T.O. Weekly 52: Behind the GM Workers’ Victory in Silao, Mexico: NAFTA 2.0’s Carrot and Big Stick
The ORGANIZER Weekly Newsletter
Issue No. 52 – February 10, 2022
Formatted @ socialistorganizer.org
Please distribute widely!
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• Mexico: Historic Victory for Workers at the GM Auto Plant in Silao! – by Juan Carlos Vargas
• Mexico: Behind the GM Workers’ Victory in Silao: NAFTA 2.0’s Carrot and Big Stick – by Alan Benjamin
• Mexico: Open Letter in Support of AMLO’s Energy Reform
• Afghanistan: Oslo Conference Is a Step Toward Legitimizing the Regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan – by Left Radical of Afghanistan
• Contribution on the Indigenous Question in Canada – by Liaison Committee of Canadian Trotskyists
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Historic Victory for Workers at the GM Auto Plant in Silao (Mexico)!
By Juan Carlos Vargas
On February 1 and 2, the vote was held to obtain union representation for workers at the General Motors plant in Silao, Guanajuato, Mexico. In this vote, in which 5,389 valid ballots were cast, the National Independent Union of Automotive Industry Workers (SINTTIA) was the winner with 78% of the votes. This was an historic victory for a union forged in the struggle of workers who for several years have fought for union democracy at this plant.
Despite the blackmail of the charro organizations [company unions], vote-buying, and threats against their leaders, SINTTIA was able to prevail over three charro unions. It was a scathing defeat for the CTM – the corporatist union confederation that is a close ally of the PRI-PAN governments. Finally, a genuinely independent union will be able to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement with a transnational automobile company.
“We showed them that it is possible to beat the CTM, that it is not invincible, and that there are ways to get rid of protection unions [that is, protection of the interests of the bosses] and charro structures,” stated SINTTIA General Secretary Alejandra Morales at a post-election press conference. She went on to announce that SINTTIA will seek to negotiate a wage increase “above inflation, because the CTM always negotiated below it. ”Other items such as monthly productivity bonuses also will be placed on the negotiating table, she said. 
Background: A Victory Following a Long Struggle
The SINTTIA swept the vote because it earned the confidence of the majority of the plant’s workers. This victory is a result of a several-year struggle to organize workers in the face of continued repression, harassment, and firings – but also a struggle to link up with unions and labor activists nationally and internationally.
In 2019, the Generando Movimiento (G.Mov) group was founded, led by Israel Cervantes, a worker who along with others was fired without cause from the company in response to his fight for democratic unionism and labor rights.
During 2019 and 2020, the CTM union at the Silao plant colluded with the company to fire dozens of workers who were promoting the demands and activities of GMov.
GMov publicized the GM workers’ struggle at a national level, attending the conventions of unions such as the SME (electrical workers), the NCT (New Workers Central), the CNTE (education workers), and the UNT (National Workers Union). In addition, it joined in solidarity with a wide range of social and political organizations.
GMov’s struggle also crossed borders, gaining the support of the Binational Conference Against NAFTA 2.0 and the Wall of Shame and its affiliated organizations, as well as the UNIFOR union of Canada, affiliates of the CUT of Brazil, and the United Auto Workers (UAW) in the United States.
When General Motors forced the workers to return to work in the middle of the pandemic, arguing that their work was “essential” – as occurred as well with the maquiladora sweatshop companies along the border – GMov carried out a campaign denouncing the conditions at the plant and the sharp increase in COVID infections. In contrast, the charro CTM union refused to lift a finger to support these workers, many of whom were fired for speaking out.
In April 2021, to comply with the new Federal Labor Law, the CTM union in Silao organized a vote for the ratification of the contract, but this vote was full of irregularities. There were numerous allegations of vote-buying, meddling by management to “guide the vote,” blackmail, and threats of loss of rights or employment. GMov workers documented this situation, made it public, and filed the corresponding complaints.
The North American automobile unions (UAW and UNIFOR) seconded the complaints. As a result, the Mexican government was forced to intervene and to order the annulment of the fraudulent vote. The government proceeded to order a new contract vote.
In August 2021, a new ratification vote was held under the supervision of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Ministry of Labor, and the National Electoral Institute. The result was a massive rejection of the CTM union, which lost jurisdiction over the contract.
The defeat of the CTM in this contract vote opened the door to the possibility that a new union, an independent union, could win the affiliation of the majority of workers at the plant. It was then that GMov, together with active workers in the plant, built the SINTTIA union with the intention of representing the workers in Silao.
On November 3, 2021, the protection contract that the CTM had negotiated with General Motors was terminated, and the process to obtain the official registration of new unions in the plant was opened.
In order to determine which organization would negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement, an election was held on February 1 and 2, where SINTTIA obtained 4,192 votes, that is, 78% of the total valid votes.
NAFTA 2.0 and Trade Union Rights: A Carrot and a Big Stick
After the victory in Silao, the Los Angeles Times and other corporate media spread the idea that this victory was the sole and direct result of the implementation of Chapter 22 of NAFTA agreement. What really happened?
