Friday, July 04, 2008



As promised in the last post there are a few matters arising from recent events in Québec City that I'd like to expand on. The first is the present situation of my source Media Matin Québec . This link is the website and online version of a free newspaper that has been distributed since April 22, 2007 by the locked out workers of Le Journal de Québec five days a week. This dispute pitted the workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) against the Sun Media Corporation and its parent company Québecor. When the workers were locked out they began to publish their own newspaper, Media Matin Québec, and they eventually launched an online version. As of today the online version is still operating.

Why did Molly describe this initiative as "hopeful" ? First of all because it went beyond the usual round of tactics that happen during most strikes and lockouts into the sort of moves that Molly considers to be necessary preliminaries to the building of the sort of libertarian socialism that she favours. What was proven was that the workers at Le Journal de Québec could do the work of producing and distributing a newspaper without the direction of the bosses. If there is to be any real socialism it has to be a socialism that not only has no private owners but much more importantly has no managers as well. The workers at Le Journal proved it could be done. It is true that the paper produced by these workers was considerably less "weighty" than the Le Journal that management continued to produce during the lockout with the help of scab labour. The "means of production" are, after all, the "means of production", but the efforts of these people showed that it is indeed possible to set up an alternative even without the ultimately more effective tactic of plant occupations and resuming production during the occupation.

The contrast between the "somewhat" successful alternative that the workers produced and what they could have done if they had occupied the workplace also points the way to what should be done in future disputes. As Molly has expressed ad nauseum on this blog her approach to anarchism/libertarian socialism is gradualist. It holds much room for the initiation of producers' coops from scratch, but all such initiatives are, of necessity, small scale. It also holds a lot of room for buyouts of firms using pension funds and such that would turn private firms into workers' cooperatives. The tactic of occupying workplaces and resuming production during the occupation could be a very good bargaining tool for workers to gain ownership of their own working lives. To put it at its crudest, the price goes down when the person you are bargaining with holds a bigger gun than you do. Companies unwilling to sell at anything resembling a reasonable price may see reason when the workplace is occupied and merrily chugging away without their control. Sometimes, when conditions of public support are sufficient the price may go down to zero dollars and zero cents. Yes, it can happen !! It all depends on political conditions amongst the population.

Such occupations would also be the method whereby state owned enterprises would be converted to real socialist workplaces, with a blend of worker and community control. Such a "

long march" requires vision, and the socialists who are willing to agitate, organize and educate for it over the course of decades. A long term interplay that would gradually make such occupations an accepted fact and then gradually introduce resolutions other than minor concessions on the part of the employers or better buyouts in the situation here plants are closing has at least a chance of producing a free society. The history of "revolutions" in the past century and a half has consistently shown that such a path produces no such thing. It is also a way whereby large segments of the economy could be gradually brought into the cooperative/socialist sector as opposed to the almost trivial startups of new and tiny coops. Once a cooperative/socialist sector with real financial clout was established the process would accelerate as the existing coops with resources would be able to effectively support new initiatives.

All of this precludes any militaristic fantasies of "violent revolution". Violence would undoubtedly occur during this transition when the ruling class (usually managers rather than owners) could prevail upon their drinking buddies down at the local elite clubs to send in the police. The political cost of such actions, however, could be made progressively more prohibitive by the gradual education of the population by anarchist/cooperative/socialist organizations willing to do the dirty work of long term organization and what should be an almost automatic reflex action on the part of workers involved in such disputes to make immediate and strenuous efforts to swing the local community (and beyond when needed) to their side.

Another thing that was shown by the workers of Le Journal was that decisions can be undertaken democratically- without management directions. If we are to produce a socialism worthy of the name the class power of the managers has to be addressed. Any new enterprises have to be as thoroughly democratic as possible. It would be an useless expenditure of energy to produce a sea of coops that basically reproduce the managerial ruling class of present state (and most corporate) enterprise. That can, unfortunately, happen, especially if the socialists/communalists/anarchists are blind to the viper in their midst, if they are deluded as to the nature of our present class society-managerial in Molly's opinion- and fail to set up barriers to its reproduction in the new institutions they build.

Pheew! That was a long rant. Anyways, here's the article from CUPE that began this tirade. It should be noted that, whatever the state of this tentative agreement Media Matin Québec continues to publish as of today. I personally hope it will continue.


Settlement at Journal de Québec
CUPE members at le Journal de Québec have voted 96 per cent in favour of a tentative agreement reached late last night with Québecor.

Leadership of the three locals involved in the 438 day work stoppage had recommended their members vote for the deal.

The agreement ends the longest contract dispute ever at a french-language daily in Canada.
The tentative agreement was reached at 1am, July 2 after a 24 hour, high-level negotiating session.
Some highlights:

*Agreement goes for five years from signing date
*2.5 per cent per year salary increases
*Classified ad services brought back to Québec City (from Kanata)
*37.5 hour, four day work week (37.5 hours over five days for classified ad employees)
*One more week of vacation for temporary employees with more than 10 years service (Molly Note- "temporary employees" with "more than 10 !!!!! years of service" ????)
*Introduce a floor for the number of journalists and photographers to maintain local coverage while allowing multimedia
*Changes to press room work rules in exchange for investment in new equipment
*Early retirement program: four weeks salary per year of service up to 18 months
*Possibility of jobs at Vidéotron for affected office employees

About 280 employees of the Québec City tabloid have been on strike or locked out since April 22, 2007, the first work stoppage to hit the paper since it started in 1967.

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