What is really going on in Hungary? Information for the communist and workers’ parties of the world

Presidium, Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party

On the 1st of January 2012 a new constitution came into force in Hungary. In connection with it the Western press has published many materials saying that what is happening now in Hungary, “leads to impoverishment of people” and ”threatens democracy and tightens the government’s grip on the media and the judiciary despite criticism from Europe and the United States”.

On the 2nd of January a large demonstration took place at the Opera house in Budapest. The official organiser of the demonstration, the newly formed Solidarity movement, has a couple of dozen members. Its leader is the former president of the trade union of army and police servicemen, he himself is a former army officer trained among others in one of the US military institutes.

Behind the demonstration one can find the Hungarian Socialist Party and liberal forces and also the „civil” organisations, formed by them. In this demonstration did not take part any civil organisation which really struggle against poverty, to protect families, against eviction, etc., or for example traditional student organisations? Neither the movements of agricultural workers, nor trade-unions were present. Among the slogans of that demonstration you can find nothing about a new labour code, no protest against the IMF pressure and intervention. The reaction of western media to these events results from the same sources which earlier have supported the former social-liberal government and their austerity policy.

But what is really going on in Hungary?

1. In April 2010 the conservative Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union won the parliamentary elections and replaced the former government of socialist-liberal forces led by the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP).

The parliamentary parties consider the elections of 2010 as a turning point in Hungarian history. The Fidesz declares that it was the „beginning of a new revolution”. The socialists and its allies consider it as the „beginning of autocracy and dictatorship”.

2. The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party has the opinion that the real historic change took place not in 2010 but in 1989-1990 when socialism was destroyed in Hungary. It was a capitalist counterrevolution. The power of the working class was replaced by the power of capitalist forces. State owned industrial factories and banks, agricultural collective farms were privatized. Hungary joined the NATO in 1999 and entered the EU in 2004. The capitalist system based on private economy and bourgeois democracy was stabilized.

It was the change from socialism to capitalism that lead to the general impoverishment of the Hungarian people. Hungary has a population of 10 million. 1, 5 million Hungarians live under the poverty line which means that they live of an income less than 200 euros a month. Almost 4 million live of an income of 250 euros per month. The official number of unemployed is 0, 5, in reality there are about 1 million people without any chance to get a job.

The limitation of democracy began not in 2010 but in 1989-1990. Political forces fighting against capitalist system, first of all the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party do not have access to public media. Red star, hammer and sickle – ”as symbols of tyranny” – were banned in 1993. In 2007 the whole leadership of the HCWP was accused of “libel made in public”. Anti-communist campaigns have taken place regardless of which bourgeois party is at the power.

3. The Hungarian capitalist class has different parties to express their interests. On one hand it is the Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union which expresses the interests of conservative, nationally minded part of the capitalist class. It is traditionally orientated on Germany.

On the other hand there are the Hungarian Socialist Party and the Party „Politics Can Be Different” which represent the liberal and social democratic part of capitalist class. They are closer to the United States and Israel.

The fight between the two parts of Hungarian capitalist class has deep historical roots. Before 1989 there were two main streams of the anti-socialist oppositional movement, the nationally minded conservative line and the liberal tendency. In 1990 the first capitalist government was formed by the conservatives. At the same time the liberals agreed about a long-term cooperation with the Hungarian Socialist Party, a rightwing social democratic party. Many of the leaders of this party are coming from the former socialist period but they fully changed their position and many of them became rich capitalists.

After destroying the socialist system the capitalist forces created a new political structure which existed untill 2010. It was based on the following principles:

– The nationally minded conservative forces and the liberals together with the socialists will rotate in the power.

– None of them can have absolute power.

– They prevent any anti-capitalist forces from entering the parliament.

– All of them will respect obligations in connection with NATO and EU and there will be no discussions on foreign political issues.

All the parliamentary elections between 1990 and 2006 demonstrated a clear equilibrium between the two groups of parties. The situation changed dramatically after 2006. It became clear that the Hungarian capitalism is in deep crisis. It had three main reasons. First, the Hungarian economy fully depends on foreign capital. Second, the Hungarian people are poor, they have exhausted their reserves. Third, corruption became a serious problem, paralyzing the normal functioning of state.

By 2010 the capitalist forces realised that the socialist-liberal forces cannot guarantee the internal stability of capitalism, are not able to prevent social explosions. That’s why they decided to change the socialist-liberal coalition and to open the way before the Fidesz.