In 2019, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the Mexican Congress approved a labor law reform that was first proposed and discussed within the framework of the NAFTA 2.0 negotiations between then presidents Obama and Peña Nieto. The agreement was not approved under those two presidents, as the AFL-CIO in the United States demanded modifications to NAFTA 2.0’s labor chapter as a condition for giving its support to signing what is fundamentally a corporate “free trade” pact. The Democratic Party leadership backed the AFL-CIO’s amendments.
The U.S. trade representative, heeding these different requests, called for Mexico to (1) adopt a new federal labor law, and (2) include enforceable labor rights in the body of the agreement, not as a parallel labor agreement (as was the case under NAFTA). Mexico’s new labor law was adopted under López Obrador’s administration, and the USMCA agreement was signed in January 2020 by Trump, Trudeau (Canada’s prime minister), and López Obrador after the inclusion of Chapter 22 and its labor provisions.
On the surface, the new labor law promotes “free unionization” and “union democracy.” But two years after USMCA’s adoption, things have not changed for the overwhelming majority of workers in Mexico. The GM workers in Silao are the exception to the rule.
The new legal framework requires that workers be able to vote individually and secretly on a contract’s ratification … or rejection. One would think that this would have opened the door wide to an upsurge by workers, particularly in the maquiladora companies, who have been suffering for decades from protection contracts, as well as low wages and no benefits. But this has not happened. According to CILAS data, to date 3,000 collective bargaining agreements have been put to a vote, and in only 20 cases have the protection contracts been rejected, as occurred in Silao.
The new legal framework also requires unions to modify their by-laws to allow the free election of leadership through secret and direct votes. Some of the large unions – SUTERM (energy) and SNTE (education) – proceeded to make a few modifications. But this new construct has not meant an immediate change for the better. Quite the contrary. Here are two examples from the recent past:
Example Number 1: Elections to the SNTE sectional leaderships in Baja California and Aguascalientes were held in November of last year. The elections were rigged. Union members who were not part of the union mafia of Elba Esther Gordillo and Juan Diaz de la Torre were not allowed to run for union office.
Example Number 2: Mexican union activists were focused on the February 1 union leadership elections in the Mexican Oil Workers Union (Sindicato Petrolero), an election that attracted national attention due to the numerical and economic importance of this union. It was a vote to replace the corrupt general secretary, Carlos Romero Dechamps. The winner, with 70.6% of the 44,983 total votes cast, was Luis Ricardo Aldana, former treasurer of the union and a close personal friend of the outgoing general secretary.
Despite the documented voting irregularities, the denial of registration to opposition candidates (such as María de Lourdes Díaz Cruz “Lula” of the National Movement for Oil Transformation), the vote-buying and threats, the charro union mafia in the oil workers’ union emerged strengthened from this vote and legitimized by the Mexican president himself.
The truth is that the federal and state labor authorities have hindered registration of new independent organizations. Even in Silao, they allowed management’s repression against the union organizers. They turned a blind eye to the threats by the charros, the very same ones who have created a new so-called independent union federation: the Autonomous Confederation of Workers and Employees of Mexico (CATEM). This is a federation promoted by Senator Pedro Haces, with the approval of President López Obrador. It’s a federation that is no different from the corporatist CTM. All that changed was its name.
The labor chapter of the USMCA has turned out to be a carrot behind which there is a big stick – the stick of everything else contained in the treaty: the plundering of Mexico’s oil, gas and mining resources; the continuity of megaprojects and the subjugation of our sovereignty to U.S. corporate interests. It’s a treaty that will be used to impede the implementation of measures such as the recovery of the energy industry.
[See below the Open Letter to AMLO regarding the urgent need to renationalize Mexico’s energy resources and the accompanying article by Alan Benjamin on the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause in NAFTA 2.0 that will impede the renationalization of Mexico’s energy resources.]
What Made it Possible for the Workers to Win this Victory in Silao?
Contrary to what the mainstream media are telling us, neither the new labor law nor NAFTA 2.0 were the only – much less the direct – causes of the victory in Silao. Rather, the victory was the result of a long process of organization, consistent work, and resistance to repression that had targeted activists such as those in Generando Movimiento, who suffered harassment, firings, and blacklisting by the company, and neglect by the labor authorities.
What made the difference was the existence of a nucleus of activists and organizers, who, with a class-based organizing perspective, did their best to spread their struggle nationally and internationally.
The new labor law helped pave the way for this victory, it is true, but without an organizing, internationalist perspective little will change; without such a perspective the law will remain little more than a piece of paper.
• Long live the workers of Generando Movimiento!
• Long live SINTTIA!
• National and international solidarity with the SINTTIA workers in their struggle for a new collective bargaining agreement!
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 Since the enactment of NAFTA 25 years ago, the automotive industry in Mexico has grown significantly. All major automakers (Volkswagen, Nissan, General Motors, Honda, Audi, Toyota, BMW) have plants in Mexico, taking advantage of the proximity to the United States, access to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and, most important, the guarantee of a skilled labor force at a lower cost than in their countries of origin. According to studies by the Center for Labor Research and Union Counseling (CILAS), in 2017 an average U.S. autoworker earned $3,900 dollars per month, equivalent to 78,000 Mexican pesos, while in Mexico the average salary is 9,820 pesos — that is, one eighth the amount!
