A Worker’s Resistance to the Capitalist Government or State and Its Representatives, Part Nine

Introduction

This is a continuation of a previous post that illustrates how politically biased the capitalist government or state and its representatives (such as social-democratic social workers) are when it comes to determining real situations–especially when a person self-declares as a Marxist.

Just a recap (more details can be found in earlier posts in this series): I filed a complaint with the Manitoba Institute of Registered Workers against a social worker who had written a court-ordered assessment concerning my wife at the time, myself and my daughter, Francesca Alexandra Romani (ne Harris). I am using the initials S.W. for the social worker. Mr. S.W., claimed that my claim that the mother of my daughter was using a belt and a wooden stick to physically abuse her, was “somewhat ridiculous.” Mr. S.W. was much less concerned about determining the truth of this claim (which is in fact true) than with my so-called indoctrination of my daughter in my “Marxist ideology.”

Since the civil trial in April 1999, my daughter complained of the following  (as of February 18, 2000—it should be noted that the following does not include the many times Francesca told me that Francesca’s mother had hit her before Feburary 18, 2000): 1. Her mother was using a wooden stick on her buttocks; 2. Her mother used a belt to spank her on the same area; 3. Her mother grabbed Francesca and forced her into the apartment building; 4. Her mother had grabbed Francesca’s throat in the elevator and warned her not to tell me that her mother had hit her; 5. Her mother shoved Francesca to the floor on two separate occasions; 6. Her mother hit Francesca on the head with a book; 7. Her mother pulled Francesca’s hair; 8. Her mother scratched Francesca with a comb.

This contrasts with Mr. S.W.’s allegation, as noted in the last post, that ” Mr. Harris’ explanation for contacting the Agency [Winnipeg Child and Family Services] was somewhat ridiculous. He said that the child had made some vague indications that she may have been spanked.”

Mr. S.W. was much less concerned about the truthfulness of Mr. Harris’ claim (which is true) than with Mr. Harris’ Marxists ideas.

The Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers rejected my complaint, claiming that Mr. S.W. did not contravene the code of ethics of registered social workers in Manitoba.

I then filed a complaint against Winnipeg Child and Family Services (WCFS) with the Manitoba Ombudsman, and during their so-called inquiry, the WCFS threatened me in a letter with consulting their legal counsel and phoning the police on me. The Manitoba Ombudsman found the actions of the WCFS to be reasonable both before the letter and the letter itself: 

Our office has investigated the concerns you raised and have concluded that the position taken by WCFS as outlined in their letters of January 13, 2003 and January 22, 2004 is not clearly wrong or unreasonable. Accordingly there is no recommendation that can be made on your behalf.

So far, the Winnipeg Child and Family Services, the Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers and the Manitoba Ombudsman proved themselves to be anything but institutions that reflected any kind of fairness or equitable treatment. Quite to the contrary. They either involved oppression in one form or another or justification of such oppression by vindicating an oppressive institution. 

The social-democratic left rarely take this integrated nature of the oppressive powers linked to the capitalist government or state into account when formulating tactics and strategy. Indeed, many on the left even idealize such oppressive features by calling for, without qualification, the expansion of public services–as if such public services were not riveted with oppressive features. 

I then outlined how I tried to homeschool my daughter, how I failed my daughter by acting as an oppressive father and teacher while trying to teach at Ashern Central High and finish my doctorate in the philosophy of education; this included getting into many arguments over her lack of progress in her studies and physically controlling her when she threw a metal lid at me by putting her in a headlock and forcing her to the ground until she promised not to threw anything else (which I do not regret since she could have seriously injured me). It also included throwing hot tea, some of which hit her face. I also indicated that a mitigating factor was that I had, unknown to me at the time, invasive bladder cancer, but with chemotherapy treatment there was no further visible cancer.

I then indicated how the Anishinaabe Child and Family Services, located in Ashern, engaged in oppressive actions by falsely accusing me of choking Francesca and throwing her to the ground and forced me to inform the principal, Randy Chartrand, that I was under investigation. I also pointed out how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the RCMP–the national police in Canada) had me under surveillance before arresting me for allegedly physically abusing Francesca. Finally, I described the oppressive working situation that I experienced at Ashern Central School, in Ashern, Manitoba, Canada, and I outlined how I came to be receiving short-term and then long-term disability benefits.

Going on Sick Leave, Short-term Disability and Long-Term Disability: Another Form of Oppression 

I mentioned to the math teacher that I was to be put on intensive clinical supervision (where the superintendent, Janet Martell, would control my work); the math teacher suggested that I go on sick leave. However, given my former experience with cancer, I did not have sufficient number of accumulated sick days that would bridge the time from the beginning of sick leave until long-term disability benefits started (a period of 80 working days). Coincidentally, short-term disability benefits had been recently negotiated so that Lakeshore Teachers’ Association members would be eligible for short-term disability benefits provided that they worked at least one day after the start of the policy (March 1, 2012)–which was later than when I started my sick leave.

MTS and Lakeshore School Division made a deal; if I agreed to resign from the school division, the school division would allow me to work one day in order to qualify for short-term disability benefits. I worked at the board office on March 23, 2012, performing a superficial search for information for the Division (I forget the details of the work)–another humiliating experience.

I also was to have an initial “psychiatric assessment”, performed by Gisele Morier, a psychiatrist at PsychHealth at the Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.. This was on March 15, 2012. I also was obliged to begin to see a psychologist–Alan Slusky.

Adelle Field Burton also obliged me to engage in voluntary work, progressively, once half-a-day per week at first, increasing it as time went on. Since I depended economically on disability benefits, if I had refused to “volunteer,” I would have jeopardized my receiving such benefits since one of the conditions for receiving such benefits was cooperation with a plan for rehabilitation. The term “volunteer” in this context, of course, is an oxymoron.

I decided to “volunteer” at Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, a social-democratic organization that addresses poverty issues. The organization evidently functioned on the basis of defining poverty exclusively on the basis of the level of income. It had no intention of addressing the problem of the power of employers as a class. 

Near the end of November, 2012, I had to have a reassessment–again by Gisele Morier. However, several months before the assessment ,Francesca, my daughter, was in another city north of Winnipeg (Arborg, I believe), with a friend (Katy Corder, I believe). Francesca’s heart apparently started to race, so she went to the local hospital with her friend. I do not know exactly what happened, but she (or someone else) called me, indicating that she was at the psychiatric ward for minors, located in the same building as Ms. Morier, who had her office there. Apparently, the hospital doctor in Arborg wanted Francesca to stay for tests, but Francesca refused. The upshot was that an RCMP officer forced her to go to Winnipeg and was placed in the psychiatric ward for the night (probably at the Intensive Child and Adolescent Treatment Service (ICATS) at the Health Sciences Centre (HSC)).

