motivating people is not easy in a news environment dominated by the polling horse race, but if the NDP could frame an election that was really about issues and ideas — instead of “head-butting” — that would be a good start.
p.s. Another note on framing, for the NDP, which is still fighting to stop the proposed trade deal with Colombia: Fighting the deal on basis of human rights abuses, historic and current, in a far-away place may not be nearly as effective as going back to basics. Deals like NAFTA or the original 1988 trade deal between Canada and the USA are intended to bolster corporate rights. They have proven as bad for Canadian workers and our sytem of government as the NDP – and the Liberals, back in 1988 – predicted. (Now the Liberals refer to this sort of opposition as “ideological.” It’s fine to rally opposition to the Colombia deal on the basis of rights abuses and atrocities in Colombia, but what Canadians will care more about is what these deals have done to their own way of life. And although the government calls it “free trade,” NDPers and trade unionists are ill-advised to ever use use those two words in combination. Don’t even think about this particular elephant, please, as George Lakoff might advise.
Ish Theilheimer has been Publisher of the leading, and oldest, independent Canadian online newsmagazine, StraightGoods.ca, since founding it in September 1999. He is also Managing Editor of PublicValues.ca. He lives wth his wife Kathy in Golden Lake, ON, in the Ottawa Valley.
Americas Program Special Report
FASINPAT: A Factory that Belongs to the People
Marie Trigona | September 3, 2009
Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP) americas.irc-online.org
The workers at Argentina’s largest worker-controlled factory are celebrating a definitive legal solution to a nine-year struggle for the right to work and workers’ self-determination. The provincial legislature of Neuquén voted in favor of expropriating the Zanon ceramics factory giving the workers’ cooperative FASINPAT the right to manage the plant definitively. Since the workers occupied Zanon in 2001, they have successfully set up a system of workers’ management, created jobs, duplicated production of ceramics, supported community projects, and spearheaded a network of over 200 recuperated enterprises. Zanon, renamed FASINPAT or Factory Without a Boss, can now continue production without threat of eviction from their factory.
Zanon Belongs to the People, Support the Workers.
Zanon, still Latin America’s largest ceramics manufacturer, is located in the Patagonian province of Neuquén, a region with rich working class traditions, history, and mystique surrounding the red desert, rich forests, and crystalline lakes. The workers officially declared the factory under worker control in October 2001 following a lockout of the factory bosses.
In Argentina, more than 13,000 people work in occupied factories and businesses, otherwise known as recuperated enterprises. The sites, which number more than 200, range from hotels, to ceramics factories, to balloon manufacturers, to suit factories, to printing shops, and transport companies, as well as many other trades. Most of the occupations occurred following the nation’s 2001 economic crisis when unemployment rates soared above 25% and poverty levels hovered over 50%. Zanon, as one of the largest and foremost factory occupations, became a symbol for millions of workers who lost their jobs during the worst economic crisis in Argentina’s history, in which thousands of factories shut down. The cooperative has proved that factories can produce without a boss.
At a little past midnight on August 13, the legislature, controlled by the right-wing party the Popular Movement of Neuquén (MPN), voted for the law to expropriate the Zanon ceramics factory. The expropriation law passed 26 votes in favor and nine votes against the bill. Thousands of supporters from other workers’ organizations, human rights groups, and social movements, along with entire families and students, joined the workers as they waited outside the provincial legislature in the capital city of Neuquén. Many activists from Buenos Aires travelled 619 miles to Neuquén to support FASINPAT’s fight for the expropriation law, including workers from the worker-run Brukman suit factory, occupied Hotel BAUEN, rank-and-file union representatives from the subway system, and public hospital employees.
“When we found out that they were going to vote, we called our supporters. About 3,500 people participated in the protest including social movements, human rights organizations, teachers, unionists,” said Jorge Bermuda, a veteran worker at the factory in an interview with the CIP Americas Program in Buenos Aires. Despite strong Patagonian desert winds, hundreds waited for the final legislative decision, huddled around bonfires. As the legislation voted, supporters watched from a screen transmitting outside the government building. Onlookers gathered in awe and immediately joined in to celebrate with the workers without bosses. Burly ceramists in their beige work clothes and blue jackets with the embroidered FASINPAT logo embraced each other in tears and joy, releasing the grief and happiness of the long struggle for control of the factory.
