On German television, spoofing the information war over Ukraine

The following, eight-minute comedy skit was broadcast on south German state television channel ZDF on September 23, on the program Die Anstalt (The Institute). ZDF is one of the most-watched German television channels.

The skit is titled, ‘Propaganda’ and has been sub-titled into English. Die Anstalt spoofs the avalanche of anti-Russia propaganda surrounding the war in eastern Ukraine this past summer. The program warns its viewers: “Any similarity to the current news is unintended and accidental, but absolutely inevitable“.

If Germans are starting to see through the fog of media propaganda over Ukraine, how long until the rest of the world follows? Be sure to activate the ‘English subtitles’ bar on the top of the viewing screen as needed:

» Read more..

Some genocides and not others represented at new Canadian Museum of Human Rights

Genocide is as genocide does

Op-ed article by David MacDonald, in Winnipeg Free Press, Sept 25, 2014

Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in Winnipeg, Manitoba

A Tribe Called Red’s principled refusal to perform at the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights [1] drew more attention on CBC than the museum’s opening itself. They objected to the “museum’s misrepresentation and downplay of the genocide that was experienced by indigenous people in Canada by refusing to name it genocide.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie, prior to her concert, opined that genocide took place in the Indian residential schools: “Let’s fess up and hope it doesn’t happen again.”

Did we commit genocide in forcing aboriginal children to attend residential schools? For me, as a genocide scholar, and for many IRS survivors, the answer is yes. The UN Genocide Convention of 1948 calls the forcible transfer » Read more..

Pro-gas fracking gov’t turfed in New Brunswick election

By Roger Annis, first published in the Vancouver Observer, Sept 24, 2014

Rally to protect forests at NB Legislature, May 13, 2014, photo by Stephanie Merrill, NB Media Co-Op

Rally to protect forests at NB Legislature, May 13, 2014, photo by Stephanie Merrill, NB Media Co-Op

The incumbent Conservative Party that made natural gas fracking a centrepiece of its election platform has lost the Sept 22 election in New Brunswick. The new premier is Brian Gallant of the Liberal Party. The election provides an interesting snapshot of popular opinion on major environmental and social issues.

Gas fracking rejected

The Conservatives and Premier David Alward who went down to defeat made continued promotion and financing of natural gas fracking the centrepiece of their election campaign. Their representation in the Legislature dropped from 42 districts to 21. The Liberals rose from 13 to 27. » Read more..

Russian Union of Engineers report concludes Ukraine airforce likely responsible for Malaysian Airlines downing

By Roger Annis, Sept. 22, 2014

The website Vineyard Saker has translated and published a 16-page study into the July 17, 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 that was conducted by the Russian Union of Engineers. (Also find the report online here.) The Russian engineers conclude that the flight was brought down by a fighter aircraft operating in the vicinity of the passenger plane and that the only likely candidate for such an attack was an Su-25 or MiG-29 aircraft of the Ukraine armed forces.

MH 17 destroyed cockpit panel image superimposed on aircraft image

MH 17 destroyed cockpit panel image superimposed on aircraft image

The report noted pro-autonomy rebels in east Ukraine do not possess or operate a fighter aircraft. The doomed passenger flight had 298 people on board.

The engineers’ report said the commercial aircraft left Amsterdam for Kuala Lumpur and was flying 10,100 metres in Ukrainian airspace near Donetsk, likely on auto pilot, when it was attacked by a combat aircraft with 30 mm caliber cannon. The cockpit area of the Malaysia Airlines jet was struck, likely killing its crew and depressurizing the aircraft.

Since the plane was on auto pilot, it continued to fly but began to lose altitude. The attacking aircraft flew to the » Read more..

Thousands march in Moscow for ‘peace’ and against autonomy movement in eastern Ukraine

Introduction by Roger Annis, Sept 22, 2014

Several tens of thousands of people marched in Moscow and other Russian cities on September 21 condemning the Russian government’s actions over the course of the Ukraine government military offensive in eastern Ukraine this

March for 'peace' in Moscow, Sept 21, 2014. Lead banner read 'No war with Ukraine'

March for ‘peace’ in Moscow, Sept 21, 2014. Lead banner read ‘No war with Ukraine’

year. Billed as “peace” marches, the protests opposed the pro-autonomy and self defense forces in eastern Ukraine that resisted the military attacks by Kyiv and the fascist militias with which it is allied.