There was a meeting of many adults, to make a decision whether Francesca was to be released from the psychiatric ward or not–an oppressive situation for Francesca. I was invited to attend, which I did. I advocated for Francesca’s release, which is what happened.

When I was to have a meeting with Giselle Morier for my own assessment on November 29, 2012, I was still upset at having my daughter forced into a psychiatric ward against her will. I indicated this to Ms. Morier. She evidently found my “attitude” of questioning the authority of psychiatrists and other government “experts” to be non-plus.

Ms. Morier’s assessment was. like the court-ordered assessment in 1998, biased and full of distortions and unsubstantiated judgements. Thus, Ms. Morier considered that I suffered from “paranoid personality disorder.” Her evidence? Mainly my account of what transpired at Ashern as well as her own distorted interpretation about what I said.

Response to an Oppressive Psychiatric Assessment

Here is my response to the psychiatric assessment:

Context: An interview of Dr. Harris (Ph. D. in the philosophy of education, with four publications) by Dr. Morier on March 15, 2012.  Another interview on November 29, 2012.

Dr. Morier, in her report dated December 18, 2012 (based on an interview with Dr. Harris neglects to include how the interview started). 

Before the interview began, Dr. Morier requested that Dr. Harris sign a permission form.

Dr. Harris indicated that he did not want to sign it but that he had to if he was to continue receiving disability benefits through Manitoba Teachers’ Society. Dr. Morier immediately stated, in a tone that Dr. Harris found offensive, that he was free to sign it or not do so. When Dr. Harris replied that he disagreed with her but that he did not wish to get into a debate with her, she replied, in an offensive manner, that Dr. Harris would probably win since he knew how to debate. The way that Dr. Morier stated this was not meant as a complement.

Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to decide whether the above is true.

Page 1 from the December 18, 2012 report:

“When asked whether he had noted any inaccuracies or had found discrepancies in what the writer had understood and reported from what he had stated or had any comments, he stated there were no errors, but that he objected to the term `paranoid’ being used to describe him.”

Dr. Morier reiterates this view on page 5:

“I refer the reader to my IME of March 28, 2012 for family and psychosocial history, as according to Mr. Harris, he did not find any errors or needed to make any correction to the information.”

This is untrue. Dr. Morier asked whether Dr. Harris had read the report, and Dr. Harris indicated that he had. The issue came up in the context of whether Dr. Morier had provided written recommendations about medication. Dr. Harris did not recall any such written recommendations in the report itself. He did recall Dr. Morier writing the recommendations on one of her business cards.

Dr. Morier then consulted the report and indicated that she indeed had provided such recommendations.

Dr. Harris did not say that there were no errors in the previous report; Dr. Morier never asked Dr. Harris such a question. There were errors in the previous report, but Dr. Harris simply did not bother to correct such errors—he did not believe that any purpose would be served at the time. He now sees that he was in error.

As for the issue of paranoid, Dr. Harris never indicated that he objected to such a term because Dr. Harris does not recall that such a term was in the first report. Dr. Harris no longer has a copy of the report. He was rear-ended in a car accident on July 20, 2011, and Dr. Morier’s report was in the trunk. Dr. Harris did not bother trying to pull out several papers from the trunk (he had to use a pry bar from the inside to gain access to the contents in the trunk since the trunk would not open from the outside). One of those papers was Dr. Morier’s previous report. Dr. Harris left the report in the trunk since he did not consider that report to be all that important when he delivered the car to Manitoba Public Insurance.

Since Dr. Harris no longer has a copy of the report, he can only recall one element from the first report that was “in error.” Dr. Harris had previous heart palpitations when he was a union steward in British Columbia. As a union steward, he filed a union grievance against his immediate supervisor for having written a job description that only personnel in the library where he was working could fulfill since only those who had job training in the specific library could obtain the specified skills. Since a job posting is supposed to be for all union members as far as possible, and since the rewriting of job descriptions to suit managerial will could, potentially, undermine the union as a viable structure, the union business manager agreed with Mr. Harris (Dr. Harris did not obtain his doctorate until afterwards) that a union grievance should be filed. Of course, Mr. Harris’ immediate supervisor did not like this and harassed Mr. Harris. As a consequence, Mr. Harris was subject to substantial pressure to resign, which he eventually did. Dr. Morier, however, failed to understand the situation and her first report reflects such a lack of understanding. If Dr. Harris recollects correctly, Dr. Morier personalized the issue in British Columbia rather than contextualized it in the context of the employer-employee relation (a relation of power). Dr. Morier persistently ignores context.

Dr. Harris would never have said that the first report was without error. It is untrue. Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to determine which version is true and which version is false.

“She [Francesca, my daughter] was released the following day after being evaluated by a psychiatrist.” Dr. Morier either does not know or chooses to ignore the fact that there was a meeting of about nine adults, including Dr. Harris, a social worker from Child and Family Services and several others. After some discussion, Dr. Harris stated: “To sum up, this should not have happened.” No one contradicted him. Dr. Harris informed Dr. Morier that he had stated that the incident should not have happened.

“Mr. Harris appeared exceedingly angered and insulted by this. He states that both his daughter and his mother were abused by the psychiatric system.”

Dr. Harris’ mother was forced to undergo electric shock treatments against her will, forced to take so-called medication against her will and so forth. Perhaps Dr. Morier could explain what a rational person would feel when a person whom they love has been abused—unless of course psychiatric care in so-called mental institutions in the 1960s could not be characterized as an abuse. If they were not an abuse, why not reinstitute them?

As for Dr. Harris’ daughter, no one at the meeting indicated why Dr. Harris’ daughter was involuntarily incarcerated. Apparently, Dr. Harris should trust in the judgement of those in “authority”—because they are in authority—rather than in terms of understanding a situation. Why was his daughter incarcerated against her will? What damage did that do to his daughter? If a private person did that, it would be considered abuse and kidnapping. However, if the government does that, why is it is considered to be legitimate by some? Is this the attitude of a scientist? Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to decide on Dr. Morier’s degree of understanding of the situation and the right of a parent to be angry when parent or child is possibly mistreated at the hands of “authority.” Until Dr. Harris knows the facts, he will presume his daughter’s innocence.

Furthermore, given the quality of Dr. Morier’s report, the reader can surmise the possible quality of care that Dr. Harris’ mother and daughter received.

Page 1:

“He was `well aware of their game.’”

This quote is out of context and therefore distorts the meaning. By decontextualizing the statement—which Dr. Harris did indeed make—Dr. Morier distorts its meaning. The context was in terms of his life in Ashern—a town of 1,400, where he was arrested on April 4, 2011 (by two members of the RCMP personnel in Ashern), with the charges dropped on November 16, 2011. Dr. Harris was arrested on a Monday. Since September 2008, Dr. Harris had a habit, on Saturdays, of going to the bakery/coffee shop at 12:30 in this small town, to read the Saturday Free Press and have a coffee and sticky bun and then study or do some work for his profession as a teacher until around 2:30. He would sit at the same table near the window every time (unless, of course, there were other customers who were already sitting there).