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Behind the GM Workers’ Victory in Silao: NAFTA 2.0’s Carrot and Big Stick
By Alan Benjamin
“Fed up GM workers in Mexico elect independent union in push for higher pay.” This was the headline of a February 3 Reuters dispatch. “The union, SINTTIA, won with 78% of the vote,” the dispatch began, “beating three rivals including Mexico’s biggest labor organization that had held the contract at the automaker for 25 years.”
Reuters continued: “Many workers hoped to push out the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) after voting last year to dissolve their contract in a vote monitored by U.S. officials under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal.”
A February 2 feature article by the New York Times hailed the vote for the SINTTIA union as “the first major test of ambitious labor reforms written into the recently reworked North American Free Trade Agreement.”
As part of negotiations over the reworked trade agreement, the Times continued, Mexico made sweeping changes to its labor laws in 2019, making it easier for independent unions to challenge incumbents and requiring a review of hundreds of thousands of existing contracts.”
What role, if any, did the USMCA – aka NAFTA 2.0 – play in the GM victory in Silao?
To answer this question, it is necessary to understand the Investor-State-Dispute (ISDS) clause in the new NAFTA 2.0 agreement. It is necessary to understand the carrot and the big stick.
According to UNIFOR, a Canadian union, NAFTA 2.0 has the same purpose as the original NAFTA agreement. That purpose is “to eliminate rules that interfere with cross-border commercial activity” and “to craft laws that facilitate those activities” — in other words, to provide profit-making opportunities for large corporations, the same purpose that led to the disastrous impact of the original NAFTA.
The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) issued a statement opposing NAFTA 2.0, explaining that, “[T]he proposed replacement of NAFTA remains a tool for corporate interests and provides insufficient relief to address the problems for working people embedded in the original agreement. At their core, these trade agreements serve to guarantee corporate investments in foreign countries and stop elected governments from passing measures that might impact corporate profitability while offering no real guarantees to workers in exchange.”
Proof of this assertion can be found in the decision by the architects of the corporate agreement to retain the Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS) clause in NAFTA 2.0 in relation to Mexico’s oil and gas reserves. The ISDS clause prohibits Mexico from regaining sovereignty over its hydrocarbons, one of the country’s main sources of income and funder of Mexico’s national healthcare system and social programs.
The ISDS at Work Today
On October 1, 2021, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador presented to the Mexican Congress a proposed constitutional reform intended to restore the control by the Federal Electricity Commission (a public agency) over 54% of electricity production, which has been privatized for years.
This constitutional reform would cancel all the modifications of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution that have allowed the privatization of the energy sector, under direct pressure from the United States, whether led by the Republicans or the Democrats. U.S. imperialism has consistently sought to get its hands on its southern neighbor’s natural resources.
López Obrador’s announcement immediately provoked an outcry from institutions linked to U.S. interests. The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), for example, denounced the proposed energy reform bill as a “violation of the rule of law.” Mexico’s main business lobby said approval of the reform would “mark a point of no return, generating irreversible damage to the rule of law, and to the competitiveness of the country.”
Gustavo de Hoyos, president of the employers’ association COPARMEX, declared that, “not since General Santa Anna ceded half of Mexico’s territory to the United States [in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo], has Mexico ceded so much of our sovereignty, as President López Obrador has just done in the T-MEC negotiations [the acronym for USMCA in Spanish].”
The U.S. Big Business’ response also was swift and sharp.
The Business Coordinating Council in the United States issued a statement affirming that, “The imposition of this reform violates the international treaties of which Mexico is part.”The American Petroleum Institute (API), a top U.S. oil lobby, stated that “López Obrador’s new energy policy would undermine investor confidence and violate Mexico’s trade commitments.”
In a public letter to the Biden administration, the API wrote:
“The Mexican president’s energy reform would hinder new private investment in the energy sector as well as destroy the value of already operating private assets in violation of Mexico’s commitments under the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).” The API letter concluded with a call for a special meeting of the Mexican and U.S. trade representatives to ensure that this proposed energy reform bill is not approved by the Mexican Congress.” (Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2021)
Who Enabled the Signing of this Corporate “Free Trade” Agreement?
In 2018-2019, the new ‘free trade” agreement had little public support and was headed to defeat. Twenty-five years of NAFTA had decimated workers’ jobs and working conditions on both sides of the border. U.S. factories had shut down and moved to Mexico, where workers were paid one-eighth, at best, of what U.S. workers were earning. Entire industrial regions became rust belts.
In Mexico, the countryside was destroyed; native crops were unable to compete with U.S. agribusiness. Public enterprises and services, including the national healthcare system, were privatized and often simply dismantled altogether. Millions of people were forced by the NAFTA corporate steamroller to flee to the United States, or to overcrowded cities across Mexico, or to the narco-economy.
Enter the AFL-CIO officialdom, which had opposed (but never mobilized against) NAFTA. Top labor officials stated that the labor movement could support the new NAFTA 2.0 agreement if Mexico included improved labor language in a new Labor Reform Law, and if enforceable labor provisions were included in the body of the trade agreement.