According to news reports and photos of the Moscow action, none of the marchers expressed concern about the economic sanctions and aggressive military threats by NATO countries in eastern Europe this year. In other words, the ‘peace’ that the actions advocated was a very selective one.

Enclosed are two news reports of the protest march in Moscow on Sept. 21. » Read more..

BC teachers strike over, leaving salaries and public education short-changed

By Roger Annis, Sept 21, 2014

BC teachers picket line in Golden BC, 2014

BC teachers picket line in Golden BC, 2014

The 41,000 public education teachers in British Columbia have voted by 86 per cent to end a four-month long strike (five weeks of classroom time in June and September) and accept a new, six-year collective agreement. Enclosed are weblinks to articles that detail the strike’s achievements and its shortfalls.

The outcome is a disappointment to many teachers and other advocates of public education. It fails to resolve the key issues of classroom size increases and special education services cuts that have been in dispute for more than ten years. Education cuts have been imposed by successive conservative (Liberal Party) governments since the Liberals returned to power in 2001. This settlement fails, in particular, to undo the harsh cuts that were implemented by the Liberals in 2002-03. The education minister at that time was Christy Clark, today the premier of the province.

See also:
* BC teachers strike ends as teachers accept contentious contract, by Katie Hyslop, TheTyee.ca, Sept. 19, 2014
* Tentative agreement: Yes or no?, by Tara Ehrcke, published on her blog Staffroom Confidential, Sept 17, 2014
* A settlement funded by strike savings, by Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun columnist, Sept 18, 2014
* Former Victoria teachers’ rep calls for ‘no’ vote on contract, Vancouver Sun, Sept 17, 2014
* Reflections on the BC teachers strike, by Tara Ehrcke, Sept 23, 2014

The $75 million Education Fund in this agreement replaces a Learning Improvement Fund introduced in 2011. It is touted by the government as a big commitment to improving education services. Victoria teacher Tara Ehrcke provides a refutation of the government claim in an article on her blog, Classroom Confidential.

The settlement also continues ten-plus years of BC government policy that has kept salary increases for public service workers well below the rate of inflation (including the ‘net zero increase’ wage policy imposed on other public sector agreements that funds salary increases by cutting benefits or working conditions).

The agreement is especially frustrating for teachers because their negotiating team had several favorable decisions by the BC Supreme Court in its pocket as bargaining for a new collective agreement began earlier this year. The Court ruled in favour of the union in April 2011, saying the government cuts (special laws) in 2002-03 and the accompanying tearing up of provisions in existing collective agreements were in flagrant violation of the law.

The government responded by rewriting the offending laws. That was ruled illegal by another decision of the Court in February 2014. That ruling also had harsh words for the government’s deliberate provoking of a strike in 2012 which it swiftly declared “illegal”. (See BC government appeals court ruling slamming its abuse of public education and bargaining rights of teachers, by Roger Annis, Feb. 14, 2014.)

The government response to the February 2014 court ruling was yet another “whatever”. The court-ordered remedy–to restore cuts to education services and to compensate teachers who suffered financially–would be exceptionally expensive. Instead, the government launched an appeal of the decision and refused to bargain in good faith in the new round of collective bargaining (just as in 2011). A full strike began in June and carried over to September.

The strike in June brought an abrupt end to the school year, seriously disrupting the lives of students in grade 12 planning to move on to post-secondary education. It then dragged into the new school year, a serious inconvenience for students and parents. But the government was saving a bundle of money on teachers’ salaries and it hoped that parent exasperation as well as mounting financial pressure on teachers would favour its bargaining position effectively ignoring the Supreme Court’s rulings.

With no end to the strike in sight and personal finances of teachers getting squeezed, union negotiators opted for a compromise on the fundamental issues. An article in the Sept 20 edition of the Globe and Mail reports the process whereby Premier Christy Clark and BCTF President Jim Iker arrived at a personal understanding to seek a settlement. The new president of the Canadian Labour Congress, Hassan Yusseff, played a key role in bringing the two together.

Public support for the teachers was widespread. Members of other unions solidly backed them, pledging millions of dollars to the BCTF’s strike fund in September. Significant numbers of students were speaking out and protesting in support of the teachers’ goals. Teachers and parents held frequent protest actions to draw attention to the cause of public education. The group Allies for BC Public Education was formed.