The RCMP never once sat across from Dr. Harris—until Arpil 9, 2011 the Saturday following the arrest). The father of one of Dr. Harris’ former French students was in plain clothes, but there were two other RCMP officers in RCMP uniforms seated with him. They arrived about a half hour after Dr. Harris arrived.

The same thing occurred the following Saturday, but this time the father was dressed in RCMP uniform—along with a couple of other RCMP personnel.

Dr. Harris was referring to this situation when he made the comment that he “was well aware of their game.”

Page 2:

“He chooses to eat take-out chicken two to three times a week in his car, which he parks at the same location on a public street. He believe that someone complained about this behaviour, reporting him to the police. He stated that late one night police came knocking at his door, which he did not answer. They left a City of Winnipeg Police business card, asking him to phone the police about an incident. He remembers his heart pounding.”

Dr. Morier neglected to mention that they arrived at the place where Dr. Harris was staying—at 11:45 p.m. (when, in fact, he was in bed and doing his breathing exercises as suggested by Dr. Slusky). She also neglected to mention that they flashed their lights in the window—a tactic which the RCMP also used in Ashern (in addition to stomping in the snow so that Dr. Harris would look out the window—in which case they would know Dr. Harris was there.)

Dr. Morier also neglected to mention that Dr. Harris had called the police at the number on the card left by the police the next day, but no one returned the call despite the fact that Dr. Harris left his telephone number.

“Since that time he has become more aware of police all around him.”

Also, page 4: “He does believe that the police are targeting him and harassing him. He has searched for evidence in his environment to validate these thoughts.”

Page 2:

“He questions whether they are stalking him and every time [Dr. Harris’ emphasis] he sees a policeman, he states that `I ditch them.’” Actually, Dr. Harris did indicate that once he felt that police in a police car were following him and that he did indeed ditch them. He also indicated that his heart was pounding. He categorically denies, however, saying “every time.” One instance hardly constitutes “every time.” This is a generalization made by Dr. Morier.

Dr. Harris is certainly more aware of the police around him—when he sees them, of course. As Dr. Harris discussed with Dr. Alan Slusky, clinical psychologist, when a person has experienced what he experienced in Ashern in relation to the police—the arrest and the subsequent harassment–increased awareness of the presence of the police is natural.

“…however, he is unhappy with his daughter’s choices, particularly her interest in Amway, because he believe that this organization is a waster of her time and is a `religion.’” Dr. Harris’ daughter invited him to attend a session of Amway with her, and he observed close at hand its operation. As a consequence, he did some research on this organization and sent it to Francesca. Francesca subsequently stopped attending such meetings. Dr. Morier, however, made the comment at the time, when Dr. Harris indicated disapproval of this organization and his daughter’s participation in it, that perhaps Dr. Harris was disapproving of her independence and was trying to control her. Attached is what Dr. Harris sent Francesca that he found on the Internet concerning Amway. 

“He [Dr. Harris] is well aware, however, that the vice-principal at Ashern School refused to give him a reference, as did the principal.”

Dr. Morier failed to pursue why the vice principal refused to provide Dr. Harris with a reference. The vice-principal was the former principal and was demoted to vice-principal the same time that Dr. Harris was demoted to being a de facto educational assistant after having his senior-high French classes stripped from him. The vice principal may well have refused to provide a reference out of fear for his own position. The year before, the vice-principal, who at the time was the principal, had evaluated Dr. Harris’ teaching positively. It is, moreover, Dr. Harris’ understanding that the vice principal would like Dr. Harris to call him since he stated that he had nothing to do with the situation that occurred at Ashern Central School.

“The main reason for this he believes was that these individuals disagreed with him on the value of John Dewey’s philosophy on education and their poor appreciation of Mr. Harris’ skills in teaching French.”

Dr. Harris does not believe this with respect to the vice-principal. With respect to the principal, Dr. Harris and Dr. Slusky have discussed how it is possible that the principal may have been intimidated by Dr. Harris’ doctorate and reacted accordingly. Undoubtedly the principal was concerned about the French program and attributed the problem to Dr. Harris’ apparent incompetence as a teacher. However, when the principal evaluated Dr. Harris’ French teaching, Dr. Harris responded with a 43-page reply, edited to 30 pages by Roland Stankevicius, MTS staff officer. Mr. Stankevicius also stated that the principal did not come out looking very well in his evaluation.

Page 3:

“Dr. Slusky has also prescribed the cognitive therapy book, called Feeling Good by Dr. Burns. Mr. Harris has read parts of the book but he stated that he has to disagree with many issues in this book, in particular in that he believes that there is no scientifically proven cause and effect relationship between thought and emotion.”

This is inaccurate. Dr. Burns claims that negative thoughts cause negative emotions. Dr. Morier failed to understand Dr. Harris’ assertion.

“He tried to engage the writer in a discussion defending this belief. When the writer would not participate and pointed out that he was being argumentative and pedantic, he stated that he feels that he needs to criticize everything.”

Dr. Harris denies this account of what transpired. Dr. Harris merely indicated that Dr. Slusky had recommended that Dr. Harris read this book as a prelude to engaging in cognitive behavioural therapy. Dr. Harris had already indicated to Dr. Slusky that, philosophically, Dr. Burns’ assertions are questionable. Dr. Harris did in fact write up a critique of parts of the book (attached).

Dr. Harris then indicated that he considered Dr. Burns’ assertions about the relationship between so-called negative thoughts and negative emotions to be unsubstantiated. Dr. Morier responded “Not yet” very emotionally.

After having felt abused by Dr. Morier, Dr. Harris felt inspired to do some research in educational journals that involved, implicitly or explicitly, the premises of cognitive behavioural therapy (which is linked to Dr. Burns’ assertions about the relationship between so-called negative thoughts and negative emotions). Dr. Harris came across Dr. Falkenberg’s article (attached), published in the Canadian philosophy of education journal. Dr.Harris submitted a short criticism of the article in the dialogue section of the journal (attached).

Dr. Harris has more appropriate outlets than debating with a psychiatrist who has economic power over him, indirectly, since the report, Dr. Harris knew, would influence whether he would continue to receive disability benefits from Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

Dr. Harris never stated, during this interview, that “he feels that he needs to criticize everything.” Such a view is simply stupid, and Dr. Harris would never say such a thing. On the other hand, he does have a Ph. D. in the philosophy of education and he agrees with John Dewey’s definition of philosophy as critique—and critique does not mean criticize everything—but criticizing what deserves to be criticized and that has importance in this world.

John Dewey was the greatest American philosopher of the twentieth century. Perhaps Dr. Morier would find John Dewey “pedantic and argumentative.”

