The crew all chewed alive
|Nov 21, 2019|
I’ve wrote and rewrote this preamble five or six times. It’s supposed to be punchy! A little WELCOME TO THE EMAIL, FRIENDO. Things are great here, you’re about to have a great time, I promise. Nope. Not this week, this week I’m maudlin enough to get nautical. Last letter we were a great ship of comrades in budget mode, viewing fuck-overs on the horizon through a telescope, tracing the shadows of screwings to come. Now we’re in a thick fleet of fuckery pirates, getting fired at by dick-cannons and aerated by conserva-grapeshot. Everyone below decks has dysentery and everyone above decks is crossing sabers with chinless business majors laughing as they promise to put your orphaned kids into a portable to learn math with 50 others at once. Things are bad and your neighbours chose to live this way. Sorry.
On the 101st anniversary of the armistice ending the First World War, the never-ending culture war claimed another casualty: Don Cherry.
Cherry, an 85 year old human carpet-sample who was paid a lot of money to comment on hockey, claimed on the November 9th broadcast of Coach’s Corner that new immigrants are insufficiently respectful of the troops because he hasn’t seen them wearing poppies for Remembrance Day. Backlash was swift, and Cherry’s comments were condemned as racist. After no apology from Cherry he was fired by Sportsnet two days later.
Cherry’s comments about Remembrance Day are illustrative of how we remember past wars and relate to current ones. The right contextualizes Cherry’s firing as proof of how leftist elites try to silence patriotic troop loving conservatives with false accusations of racism. Pudding-brained Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington was quick to nab an interview with Cherry, and has gone on to compare the man and his persecution to that of Jesus Christ.
While the right’s amping up of outrage is to be expected, the mainstream centre-left condemned the racism while accepting the fundamental political framework constructed around Remembrance Day. This framework “honours sacrifices” and “respects service” of soldiers who fought for Canada, usually with a solemn reading of the pro-war poem In Flanders Fields. It can be inclusive—as NDP leader Jagmeet Singh responded to Cherry by tweeting about his Indian great grandfather’s military service and celebrating the diversity of combatants. By their very nature, world wars between giant colonial powers are going to be “inclusive”, but to use that fact to counter racism fails to critically engage with wars that Canada has participated in. It serves to allow Remembrance Day to be depoliticized as a day we simply honour veterans, and then politicized by the right as a way to suppress criticism of war and imperialism.
The contested ideological nature of Remembrance Day isn’t new. It remembers the Armistice signed to end the First World War, signed not because the ruling elites wanted the war to end, but because they were facing brewing social revolution at home. Russia had already left the war after the October Revolution, the German Kaiser had abdicated and a republic proclaimed, Austria-Hungary had disintegrated, the French army was mutinous, and Italy was facing huge political unrest. Throughout 1919, the war wasn’t remembered through muted ceremony, but incandescent popular anger as revolutions and enormous strikes swept the former belligerents. In Canada that year, general strikes like the one in Winnipeg convulsed many cities across the country.
The ruling class, while terrified, didn’t take this lying down. Violence was liberally used to crush insurrections and strikes, often employing the military. Abroad, the victorious Allies intervened in the Russian Civil War to support the Whites in their struggle against international communism. Canada sent 5000 of the 200,000 Allied forces deployed. After 5 years of war the intervention was domestically unpopular and in December 1918 Canadian troops in Victoria unsuccessfully mutinied to avoid being sent to Siberia. Worse still for Canada’s elite were soldiers returning with sympathy for socialism, such as Dawn Fraser, who became a keen observer of the class war in the Nova Scotia coal fields and the poet partisan of the miners’ organizing cause.
Eventually, the most radical waves of revolution were rolled back, and communism was more or less contained in Russia. The victorious powers awarded themselves the spoils, carving up defeated empires for their own gain, putting lie to any claim that WW1 was a war for “democracy”. Britain entered the war without universal male suffrage (40% were disenfranchised by property requirements) and wouldn’t enjoy universal adult suffrage until 1928. The colonial subjects who were distributed as war spoils had no vote at all. Canada was hardly better, with racial exclusions on who could vote enforced until after the Second World War.
This settlement led to an extended interwar crisis and another world war. A century later, much of the rapacious imperialism that caused the war, and drove its strategy, was accomplished and mostly forgotten. The more justifiable Canadian participation in the Second World War tends to overshadow this, but there has also been an intentional project to recast the First World War as something to celebrate. The Harper government set the the ideological tone of the centenary, particularly trying to cast the Battle of Vimy Ridge as a key nation building moment for Canada. This was most absurdly exemplified when the then Minister of Public Safety accused NDP MPs of being “communists” and “anti-WW1 activists” in 2013!
