Nova Scotia Students Seeking Federal Leadership on Education

Canadian Federation of Students

Students from Nova Scotia are in Ottawa this week meeting with Members of Parliament and Senators to call for a high-quality and accessible system of post-secondary education in Nova Scotia and across the country.

Students from CFS Nova Scotia protest the NDP government’s tuition increases in Winter 2011

“In Nova Scotia, we’ve seen our government make consecutive cuts to funding for higher education, which have been passed on to students and their families through increased tuition fee and student debt,” said Zac Quinlan, Executive Vice-President of the Mount Saint Vincent University Students’ Union. “We have come to Ottawa to call on our federal government to take meaningful steps to ensure students have access to affordable, high-quality post-secondary education.” Continue reading

Quebec’s Bill 78 Shifts the Struggle to a Battle for Democracy and the Right to Dissent

Rebel Youth Montreal Bureau

Last night the Charest Liberal government tabled its repressive Duplessis-style legislation while thousands of protesters marched well past mid-night in the streets of Quebec City and Montreal, waving flags, chanting and even burning a draft of the repressive law.

Bill 78 passed this afternoon with the right-wing CAQ party voting in favour, propping-up the precarous posistion of the Charest Liberals who are currently holding onto a majority of only one vote (following the resignation of the Minister of Education last week).  Links to the law in English are below.

The vote passed 68-48 at about 5:30 p.m. Continue reading

Students-Labour-Environmentalists Unite for “Quebec Spring”

by Marianne Breton Fontaine and Johan Boyden, based on a presentation given by Marianne, leader of the YCL in Quebec, to YCL student activists

After almost eighty days of protest, the Québec student strike is entering a record 11 weeks. After 250,000 students and their allies from community and labour groups flooded downtown Montreal with a river of people on March 22, another enormous demonstration was held on Earth Day, April 22.

Close to 300,000 people were in the street ‑ students, environmentalists, labour activists and others from diverse backgrounds. The rally, linked explicitly with the student struggle, showed the unprecedented mounting public anger against with the Charest Liberals and strong support for pro‑people and pro‑nature policies and a “Québec spring.”

Making History

The Québec student strike is one of the longest student protests in North American history and has seen some of the biggest mobilizations in Canadian history. Continue reading

Capitalism: A Ghost Story

by Arundhati Roy

Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare…. How long can the cardinals of corporate gospel buy up our protests?

CORBIS (FROM OUTLOOK, MARCH 26, 2012)

Antilla the Hun Mukesh Ambani’s 27-storey home on Altamont Road. Its bright lights, say the neighbours, have stolen the night.

Is it a house or a home? A temple to the new India, or a warehouse for its ghosts? Ever since Antilla arrived on Altamont Road in Mumbai, exuding mystery and quiet menace, things have not been the same. “Here we are,” the friend who took me there said, “Pay your respects to our new Ruler.”

Antilla belongs to India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. I had read about this most expensive dwelling ever built, the twenty-seven floors, three helipads, nine lifts, hanging gardens, ballrooms, weather rooms, gymnasiums, six floors of parking, and the six hundred servants. Nothing had prepared me for the vertical lawn—a soaring, 27-storey-high wall of grass attached to a vast metal grid. The grass was dry in patches; bits had fallen off in neat rectangles. Clearly, Trickledown hadn’t worked. Continue reading

Dogmatism And “Freedom of Criticism”: What Does “Freedom of Criticism” Mean?

by Vladimir Lenin

“Freedom of criticism” is undoubtedly the most fashionable slogan at the present time, and the one most frequently employed in the controversies between socialists and democrats in all countries.

At first sight, nothing would appear to be more strange than the solemn appeals to freedom of criticism made by one of the parties to the dispute. Have voices been raised in the advanced parties against the constitutional law of the majority of European countries which guarantees freedom to science and scientific investigation?

“Something must be wrong here,” will be the comment of the onlooker who has heard this fashionable slogan repeated at every turn but has not yet penetrated the essence of the disagreement among the disputants; evidently this slogan is one of the conventional phrases which, like nicknames, become legitimised by use, and become almost generic terms.

In fact, it is no secret for anyone that two trends have taken form in present-day international Social-Democracy. The conflict between these trends now flares up in a bright flame and now dies down and smoulders under the ashes of imposing “truce resolutions”. The essence of the “new” trend, which adopts a “critical” attitude towards “obsolete dogmatic” Marxism, has been clearly enough presented by Bernstein and demonstrated by Millerand.

Social-Democracy must change from a party of social revolution into a democratic party of social reforms. Bernstein has surrounded this political demand with a whole battery of well-attuned “new” arguments and reasonings.