The Trump and Obama administrations jumped on the opportunity to get the corporate trade agreement passed, without great cost to them or to their corporate donors. They understood fully that without tens of thousands of labor inspectors and without a commitment to challenge the charro trade union mafia – none of which was in the cards – little, if anything would change. They were proven right. Of the 3,000-plus contract ratification votes taken over the past two years, only 20 were rejected, and in cases where union affiliation elections were held, only a few witnessed the election of opposition slates.
The election of the opposition slate – SINTTIA – at the GM plant is the exception to the rule. It is being showcased by the business press, and by the AFL-CIO officialdom, as the victory of the USMCA and its new labor provisions. But as the accompanying article by Juan Carlos Vargas demonstrates clearly, it was the victory of the GM workers and their steadfast determination and self-organization, not the USMCA, that explains the shocking defeat of the company/corporatist CTM union in Silao.
It was an historic victory for workers, a victory won in the class struggle through independent organizing. For its part, however, the AFL-CIO leadership, with its support to the NAFTA 2.0 pact, enabled a frontal attack on Mexico’s sovereignty over its oil and other natural resources – an attack that will force millions more to flee to the United States in search of a better life for their families.
The AFL-CIO leadership provided the sweetener to make the labor movement swallow the bitter pill of an anti-union and anti-worker corporate “free trade” agreement. It’s an agreement that must be repealed.
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Mexico: Open Letter in Support of AMLO’s Energy Reform
• For the renationalization of the energy sector and all privatized enterprises and services!
• For a Break with the USMCA trade agreement
To: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), All Federal Deputies and Senators, and All Local Deputies
We, the undersigned Mexican citizens from different regions of the country, in full use of our rights, are writing to express our critical support for the Constitutional Reform initiative related to the electricity industry presented by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
We consider this proposed constitutional amendment to be a first step in the recovery of national sovereignty, as it seeks to put an end to abusive contracts and advantageous conditions that the large transnational corporations have enjoyed as a result of the privatization processes of the energy sector. We say this because the amendment proposes that the CFE [Federal Electricity Commission] be strengthened as a public agency and that it reclaim 54% of national electricity generation, and because it proposes the exclusive exploitation of lithium by the Mexican State.
We are writing to you, in your capacity as elected representatives, to urge you to:
– Vote in favor of the approval of the president’s proposal.
– Not allow the spirit of the proposal to be modified in negotiations or compromises.
– In the case of local deputies, we ask you to promote its approval in the State Congresses.
We would like to point out that the presidential initiative enjoys majority support among the population; according to recent polls between 63% and 67% support the proposal, which indicates the broad popular aspiration to move forward in the recovery of the electric industry.
Rest assured that if you back this amendment fully, you will have our support and that of broad sectors of the Mexican people. We are ready to mobilize, to confront the pressures of large companies and foreign governments so that we can leave a better future for our children.
Finally, we wish to state for the record that while we consider the presidential initiative to be positive, it still seems to us to be insufficient, because in order to recover national sovereignty it is necessary to reverse all the privatization processes, in particular to advance in the renationalization of the entire energy sector: to recover the oil, gas and mines.
For us, the recovery of full sovereignty involves overturning the entire legal framework of agreements and trade treaties that jeopardize the resources, natural wealth and sovereignty of the Mexican nation. Treaties such as the USMCA (or T-MEC in its Spanish-language acronym), will surely be used to obstruct the implementation of this presidential proposal.
For the approval of the presidential initiative!
For the renationalization of the energy sector and of all that has been privatized!
For a break with the treaties that destroy Mexico’s sovereignty!
BAJA CALIFORNIA: María de los Ángeles Rojo Pérez, Ernesto Aceves Flores, Martha Ruiz Vega, (Brigada Ciudadana). Cuauhtémoc Herrera Aguilar (MORENA), Julián Bohórquez Morán, Ismael León Avilés (Civil Resistance of Baja California), Héctor Hugo Aguilar Hinojosa, (Tecate en pie de lucha), Juan Carlos Vargas, (National Executive Structure of the New Workers Central NCT), Fernando Marquéz Duarte, head steward, UAW 2865, UCR Unit, Luis Carlos Haro (Coalición de Trabajadores de la Educación) Privada, Liliana Plumeda, (Organización Política del Pueblo y los Trabajadores OPT) Marco Antonio Morales Rojo (Union Nacional de Trabajadores de Aplicación UNTA), Raymundo Blas, Construction worker and LCI-CORCI militant, Andrea Valladolid (International Alliance of Youth for Socialism AIJS), Irma Moran (United Resistances of Baja California), Joaquin Torres (Committee of Neighbors in defense of public services Villa del Alamo Tijuana), Catalina Miranda Navarro Affiliated to Secc 37 SNTE, Lidia Suarez (National Pedagogical University), Alejandra Rivera (OPT); CHIAPAS: Fernando Serrano (Sindicato Independiente de Trabajadores Académicos y Administrativos del Colegio de Bachilleres de Chiapas SITAACOBACH) Raúl Calleja Lacortti (COI, Secc. 50 SNTSA), Russel Aguilar (Retired from Section 7 SNTE-CNTE), Gilberto Montes Vásquez (OPT Chiapas), Fredy Rodríguez Méndez (Representative of the group of blue motorcycle cabs of Real del bosque, Nueva Central de Trabajadores), Ana Lilia Escalante Orantes, Health Sector, Jorge Manuel Arcia Nájera (Retired CNTE teacher), Roger Cerda Medina (Democratic Block of Retirees Section 7 CNTE), Jeanett Alegria Mendez (Worker), Lorenzo Jiménez Suarez, Copoya; MEXICO CITY: Eleazar López, LCI-CORCI Estado de México: Rolando Martínez Guzmán (Sindicato Único Nacional de la Industria. Siderúrgica de soldadores. y Similares en Mantenimiento. y Construcción en General. de la Republica. Mexicana SUNISSMACREM), Sonora: Jesús Casillas (OPT); SINALOA: Daniel Alarcón (Academic).