The main task of the conservative Fidesz, and its government headed by Viktor Orban was to prevent any developments similar to the events in Greece. The Fidesz won the elections with social slogans (full employment, social security etc.). The majority of the people were deeply unsatisfied with the socialist-liberal government. The Fidesz could easily manipulate them and to get a two-third majority in the new parliament.

4. The conservative government has been realising changes in different directions:

They strengthened their own class-basis. The Fidesz put its people on all positions in the political life, media, and culture. They declared their idea to create a new middle-class.

They satisfied the nationalist forces in Hungary by introducing double-citizenship for people of Hungarian nationality living abroad, introducing new memorial events connected with the Trianon peace-treaty of 1920.

They took a clear turn to conservative and nationalist tradition in politics, culture, and education.

They decided to prevent a social explosion by different means. First, they introduced a new Labour Code which gives very wide rights to the capitalist owners and turns workers practically into slaves. Second, they divided the working masses by giving serious money to railway-workers and raising the minimal salary. Third, they concluded an agreement with the leading confederations of trade unions. They could save their privileges and at the same time gave up real class-struggle.

The new government launched a general anti-communist campaign. In 2010 the Penal Code was changed. They declared that communism and fascism are the same and those who reject the „crimes of communism and fascism” can be sentenced up to 3 years of imprisonment. (Until now there have not been any legal sentences.)

In the last days of 2011 a new law was accepted regulating the process of transition to the new constitution. Among other it declares that the period of socialism (1948-1990) was illegitimate, full of crimes. Leading personalities of the socialist period can be accused and sentenced. Their pensions can be reduced. The law contains a general statement: the contemporary Hungarian Socialist Party as legal successor of the ruling party of the socialist period has responsibility for all what had happened at that time. It is not clear yet what consequences it can lead to.

5. The socialist-liberal forces have launched recently serious counterattack against the government.

The Socialist Party took over many social slogans and demands of the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party. They began to use red colour which the traditional colour of communists.

The socialists and the liberals began to create new civil organizations and movements. In October 2011 the Solidarity movement was created with clear pro-socialist orientation.

They introduced a new demand: down with the Orban-government! Their program is to create a new socialist-liberal government.

6. The United States of America has openly interfered into the internal affairs of Hungary. The US ambassador in Budapest criticises openly the official government and supports the position of the socialist-liberal forces. Secretary of State Clinton made the same in her letter on 23 December 2011. The letter was published by the liberal press.

7. The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party considers:

Hungarian capitalism is in crisis. The general crisis of capitalism in Europe makes the Hungarian situation even worse and unpredictable.

The Hungarian capitalist class understands that if the euro system or the EU itself collapses, it will lead to social explosions even more dramatic than in Greece. They understand that people are unsatisfied and many of them consider that socialism was better that the actual capitalism.

Both the conservative and the socialist-liberal groups of capitalist class want to prevent any social explosion. They are different not in their main efforts but in the methods they want to use.

What is now going on in Hungary, it is on one hand a common fight of the capitalist class against the working masses, on the other hand, a struggle between two groups of the capitalist class. Even more it is a struggle between the leading capitalist powers, the US and Germany for European dominancy.

The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party does not support any of the Bourgeois parties. We declare that the main problems of working people are unemployment, low salaries, high prices, exploitation, and uncertain future. These problems are the consequences of capitalism. The capitalist governments cannot and do not want to solve them.

The only solution of the problems of working people is consequent struggle against capitalism and fight for socialist perspective.

The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party does not support the mass-demonstrations of the socialist and liberal forces. Their aim is not to change capitalism. Their aim is to change the conservative capitalist government with a socialist-liberal capitalist government.

The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party does not support the Fidesz either. Their aim is not to create socialist society but to reform and strengthen capitalism.

The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party considers its obligation to explain people that there is only one way to solve their problem. We should fight against capitalism.

We want to be present everywhere there are working people. We want to help them in small things in order to get their confidence in great things.

We will unveil all efforts of revisionist and opportunist forces which want to manipulate working people and to win them for the social democracy.

There is not any revolutionary situation in Hungary. But things can turn worse in Europe and in Hungary. That’s why we prepare the party, our members and units for more radical class struggle which can happen at any time.

We are convinced that it corresponds to our common position agreed on the 13th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties.


*note: This document, and many others, are available here on the English version of the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party website.