Dr. Harris had no desire to engage in debate with Dr. Morier. He was not at the interview with Dr. Morier to debate with her.

Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to judge whose version is more accurate.

Dr. Morier neglected to mention that Dr. Harris also stated that Dr. Burns argued, in his book,  that his book constituted bibliotherapy. Dr. Morier herself ridiculed such an idea. Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to question why Dr. Morier permits such ridicule by herself but not by others.

“He stated that he often tried to have these philosophical discussions with Dr. Slusky.”

Actually, Dr. Slusky has been open to discussing a number of things. Dr. Harris need not “try to discuss”—he does discuss them. Dr. Harris also provided Dr. Slusky with a couple of his published articles.

Dr. Harris denies that he tried to discuss anything with Dr. Morier. He felt abused by her. Dr. Harris had no desire nor intention of trying to convince Dr. Morier of anything. He wanted the abusive process to stop—period.

Is it credible to maintain that someone wants to debate the other person if the person is feeling abused?

“He reported that Dr. Slusky is also trying to help him improve his interpersonal interactions by teaching him that there can be many ways of looking at and interpreting things which differ from his own view.”

Dr. Harris reported no such thing. Dr. Slusky and Dr. Harris have been discussing how Dr. Harris needs to understand how those in power are often threatened by the fact that Dr. Harris has a Ph. D.

What is sauce for the goose, apparently, is not sauce for the gander. Do psychiatrists display an understanding “that there can be many ways of looking at and interpreting things which differ from” their “own view?”

Dr. Morier implies that Dr. Harris’ views are dogmatic. Her views, of course, are not—according to Dr. Morier.

“He is also learning how to analyze his effect of his behaviour on other people.” The same issue again: the issue of Dr. Harris’ impact on those in power because he has a Ph. D.

Does Dr. Morier understand the impact of her behaviour on other people? Dr. Harris felt abused during the course of the interview.

“Mr. Harris seems to appreciate how flexible Dr. Slusky can be.” Dr. Harris certainly appreciates the respect that Dr. Slusky has shown Dr. Harris—unlike the extreme disrespect and indeed abuse that Dr. Harris experienced during the two-hour interview.

“When asked about his daily activities and his vocational rehabilitation planning, Mr. Harris spoke very disdainfully about how he was being `treated as a thing, as a machine’ by the disability insurance plan. He indicated that he was resentful that volunteering was forced upon him and increased by half-days on a weekly basis.”

This is inaccurate. Dr. Harris was forced to increase volunteering every half-day each month without any assessment of how the process was proceeding.

Dr. Morier, on page 1, decontextualized Dr.Harris’ assertion about being “well aware of their game,” thereby overgeneralizing. She here inaccurately reduces the timeframe for increasing the volunteering.

“He also disliked that he was told he needed to have an exercise program.” Dr. Harris believed that he had a right to express his dislikes to Dr. Morier. However, at one point, Dr. Harris queried whether Dr. Morier then expected Dr. Harris to subordinate his will to those in power. Dr. Morier’s response was, ”Exactly.”

Dr. Harris, during a meeting with Adelle Field Burton, case manager for MTS, and Kathleen Moore, employment counsellor, indicated that he had always hated physical education in school. They agreed with him. They saw nothing wrong with his choice of taking martial arts.

“Although he chose a form of martial arts training called Wing Chun for physical conditioning, he resents this as he does like being told what to do in class, feels exhausted after his weekly lessons and is in some pain because of recently developed bursitis. As well, he does not enjoy the sensation of having his heart pounding during the exercise.”

Dr. Harris at no time indicated that he was resistant to taking Wing Chun Kung Fu. Dr. Harris had taken such a form of martial arts when he was younger, and he is eager to learn this system. It is untrue that Dr. Harris “resents this as he does not like being told what to do in class.” Dr. Harris never stated such a thing. Dr. Harris recognizes the superior skill of his sifu, and he would never say such a thing. There is no evidence to suggest that Dr. Harris dislikes being told what to do in class. His sifu would undoubtedly confirm that Dr. Harris tries his best while in class.

Dr. Harris did indeed indicate to Dr. Morier that he often woke up in the early morning the next day after having attended the Wing Chun class. Dr. Morier’s response was rude: she indicated, in a very brusque manner, that Dr. Harris was out of shape.

“He clearly stated that he resents the Disability Benefits Plan telling him what to do and controlling his rehabilitation plan.” Dr. Harris talked to Dr. Gene Degen, counsellor in the EPA plan for Manitoba Teachers’ Society, while still working as a teacher. Dr. Degen indicated that, although one was expected to do certain things during rehabilitation, ultimately it was the person who formed the center of the plan and who was the driver.

“Upon reviewing the rehabilitation plan and the correspondence, the writer actually believes it is a quite gradual, gentle, generous rehabilitation program.” Dr. Harris is unsure what this means. Is Dr. Morier claiming that she reviewed the plan with Dr. Harris and stated that it “is … program?” Otherwise, the following sentence makes little sense: “He [Dr. Harris] abruptly stated that he wanted his family physician and him to negotiate the rehabilitation process.”

If Dr. Morier claims that she reviewed the plan with Dr. Harris and stated that it was a gradual plan, this claim is false. If she means that she reviewed the plan and found it gradual—that is her opinion. Dr. Harris was under the impression that he had a right to voice his views. Dr. Morier’s attitude that any negative attitude expressed by Dr. Harris was illegitimate shines through in this passage and was evident throughout the interview process. Her evident hostility towards Dr. Harris’ views formed the basis for Dr. Harris’ feeling of being abused.

Since Dr. Morier claims that the rehabilitation program is gradual when volunteering is increased a half day every week, she must, logically, consider the fact that volunteering was increased once every month to be even more generous.

Page 4: “The anger and irritability are much more prominent than sadness, which he acknowledged but has difficulty acknowledging that it is severe or disabling.”

This is false. Dr. Harris provided the examples to illustrate that he was less patient than before and that the impatience could be a problem for teaching since it was necessary to be patient as a teacher. He specifically stated that to Dr. Morier.

“…he clearly ruminates about the injustices he has suffered because he is a Marxist, as well as about his mistreatment and the mistreatment of his daughter at the hands of the police.”

Dr. Harris’ response is: And? Ignoring injustices is hardly healthy. Apparently, Dr. Harris is expected to view the world the way Dr. Morier does (despite the claim, in cognitive behavioural therapy, of viewing the world in diverse manners). Dr. Harris prefers a quote from the preface to Capital, volume one, by Karl Marx: “Perseus wore a magic cap that the monsters he hunted down might not see him. We draw the magic cap down over eyes and ears as a make-believe that there are no monsters!”

Page 5: “Content was significant for his preoccupations with all of the injustices in his life perpetuated by Child and Family Services….”

