Friday, July 04, 2008

The following came to Molly's mailbox, unsolicited, from an organization that styles itself as the 'Socialist Project'. A little "public health advisory" is in line here. The SP is a Trotsykist front dedicated to the tactics of "deep entry". Not being a Trotskyist, it is hard for me to comment on the "effectiveness" of such tactics from their point of view. What is sad to me is that the authors of this organization appear to be of the International Socialist Tendency, which was once a shining exemplar of "left Trotskyism" that would have nothing to do with such conspiratorial tactics. How the mightily clean have fallen ! I have to admit, effectiveness-wise, that it took me a little effort to sort them out from their website. THIS on the part of somebody who has been an anarchist, let alone a leftist for years before, much longer then the VAST majority of Trots in the world today have been simply alive. So I guess I have to hand them kudos for sheer sneakiness. I'm sure that they could fool a great number of younger people who lack the experience.
Not that I have any great hate-on for Trotskyists. Even before I became an anarchist way back in the Triassic I concurred with other independent socialists in finding them rather "cute" in an earnest, if somewhat ridiculous, "anemic poodle" sort of way. So dedicated, yet so ultimately futile. What I find disgusting about their latest incarnation as presented in organizations such as this is their cutsy, "non-sectarian"(the final refuge of those who believe in bullshit as speech) desire to "rebuild the left" in collaboration with hardened and unrepentant Maoists and others who they should run to get away from, let alone try and organize with. Molly will state it here plainly. The Canadian 'New Left' degenerated, like its American counterpart but nowhere near as seriously, for good and sufficient reasons. This corpse is long past the time when it should have a decent burial, let alone trying to resurrect it by some bizarre Marxist necromancy. The new "ultra-left" is anarchist. The other, more reformist, left has gone far beyond Marxist dogma. It's a new world. Personally I want to see anarchism take its conquest of the "ultra-left" position towards formulating a challenge to left social democracy ie the gradualism that I often advocate here. Ideas about salvaging the decaying corpse of leftism circa the 1970s are totally irrelevant to me.
All that nastiness aside, the Trots are one of the few more or less rational remnants of the "left that was", and their position on certain issues are indistinguishable from that advocated by anarchists who recognize the importance of the class struggle. It's in light of this that I reproduce the following that appeared in my mailbox. The situation of migrant agricultural workers in Canada is indeed important, and, whatever I think of the messenger, the message deserves to be delivered.
Harvest of Injustice: The Oppression of Migrant Workers on Canadian Farms
Adriana Paz
Some say that nothing happens by chance. At the very least, it was a fortunate accident that my first job, when I arrived in Canada from Bolivia three years ago, was in a tomato greenhouse in South Delta, British Columbia -- one of the first in the province to request migrant farm workers from Mexico under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). My job was to run from the office managers' office to the greenhouse and back relaying information on workers' productivity levels.

My first observation was that brown bodies are the pickers and white bodies are the managers. I naively asked my boss why there are no Canadians picking tomatoes. He answered me simply, "Because this is not a job for them."

That was my first lesson in Canadian social history. In B.C., most farm workers are and have long been immigrants of colour, including recently a growing number of seasonal migrants under SAWP and a related federal scheme, the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. Battered by the whims of global capital and local government policy, farm workers are the most vulnerable part of the work force, facing extreme job and economic insecurity.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives B.C., most farm workers in the province are immigrants from India, chiefly women in their 50s and 60s who came to Canada under the family reunification program. Lack of language skills and the obligation to their families to repay money advanced for their immigration and settlement pressure them to accept working conditions that Canadian workers find unacceptable.

Their plight is worsened by the Farm Labour Contractor (FLC) system, unique to the agricultural sector. The FLCs act as coyotes or intermediaries between farm workers and greenhouses/farms, determining how workers will get to the job, how long they will work, what they will earn, and so on. Obviously the FLCs do nothing to ensure respect for employment standards and safety regulations, leading to all sort of violations while the provincial authorities close their eyes.

For generations, South Asians have toiled in the fields of British Columbia under unsafe and exploitative conditions, enduring low wages and long hours of hard work while creating massive profits for agrobusiness.

Although fully informed about the corrupt FLCs and their blatant violations of employment and safety regulations, the provincial government decided in 2001/2002 to reduce enforcement. Then in 2003/2004 they excluded farm workers from various provisions of the Employment Standards Act, leaving this group of racialized labour even more vulnerable to hyperexploitation.
How to create a labour shortage.

Since 2000, farm operators in B.C. have been complaining of a shortage of labour to harvest their crops. Little science is needed to find the cause. When wages are low, often less than the legal minimum, and working conditions are substandard, workers are unwilling to work in agriculture if they have a choice.

The farm operators are of course passing on downwards the immense pressures they face from the forces of globalization and the power of agribusiness monopolies. Far from providing protection against these profiteers, the government, urged on by the farm/greenhouse operators, has adopted policies that have worsened the "labour shortage."

Nothing was done to raise farm labour wages or to increase the supply of immigrant labour. On the contrary, their measures serve to make agricultural labour not only unattractive but unlivable. To make matters worse, Citizenship and Immigration Canada in 2003 restricted the family reunification program, reducing the traditional South Asian labour source of those utilizing this program to immigrate to Canada.

Meanwhile the federal government is closing the door to permanent immigration of farm workers while steadily moving towards a U.S-style policy based on temporary migration.
All this is of course the total opposite of the "free market" policies that the government claims to support. In a free market, when demand for something goes up, so should its price. If there's a labour shortage in Canadian agriculture, wages should tend upwards until the supply of labour increases. By aggressively expanding Temporary Worker Programs, the government is manipulating market conditions to keep wages and working conditions low in order to increase corporate profits.
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