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Poll: Arizonans Oppose Right-Wing Agenda

special to peoplesworld.org

PHOENIX – A new statewide poll released today shows Arizonans, including self-identified Republicans, overwhelmingly oppose the extreme legislative agenda being pushed by lawmakers at the Statehouse, particularly measures attacking teachers, nurses and other public service workers who keep our communities safe and strong.

The poll showed Arizonans overwhelmingly want legislators to focus on creating jobs and improving education.  The poll – which had a majority of respondents self-identifying as Republicans – also found that only 29 percent of Arizonans approve of the job legislators are doing for them, a finding that shows voters see their lawmakers as extreme and out of touch.

“This poll confirms what we already knew: Arizonans are tired of partisan political games that only benefit special interests like the Goldwater Institute and Arizona’s 1 percent,” said John Loredo, who is working with the Arizona Working Families Coalition and is the former Arizona House Minority Leader.  “Legislators can either focus on job creation and improving education or face the wrath of voters in November by continuing to push these unpopular, overreaching policies that hurt working families and our communities.”

The release of the poll comes a day after Arizonans delivered over 20,000 petitions, postcards and letters to Senators opposing a bill that destroys personnel protections and institutes political cronyism, and other measures that do nothing to create jobs and only put families and communities at risk.  Though the poll shows job creation is the number one priority for Arizonans, reports from earlier this month show that the Senate Economic Development and Jobs Creation Committee had only met once since January and heard only three bills.

“Since the beginning of the year, extreme lawmakers have ignored the issues Arizonans elected them to work on and, instead, pushed an all-out assault on Arizona working families,” said Mike Covert, an elementary school special education teacher with the Cave Creek Unified School District for the past seven years, and a registered independent voter. “With tens of thousands of Arizonans looking for work, it is disheartening to see some legislators focused on bills that create no jobs but open the door to cronyism in government and hurt teachers, nurses and others who provide vital services to our communities.”

Lake Research Partners conducted the statewide telephone survey among a representative cross section of 400 registered Arizona voters on March 26-28, 2012. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

Here are some of the findings from the poll:

  • 76 percent of respondents said they support the current personnel law that says there must be a reason to fire public employees like teachers, police and firefighters.
  • 87 percent felt that police and firefighters should have a say in their own training and job procedures, which is part of the current personnel laws, while only 8 percent said politicians said have the final say on these procedures, a change that would come if the current personnel bill is passed.
  • An overwhelming majority of Arizonans – 73 percent – also oppose a law, currently before the legislature, to prohibit public employees from setting up their paychecks to automatically contribute money to a third party.
  • On legislative priorities Arizonans would like to see lawmakers work on, 40 percent ranked job creation their number one concern followed by improving education at 36 percent. Only 9 percent said legislators’ priority should be to change the current hiring and firing process for public employees.
  • Only 29 percent of respondents gave state legislators a positive approval rating. 35 percent rating their work as “just fair” and 34 percent said lawmakers were doing a “poor” job. This mirrors an earlier poll conducted in January by Behavior Research of Arizona that found only 26 percent of Arizonans with a positive approval of legislators but shows an increase in disapproval.
  • Gov. Brewer fared better but a majority of Arizonans polled – 52 percent – gave her a “just fair” or “poor” rating.
  • 50 percent of those polled self-identified as Republicans.

To see the full polling results, click on this link or go here.

*note: People’s Voice is the news website of the Communist Party USA. The original article can be found here

Seven Questions for the Dalai Lama

Editor’s Note: It is a universal rule that all religions and their sects should forbid murdering and telling lies, and protect the interests of the country and its people. Tibetan Buddhism is no exception.

It is also a rule of Buddhism and a common understanding that life should be cherished and truth should be respected. However, reviewing some remarks and actions of the 14th Dalai Lama in recent years, the writer cannot help raising some questions to him. (original)

Q1:Why does the Dalai Lama deliberately incite Tibetans for self-immolation?

The Dalai Lama called on Tibetans not to celebrate Losar so as to memorize “the fallen heroes of Tibet” in Dharamsala, India on Feb.22, 2012.

The writer can’t help thinking that the Dalai Lama is deliberately encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate since he appealed to all Tibetans not to celebrate Losar in memorial of self-immolators.

It’s been thousands of years for Tibetans to celebrate Tibetan New Year, which is an important carrier of Tibetan culture, customs and emotions. Tibetans are able to obtain the great soul from Losar after a year of hard work.