Denied was the possibility of putting socialism on a scientific basis and of demonstrating its necessity and inevitability from the point of view of the materialist conception of history. Denied was the fact of growing impoverishment, the process of proletarisation, and the intensification of capitalist contradictions; the very concept, “ultimate aim”, was declared to be unsound, and the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat was completely rejected. Denied was the antithesis in principle between liberalism and socialism. Denied was the theory of the class struggle, on the alleged grounds that it could not be applied to a strictly democratic society governed according to the will of the majority, etc.

Thus, the demand for a decisive turn from revolutionary Social-Democracy to bourgeois social-reformism was accompanied by a no less decisive turn towards bourgeois criticism of all the fundamental ideas of Marxism. In view of the fact that this criticism of Marxism has long been directed from the political platform, from university chairs, in numerous pamphlets and in a series of learned treatises, in view of the fact that the entire younger generation of the educated classes has been systematically reared for decades on this criticism, it is not surprising that the “new critical” trend in Social-Democracy should spring up, all complete, like Minerva from the head of Jove. The content of this new trend did not have to grow and take shape, it was transferred bodily from bourgeois to socialist literature.

To proceed. If Bernstein’s theoretical criticism and political yearnings were still unclear to anyone, the French took the trouble strikingly to demonstrate the “new method”. In this instance, too, France has justified its old reputation of being “the land where, more than anywhere else, the historical class struggles were each time fought out to a decision…” (Engels, Introduction to Marx’s Der 18 Brumaire).

The French socialists have begun, not to theorise, but to act. The democratically more highly developed political conditions in France have permitted them to put “Bernsteinism into practice” immediately, with all its consequences.

Millerand has furnished an excellent example of practical Bernsteinism; not without reason did Bernstein and Vollmar rush so zealously to defend and laud him. Indeed, if Social-Democracy, in essence, is merely a party of reform and must be bold enough to admit this openly, then not only has a socialist the right to join a bourgeois cabinet, but he must always strive to do so.

If democracy, in essence, means the abolition of class domination, then why should not a socialist minister charm the whole bourgeois world by orations on class collaboration? Why should he not remain in the cabinet even after the shooting-down of workers by gendarmes has exposed, for the hundredth and thousandth time, the real nature of the democratic collaboration of classes? Why should he not personally take part in greeting the tsar, for whom the French socialists now have no other name than hero of the gallows, knout, and exile (knouteur, pendeur et deportateur)?

And the reward for this utter humiliation and self-degradation of socialism in the face of the whole world, for the corruption of the socialist consciousness of the working masses – the only basis that can guarantee our victory – the reward for this is pompous projects for miserable reforms, so miserable in fact that much more has been obtained from bourgeois governments!

He who does not deliberately close his eyes cannot fail to see that the new “critical” trend in socialism is nothing more nor less than a new variety of opportunism. And if we judge people, not by the glittering uniforms they don or by the highsounding appellations they give themselves, but by their actions and by what they actually advocate, it will be clear that “freedom of criticism” means’ freedom for an opportunist trend in Social-Democracy, freedom to convert Social-Democracy into a democratic party of reform, freedom to introduce bourgeois ideas and bourgeois elements into socialism.

“Freedom” is a grand word, but under the banner of freedom for industry the most predatory wars were waged, under the banner of freedom of labour, the working people were robbed. The modern use of the term “freedom of criticism” contains the same inherent falsehood. Those who are really convinced that they have made progress in science would not demand freedom for the new views to continue side by side with the old, but the substitution of the new views for the old. The cry heard today, “Long live freedom of criticism”, is too strongly reminiscent of the fable of the empty barrel.

We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire. We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation.

And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go into the marsh! And when we begin to shame them, they retort: What backward people you are! Are you not ashamed to deny us the liberty to invite you to take a better road!

Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place, and we are prepared to render you every assistance to get there. Only let go of our hands, don’t clutch at us and don’t besmirch the grand word freedom, for we too are “free” to go where we please, free to fight not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh!

*note: Excerpted from Lenin’s classic 1902 work “What Is To Be Done?”, the entirety of which is available here.

The Absurd Myths Porn Teaches Us About Sex

By Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz

Young people who have learned about sex from watching porn have a treasure trove of sadly mistaken beliefs and misconceptions about sexuality.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
When Lynette, a college student, first hooked up with an ex-boyfriend, she came face to face with the unrealistic ideals mainstream porn can create about sexuality.

“I had a boyfriend who didn’t realize that women had pubic hair,” she tells us in an interview. “Because he had only watched porn, he had never seen a naked woman outside of porn, so he just sort of failed to realize they had pubic hair.”