As for injustices in the world—Dr. Harris’ daughter has certainly experienced such injustice via the negligence of CFS and the Selinger government  [the NDP premier) (and, before that government, the Filmon government). [Gary Filmon was the Progressive Conservative Premier before Mr. Selinger.]

See the attached complaint against the Child and Family Services. Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to determine whether the Child and Family Services has looked after the best interests of his daughter.

Apart from the above, there is further evidence of the inaccurate nature of Ms. Morier’s assessment. From Kathleen Moore, Rehabilitation Consultant, employed by MTS Disability, dated September 11, 2012: 

Fred made clear to me he has no interest in a gym program overseen by a therapist. I asked him what type of exercise programs he has done in the past and he stated he participated in martial arts programs. He has an interest in learning a martial arts program called Wing Chun. Fred found out the following that is of interest to him in terms of martial arts programs: 

  • Fred and I found one instructor who will instruct in Wing Chun but there were no others in this particular form of martial arts in Winnipeg. This instructor does it as a way of introducing the art to others and will only charge for the cost of the facility rental which is $30.00. Unfortunately he does not start a new class until November. The classes run for 3 weeks at 2x per week.
  • Fred has registered for a martial-arts and self-defense course with the Winnipeg School Division called “Personal Defense Readiness.” The cost is $89.00 total. It starts October 1st and runs for seven weeks 1x per week.

How anyone could claim that I resented participating in Wing Chun is beyond me. Perhaps it is due to stereotyping? As for the bursitis, the MTS Disability Plan actually paid a physiotherapist in order to solve that problem. I attended several sessions with the physiotherapist and engaged in exercises recommended by him at home in order to be able to participate in Wing Chun. That I felt tired while taking it is true–as was my pounding heart when I tried to sleep at night. I leave it to the reader to determine whether it is rational not to “enjoy” such sensations as a pounding heart that prevents one from sleeping properly. 

Conclusion

The oppression I experienced at the hands of Dr. Morier forms just one example of the oppression that many regular–and powerless–people experience at the hands of “experts” and “professionals” related, directly or indirectly, to the capitalist government or state. Such oppression is largely ignored by the social-democratic left, who idealize public services in general. 

In another post, I will further show how oppressive “psychological” therapy can be. 

The Rate of Exploitation of Workers at Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), One of the Largest Private Employers in Toronto

Introduction

In two others posts I presented the twenty largest employers in Toronto according to level of employment (see A Short List of the Largest Employers in Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and the twenty largest employers in Canada according to profit (see A Short List of the Largest Private Employers in Canada, According to Profit).

I have tried to calculate the rate of exploitation of workers of Magna International in an earlier post (see The Rate of Exploitation of Workers at Magna International Inc., One of the Largest Private Employers in Toronto, Part One); Magna International is one of the largest employers in Toronto. I also calculated the rate of exploitation for Air Canada workers and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) workers. 

The Nature of the Rate of Exploitation

But what is the rate of exploitation? And why not use the usual rate of profit or the rate of return? The rate of profit is calculated as profit divided by investment. Since employers purchase both the means for work–buildings, computers, office supplies, raw material–and hire workers–we can classify investment into two categories: c, meaning constant capital, or the capital invested in commodities other than workers; and v, or variable capital, the capital invested in the hiring of workers for a certain period of time (wages, salaries and benefits).

The purpose of investment in a capitalist economy is to obtain more money (see The Money Circuit of Capital), and the additional money is surplus value when it is related to its source: workers working for more time than what they cost to produce themselves. The relation between surplus value and variable capital (or wages and salaries) is the rate of surplus value or the rate of exploitation, expressed as a ratio: s/v.

When the surplus is related to both c and v and expressed as a ratio, it is the rate of profit: s/(c+v).

In Marxian economics, you cannot simply use the economic classifications provided by employers and governments since such classifications often hide the nature of the social world in which we live. The rate of profit underestimates the rate of exploitation since the surplus value is related to total investment and not just to the workers. Furthermore, it makes the surplus value appear to derive from both constant capital and variable capital.

I decided to look at the annual report of some of the largest private companies in Toronto and Canada if they are available in order to calculate the rate of exploitation at a more micro level than aggregate rates of surplus value at the national or international level. Politically, this is necessary since social democrats here in Toronto (and undoubtedly elsewhere) vaguely may refer to exploitation–while simultaneously and contradictorily referring to “decent work” and “fair contracts.” Calculating even approximately the rate of exploitation at a more micro level thus has political relevance.

Conclusions First

As usual, I start with the conclusion in order to make readily accessible the results of the calculations for those who are more interested in the results than in how to obtain them.

Adjusted Net Income: 5587.3=s
Adjusted Total labour Costs: 5611.7=v

The rate of exploitation or the rate of surplus value=s/v=5587.3/5611.7=100% (after rounding).

That means that for every hour worked that produces her/his wage, a worker at BCE works around an additional hour for free for BCE. Alternatively, in terms of money, $1 of wage or salary of a regular BCE worker produces around $1 surplus value or profit for free. 

In terms of varying lengths of the working day: 

  1. In a 7.5-hour work day (450 minutes), the worker produces her/his wage in 225 minutes (3 hours  45 minutes) and works 225 minutes (3 hours 45 minutes) for free for BCE.
  2. In an 8-hour work day (480 minutes), the worker producer her/his wage in 240 minutes (4 hours) and works 240 minutes (4 hours) for free for BCE.
  3. In a 10-hour work day (600 minutes), the worker producers her/his wage in 300 minutes (5 hours) and works 300 minutes (5 hours) for free for BCE.
  4. In a 12-hour work day (720 minutes), the worker produces her/his wage in 360 minutes (6 hours) and works 360 minutes (6 hours) for free for BCE.

Of course, during the time that the worker produces her/his own wage, s/he is subject to the power of management and hence is also unfree during that time (see The Rate of Exploitation of Magna International Inc., One of the Largest Private Employers in Toronto, Part Two, Or: Intensified Oppression and Exploitation and   Employers as Dictators, Part One).

Do you think that these facts contradict the talk by the left and unionists of “fair wages,” “fair contracts” (see  Fair Contracts (or Fair Collective Agreements): The Ideological Rhetoric of Canadian Unions, Part One for the rhetoric of the largest union in Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)) and “decent work?” Do they ignore the reality of life for workers, whether unionized or non-unionized? If exploitation and oppression of workers is a constant in their lives, even if they are only vaguely aware of it, should this situation not be frankly acknowledged by their representatives? Do such representatives do so? If not, why not?  Do workers deserve better than neglecting the social context within which they live and work? Should such problems be addressed head on rather than neglected? 