However, “self-immolation” is an extreme way to end one’s life. In the modern age, any group or force encouraging self-immolation for their illegal purposes in any place is bound to be condemned.

UN declaration on measures to eliminate international terrorism declared that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular communities for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.

From “3.14 Riots” in 2008 to recent self-immolations, all those incidents were premeditated long before and happened at a price of ordinary Tibetans’ peaceful life and even lives?

There is a saying in Buddism: “Saving one life is better than build a seven-storey pagoda”. Looking back, how many young lives have been terminated due to the Dalai Lama’s bewitching. Even if the Dalai Lama build hundreds of thousands of temples, it could not offset his sin in inciting repeated self-immolations of young monks.

Q2: Who extinguishes Tibetan culture?

In November 2011, the 14th Dalai Lama acclaimed in Japan that the reason for Tibetan monks’ self-immolations was “China’s policy on extinguishing Tibetan culture”.

As to “Tibetan culture”, the Dalai Lama follows such a logic: Tibetan culture is the culture of Tibetan Buddhism, the culture of Tibetan Buddhism is the culture of the Gelug Sect (the yellow sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and the sect of the Dalai Lama) while the Dalai Lama has the final speaking in the Gelug Sect.

In other words, anything that goes against the Dalai Lama is regarded by him as “extirpation of Tibetan culture”. What a ridiculous idea! The Dalai Lama still treats himself as the serf owner, Tibet as his property and Tibetan people as his slaves.

A scholar has pointed out that the so-called “extinguished Tibetan culture” refers to the absolute privilege of the religious figures. In the Dalai Lama’s eyes, the fact that common Tibetans master the culture would violate the stiff hierarchy of theocracy.

In fact, Tibetan culture consists of not only religious culture but also folk culture, not only traditional culture but also modern culture, not only the culture of the Tibetan ethnic group but also the cultures of other ethnic groups, such as Confucius culture, Mongolian culture and Manchu culture.

The religious culture has never been the only content of Tibetan culture, let alone the “Dalai Lama’s culture” or “Gelug culture”. The 14th Dalai Lama racks his brains to cheat the world that he develops the whole Tibetan culture if he develops the Gelug culture. What he does is the worst “extirpation of Tibetan culture”!

In the writer’s opinion, the Dalai Lama’s “extirpation of Tibetan culture” exposes his ugly purpose: he attempts to meet the demand of Tibetan separatists and stir up the Western forces’ “impulse to put pressure on China” in order to realize his aim of restoring Tibet’s serfdom and dividing China.

Q3: Are the central government of China and Tibet in a “Supply and Granting” relationship?

The 14th Dalai Lama claimed in his “Reincarnation Statement” that the “Supply and Granting” relationship between the central governments of Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) and Tibet didn’t change even when the 13th Dalai Lama was conferred in 1879.

His statement implied that inland China and Tibet was historically in the so-called “Supply and Granting” relationship, and denied Tibet as an administratively subordinative region of China.

Reviewing the history of Qing, however, the author cannot help wondering why the Dalai Lama, known for his lineal memory of previous life, suddenly became “amnesiac” and denies the fact that Tibet is an inalienable part of China. The author would like to help Dalai Lama recover his memory kindly by raising some questions.

Since the Dalai Lama considered the central government and Tibet had no “Supply and Granting” relationship when he was appointed, why was he so polite towards the central government’s ministers stationed in Tibet, reporting everything and seeking for support whenever he met problems?

Did he remember that he had directly reported to the emperor but was denied for bypassing the ministers stationed in Tibet?

The author believes that his previous life didn’t forget these facts before he was reincarnated, and he should not suddenly lose memory. He cannot go so far as to deny those facts as a human being.

Here is a piece of advice for the Dalai Lama: if there were no “Supply and Granting” relationship between the central government and Tibet and no drawing lot from the golden urn, the Dalai Lama and his previous life would not have existed either, let alone the “shows” he performed today.

At present,”traveling through time” is prevalent in the films and TV series. And I think the Dalai Lama should also “travel back” and review his previous life, and then he will tell the truth.

Q4: Why did you build up a “Berlin Wall” of national antagonism?

“Since the Berlin Wall collapsed, the world has witnessed that despotism has no future…the world belongs to humanity, and every country belongs to its people, not a political party, nor a king or spiritual leaders”, said the Dalai Lama in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) in July 2011, acting as if he is the “protector” of the world.