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Oslo Conference Is a Step Toward Legitimizing the Regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan
Statement by Left Radical of Afghanistan
From January 23 to 25, 2022, Norway hosted a conference in which a delegation of the Taliban regime led by Foreign Minister Mullah Manan Mottaki was in attendance. Also present were representatives of imperialist countries such as the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union. The United Nations and some women participated. As a strategic partner of the United States, Norway obeyed the order from the United States to facilitate the U.S. mission in relation to Afghanistan.
The objectives and agenda of the conference, as well as the selection of the participants of the conference, were prepared by the United States and NATO, and the Afghan people had no role and its preparation or agenda. Apparently, the purpose of the meeting was to review the human rights situation, humanitarian aid, the issue of women, and the education of girls.
The sympathy of the US/NATO toward the women and people of Afghanistan is sheer hypocrisy; it is crocodile tears over the unparalleled suffering of the Afghan people, for which the United States and its allies are responsible. It is clear that the United States and its NATO allies are attempting to pave the way towards the legitimation and recognition of the misogynist and extremist Islamic Emirate of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
At the same time, the Taliban will also try to use the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the economic crisis, poverty and starvation to secure the release of close to US$10 billion worth of frozen Afghan assets. These funds, however, will not go toward solving the economic and welfare problems of the people, but to strengthen the foundations of their own authoritarian regime.
While a three-day conference on human rights and women’s rights in Oslo was going on, with the Taliban offering false promises, the Taliban regime in Kabul continued to suppress women’s protests, imprisoning and torturing women protesters. The gates of girls’ schools and universities are still closed, the women have been evicted from government offices, and the presence of women in public has been severely restricted.
The Oslo Summit is, in fact, a supplement to the Doha Agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban in February 2020, under which the Taliban pledged to pursue U.S. and NATO agendas in Afghanistan and the region – instead of Ashraf Ghani’s ousted government. In return, the U.S. and its allies vowed to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan and hand over power to Taliban.
At the Oslo Summit, imperialist countries, especially the United States, will demand that in order to ease the frozen funds, aid, and recognition process, the Taliban must reaffirm their commitment to the provisions of the Doha Agreement and to comply with US demands.
Although the United States and NATO have failed in Afghanistan, their interventions are still ongoing – and they are still sacrificing the Afghan people for the realization of their strategic goals. The United States and its allies still maintain ties with local mercenaries. They are supporting covert deals with various Taliban opposition groups, including ISIS and the “National Resistance Front,” which consists of criminals, human rights violators and remnants of a corrupt former regime.
The Taliban regime is not united, and there are many groups and differences between them. The Haqqani Network is an extremist group within the Taliban that has close ties to Pakistan’s ISI and the U.S. CIA. Under these ties, in March 2020, Anas Haqqani, a senior member of the Haqqani Network who had been sentenced to death by the Supreme Court, was released from Kabul prison under U.S. pressure
In response to U.S. and NATO intervention, or their so-called benevolent efforts in Afghanistan, U.S. and NATO rivals, including Iran, Russia and China, have not been inactive. They are also trying to mediate between the Taliban and the “National Resistance Front” so that they can take the initiative in Afghanistan from the United States and NATO.
The people of Afghanistan, the protesting women and the socialist and democratic forces oppose the holding of the Oslo Conference and the participation of the Taliban. The protesting women in Kabul also stated that the women invited to the Oslo conference did not represent them at all, and that these symbolic women undoubtedly represent the corrupt former regime of Ashraf Ghani and U.S. and NATO; their aim is to deceive the world.
Despite the brutal repression of the Taliban, the brave women of Afghanistan have taken to the streets of Kabul every day chanting slogans of “BREAD, WORK and FREEDOM” and expressing their protests in various ways.
While women are at the forefront of the fight against restrictions on women’s employment, education, freedoms and forced hijab, Rina Amiri, Joe Biden’s special envoy for Afghan women, appeared before the Taliban in a religious hijab at the Oslo conference. This ridiculous display by the Biden representative is an insult to the struggles and sacrifices of women inside Afghanistan who are fighting against the forced veil imposed by the Taliban. This act can be interpreted as support for the anti-women policies of the Taliban.
Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA) and democratic forces, women and youth have no expectation of recovery and reform of the Taliban regime. Holding such conferences without the real representatives of women, workers and the people of Afghanistan has no legitimacy and cannot gain the support of the people. LRA, socialists and democratic forces and women are fighting not to reform the Taliban regime but to overthrow it.
– No to U.S./NATO and other imperialist interventions in Afghanistan!
– Let the workers, women and youth of Afghanistan determine their fate!
– Support the struggle of Afghan socialist, democratic and secular forces!
Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA)
26 January 2022- Afghanistan
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Contribution on the Indigenous Question in Canada
(Reprinted from Bulletin No. 16 — Fall 2021 – of the Liaison Committee of Trotskyists in Canada – OCRFI)
Beginning this year, September 30 has been celebrated as a “Day of Truth and Reconciliation,” a public holiday in Canada, following the “discovery” of thousands of secret graves of indigenous students in the grounds of former residential schools.
The indigenous question is directly linked to the implantation of the settlers in this country during the period of the rise of capitalism which sank into imperialist barbarism since the end of the 19th century and in which all current world developments take place. Under the Constitution Act of 1982, the First Nations (Amerindian communities), Métis, and Inuit constitute the Indigenous peoples of Canada. According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, there are 634 First Nations (977,230 people) in this country using more than 50 distinct languages.
The Early History
The Inuit are a group of people with a common ethnic origin living in the arctic regions of North America: Greenland, Canada (65,025, Statistics Canada, 2016) and the United States. It should be noted that the French and British settlers came from patriarchal societies, and their unions with indigenous women gave birth to a third category of indigenous populations, the Métis. There are 587,545 Metis, according to the same census. These peoples (1,673,785 people, or 4.9% of the national population) are spread across the entire Canadian territory with a relatively large concentration in the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba.
The Amerindian and Inuit peoples are established throughout Canada with their own languages, cultures, religious practices. and traditions. These communities implement their own productive techniques and their own means of exchange using a vast network of rivers and paths. They practice whaling, fishing and hunting, produce furs, manufacture and distribute pottery, especially among the Iroquoian and Algonquin tribes.
The first contacts with Europeans in North America at the end of the 16th century began with the exchange of furs carried out with coastal tribes and the French and the English for European products such as metal objects, knives, weapons, axes, pots, jewelry, etc. Jacques Cartier, French navigator and explorer on a mission in the service of the King of France, François Ier, approached the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534, explored and traded furs with the Iroquois in this territory he named Canada.
Colonization therefore occurs with the end of the 16th century on the east coast; trade intensifies and penetrates the interior. And very quickly, the settlers began to claim land, which led to violent conflicts with the Amerindian communities. Consequently, on vast territories, the conquerors, in this war of expropriation of the Amerindians, pushed back the latter towards sites unsuitable for the colonists and, often, regrouped them in reserves, which upset the way of life of these peoples, driven from their natural setting with their specific mode of existence.
During this time, rivalries were generated by the fur trade, in particular in the Great Lakes, where the colonists distributed weapons to tribes to enjoy the support of these against others. For example, the Iroquois were the enemies of the Wendat and the Algonquins, who were allied with the French. Between 1640 and 1701, tribes of the Iroquois League crushed the Wendat, Tionontati, and Erie with weapons they obtained from Dutch fur traders. Also, wars of resistance against the colonists developed; in 1701, the English, the French and 39 tribal chiefs signed a peace treaty.
Many European capitalist powers came into conflict in search of sharing the American booty with their own Amerindian policies: Spain (from 1789 to 1810, on the west coast), France (from 1604 to 1763), the United Kingdom (from 1607 to 1867/1931) and Russia (from 1741 to 1867, in Alaska), and secondarily the Netherlands (1624-1664 in New York, formerly New Amsterdam), Sweden (1638-55 in Delaware) and Denmark (Greenland, since 1721). The capitalist powers in conflict often found in various Amerindian tribes direct allies and sometimes enemies linked to the other camp. For example, a few tribal chiefs succeeded in building a veritable business empire on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The Kwakwaka’wakw and Haida tribes further north made many slaves in their rapine raids.
In this context, France lost its hold over North America in 1758 in the Ohio Valley and in 1761 in Quebec. Moreover, the conflict between the French and the British was resolved at the end of the Seven Years’ War, while possible conflicts on the west coast were smoothed out by the sale of Fort Ross to the British in 1841 and the purchase of Alaska by the Americans in 1867. In these conflicts between the capitalist powers for the conquest of markets, the United States, independent since July 4, 1776 following the Revolutionary War against the British, bought Louisiana from France and, moreover, waged a war against the British and their Native American allies in Canada from 1812 to 1814, which led to new border demarcations between the two North American entities. In these areas, the great powers have implemented very different Indian policies.
With regard to Canada, the British Crown took administrative control of the indigenous peoples through the monopoly of the Hudson’s Bay Company, founded in 1670 and whose commercial interests were built on the basis of agreements with and between Indian tribes.
Under Governor James Douglas, the Hudson’s Bay Company established and maintained British authority in the north and 14 treaties were made with tribes on Vancouver Island which are still valid today. But, from 1857, the province of Canada abandoned its recognition of the Indian communities as partners with equal rights. This was formalized by the Act to Encourage Gradual Civilization, which aimed to promote cultural assimilation of Indian peoples.