Even if workers were not exploited, they would still be oppressed since they are used as things (means) for purposes which they as a collectivity do not define (see The Money Circuit of Capital). Does that express something fair? Management rights clauses (implied or explicit in collective agreements give management as representative of employers–and as a minority–the power to dictate to workers what to do, when to do it, how to do it and so forth–and is not the imposition of the will of a minority over the majority a dictatorship? (See  Employers as Dictators, Part One). Is that fair? Do union reps ever explain how a collective agreement somehow expresses something fair? Is that fair?

Is the following an example of what union reps mean by a “fair contract?”

COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT
BETWEEN
UNIFOR
AND
BELL CANADA

CRAFT AND SERVICES EMPLOYEES
EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 23, 2017 

ARTICLE 8 – MANAGEMENT RIGHTS

8.01 The Company has the exclusive right and power to manage its operations in all respects and in accordance with its commitments and responsibilities to the public, to conduct its business efficiently and to direct the working forces and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, it has the exclusive right and power to hire, promote, transfer, demote or lay-off employees, and to suspend, dismiss or otherwise discipline employees.

8.02 The Company agrees that any exercise of these rights and powers shall not contravene the provisions of this Agreement.

Should workers not be discussing why management has these rights? Should workers not be discussing whether an unelected management should have such rights? Should workers not be discussing how to organize to abolish this dictatorship? Should workers not be criticizing any union rep who claims that a collective agreement somehow expresses a “fair contract?” A “good contract?” All other such platitudes? 

Data on Which the Calculation Is Based

The calculation of the rate of exploitation is undoubtedly imperfect, and I invite the reader to correct its gaps. Nonetheless, the lack of any attempt to determine the rate of exploitation at the city level has undoubtedly reinforced social-reformist tendencies.

Now, the calculation: 

In millions of Canadian dollars:

Page 113:

Operating revenues 23,964

Costs
Operating costs 13,858
Severance, acquisition and other costs 114
Depreciation 3,496
Amortization 902
Finance costs
Interest expense 1,132
Interest on post-employment benefit obligations 63
Other expense 13
Total costs: 19,578

Net income: 4386 [23,964-19,578=4386] [the 3253 is after taxes; if you add taxes, you get 4386 as well]

Operating costs need to be broken down further since costs for maintaining workers as wage workers form one of the two considerations for the calculation of the rate of exploitation.

Labour costs
Wages, salaries and related taxes and benefits 4,303
Post-employment benefit plans service cost (net of capitalized amounts) 247
Other labour costs 1,005
Less:
Capitalized labour 1,032
Total labour costs: 4,523

Adjustments

In Marxian theory, it is necessary to question whether some expenses are expenses for both the individual employer and for the class of employers (and fractions of their class, such as those who live on interest); in such a case, the expense is deducted from total revenue. On the other hand, there are expenses that are expenses for the individual employer but are not expenses when looked at from the point of view of the class of employers; in such an instance, they are paid out from the surplus value produced or obtained by workers and are to be included in income before taxes.

Adjustment of Total Labour Costs

Capitalized Labour

It is necessary to consider the category “Capitalized labour” since it is not treated as a labour cost by BCE whereas here it will be so treated. Capitalized labour involves the following:

CAPITALIZED LABOR means all direct costs of labor that can be identified or associated with and are properly allocable to the construction, modification, or installation of specific items of capital assets and, as such, can thereby be written down over time via a depreciation or amortization schedule as capitalized. 

I have chosen to treat capitalized labour as part of labour costs since it is current labour that is involved in the operations of BCE; the work performed by workers in installing and assembling machinery includes surplus value.

Temporarily Adjusted Total labour Costs: 5555

Severance, acquisition and other costs

It is necessary to make adjustments for this category since part of the money expended relates to costs destined to be received by workers. To take this into account, it is necessary to break the category down further.

Severance 63
Acquisition and other 51
Total severance, acquisition and other costs 114

I assume that “Acquisition and other” are non-labour expenses.
In a note, it states:

Severance costs consist of charges related to involuntary and voluntary employee terminations. In 2018, severance costs include a 4% reduction in management workforce across BCE.

Given that the severance package for management is likely to be much higher than for regular employees, the 4 percent reduction in the management workforce likely results in a higher percentage of severance pay to that 4 percent. It is impossible to determine with precision how much higher. I will assume 10 percent. The reason for taking into consideration such a difference is that the severance for management is likely to be a function of its exploitation of other workers and not its own exploitation.

Ten percent of 63 is 6.3; therefore, this 6.3 needs to be added to net income and subtracted from 63.
Temporarily adjusted Net income: 4392.3

This shift from considering part of severance pay from a cost to a part of net income also changes the total costs by reducing it by 6.3. Therefore:

Temporarily adjusted Total Costs: 19,571.7

The remaining severance is 56.7. This needs to be added to the category “Post-employment benefit plans service cost” since it forms part of the income of workers and costs for BCE. Accordingly:
Adjusted Total labour Costs: 5611.7

Adjustment of Finance Costs

Another adjustment relates to interest. As I indicated in my post about the rate of exploitation of workers at Magna International:

An adjustment should probably be the treatment of the payment of interest: despite being an expense from the point of view of the individual capitalist, it probably forms part of the surplus value. It should be added to “Income before income tax expense.”

As for the category “Interest on post-employment benefit obligations,” from the point of view of BCE, it is an expense or cost because, presumably, BCE had to borrow money (and pay interest) to meet its financial obligations to its retired workers; this interest comes from the surplus value produced by the workers and is therefore included as part of profit.

Accordingly, both “Interest expense” and “Interest on post-employment benefit obligations” are deducted from “Total costs” and added to “Net income,” and “Total costs” are therefore also adjusted.

Operating revenues 23,964
Adjusted Total Costs: 19,571.7- 1,132 – 63=18,376.7
Adjusted Net Income: 5587.3=s
Adjusted Total labour Costs: 5611.7=v

The Rate of Exploitation

The rate of exploitation or the rate of surplus value=s/v=5587.3/5611.7=100% (after rounding).

That means that for every hour worked that produces her/his wage, a worker at BCE works around an additional hour for free for BCE. Alternatively, in terms of money, $1 of wage or salary of a regular BCE worker produces around $1 surplus value or profit for free. 

The length of the working day at BCE, like most places, varies. Here are a sample of working days from the Internet:

I worked, on average, twelve hours a day.
I worked about 8 hours a day on the average.
10 hours per and about 50 hours weekly and was paid for only 37.5 weekly.

The collective agreement between Bell Canada and Unifor Atlantic CommunicationLocals (Unifor ACL) states: 

(c) Employees whose standard hours of work are eighty (80) hours in a scheduling period, will normally work either ten (10) scheduled tours of eight (8) hours. Employees whose standard hours of work are seventy-five (75) hours in a scheduling period, will normally work ten (10) scheduled tours of seven and one-half (7.5) hours. …

(d) Tours can be scheduled for a maximum of ten (10) hours with mutual agreement between the employee and their direct supervisor.