However, the author once noticed that the Dalai Lama stated in the “Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People” (delivered in November 2008) that “it would be vital that” the so-called future “autonomous organs of self-government have the authority to regulate the residence, settlement and employment or economic activities of persons who wish to move to Tibetan areas from other parts of the PRC”. This remark is a public declaration to expel non-Tibetan residents out of Tibet.

At the same time, the Dalai Lama and his followers advocated the “promotion of harmonious relationships between the Tibetan and Han people” with their tongues in cheeks, colluding with some shameless scholars to organize “Friendship Association between the Tibetan and Han people”. Through the contrast, it is evident that the Dalai Lama is a tricky liar skilled in double-dealing. His real intention of stirring up national hatred is obvious.

To be specific, the Dalai Lama was preying for support and sympathy with so-called slogan of “autonomy”, so that the feudal serfdom can be restored one day; and in the name of “protecting ethnic characteristics”, he was actually building up a “Berlin Wall” of ethnic segregation and confrontation.

The remarks of the Dalai Lama remind us of the uncontrolled and cruel Nazi during the Second World War.

Behind the Dalai Lama’s concepts of “Middle Way Approach” and “high-level autonomy” is actually the idea of ethnic separation.

How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jewish!

Q5: Who do you speak for?

On February 10, 2010, the Dalai Lama asserted that he had responsibilities to speak for 6 million Tibetans during his trip of U.S.

He always plays tricks under the cover of doing good for Tibetans. It is doubtable that the Dalai Lama would speak on the behalf Tibetans as he is sponsored by the US and his relatives work for Central Intelligence Agency.

Let us find out who does the Dalai Lama actually speaks for.

The Dalai Lama claimed himself “son of India” on November 22nd, 2009. To be filial to his “father”, Dalai frequently exclaimed that the Lhoka Prefecture in Tibet belongs to India. He even said that India was better qualified for claiming Tibet’s sovereignty.

The Dalai Lama is the largest serf-owner in the old Tibet. He enjoyed the obedience of officials and owned all land, livestock and serfs.

The secular Geluns who followed him fleeing to India are no exception from oppressors. Top leaders of the Dalai Clique are merely ordinary Tibetans.

As for lives of the Tibetan communities in exile, they live in poverty and misery which can not be compared with their counterparts in China. It is doubted whether the Dalai Lama could repay them.

The Dalai Lama is labeled as “American follower”, “Son of India” and the formerly “serf-owner”. He speaks for his overseas boss and the feudal serf system. Democracy and election, out of his feudal realm before, became his “slogan” now. What a fickle man.

There is no possibility that the Dalai Lama can serve as a qualified leader for his followers. Unless he had rewritten his gene mapping as a serf-owner and traitor, could he be the spokesman of the Tibetans, which we all know is impossible.

Q6: Who are you praying for?

The Dalai Lama always says that he admires the courage of those who have died in self-immolation incidents and he will pray for them. To win the chance of being prayed by the Dalai Lama who has special religious status, his followers are in no doubt required to imitate their “examples”. The Dalai Lama has pointed out the method: “self-immolation’.

Praying is a common thing in religion, but if it were used with despicable intention it would become curse. What is the 14th Dalai Lama actually praying for then?

At first glance, the Dalai Lama seems to have prayed a lot: he did pray for the accidents such as Japan earthquake, the tsunami in Indonesia, and Taiwan typhoon.

However, when it comes to the interests of the United States and his other supporters, the Dalai Lama must be tight-lipped regardless of creatures being trampled on. For example, recently the US soldiers shot a dozen Afghan women and children, but the Dalai Lama dared not speak even a word. How clever he is!

The Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008 killed tens of thousands of lives instantly including many Tibetans. When some of them were not confirmed dead or alive, on May 15, the Dalai Lama visited Germany. However, he made no comment on the human catastrophe when many Tibetans were suffering physical and mental pain, nor did he express a trace of sympathy. Sources said that the Dalai Lama was in inexplicable ecstasy, showing his “real gaffe “.

What’s more, the Dalai Lama did nothing for the quake-hit Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, though he murmured a few words. It was the huge investment from central government that helped the affected Tibetans to rebuild their homes quickly.

After all, the Dalai Lama’s “prayer” is just a political one. He himself should know clearly whether his title of “Nobel Peace Prize winner” is true or false. He painted camouflage of “blessing”, but the color is peeling off and the inside is being brought to light.