Under this law, a 21-year-old French- or English-speaking Indian with elementary education, deemed to be of good character and without debt, could be declared emancipated or ceased to be considered an Indian. The constitutional law of 1867 gave the Canadian government the exclusive authority to legislate on “Indians and lands reserved for the Indians,” this to facilitate access to mineral wealth, the construction of roads, industrial plants, electric power lines, dam lakes, etc.
Thus, the Canadian government continued the installation of settlers and the exploitation of resources present in regions of Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba. Ontario, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, etc.
By the Act of 1876, the Indian Act, prohibited First Nations members and communities from expressing their cultural identity and replaced traditional structures of governance with the election of band councils. In 1982, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) was created, aiming to “protect the rights of the First Nations and, in particular, to assert aboriginal and treaty rights” (Charter of the Assembly of First Nations, 1985).
In reality, these structures and their leaders are transmission belts of the federal government through the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, which has been split, since 2017 into two, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs (CIRNAC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).
The Recent History
The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century were marked by amendments relating to the schools and religion of the First Nations.
The law forced the children of these communities to attend Native residential schools, the last establishment of which closed in 1996! Recall that this boarding school system was created and extended to the whole country by the Canadian government under the leadership of Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent at the Department of Indian Affairs, the very one who gave the content and the aim of this policy. In 1918, he declared: “I want to free ourselves from the Indian problem. In fact, I do not believe that the country should protect a social class which can act in a distinct way … . Our aim is to continue our efforts until there are no Indians left in Canada who have not been absorbed into the political system and there is no longer an Indian question or Indian ministry.” (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Amendments to the law after World War II (1939-1945) and often in the form of treaties allowed First Nations peoples to practice their religion and present their land claims in court. They give women the right to vote in band council elections. But women could lose their Indian status if they married a non-Indian man.
In 1969, the government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau argued that all First Nations people should lose their Indian status and assimilate completely into Canadian society; but the anger and the strong opposition of the First Nations push backed Trudeau. Later, in the 1980s, under pressure from various currents and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the same government introduced new amendments to the Indian Act and granted Indian status to those to whom it had been refused. Remember that the Indian status card grants its holder rights and benefits such as housing, education and exemption from federal, provincial and territorial taxes under special conditions.
It is a fact that indigenous peoples as a whole live a very difficult socioeconomic situation, linked moreover to the conditions of discrimination and racism compared to non-indigenous populations. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, “the socio-economic conditions of First Nations (as well as Indigenous peoples in general) are affected by the forced disruption of their cultural traditions, social inequality, prejudice and discrimination.” This is moreover recognized and established by various studies and surveys (Canadian Center for Justice Statistics, Canadian Native Women’s Association, Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, Upstream Institute, etc.).
Also, the Directory of the Department of Public Information of October 12, (2021) indicates:
“Rooted in social and economic problems for centuries, legal discrimination against indigenous communities is a serious problem that requires innovative solutions.” For example, in terms of health, these populations are more exposed than others to disease. According to a Radio Canada survey (August 4, 2021), in Manitoba, the median age of COVID-19-related deaths is 80 years for non-natives, but 63 for Indigenous people. In this sense also, the Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, emphasizes that “Indigenous people are three to five times more likely to contract COVID- 19 due to their living conditions, overcrowding of housing and other determinants of socioeconomic health ...” Moreover, in the field of labor, the ILO conventions relating to indigenous and tribal populations, the first of 1957 and the second of 1989 have not been ratified by Canada. All this is happening in spite of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms!
Resistance on the Rise
During all these processes related to the exploitation and oppression of this sector of the working class and indigenous peoples, resistance has grown across the country. Organizations, many of which have extensions in the United States and vice versa, have been created to defend the rights of indigenous peoples: Allied Tribes of British Columbia (ATBC), Indian Rights Association, Interior Tribes of British Columbia, Indian Rights Association, Indian Defence League of America, National Indian Brotherhood, Indigenous Council of Canada- Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), Dakota Ojibway and Nisga’a Council, among others.
Today, as in the past, mass uprisings for the self-defense of indigenous peoples and for their rights are recurrent and often even lead to clashes with the police forces and the Canadian army, including arrests and deaths.
Here are some current examples.
From July 11 to September 20, 1990, mobilization of Mohawks in Kahnawake (Montreal), one of the Hodenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations, for the defense of their territorial rights;
In 1995, the Secwepemc uprising in British Columbia over the Gustafsen Lake land claim;
From 1999 to 2002, clashes in New Brunswick, at Burnt Church, between natives and non-natives on the issue of the lobster fishery;
Uprising of the Wet’suwet’en in February 2020 against the construction, in their traditional territory, of a gas pipeline in northeastern British Columbia by the Coastal GasLink, which resulted in blockades of Via Rail trains (Montreal-Ottawa -Toronto) by the Mohwaks of the Tyendinaga reserve in solidarity with this movement;
In 2013, 2017, 2020 and 2021: Pacheedaht, Wet’suwet’en Indigenous peoples and environmental activists built dams and camps in Fairy Creek, British Columbia. This movement stood firm against the logging of forests by multinational forestry companies (including Teal Jones) and fought for the defense of the cultural rights of indigenous peoples, sovereignty over their lands, and the defense of the environment.
