Saturday, April 16, 2011

Creating the Conditions Ripe for Socialism

Hark, the horn blows loud and long,
There is something wrong I fear,
There’s mourning in the dismal dells
Keeps sounding in my ear,
Dark phantoms rise before my eyes,
News comes, the vision’s fled,
One hundred three and twenty of our
Spring hill miners dead.

On February 21, 1891, a powerful explosion occurred in the number 1 coal mine in Springhill, Nova Scotia, resulting in the death of 123 men, 17 of them just boys. Those not killed by the blast suffered the affects of mine gasses, what miners called the deadly “white damp”.

The 17 young boys who perished, ranged in age from 12 to 15.

But there was no talk after of safer conditions or child labour, because those in the community knew that those mines meant their survival and the pay envelopes of their young sons were greatly needed.

So instead they applauded the Cumberland Railway and Coal Company, who paid for the burials.

However, one young lad, Adolph F. Landry, at the first glimpse of the flames, threw his hands over his face and crouched behind his horse. The animal fell on him, and in pinning the boy to the ground, saved his life. The 14-year-old would tell the story of how he was in such intense pain that he prayed for death to come swiftly. (1)

Landry took those memories with him into adulthood, and would later become integral in the Socialist movement, raising awareness to the differences between the lives of the miners and those of the wealthy mine owners.

Complaints were of a system of government that made the rich richer and the poor poorer. And workers opposed the selling of its labour to barely maintain an existence. (2)

Most of the wealth was in the hands of only a few and those on the top had little interest in helping those they felt beneath them.

Adolphus Landry spoke of the:
"terrible mockery" of poverty, unemployment, and industrial violence. Look, Landry cried, at the consequences of the system! Look at "all the stunted undeveloped inarticulate brains, all the bent and aching backs, all the tired and weary limbs, all the rheumatism racked frames, all the wrecked hopes and aching hearts of youthful manhood." Think of "all the anxious hours and painful heart beats of hungry mothers, all the bitter cries and untold suffering of children, children robbed of their childhood, that have been, and shall be. Think of the Rockefellers, the Goulds, the Astors — the money they made in a day would feed a working-class family for a year!" (1)
And he complained of the Prime Minister Charles Tupper, who spoke of "Business cycles" and "cyclones", forever focused on the economy, while ignoring the people.

Today we are experiencing the same social structure, with a dwindling middle class, and a government determined to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

I'm not a socialist and don't believe in government owning everything. But I do believe that only government should administer social services. And if a government wants to avoid social unrest, it must help to create a fairer distribution of wealth, with a fairer taxation system.

That might sound like "leftie" talk, but I'm a realist.

The Tea Party, Reformers, Alliance, Republicans and Conservatives, constantly warn against the perils of socialism, but it seems to be that if they were really frightened of socialism, they might try to avoid replicating the same conditions that caused the socialist revolution covered in Ian McKay's book.

Stephen Harper is still sticking to the line that Corporate tax cuts create jobs and spur growth. A figment of the wealthy's imagination.
Canadian companies have added tens of billions of dollars to their stockpiles of cash at a time when tax cuts are supposed to be encouraging them to plow more money into their businesses. Corporate tax cuts are becoming a major issue in the federal election campaign. The Conservatives, arguing that they are the best custodians of an economy that remains fragile after the recession, say tax cuts are crucial to stimulate job creation and make Canada more competitive on the global stage.
Nonsense. Our corporate taxes are among the lowest in the world, and in fact even if the NDP or Liberals raise them to 18-19.5 %, they are still about half that of the United States, where they now sit at 35%.

And another thing to consider, is that there is little tax incentive for U.S. companies to operate in Canada:
Under existing rules the Obama administration will now enforce, any difference between what US companies pay in taxes abroad and what they would have paid at home gets taxed back by the USA. As a result, a great percentage of the massive corporate tax cuts, like the ones Stephen Harper introduced in his 2008 budget, flow directly into the US Treasury, since many of the most profitable companies in Canada are US-owned branch plants
The Canadian taxpayer is funnelling money directly into the U.S. Treasury.

And Harper is crying austerity for us, but not demanding austerity for big business. He bailed out the banks with our money, but made no demands to cut service charges. Instead they gave their bank executives massive bonuses, a slap in the face to the ordinary Canadian struggling to get by.

He views society through a law and order lens. He's going to cut down on elder abuse, forgetting that seniors living in poverty, is elder abuse. And children living in poverty is child abuse.

We need a progressive revolution in this country, and the time could not be better than right now. An election. Because we are not "cycles" or "economic units". And we know that Harper's "health insurance" plan is not the same as "universal healthcare".

Our natural resources belong to us and if a company exploits them for profit, they must reimburse us through taxes. And they must respect the community where they do business, our ecological system and our environment.

But before we can even make those demands we need a government that respects democracy, and won't have us beaten up every time we want to bring those demands to our elected representatives. And won't try to ruin the careers of experts simply because they dispute their claims.

And we need a leader who won't shut Parliament down every time he doesn't get his own way, or refuses to play by the rules, but makes his own.

May 2. Vote and Vote wisely.


1. Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People's Enlightenment in Canada, 1890-1920, By Ian McKay, Between the Lines, 2008, ISBN: 978-1-897071-49-6

David Frank and Nolan Reilly


  1. I have half a mind not to vote this time, Emily. It is SO discouraging to vote in Alberta, where the conservatives are going to get elected no matter what. I agree with what you say, but see no way to vote for it from here. I spent most of my life in BC. I even voted Conservative for a few years in BC because the candidate was someone I knew, respected, admired, and trusted.
    Here in southern Alberta, a vote for the Liberals, NDP or the Green Party is as good as a spoiled ballot, and I am certainly not about to vote for Conservatives who are just thinly-disguised Republicans. Very discouraging.

  2. You could vote swap. They're doing that with ridings where the Conservatives won by a small margin. You swap your vote so that it goes to a riding where there is a chance of beating out a Con. It's completely legal and democratic

  3. Kay, you are not alone in southern Alberta. There are progressives out there who do vote, my sister and her husband for example. the more progressive votes there are chips away at the mandate of the Con candidate.

    One thing to remember is that your vote puts $2 into the war chest of your party of choice and is, thus, not wasted. We need your vote for a functioning democracy.