rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Labour Day 2015: Analyzing Europe's refugee crisis through the lens of labour rights

Image: Flickr/Joe Athialy

Please support our coverage of democratic movements and become a supporter of rabble.ca.

On Labour Day 2015, the world's attention is focused on the great migration of desperate human beings streaming into Europe from the economic and military catastrophes of North Africa and the Middle East.

The proximate cause of the latest great wave of refugees is the civil war in Syria, a complicated and murky situation in which none of the major players in the military conflict unfolding in and around Syria appear to have the interests of the poor people of that benighted country at heart.

The Conservative government of Canada has been rightly excoriated for its pathetic and disingenuous determination to do as little as possible to solve this burgeoning human crisis -- which comes as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention -- while giving the impression we are pulling our weight with the rest of the world. The numbers show we are not.

But while we focus on the impact of a war we little understand, the larger crisis that Europe has been confronting and which will be with it for a long time yet has a cause closer to the meaning of Labour Day than that of Remembrance Day.

Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and in 2013-14 the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, discusses the connection between the Mediterranean migration crisis and the rights of working people in a useful essay published last week on Counterpunch.org.

"The West believes that it is acceptable for it to intervene to influence the political economy of the Third World -- to force IMF-driven 'reforms' on these states," Dr. Prashad wrote in Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe.

"Capital is allowed be borderless," he explains. "That freedom does not apply to labour -- to people. Migration is forbidden. … If Capital destroys the society here, its people cannot be allowed to migrate there.

"The West believes that it is acceptable for it to overthrow governments and bomb its enemies in the lands of the Third World. It sees this as the limit of its humanitarianism. It calls this humanitarian interventionism or, in the language of the UN, 'responsibility to protect' (R2P). When it breaks states, as it did in Libya, the West takes no responsibility for the broken lives of the people in those zones."

"Bombs are borderless," Dr. Prashad goes on. "But war refugees must stand in queues and be held in concentration camps. They are not allowed freedom of movement."

This is analysis worth pondering when Prime Minister Stephen Harper touts Canada's strategically unfocused and likely internationally illegal bombing mission in Syria as part of our humanitarian solution to the crisis of the Syrian civil war, and likewise lauds our military's participation in the disastrous Libyan campaign.

Libya, like Syria and Iraq, is another major source of the refugees streaming, at great peril, toward Europe.

It may be that to solve the crisis in Syria the West has to wage war, although it would help if we could agree on whom. But it should be obvious the task will be much bigger than that.

Regardless, surely the time has come for us to choose a government here in Canada that can look beyond bombs, walls and the concentration of wealth as the only panaceas for humanity's woes.

 

Anti-union propagandists still hard at work

Meanwhile, at home in Canada, the same corrosive neoliberal ideology -- which, like rust, never sleeps -- is once again busy this Labour Day assailing the very things that have made our country a desirable place to live and work, in particular the seasonal neoliberal attack on the right of working people to bargain collectively.

The tireless anti-union propagandists of the Fraser Institute, generously funded by foreign corporate interests that include the notorious Koch Brothers of New York, were at it again this weekend with their annual Labour Day paean to U.S.-style "right-to-work" legislation, laws designed to make it difficult for unions to operate with the hope of destroying utterly the ability of working people to work together for their common good.

This year's Fraser screed, the distribution of which was abetted as usual by the Postmedia newspaper chain that now dominates print and Internet mainstream news in English-speaking Canada, seems to have dispensed entirely with factual analysis, a trend that began last year when the facts couldn't be pretzelled to fit the fake institute's conclusions.

Instead, the Fraser fictionalists mainly spend their time this year singing the praises of the same Harper Government for its patently unconstitutional union "transparency" legislation, commonly known as Bill C-377. This is the law, passed in June, of which former Conservative Senator Hugh Segal predicted: "at the first legal challenge it will be struck down by the courts."

Other than restating their past claims about the supposed benefits of suppressing unions -- which are thoroughly debunked each year -- the Fraserites hardly even make an effort now to back them up with analysis. They seem instead to have moved fully into the realm of economic creation science.

Well, it's still a free country, after a fashion, and there's not much we can do about the willingness of the Fraser Institute to publish fiction or even outright lies. But we can do something about the foundering media chain that ensures this drivel has a mass audience.

Yes, I understand, a few of those Postmedia newspapers employ union members, but it is nevertheless time for Canadian unions to stop encouraging these unending efforts to destroy collective bargaining and the rights of working people by withholding our advertising dollars from Postmedia's newspapers.

At the very least, we should do so until they make and live up to a commitment to seek balancing comment, provided in advance, to every story featuring the dubious claims of right-wing thinktankery.

 

Please support our coverage of democratic movements and become a supporter of rabble.ca.

Image: Flickr/Joe Athialy

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.