Q7: Why Dalai Lama is despised by Netizens?

Before each self-immolation, it was always accompanied by activities such as “religious affairs” or “assemble meeting” organized by the Dalai Clique. The Chinese netizens gave an insight into the case.

Netizens said the Dalai Lama and his followers, who were all religious figures, had intervened in politics. It should not be allowed by any civilized society.

The Dalai Lama’s motive is clear: to restore the feudal serfdom system in Tibet under the cloak of “democracy”, “election” and “peace” with helps from his foreign partners.

Neither the history nor the people would agree.

The netizens’ voices generally represent the public opinions. We wonder if the Dalai Lama is aware of the fact that he is despised by the public.

The Dalai Lama isn’t worthy of worship. He has never felt contented for his super privilege as head of the feudal serfdom society. So today it is impossible for the monk to “debase himself” and join in carrying out the “democracy”.

Here, I would like to give a piece of advice to the Dalai Lama that if he continued to place himself against the country and the people, he wouldn’t have a good end.

Don’t even think about trying to separate Tibet from China. All the 56 ethnic groups unite together here.

The following is a letter written by a netizen to the Dalai Lama and his western supporters:

I ask God, “When will Tibet be independent?”

God answers, “It is impossible until the earth comes to the end.”

I ask, “Why do some people still play tricks to split China?'”

God illustrates, “They are ignorant, boring and inhuman.”

I am confused and ask, “Why don’t you punish them?'”

God says, “I am in charge of human beings’ behaviors rather than domestic animals.”

I ask, “Who will be responsible for them?'”

God answers contemptuously, “You’d better ask ‘Miss Liberty’ in US.'”

“The white pretentious woman standing at the harbor called ‘Liberty’? ”

“Yes, it is her.'”

“Well, to be frank, I don’t believe in her.”

*note: Originally published on China Tibet OnlineMarch 23, 2012.

Accountability and Integrity Subcommittee Passes Gag Order Against Citizen Complainants

by Joey Coleman
Published March 30, 2012

An accountability and transparency subcommittee that does not publish its agendas or minutes has now voted to gag citizens from speaking publicly about their integrity complaints.

Hamilton City Council’s accountability and transparency subcommittee met Thursday and acted to decrease both accountability and transparency at City Hall. Among their decisions was a vote passing a gag law against citizens who file complaints to the integrity commissioner.

The accountability and transparency committee does not publish any of its agendas or minutes and there is no streaming of their meetings. Efforts to get City Hall to publish these documents on its website have been unsuccessful.

Instead, the City posts the phone number (but not the email address) of the contact in the clerks’ department to request a copy.

Thankfully, CATCH attended the “accountability and transparency” meeting and filed a report about the committee’s decisions.

(I could not attend the meeting as I’m in Ottawa to speak at the University of Ottawa about open data this afternoon. There will be a livestream.)

Council sub-committee passes gag order

Among its decisions, the committee passed a motion banning citizens who have filed complaints about council behaviour from talking to the media. If citizen complainants speak to the media, their complaint will be dismissed regardless of merit. It is not clear whether another citizen can file a separate complaint about the same matter.

While not retroactive, this policy would have resulted in the current complaint against Mayor Bratina – spurred on by councillors only days after they voted to maintain the $100 complaint filing fee – being dismissed after the citizen complainant responded to media enquiries.

Lobbying to make the transparency sub-committee transparent

I’ve lobbied City Council to make the “accountability and transparency” committee transparent by publishing agendas and minutes on the city website so citizens may be aware of what this ironically named committee is debating.

On Saturday, I tweeted every Councillor on twitter to ask publicly if they felt the committee should be transparent. I wrote about the issue on my personal blog.

Councillors promised to action the matter and get the transparency committee to post documents.

On Wednesday morning just after 9 a.m., the clerks’ department sent a copy of the agenda without any documents or motions. There is nothing on the agenda to indicate the committee was considering a gag order against citizens.

Agenda for the March 29, 2012 meeting of the Accountability and Transparency Committee
Agenda for the March 29, 2012 meeting of the Accountability and Transparency Committee

Consequences of the gag order

The gag order will not stop the media and public from learning of complaints against members of Council. As noted by now-former city solicitor Peter Barkwell yesterday afternoon, the gag order is unenforceable.