“This is incredible, we are so happy. The expropriation is an act of justice,” said Alejandro Lopez the general secretary of the Ceramists Union, overwhelmed by the emotion of the victory. “We don’t forget the people who supported us in our hardest moments, or the 100,000 people who signed the petition supporting our bill.”
The workers credited the community’s support for making the objective of expropriation become a reality. “The vote wasn’t only the victory of the 470 workers at Zanon, or the original 150 who took over the plant, but the victory of an entire community that gave their support,” said Bermuda. During the debate on the bill, deputy representatives took note of the fact that over half the population supports the factory expropriation in hands of the workers.
Aside from a political victory, the expropriation of the Zanon plant sets a legal precedent for terms of legislation in favor of other workers’ cooperatives that have taken control of businesses closed down by their owners. The bill voted in Neuquén is the first expropriation without reimbursement by workers; the state will pay privileged creditors Luis Zanon’s debt of 22 million pesos (around $7 million). The main creditors include the World Bank, which gave a loan of $20 million to Luis Zanon for the construction of the plant, and Italian company SACMY, which produces state-of-the-art ceramics manufacturing machinery and is owed $5 million. These interests were pressuring Argentina’s judicial system to auction off the plant to pay off the debts.
Although previous expropriation bills have passed locally, no expropriation law has made it to vote on the national level, meaning workers’ cooperatives must assume the debt left by the previous business firm. In return for this agreement, FASINPAT agreed to sell materials to the province at cost.
The Zanon workers argued that the government should not pay Luis Zanon’s debts, saying that courts have proven that the creditors participated in the fraudulent bankruptcy of the plant in 2001 because the credits went directly to the owner Luis Zanon and not to investments into the factory.
“If someone should pay, Luis Zanon should pay, who is being charged with tax evasion,” said Omar Villablanca from FASINPAT. The FASINPAT collective presented a previous expropriation bill, from which the current law passed was adopted, that would have cancelled the debt to creditors. More than 100,000 people signed the petition to get this bill passed.
Roots of Zanon
Union of ceramic workers and employees of Neuquén. Photo: Obreros de Zanon.
The massive factory, spanning several city blocks, was built in an isolated industrial park along Route 7, a highway leading into the capital city of Neuquén. The Zanon ceramics plant was inaugurated in 1980, three years before the nation came out of the nightmare of the dictatorship that ruled the nation with terror from 1976-1983. Officers from the military dictatorship and Italian diplomats presided over the ceremony, which included blessings from a Monsignor of the Catholic Church. Luis Zanon, or Luigi, thanked the military government “for the atmosphere of security and tranquility that the Armed Forces have provided since they took charge on March 24, 1976.” That fateful date in 1976 marked the beginning of one of the bloodiest eras for Argentina, in which the military terrorized the nation and forcefully disappeared 30,000 workers, activists, and students.
Conditions inside Zanon previous to the workers’ occupation led to an average of 25-30 accidents per month and one fatality per year. In the years of Zanon’s production, 14 workers died inside the factory. Former management enforced rules to divide workers and prevent communication among ceramists as a way of controlling union organizing independent from company interests. Many workers recount how they had to organize clandestinely to win control of the union.
Carlos Villamonte participated in the efforts to win rank-and-file union seats, organizing secretly in the late 90s. “It was very difficult to win back the internal union at the factory because we had to do it clandestinely. The company had a very repressive system. They didn’t let you in another sector, talk with fellow workers, or even use the bathroom freely. Many times we had to communicate by passing notes under the tables in the cafeteria or walking through each sector making secret times and places to meet. We found ways to evade the bosses’ and bureaucratic union’s control.” One such way was forming a ceramists’ soccer team. Between practices, games, and tournaments, workers were able to strategize how to win shop-floor union representation.
After the rank-and-file workers’ union movement at the factory won control of the ceramists union in 1998, the struggle culminated with a bosses’ lockout in 2001. The workers were fired and the factory closed down—still owed severance pay and millions in unpaid salaries. This led to a workers’ protest camp outside the plant. While the workers were camping outside the factory, a court ruled that the employees could sell off remaining stock. After the stock ran out, on March 2, 2002, the workers’ assembly voted to start up production without a boss. Many at the plant believe that the rank-and-file workers’ movement gaining control of the union catapulted the fired workers into occupying the factory and starting up production after the company closed the doors.