As of September 18, 2021, the police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have arrested 1,020 people. Radio- Canada (September 10, 2021) reported that this is the largest peaceful civil disobedience movement in Canadian history.
The Indigenous Peoples and the Fight for Working-Class Unity and Independence
The Liberal Party and the Conservative Party are the two historically dominant bourgeois parties in Canada. It is these parties that directly ensure the class domination of the bourgeoisie in Canada which accesses the world market through U.S. imperialism with the political blessing of the British Crown. It is these parties which, directly again, lead policies of denial or even destruction of the democratic, territorial, cultural, economic and social rights of indigenous peoples.
By way of “denouncing” the so-called assimilation policy, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the government in 2008 in this way: “Today we recognize that this policy of assimilation has caused great harm. and has no place in our country. “
Let us recall that in the residential schools for indigenous children torn from their parents, a system set up by the federal government and executed by the Christian churches, these children suffered physical, sexual and psychological violence and various deprivations. Several thousand of them perished, some of tuberculosis and others were outright murdered and buried in mass graves and in absolute secrecy.
In the face of the commotion over the beginnings of the “discovery” of some of these graves in 2021, the Catholic Church was prompted to apologize as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed acknowledgement of the “guilt of the nation.” In the process, the government announced (June 21, 2021) that 100 Wellington Street in Ottawa will become a space for indigenous peoples. It also instituted the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, now celebrated on September 30 of each year. And on July 26, 2021, it appointed as Governor General of Canada, the first person of Indigenous descent to hold this position, Mary Simon, of Inuit descent (The Governor General is the representative of the British Crown in Canada and Commander-in-Chief of Canadian armed forces. The King or Queen of Great Britain is the Head of State of Canada.)
The problems facing indigenous peoples cannot be solved by expressing “sorrow or” “apologies” – or by establishing a date or place of remembrance or by these appointments! It is true that the indigenous peoples of Canada live under specific conditions of exploitation and oppression by Capital during the era of imperialism, of decaying capitalism.
In this country, a political party called the First Peoples National Party of Canada (FPNPC), was formed. The proclaimed objective of this party was the achievement and fulfillment of the rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. In its program, we can read this: “The FPNPC believes that the future of Canada depends on the recognition and respectability of the place of First Nations peoples in the governance of this country” (party website).
For that, the party nominated candidates for election in constituencies with large concentrations of indigenous populations, and in the 2006, 2008 and 2011 federal elections its list won 0.01%, 0.01% and 0.002% of the vote, respectively. FPNPC was founded in 2004 and was strick off the ballot on July 5, 2013.
The conditions of the Indigenous peoples in Canada are the result of the crisis of imperialism destroying the conquests, the democratic gains, the cultural identity of these peoples, expropriating them and stripping them of all sovereignty over their lands in the name of capitalist profit. Imperialism can only survive through the massive destruction of the productive forces and in this effort it enjoys the support from the traditional leadership of the working class.
The fact is that the demands and aspirations of Indigenous peoples cannot be dissociated from those of workers. In this country there are two traditional parties of the working class which speak on behalf of the working class. The first, the Communist Party of Canada, does not have a mass base ; it only appears during federal elections and its electoral platform does not contain any reference to the Indigenous question. The second, the New Democratic Party (NDP) founded by and rooted in the labor unions and claiming to be social-democratic, is, for the time being, the only mass workers’ party in North America.
Occupying the fourth position in the House of Commons at the end of the federal elections of September 2021, the NDP, as a bourgeois workers’ party, campaigns in Indigenous communities as in any other place to obtain their votes. Since 1961, the year of its creation (succeeding the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation founded in 1932), the NDP controlled until 2019, provincial and territorial governments 17 times; it has led at least once the governments of the following entities: British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Yukon Territory. But it has not solved a single one of the problems of Indigenous people or the working class.
The claims and aspirations of the Indigenous peoples of Canada are linked to the demands of the working class. This contribution has attempted to show that these peoples constitute one of the most exploited and oppressed layers of this country; they suffered historical trauma linked to British and French colonization during the period of the rise of capitalism and the current era of imperialism, the expropriation of their lands and territorial sovereignty, cultural oppression, the genocides, mistreatment and discrimination of all kinds, and socio-economic deprivation.
All these questions cannot be solved within the framework of capitalism. On the agenda arises the need for the expropriation of the expropriators and to put an end to the “order” imposed by U.S. imperialism through NAFTA 2.0. It requires putting an end to the rotten regime of private property in the means of production and satisfying the cultural, political and socio-economic aspirations and rights of indigenous peoples, the demands of all oppressed and exploited strata of society, and the working class. This raises the urgency of the Sovereign Constituent Assembly in every province and territory to meet the needs of the working masses and the youth. This in turn raises the need for the struggle for the class independence of workers’ organizations (parties, unions), a task that falls within the objective of reconstituting the Fourth International for the proletarian revolution.