“This came up somewhat before my pants came off,” she added, “so you can realize how awkward this was.” She paused. “His face was memorable. In an ‘oh God, what is wrong with me, I am never taking my pants off in front of anyone ever again’ way.”

Porn has become immensely popular in the last century. With the rise of Internet pornography, no longer do you have to enter a sleazy sex shop in a shady part of town to witness an astonishing panoply of sex acts. A quick Google brings you sex acts from the mundane (happy amateur couples having missionary intercourse) to the bizarre (could looners, who have a sexual fetish for balloons, ever have met each other outside the Internet?). Many teenagers have their first introduction to sex from the glow of a computer screen.

And these days, it can lead to some hilarious misconceptions.

Learning About Sex from Porn

Despite Rick Santorum’s newly declared war on porn, porn is not evil. Alan McKee, an Australian university professor and pornography researcher, tells AlterNet, “Pornography is good at teaching lifelong learning, open communication, that sexual development should not be aggressive, coercive, or joyless, self-acceptance, awareness and acceptance that sex is pleasurable, and competence in mediated sexuality.” In short, he claims that pornography can be the foundation to a healthy sex life—not to mention leading to many solo orgasms.

The problem is, learning about sex from porn is like learning about firearms from action movies. Action movies sacrifice realism for the sake of storyline or a really cool explosion. Action movies don’t teach you gun safety. Action movies don’t talk about alternatives to violence. And action movies use some tropes—such as the infinite ammo supply—that may move the story along but don’t reflect reality. That’s not a problem, as long as everyone treats them as entertaining fantasies.

Unfortunately, for many young people becoming sexually active today, the entertaining fantasies of mainstream porn are the teacher they’ve spent the most time with, and mainstream porn is a terrible teacher.

Talking to various young people about porn and sexuality, we quickly discovered a treasure trove of sadly mistaken beliefs about sex. A teenage boy who believed that all women, no matter how much they protested otherwise, really wanted to be called sluts when they had sex. Guys who think that foreplay is just jamming a few fingers up someone’s vagina before sex. People who didn’t know you need lube to have anal sex.

“I’ve met more than a few guys who were very surprised to discover that women more often masturbate by humping their hands or rubbing their clits than by penetrating themselves,” blogger Holly Pervocracy said.

“I actually had a guy tell me I was wrong,” Lynette said. “If I was rubbing my clit, it wasn’t real masturbation. He didn’t even know about the G spot; he thought I should be getting off on the friction of my fingers with my vagina.”

Women aren’t the only ones who fall victim to glaring anatomical mistakes. The giant, ever-hard, pounding penises of male mainstream porn stars are equally unrealistic. “My first boyfriend told me, in all seriousness, that he was pretty small—just seven and a half inches,” said Pervocracy. “He thought nine was average.”

Lynette agrees. “I talked to a guy who said that he thought he was average, he didn’t know, maybe he was on the small side. Really played it up,” she said. “Finally he admitted that he was eight inches. I burst out laughing. Ashamed, he looked at me and asked ‘is that that small?’”

These myths about sexuality might seem humorous, but they hide a tragic truth. A generation of teenagers grew up under Bush’s record-breaking funding for abstinence-only sex education.

Although Obama has eliminated funding for abstinence-only and funded evidence-based comprehensive sex education, the damage has already been done. And both Santorum and Romney, the frontrunners for the GOP nomination, favor abstinence-only sex education—despite the evidence that it delays loss of virginity only eight months. According to research at the Guttmacher Institute, the rates of pregnancy and STIs among teenagers who received abstinence-only sex education are far greater than the rates among those who didn’t.

Even so-called comprehensive sex education is deeply limited. Often, it focuses on STIs and condoms to the exclusion of any other topic. Even basic ideas like queerness or consent are usually neglected. In my comprehensive sex education, we labeled a diagram of the vulva that didn’t have the clitoris on it—no wonder some people think that women are supposed to get off on friction with their vagina! In such a limited sex education, you can forget about having someone’s misapprehensions about penis size or the prevalence of the female orgasm corrected.

Admittedly, even in the absence of good sex education, only a small percentage of people who use porn use it to figure out how sex “really works.” Most of the teens who use porn use it for the same reason anyone else does—arousal, masturbation and orgasms. Nevertheless, the lessons that mainstream porn teaches when no one knows that they’re learning from it may be just as disheartening.

