In our second FTB Podcast, we discuss Printemps 2015, Quebec’s new student protest against austerity. Also, the role of the US, the UN and austerity in the coup in Ukraine. Plus, our first Montreal Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

    Panelists

Katie Nelson: anarchist, student, #manifencours participant

Der Kosmonaut: poet, political philosopher, geopolitical analyst, blogger @ der-kosmonaut.blogspot.com

Drew Wolfson Bell: sports Editor at the McGill Daily, third-year Education student

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

On September 18, the Scottish nation went to polling stations all around their country to decide whether they would become an independent country or not. Turns out, 55% of those who voted wanted to stay in the United Kingdom (UK).

We have to interpret this result carefully. After all the difference between those who voted yes and those who voted no is about 400 000 people. This is not a small number; it represents 10% of the entire electorate. If you compare this with Quebec’s similar referendum in 1995, where the referendum failed by a mere 1%, you start to see the difference.

The 10% means that there was, apparently, no chance for the vote to go either way. It indicates a clear decision made on part of the Scottish nation, and it is very important to emphasise this. The referendum was not a victory for the British government, nor a loss for the Scottish government. It was a statement made by a nation in a democratic context.

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At least, that’s what they say.

Using human rights rhetoric, we can say that the victory here belongs to the concept of right to self-determination: the idea that the nations and peoples of this world have the right to decide their own fate. Even if the Scottish nation voted not to become an independent country, the fact that they were able to vote on it sends a clear message to the world: it was their decision.

Assuming that governments are the sole “official” representatives of nations, this is the only definition we can work with.

Thinking within the Western paradigm of countries and governments, this is all very great. Let the people vote and let them decide whether they want to be ruled over by a government of their own peoples, or a government of other peoples. However, we need to realise that the right to self-determination only matters for those who already have power.

Take for instance Crimea and their referendum to choose between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. The Crimeans overwhelmingly voted in favour of joining the Russian Federation. This is exactly where the picture gets a bit muddy, when the politicking of people in power is mistaken for the decision of a nation. Was it actually the average Crimean’s desire to become a part of the Russian Federation, or was it ex-President Viktor Yanukovich’s hesitance to say no to Vladimir Putin?

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Propaganda poster from Crimea. “On March 16, we will choose.”

The Crimean referendum happened within the context of a military occupation. Pro-Russian forces were occupying the parliament, when they decided to hold their referendum.

For the average Scottish person, the fact that Scotland will remain a part of the UK does not change much. But for Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, the referendum also means that he has lost the chance of becoming the president of an independent state. And even if Scotland had become independent, Queen Elizabeth II would still remain the queen of Scotland.

Nevertheless, Scotland has made its decision; or more importantly was able to make a decision. There are other nations out there who cannot even get to that stage; let alone discuss the finer implications of the right to self-determination. The Catalonians living in Spain are denied their right to hold a referendum by the Spanish government, and the Kurds in Turkey cannot even openly talk about self-determination.

The world of politics loves to pacify people by making them believe their choices matter. The human rights rhetoric is the most perfect tool of legitimization in the 21st century. Argue that you are doing things to protect the rights of your nation, and for the betterment of the people you represent; and everybody seems to forget that you are in a position of power, and anything you do is technically in order to protect that position.

No, it’s not April 1st, no FTB has not turned into the Onion and yes, you did read the headline correctly. Stephen Harper is to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yes, that Stephen Harper. The Prime Minister responsible for Canada’s unprecedented shift of focus from peacekeeping to full-on militarization. The man whose administration ruined Canada’s reputation internationally and even got us kicked off the UN Security Council.

This is the same Stephen Harper who clearly isn’t interested in bringing any sort of peace or justice to the homefront, either. He’s set out to augment our prison population by increasing sentences for small drug offenses, re-criminalizing sex work and criminalizing acts of dissent like wearing a mask at a protest.

Clearly there are many reasons why he should not win or even be considered for a prize of peace. But, to be fair, let’s look at the reasons for the nomination, in this case put forward by B’nai Brith:

“Moral clarity has been lost across much of the world, with terror, hatred and antisemitism filling the void,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Frank Dimant said in the organization’s press release, “throughout, there has been one leader which has demonstrated international leadership and a clear understanding of the differences between those who would seek to do evil, and their victims. More than any other individual, he has consistently spoken out with resolve regarding the safety of people under threat — such as opposing Russian aggression and annexation of Ukrainian territory — and has worked to ensure that other world leaders truly understand threat of Islamic terrorism facing us today. ”

If you read between the lines, it’s pretty clear  “the differences between those who seek to do evil, and their victims” refers to Harper’s unwavering support of Israel’s humanitarian crisis-inducing assault on Gaza. Now even if your blinders are so thick that you feel this attack is justified, arguing that support for and encouragement of a military action makes someone a man of peace takes a logical leap much greater than the Canadian North, which, by the way, Harper is also trying to militarize.

The same goes for Russia and Ukraine. Even if you think someone is on the right side of a conflict, being on any side instead of working for a solution should automatically disqualify you from winning a peace prize.

War is not peace. Orwell’s 1984 was meant as a warning, not a guide.