So why were teachers unable to push back the government and win what even the Supreme Court said was just and reasonable?

The simple explanation is that broader mobilizations of popular support were required if the teachers’ cause was to prevail. Mass street marches, pickets of offices of the elected members of the governing party and the corporate backers of the government’s anti-social and anti-environment agenda, and solidarity actions by education supporters in other provinces and even the U.S.(where teachers in Chicago and Washington state have waged recent struggles) would be needed. In sum, the potential power of the trade union, social and political organizations of the working class was not sufficiently mobilized.

To be sure, there were impressive acts of solidarity throughout the strike. These emerged particularly in September as teachers, parents and students took initiatives. But many came late in the strike when financial pressures on parents and teachers were mounting rapidly.

Complicating matters was a tactic chosen by BCTF leaders in September that disoriented the strike. They began demanding that the disputed issues be sent to binding arbitration. Picket lines would come down and school would resume. A referendum vote of striking teachers was held on Sept. 10 and 99.4 per cent voted in favour of the proposal.

The BC teachers strike, like the teachers strike in Chicago in 2012, has taught that new and extraordinary methods of struggle are required to wrest social improvements from globalized capitalism and to chart a path to a new society of social justice. A big shakeup is required in the trade unions in order to break from the routinism and conservative political outlook and orientation that predominates. Public sector workers in BC are suffering from entrenched patterns of disunity and lengthy, sub-standard collective agreements. Private sector workers suffer lengthy strikes, such as the workers at the giant IKEA store in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond who have been on the picket line since May 2013. For some workers, the decline of workplace safety standards is becoming fatal–four workers died and dozens were injured in two sawmill explosions in BC in 2012 and no formal inquiry was ever held.

There will be much discussion and debate in the months ahead of the lessons of the BC teachers strike. The great spirit of solidarity and social purpose that marked the strike is an important achievement that can inspire and strengthen the working class movement as a whole.


NATO’s new cold war redraws left and liberal views on imperialism and war

By Roger Annis, first published on Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Sept 19, 2014

Petro Poroshenko speaks to US Congress on Sept 18, 2014

Petro Poroshenko speaks to US Congress on Sept 18, 2014

Just under 25 years ago, the Cold War ended with a capitalist triumph. The nationalized economies and political structures of the Soviet Union and eastern Europe collapsed and a transition to a harsh, anti-social capitalism began.

In the years that followed, an eastward expansion was undertaken by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the military alliance of the imperialist countries of Europe and North America. Many of the countries of eastern Europe joined the alliance, in explicit defiance of agreements by NATO with post-Soviet Russia not to expand in this way.

A generation later, the world finds itself at the outset of a new cold war. It is directed by the same, NATO military powers and its aim is similar–to stop any advance of anti-capitalist social revolution and to constrict and contain Russia. » Read more..

In Winnipeg and Vancouver, public forums on the war in Ukraine

The war in eastern Ukraine and the New Cold War

In Winnipeg on Sept 25, in Vancouver on Sept 29. With speaker Roger Annis

In Winnipeg: » Read more..

The U.S./NATO drive to war in the east and the collapse of intellectual resistance

Introduction by Roger Annis, Sept 12, 2014

A very insightful essay/book review was published three days ago in Jacobin magazine by writer and author Daniel Lazare. He reviews Timothy Snyder’s 2010 book ‘Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin’. Lazare’s essay is titled ‘Timothy Snyder’s lies’. It is posted to my website page ‘Ukraine: Articles by other authors‘.

Lazare describes Snyder’s book as part of a rising “double genocide” movement that equates the Holocaust and other atrocities of Nazi Germany with the repressions of the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. He then tackles Snyder’s writings on Ukraine, which have been widely published beginning in November 2013. » Read more..

Defeat of Ukraine army brings ceasefire, but underlying political conflicts unresolved

By Roger Annis, published on Truthout, Sept 8, 2014

Map DonetskA ceasefire in the war in eastern Ukraine was announced in Minsk, Belarus on Sept. 5. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko made a simultaneous announcement in Wales where he was a special guest at the summit meeting of the NATO military alliance.

A 12-point agreement was signed in Minsk by representatives of the Kyiv government and the Peoples Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Also signing were former Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma, Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov and Heidi Tagliavini of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. » Read more..