(e) Longer tours, to a maximum of twelve (12) hours per tour, may be scheduled with the mutual agreement of the employee(s), their direct supervisor, Labour Relations and the Council. Such special
arrangements must be committed to in writing and signed by the parties prior to implementing. These arrangements can be cancelled by any party with eight (8) weeks notice.

Since Bell workers are exploited 100 percent, the calculation of the number of hours they work to produce the equivalent value of their wage and the number of hours they work for free for Bell is relatively easy.

  1. In a 7.5-hour work day (450 minutes), the worker produces her/his wage in 225 minutes (3 hours  45 minutes) and works 225 minutes (3 hours 45 minutes) for free for BCE.
  2. In an 8-hour work day (480 minutes), the worker producer her/his wage in 240 minutes (4 hours) and works 240 minutes (4 hours) for free for BCE.
  3. In a 10-hour work day (600 minutes), the worker producers her/his wage in 300 minutes (5 hours) and works 300 minutes (5 hours) for free for BCE.
  4. In a 12-hour work day (720 minutes), the worker produces her/his wage in 360 minutes (6 hours) and works 360 minutes (6 hours) for free for BCE.


Exposing the Intolerance and Censorship of Social Democracy, Part Three: Critique of the Lack of Reference to the Class of Employers and to the Health Implications of Living Under Their Dominance

Introduction

This is the continuation of a four-part series of posts. For the context of where the following fits into my participation and withdrawal from the organization Social Housing Green Deal, see the first part Exposing the Intolerance and Censorship of Social Democracy, Part One: The Working Class, Housing and the Police.

Christoph Henning’s words (2005) express the nature of some so-called leftist social organizations in Toronto, such as Social Housing Green Deal.  From Philosophy after Marx: 100 Years of Misreadings and the Normative Turn in Political Philosophy, page 77:

We will see that Marxian theory, whose import was already lost in the developments discussed above, not only continued to be given a new thematic framework, but also displayed a ‘changing function’. A mode of thinking that operates within complex and dynamic socio-economic structures of development was replaced by a simplified rationale of domination. In functional terms, this led to a transformation of theory. Theory went from being a critical companion of politics to being an instrument by which to ideologically affirm a political voluntarism that was practised in a largely unreflected manner.

Before the May 2 Social Housing Green Deal zoom meeting I had drafted a critical analysis of two motioned items that were on the agenda. The first motion I discussed in the second post. This post is about the other motion. I sent my critical comments to Ms. Jessup, moderator and administrator, for the group. The motion was to support the statement by the grassroots organization “Suppress the Virus Now Coalition.”

The first motion, as I indicated in my previous post, was more or less rubber-stamped. I had the impression that Ms. Jessup wanted the motion by the Suppress the Virus Now Coalition also to be rubber-stamped. However, I, Ms. Jessup and another zoom member had to leave soon.

I managed to have the motion tabled until the next meeting. That meeting was postponed, however, until May 23. I will describe why I did not attend that meeting in the final post of this series.

Second Critique: The Motion to Support the Statement Made By Suppress the Virus Now Coalition

This is what I wrote: 

There is a controversial claim in this statement.

“ANY PANDEMIC STRATEGY THAT RESIGNS ITSELF TO AVOIDABLE SICKNESS AND DEATH IS RACIST, ANTI-BLACK, ANTI-INDIGENOUS, SEXIST, ABLEIST, AGEIST, AND UNACCEPTABLE.”

Acquiescence to avoidable sickness has been the rule, not the exception. This does not mean that there have not been struggles over health and safety in the workplace. There have been constant struggles, but currently the unionized sector of the labour movement has often rested content with rhetoric than dealing with the reality of just how unsafe working conditions were even before the pandemic.

Thus, in a recent nod to the number of injured and dead workers in Canada, the Toronto Airport Workers Council (TAWC, an organization “committed to speaking up for workers at YYZ [Toronto Pearson Airport], TAWC posted the following on its Facebook page on April 28—the Canadian national day of mourning for workers killed on the job: “Photos of the GTAA Administration building of the flags lowered at half-mast as a mark of respect on this National day of mourning.”

My response: “It would be more relevant if all measures to eliminate processes and procedures that treat workers as means for the benefit of employers were instituted–in other words, the elimination of a society organized on the basis of the class power of employers. How many workers have been injured and died at Pearson because of the pursuit of profit?

Flying a flag at half-mast is hardly a symbol of respect if all measures to eliminate dangerous working conditions are not pursued. Have such dangerous working conditions been eliminated at Pearson?”

There were 2 likes and 0 comments.

I had another “debate” on TAWC over the issue of health and safety at Pearson earlier, but I will spare the reader any further references unless someone wants to read it.

Some Canadian statistics before the pandemic (from my blog):

Official statistics:

  1. “More than 1000 employees die every year in Canada on the job, and about 630,000 are injured every year (Bob Barnetson, 2010, The Political Economy of Workplace Injury in Canada. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, p. 2). The same year as the publication of that work saw 554 homicides (Tina Mahonny, 2011, Homicide in Canada, 2010. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, p. 1) —the number of employee deaths at work under the power of employers was around double the number of murders.”

    Non-official statistics:

  2. Steven Bittle, Ashley Chen and Jasmine Hébert report a much higher figure in their article (Fall 2018), ““Work-Related Deaths in Canada,”, pages 159-187, in Labour/Le Travail, Volume 82, page 186:

“Relying on a range of data sources, and adopting a broad definition of what constitutes a work-related fatality, we generated a revised estimate of the number of annual work-related fatalities. Based on our analysis, we estimate that the number of annual work-related fatalities in Canada is at least ten to thirteen times higher than the approximately 900 to 1,000 annual average fatalities reported by the AWBC [The Canadian Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada]. This makes work-related fatalities one of the leading causes of death in this country.”

Has there really been any social movement to address this carnage? Not that I am aware of. Resignation to sickness, injury and death at work (and outside work due to preventable diseases such as cancer) is part of parcel of Canadian culture (and many other national cultures). To then call it racist, etc seems to be an inadequate characterization of the situation of many workers in Canada. There may indeed be higher differentials of injury, disease and death among coloured workers, etc. (which requires more detailed data), but the general nature of the problem is not racist, etc but economic: workers, whatever their colour, gender, etc., are subject to the control of a class of workers, and there is no real and effective political organization that questions such control and aims to abolish the conditions that make it eminently reasonable (from an employer’s point of view) to engage in actions that injury, make sick or kill workers.