The immediate response to the gag order from the media will be an increase in anonymous sourcing. The only method of protecting citizens who wish to speak out about Council behaviour is to ensure they are not fingered as an anonymous source by the process of elimination.

It’s ironic that councillors cite concerns about complaints damaging their reputations and then create conditions that force media to shield critics.

It will further discredit an already discredited process. It appears the only purpose of having the city’s ineffective complaints process is to impose gag orders on citizens and shield council from accountability.

Council can’t gag their own internal leakers. How do they plan to gag citizens?

In another irony, council can’t gag themselves. Everything leaks out of city hall – emails, conversations, behind-the-scenes manoeuvres and pretty anything else of political gain to the leakers.

How can council prove that a citizen is the source of a leak? They can’t and they know it. So why pass such blatantly anti-accountability legislation? It appears some members of council just don’t get it.

Council promised to do better

Only weeks ago, in light of criticism by the provincial ombudsman about improper closed meetings, council promised to do better. A new era of transparency was upon us. Council had seen the light and were going to amend their ways.

Council decided to censure the mayor this week but instead of obeying the Municipal Act and debating the matter in public, they scripted the meeting behind closed doors. It was a blatant disregard for public accountability and the public record – they are no minutes of why each councillors choose to vote in favour of a historic censure against the mayor.

Decades from now, historians looking back will know there was a censure, but have no record of any debate. To make matters worse, the livestream failed during the meeting and there is no public video record of the meeting. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that council’s livestream fails at tense moments such as the censure vote.

Of course, even when the livestream works, it does not work for everyone. But despite using a proprietary technology (Microsoft Silverlight) that doesn’t work on mobile devices, tablets, or open source operating systems, city staff have no plans to adopt open standards for streaming.

Councillors moved to meet at 5:00 PM to better suit their schedules, thereby depriving employed citizens the opportunity to exercise their right to attend meetings. The least council can do is immediately fix the livestreaming issues and offer live audio streaming so citizens can listen to meetings during their commute home.

What needs to happen now

It’s time make citizen members – completely independent of employment in government – the majority on the “accountability and transparency” sub-committee.

Following this, the accountability and transparency committee must be made accountable and transparent in how it conducts its business. Agendas, motions, and minutes must be posted on the city website.

Council’s audit, finance and administration committee must immediately reject the gag order against citizens.

Council must direct city staff to make livestreams available for all modern platforms using open HTML5 streaming standards. If the stream is not working, no committee shall be allowed to meet until it is fixed.

These are simple steps that council can take to fulfill their promise of a new era of transparency.

Alternately, council can continue to write my stories for me. A transparency committee that doesn’t publish agendas or minutes – that’s a headline that writes itself.

Joey Coleman loves pinball and journalism. His journalism experience includes over two years at Maclean’s Magazine as a reporter/blogger (he refused to be known just as a reporter) and photographer covering higher education. He followed this up with two years writing for The Globe and Mail’s higher education site GlobeCampus. His personal website ishttp://www.joeycoleman.ca/, but he mostly tweets @JoeyColeman and sometimes updates his Facebook page.

*note: This article originally appeared here on Raise the Hammer. Raise the Hammer is a Hamilton-based publication that focuses on renewing the city through grassroots political activism and expanding democratic principles.

Chinese-Vietnamese Relations at a Glance

*note: Both articles from Nhan Dan Online, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Vice Premier Affirms China’s Strong Ties with Vietnam

 At the meeting   ( Image: chinhphu.vn )

China attaches great importance to developing the friendly and neighbourly relations and mutually beneficial co-operation with Vietnam in all fields, said Vice Premier Li Keqiang.

Li made the statement in Hainan on March 31 during a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart Hoang Trung Hai, who is there for the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2012.

Li welcomed Hai to the forum, saying this shows the Vietnamese Government’s desire to boost economic cooperation in the region, as well as economic and trade ties between the two countries.

Both host and guest acknowledged recent positive developments in bilateral relations, especially those made after the China visit by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong last October and the Vietnam visit by Vice President Xi Jinping last December.

The two countries should work closely in grasping and strictly implementing common perceptions reached by their senior leaders to foster the development of the two countries’ friendship and cooperation, they said.

They agreed that both countries should continue to maintain high-level contacts and visits, considering them a decisive element in strengthening bilateral relations.

They proposed relevant Vietnamese and Chinese agencies quickly identify and sign the list of joint cooperation projects in 2011-2015 for early and effective realisation towards two-way trade to US$60 billion by 2015.