Susie Bright, in The Pride of Miss Kitty MacKinnon, famously compared many people who criticize the problematic aspects of mainstream porn to people who taste several glasses of salt water and insist only one of them is salty. However, that glass of saltwater is still salty, and porn still has many racist, sexist and queerphobic elements. Even worse, in the absence of truly comprehensive sex education, many people may believe that real sex is somehow supposed to reflect those elements.

“Porn gives us the wonderful ‘she-male’ and ‘chicks with dicks’ names… I’d consider it a misconception because people think those are legitimate things to call us,” trans activist Ami Angelwings says. “Asian trans women porn gave a former boyfriend of mine the idea that trans women were prettier and passed better than white ones which led him to remark ‘Asian guys make the best women’ (and yes that’s when I broke up with him).”

“The majority of guys who fetishize Japanese women are clearly getting it from anime porn,” Pervocracy said, “and will be very disappointed if their Japanese woman turns out not to be childlike, whimperingly submissive, or cartoonishly cutesy.”

“I think the porn that plays into the submissive Asian girls thing is more the Asian porn produced in the US… these often exotify Asian women,” Angelwings said.

She added, “I know more than a few people who have intuited through the differences in expression in women in Japanese porn (vs. US porn) that Japanese men get off on rape.”

Some people object to the idea that a private fantasy in the boundaries of one’s own mind is something other people ought to be concerned with. However, a person’s private sex life is much different than treating trans women as “chicks with dicks” or Japanese women as childish and submissive in media distributed around the globe. A fantasy is one thing; perpetrating degrading and inaccurate stereotypes is quite another. Whatever their flaws, most schools at least try to convey the idea that you shouldn’t stereotype people based on their race or gender identity, a distinct plus over porn.

Equally troublesome is the clean, packaged image of sex sold within mainstream pornography. Within the world of mainstream porn, erections appear upon request and continue until their owner wishes for the sex to end, at which point the orgasm is prompt. Sex positions and acts are chosen for how they look on camera, not how they feel to the participants. Everyone is constantly up for sex, with no negotiation between fluctuating libidos required. No one ever experiences vaginal farting or can’t get the penis in no matter what they do or falls off the bed.

Porn is a fantasy. Fantasies are supposed to be unrealistic. To depict the fluffers or the multiple retakes or the porn star getting the hair waxed off her ass would ruin the movie. Genuine sex education could teach people that erections and orgasms are often unpredictable, that acrobatic sex positions aren’t always necessary for good sex, that libidos differ, and that sometimes mistakes happen in sex. But in its absence, the fantasy of porn—and the fantasy that porn is not a fantasy—can lead to unrealistic beliefs about how sex works.

That’s the advantage of truly comprehensive sex education. Of course, it can reveal that women are often not multiorgasmic and how to have safer sex, and that’s valuable. But, more importantly, truly comprehensive sex education can point out the diversity of sex: people have different bodies, different desires and different abilities; it’s not that the sex presented in mainstream porn is the best and other people’s sex is less good, but that there are thousands of possible and enjoyable sex lives. Sex is human and weird and often quite funny, and that’s a side of it that porn rarely shows.

“Porn also hid from me the existence of sexual moods beyond ‘passionate’ or ‘dominating,’” Holly Pervocracy said. “It wasn’t until I got out into the sexual real world that I understood the idea you could have sleepy sex, that you could have silly giggling sex, that you could have quick morning sex or slow evening sex, that you could have romping goofy sex with your shirts or socks still on, that you could have cuddly sex, that you could have comfort-sex when one of you is sad, that you could have ‘hm, let’s see if this works’ experimental sex, that you could have sweetly awkward nerd-sex, that you could have gleefully competitive athletic sex.”

And she adds, “It wasn’t until I got out in the sexual real world that I knew you could smile during sex.”

 AlterNet / March 26, 2012  |

Brock University Strike Enters Second Week

by Siobhan Morris, 610 CKTB News

A strike at Brock University is in its 2nd week with no end in sight.

The school’s 38 unionized English as a Second Language Instructors have been walking picket lines since last Monday.

The labour dispute is over a contract reached by CUPE Local 4207 & the university in February.  The union membership ratified it, but Brock won’t do the same until what it calls “an error” in the deal is fixed.

The agreement would block the university from contracting out work.  Brock says they’d never agree to that.

CUPE has filed a charge of bargaining in bad faith with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

The dispute has cancelled hundred of classes & created a traffic nightmare around the university.

Niagara Regional Police & Brock are asking the public for patience & to try car-pooling or public transit to get to campus.  Buses aren’t stopping at Brock during the strike,  but picking up & dropping along Glenridge Ave instead.

With only a few weeks left in the term, many ESL students are worried they may not be able to make up the missed classes up because they’re studying on short-term visas.

*note: Original article here.