So, while Harper clearly shouldn’t win, stranger things have happened. Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize before he had a chance to do anything. At least it was for the hope of peace in his campaign speeches and not for his drones.

Unless Harper does a complete about-face on most of his policies real soon, I think it’s important that we let the Nobel people know that Harper is in no way a man of peace and completely undeserving of this award. Looks like others feel the same way. There’s already a petition asking the Nobel committee to reject Harper’s nomination.

This is great, but maybe we should go one step further and think of our own Canadian nominees for the prize. It shouldn’t be that hard to find someone more deserving of a peace prize than Harper. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments, or, at the very least, sign the petition.

We shouldn’t let our national embarrassment of a warmongering Prime Minister be celebrated as a man of peace. Even the very suggestion of such an accolade needs to be stopped and quickly.

The month of March 1871 French society was rocked by two astonishing events; first the crushing of the French army at the hands of the Prussians, which resulted in the fall of the regime of Napoleon II and consequently the armed uprising of the laborious classes of Paris against a French political elite that had failed them, and a German invading elite that would oppress them.

Fast forward to February 2014 Ukraine, more specifically Kiev was the epicentre of what appeared to be a repeat of the Orange pro-western, pro-Europe, pro-NATO revolution. Things didn’t go according to plan after this, and within a matter of weeks the “revolution” was hijacked by neo-Nazi, fascistic elements which had been it’s brute force and backbone since its onset. In response to this, several towns (notoriously Donetsk) declared themselves autonomous communes or people’s republics, not to be ruled by the pro-Russian oligarchy that had failed them or by the hollow promises of the pro-Western elites with their fascist tendencies.

Unfortunately media coverage for the most part is oblivious or willingly hides this aspect and paints the Ukrainian conflict in an antiquated mini Cold-War proxy war scenario between the evil Russians and the Free World, A.K.A. the West.

But these popular revolutions are the most interesting development within the Ukrainian conflict and they are the true un-manipulated essence of the Maidan revolt. Very quickly a popular revolt against austerity measures, the over-concentration of wealth and power, economic inequality and social injustice was turned into a pro-Western revolt, to serve the interests of a European Union that were searching for a diversion from the quagmire of austerity.

The main reason why the western media outlets have made no mention of these uprising is obvious: it’s because of the labouring masses of Donetsk. Throughout eastern Ukraine, people are fighting the same fight as are millions of unemployed, battered and toiled western workers. They wouldn’t want to give them ideas, now would they…

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Within the first weeks of the “pro-Russian” uprisings, as the main media outlets like to label them, the citizens of the newly founded Communes took immediate action to bring under their management the main industries that were now within their jurisdiction. On the other hand the newly elected government in Kiev with the sanction of the Ukrainian oligarchs of which the tycoon Rinat Akhmetov — a billionaire that made his fortune through the exploitation of the miners of the Donbass — called on the “occupying” miners to put an end to their illegal “strike” and self-determination or suffer the consequences.

During that time, neo-Nazi elements of the Ukrainian nationalistic extreme right started their campaign of intimidation and consolidation of power, targeting organized labor and ‘communists,’ taking control of several important portfolios within the newly established Kiev government. The culminating point of this vast campaign of terror was the infamous burning of the trade union house of Odessa that resulted in the death of 23 people. The Ukrainian fascist community was in ebullition, celebrating the deaths of the “Russian terrorists.” The international community – the West – was silent.

For the past few months, the Ukrainian government has been on the offensive against its own people, declaring an all out war on the people’s republics that have sprung-up throughout the east of Ukraine. With diplomatic and tactical support from the West, the region has been carpet-bombed resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent civilians.

In another context, lets say the Balkans in the 1990s, this would have pushed the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union to condemn and take action either on the ground or through economical sanctions against the Kiev regime for their violation of human rights and their blatant disrespect of the people of eastern Ukraine’s right to self-determination. Then again, self-determination is only acceptable when it serves the purposes of neo-liberalism and the will of the free-markets.

Through this context though the idea of self-determination has been put to test and is being shaped little by little, self-determination becomes more than just a right tied to a people through an ethnic or cultural link. It mutates and becomes an undeniable right for every human being to be able to control the means of production of their well-being, thus making the industry revolve around the will of the people instead of the bestial urge of profit.

Many parallels have been drawn since the dawn of the Ukrainian conflict with the horrors of WWII and some with the one-hundredth anniversary of the WWI. In reality the conflict that is in motion before us isn’t between great powers, it is a conflict that stems from uncontrolled, unbridled capitalism that generates poverty, conflict and chaos. It is a struggle to tame the flow of capital, to domesticate and subdue, rendering it a fertilizer for the whole of humanity.

And this is exactly the point Piketty misses within his most recent work Capital in the 21st century. Unfortunately we have gotten to a point of no return, where inequality is too great to be tamed with a globalized tax on financial transactions, as long as neo-liberalism prevails many more Ukraines are on the horizon.

PS: This article is dedicated to all of the Ukrainians that have lost their lives in the fight against fascism and that have fought to have a dignified life.

A luta continua.