Future of Autogestión
Autogestión obrera—workers’ self-management—implies that a community or group makes its own decisions, especially those decisions that fit into the process of production and planning. One of the major feats of Zanon was putting into production a massive beast of a factory with an organization based on equality and democracy without trained professional managers, punitive systems, or hierarchical organization.
FASINPAT wokers celebrate the passing of the law to expropriate the Zanon ceramics
factory. Photo: Obreros de Zanon.
The FASINPAT collective grew from 250 workers to 470. They began by producing 5,000 sq. meters of ceramics a month when they first occupied the plant in 2001. They soon managed to increase their production to 14,000 sq. meters a month. By 2008, FASINPAT produced 400,000 sq. meters a month, a record for worker control at the factory.
Although they continue to have the capacity to produce at those levels, demand has dropped lately, leading to the decision to adjust production levels. “In 2009, because of the crisis, we’ve dropped production to 250,000 sq. meters a month,” explains Bermuda, who participates in technical planning at the plant.
Due to the crisis and slumping construction industry in the region, sales of ceramics have dropped by 40%. Unlike, their capitalist counterparts, the FASINPAT worker enterprise has taken on the task of cutting costs, not personnel. “We now have the legal aspect resolved, now we have to resolve production and fight for energy subsidies,” said Omar Villablanca, a young worker at Zanon who was recently voted general secretary of the provincial-wide ceramists union. He visited Buenos Aires shortly after the victory to provide support for workers on strike at the Terrabusi cookie corporation who are fighting against lay-offs and voluntary pay cuts. “Factories that shut down are generally the result of a management that doesn’t want to invest a peso of profits toward saving jobs.”
A major challenge now to worker-run factories will be to devise production plans to respond to uncertain markets. Zanon’s legalized status will allow the workers to focus on production and implementing technology. But they don’t plan to eliminate their worker training programs. The factory assembly, which is the decision-making body at the plant, has voted to start up a primary school and high school for workers who weren’t able to finish schooling. More than half of the workers at Zanon do not have their high school degrees. “We are working to train our workers. Primary and secondary school are one aspect. The next step would be to prepare a few compañeros to go to university for engineering, or whatever they would like to study.”
In a 2004 article on Zanon, researcher on Latin American social movements Raúl Zibechi wrote, “The ex-Zanon workers hope that the Argentine government will decide to recognize their status and let them continue to operate under their own control.” Many experts researching the role of the government and its persistent refusal to recognize that Argentina’s 200 recuperated enterprises had created over 10,000 jobs, predicted that a definitive legal solution would take years, and it did. As a writer who has followed the development of workers’ self-management at Zanon, I also shared the disbelief, joy, and emotion at the good news.
In over nine years of legal battles and uncertainty, the workers running Zanon were able to create more than 200 jobs; build health clinics and homes for families in need; donate ceramics to hundreds of cultural centers, libraries, and community projects; support strike funds for workers fighting for better working conditions; build a network of social movements; devise a democratic assembly and coordinating system within the factory that replaced hierarchy; not to mention successfully run a factory that the previous owner wanted to close for good, imagine what they can do now.
At Zanon, workers constantly use the slogan: “Zanon es del pueblo” or Zanon belongs to the people. The workers have gone to great efforts to ensure that the community benefits from worker control at the factory.
“I feel as if the law is our contribution to the working class, it’s our grain of sand for workers to recuperate hopes that they can change things,” said Raul Godoy, a worker and steadfast activist from the factory. While other recuperated enterprises are fighting eviction threats and other legal challenges, they can now look to the FASINPAT collective as a beacon of success. And other workers who are facing firings will be more inspired to follow the example of the Zanon workers of running their own factories and putting them at the service of the people.
Marie Trigona is a journalist based in Argentina and writes regularly for the Americas Program (www.americaspolicy.org). She can be reached at mtrigona(a)msn.com.
To reprint this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the CIP Americas Program or the Center for International Policy.
For More Information
Another World is Possible: The Ceramics of Zanon
Recuperated Enterprises in Argentina: Reversing the Logic of Capitalism
Argentine Social Movements: Taking Matters into Their Own Hands
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