This cultivated respect for military service also hides some very important truths about the enormous power of social mobilization. The troops we’re supposed to honour weren’t lab-grown or apart from the regular citizenry, but of it. Ordinary people are the ones who provided the material and human resources to fight major wars, and both world wars required massive popular mobilization. These wars showed that ordinary people can move history, stop wars, and demand a better world. What if we mobilized for good? The level and effectiveness of planning and industrial mobilization from the two world wars left a big impact on post-war liberalism, and a fraction of that power was used in the construction of the post-war welfare state. Now as we face a climate crisis, the memory of social planning on that scale has faded. Instead we can only imagine futures of market subordinated climate action, eco-fascism, and conscripting to kill each other instead of building a just society.
What the Cherry controversy reveals is partly about who gets to belong to Canada, and whether you think he means whites-only, or multi-cultural troop respecting, this frame is insufficient. It leaves the remembrance of war as politically uncontested and intentionally obscures the power to change available to us if we choose it as one whole.
👮♀️The government can’t do crimes if the person who investigates the crimes doesn’t have a job. Notley got kicked out of the legislature for calling the reasons for this firing “corrupt”, which is pretty weak. Someone please just stand up and call Jason a lying sack of shit, just once.
🖕The government is looking for ‘feedback’ so they can ‘improve’ Employment Standards Legislation. Please use this form to tell them to go fuck themselves.
🛢️We’ve done one episode since our last newsletter — a breakdown of one of the most fascist and appalling pieces of oil propaganda this province has on offer.
🚂The true victim of city council being a bunch of ineffectual children are the innocent, beautiful trains.
💀Ralph Klein Park, a plot of junk land and grown-over landfills named for a pulsating, alcoholic Akira that stalked the halls of government for a time, will appropriately become host to a new cemetery, a rarity in Calgary. As Klein closed hospitals and drove health care workers away from Alberta with his every living breath, it is appropriate that the bodies of the province’s dead will molder under ground named for his damned legacy.
🌾In the harvest from hell, 2.7 million acres of canola have been left frozen to the ground in the prairies. Hellberta is not something that awaits us, but this life here and now. Adding to the pain is a strike (solidarity) at CN Rail preventing some farmers from getting to market.
📼The Calgary Chamber of Commerce made the worst video in the entire world. I literally cannot stop thinking about it.
🔮Sweden can read the fucking tea leaves and abandons their investments in Alberta. They know it’s all over except the crying.
👩🏫No profs, no teachers, no problem. People can’t detect a problem in government if they can’t spell “government”. Can’t have a problem with too-full classrooms if nobody knows they’re too full. Don’t have to cut teacher pensions if you just steal it.
🚗Calgary is apparently the best city in the world for drivers. It is also, coincidentally, a complete wasteland of public transit and a death trap for pedestrians and cyclists. To thank Calgary drivers for their diligence and skill, the UCP has lifted the cap on insurance rate increases, ensuring some Albertans a rate hike of upwards of 30%. That’s an estimate, however, because with no cap they can raise it however much they like, whenever they like! Fuck you, that’s why!
🌳Not even two weeks after one of their employees was fatally stabbed to death on the job, the UCP delivers a cut to Wood’s Homes budget and raps their knuckles over some bullshit.
😉When your kid needs some job security, baby, just join the government and shovel some cash at his boss.
🔫Our government is supporting the coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia, who was without a doubt removed from power because he was a) a socialist, b) Indigenous, and c) an anti-imperialist committed to ending the domination of foreign capital.
🤷♀️It’s pretty fucking obvious that oil companies that just flat out lying to us about spill risk and clean-up plans, and that our governments don’t care because profit for oil CEOs is more important than the environment, the planet or Indigenous rights.
✌️Elizabeth May tries to own Jason Kenney, the most ownable target in Canadian public life, and just looks stupid.
📰So long as elites get rich, the economy will always be just fine in the headlines.
🤖Making cents per hour is the cool thing all the cool kids in the gig economy are doing.
📸Google/Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs wants to turn Toronto into a CCTV blanketed hellscape, publishes document arguing hey, it’s already a CCTV blanketed hellscape!
🎨Turns out that if you make a movie about the history of DuPont, it will be pretty fucking damaging to DuPont. Might be all the murders and crimes.
📩FedEx managed to pay no taxes last year.
🏖️Capital will consume everything, down to the last grain of sand.
🕎If you love Walter Benjamin (all of Team Advantage) or being sad (also all of Team Advantage) or being Jewish (mostly Kate), there is a beautiful article in Jewish Currents about climate change and messianic time.
🧑🎤Comrade Taylor has mustered the Head Canon Rifles and launched an assault at the equity forces besieging her intellectual property. Low on food and ammo scarce, they have nonetheless launched themselves into a desperate bid to…let her make more millions. Godspeed, General Swift.
🍞BreadTube has the best chance at saving us all.
🚆The CN Rail picket is currently running 7AM-8PM every day at Barlow and 54th Avenue S.E.. Head down and show your solidarity with striking workers.
🎓AUPE is doing an info-picket at the University of Calgary in an effort to organize against the coming budget cuts.
✊Alberta Forward is hosting a protest at the UCP AGM so that people can assemble and tell some reapers to go fuck themselves. Details on Facebook.