Regarding the sea issue, Deputy PM Hoang Trung Hai emphasised that both sides need to strictly enforce the two countries’ common perceptions and the agreement on the basic principles guiding the settlement of sea issues between Vietnam and China so as to satisfactorily resolve arising sea-related disputes and issues.

Deputy PM Hai requested China to unconditionally release two fishing vessels and 21 Vietnamese fishermen aboard seized by China, and not to take action to further complicate the situation.

The same day, Deputy PM Hai met with Lou Baoming, Secretary of the Hainan provincial Party Committee, who noted that trade, investment and economic ties between Hainan and Vietnamese localities have grown rapidly, with two-way trade last year increasing by 50%.

However, Lou Baoming said that Hainan and Vietnam have great potential for stronger cooperation and that the province wants to increase friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation with Vietnam.

(VNA)

Vietnam condemns China violating sovereignty

China holding a yacht race to the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, seriously violates Vietnam’s sovereignty, said Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Luong Thanh Nghi.

In response to the Hainan authorities organising a yacht race, called “the Sinan Cup” from Sanya to the archipelago on March 30, Nghi stated unequivocally that this is contrary to China’s commitment not to raise tensions in the East Sea.

“Vietnam is strongly against the race taking place and demands that China calls it off and complies with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea in order to maintain peace and stability in the area,” he said.

(VNA)

Ontario Should Change Farm Worker Laws: International Labour Organization

Organization concurs with human rights complaint, calls on province to change

Canadian Labour Reporter

The UN agency responsible for formulating international labour standards, including labour rights, agrees with a Canadian union that Ontario’s farm worker legislation should be amended.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) concluded on March 28 that Ontario’s Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA), “is insufficient to ensure the collective bargaining rights of agricultural workers under the principles of freedom of association.”

The ILO ruling is the result of a 2009 complaint filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union of Canada that the AEPA violated human and labour rights of Ontario agriculture workers under ILO Convention 87 – Freedom of association and protection of the right to organize (1948); and ILO Convention 98 – The right to organize and bargaining collectively (1949).

“The ILO’s conclusion is consistent with our position that the AEPA provides no teeth for Ontario farm workers to exercise their fundamental workplace right to meaningful representation,” says UFCW Canada president Wayne Hanley. “Unless the AEPA is amended, agriculture workers in Ontario will continue to be some of the most vulnerable and exploited workers in the province, and excluded from the rights and protections that other workers in the province have the freedom to exercise.”

Under the AEPA — brought in by the Mike Harris/Ernie Eves government in 2002 — agricultural employees can join or form associations but are prohibited from joining unions. They can make representations to their employer, but the employer is not obliged to act.

In 2008, in the wake of the UFCW’s challenge based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the AEPA violated the freedom of association rights of Ontario farm workers under Section 2(d) of the Charter.

In April 2011, however, the Supreme Court of Canada reversed the appeal ruling in the Fraser decision. The AEPA provided freedom of association — given the assumption the employer would act “in good faith,” the court said.

But according to the ILO’s most recent decision, “good faith” might not cut it:

“Collective bargaining implies an ongoing engagement in a give-and-take process, recognizing the voluntary nature of collective bargaining and the autonomy of the parties. In the Committee’s view, the duty to consider employee representations in good faith, which merely obliges employers to give a reasonable opportunity for representations and listen or read them — even if done in good faith, does not guarantee such a process,” the ruling reads. “The Committee therefore concludes that the AEPA would need to be amended to ensure respect of these principles.”

Only the federal government has the authority to ratify ILO conventions into Canadian law, but the implementation of many conventions falls under federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions, given the division of powers under the Canadian Constitution. Canada says its long-standing practice with respect to ILO conventions dealing with matters under federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions has been to ratify ILO conventions only if all jurisdictions consent with ratification and agree to implement the conventions without reservation in their respective jurisdictions.

Unless Ontario farm worker legislation is amended, basic human rights will continue to be violated, the UFCW says.

“As for good faith, the record on the AEPA speaks for itself, as every day farm workers are fired, threatened, or shipped out if they raise a concern about their safety or treatment,” says Hanley. “We agree with the ILO that it is time for the Ontario government to step up to the plate and do the right thing (…) We invite the government to sit down and consult to amend the legislation and right a situation that currently is wrong.”

*note: © Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved. Original article here.