From Bob Barnetson, The Political Economy of Workplace Injury in Canada, page 2):

“Perspectives on workplace injury

How you react to the vast number of workers injured and killed each year reflects your values and beliefs. Are these injures inevitable? Are they just the cost of doing business? One way to look at workplace injuries is from an economic perspective. This view sees the risk of injury as minimal, unavoidable and, ultimately, acceptable. Is it the price we (or at least workers) must pay for a “healthy” economy? If we are going to lower the risk of injury, we need to ensure the cost is less than the benefit we’ll receive. And the people best positioned to decide that are employers.

This economic perspective dominates the debate about workplace health and safety. It is the lingua franca of employers, bureaucrats, politicians, and most academics. There are, of course, alternative perspectives. An alternative advanced by workers views workplace injuries as the result of choices employers make in order to maximize profitability. Contrary to the slogan “safety pays,” it is usually cheaper for employers to organize work unsafely. This is especially true if employers can (with the tacit consent of government) pass along the cost of occupational injuries and disease to workers.”

The kind of social process called working for an employer (being an employee) that characterizes our working lives is a threat to our health in various ways, Logically, if we take seriously the claim that “ANY [PANDEMIC[ STRATEGY THAT RESIGNS ITSELF TO AVOIDABLE SICKNESS AND DEATH,” should be opposed, then we should be fighting to create an organization and a movement that fights against a social organization dominated by a class of employers (and the associated economic, political and social structures) and for a socialist society that eliminates class relations—period. Otherwise, any other strategy simply “resigns itself to avoidable sickness and death”–regardless of the pandemic, and regardless of its differentiated impact on race, gender and so forth. In fact, what has happened during the pandemic merely highlights the continuity with past practice—and the acquiescence of those who have failed to oppose a society dominated by a class of employers.

Just as an aside. The list of demands: how effective are they really? Are there any priorities? Are there some that need to be implemented right away? Or are all on the same level? If on different levels, should they not have been organized in some fashion to reflect the level of priorities? And not only priorities but power to achieve each demand? What organizations and supports currently exist that are more relevant for achieving each specific demand? Or all all organizations and supports on the same level?

End of my commentary

The “Suppress the Virus Now Coalition” also wrote the following: 

The Suppress The Virus Now Coalition is a network of community groups, labour groups, and individuals in Ontario. We have come together out of a shared concern about the Ontario provincial and Canadian federal governments’ approach to the COVID-19 crisis since the pandemic hit in March 2020. Now, as the second wave drags on, we demand that those governments stop prioritizing corporate profits over the health and well-being of our communities. We refuse to endorse any approach that accepts the needless death of elderly people and those living and working in long-term care; of disabled, chronically ill, and immunocompromised loved ones; of Indigenous Peoples in Ontario and across the country; of the Black, migrant, and racialized communities who have borne the brunt of COVID-19 infections in the GTA; of underhoused, precariously housed, and houseless neighbours; of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated community members; and of the health-care and other essential workers who are on the front lines.

ANY PANDEMIC STRATEGY THAT RESIGNS ITSELF TO AVOIDABLE SICKNESS AND DEATH IS RACIST, ANTI-BLACK, ANTI-INDIGENOUS, SEXIST, ABLEIST, AGEIST, AND UNACCEPTABLE. IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE #COVIDzero CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED BY HEALTH-CARE WORKERS, WE DEMAND THAT OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS EXPLICITLY ADOPT THE HUMANE GOAL OF ELIMINATING COMMUNITY SPREAD OF COVID-19.

Policing, threats, and rhetoric that blames individuals for systemic failures and conditions outside of their control are neither effective nor ethical tactics to deal with this pandemic. Instead, we must turn to principles of solidarity and community care, and toward robust, expansive, and inclusive social supports so that we can all make it through this crisis. Social and economic inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic, but rather than returning to a “normal” where a select few lives are privileged over others, we must build the conditions for all to live and thrive. This rebuilding must centre the needs of those most impacted by the pandemic and by the ongoing violence of the Canadian state.

We call for a just, equitable #COVIDzero approach that includes (but is not limited to): 

  • At least seven employer-paid sick days for all workers on a permanent basis, plus an additional 14 paid sick days during public health emergencies.

  • Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all workers, including respirator masks (e.g. N95s, FFP2s) for all workers in indoor workplaces until COVID community transmission ends, now that we know the virus can remain airborne indoors for hours.

  • The right of all workers to refuse work due to unsafe workplace conditions, and to be eligible for income supports like the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) after such work refusals.

  • Expanded eligibility for pandemic-related state assistance such as the CRB, including for temporary migrant workers, undocumented people, gig economy workers, sex workers, and others.

  • An immediate ban on evictions; rent cancellation and forgiveness of arrears; a moratorium on encampment policing; and safe, accessible winter housing for unhoused people who want it.

  • An immediate end to the criminalization, racial profiling, and raids that harm migrant and non-migrant sex workers, including anti-trafficking initiatives and repressive bylaws affecting sex workers and workers in massage parlours.

  • Safe and accessible options for isolation when home isolation is not an option, and transparent communication about options that are already in existence.

  • Immediate investment to improve ventilation, reduce class sizes, and offer COVID testing to students and education workers; and robust assistance for students, educators, caregivers, and families when school closures are necessary, like now.

  • Redistributing 50% of all police budgets toward resourcing social and health supports in Black, Indigenous, and people of colour communities.

  • An immediate end to deportations, and regularization and full immigration status now for all migrants, refugees, international students, workers (including temporary or seasonal migrants), and undocumented people in the country.

  • Immediate federal support and funding for clean water access, appropriate health care, and COVID supports for all Indigenous people on and off reserve, and the recognition of Indigenous sovereignty across the country, including heeding demands to immediately classify oil, mineral, and gas extraction as non-essential work, and to hit pause on extraction, exploration, and environmental assessment processes.

  • Immediate decarceration of people from provincial, federal, and immigration detention facilities, and simultaneous access to sanitation and protective equipment, harm reduction supplies, free communication resources, and appropriate and consensual post-incarceration support for all incarcerated people.

  • Permanently increasing Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates to match CERB ($2,000/month).

  • Making temporary, uneven pandemic pay boosts permanent by raising the minimum wage for all.

  • Taking profit out of long-term care, replacing for-profit corporations with an entirely non-profit and public system. Enforcing national standards that ensure that long-term care workers – who are disproportionately racialized women – have a living wage, health and wellness benefits, and a safe and secure job, in order to provide high-quality care to residents.

  • Making public transit safe by halting fare inspection, investing in mask distribution, and putting more buses on high-traffic routes to allow for physical distancing.

  • Increasing research and supports dedicated to COVID “long-haulers,” people still suffering from the effects of the virus months after infection.

  • Greater involvement of community groups in public health decision-making, respecting communities’ knowledge about their own life circumstances, and more consistently inviting their representatives into decision-making processes led by researchers and civic officials.

As the pandemic puts our society’s racial and class divides on ruthless display, it is urgent that we all show up with our neighbours to demand a just, equitable pathway to #COVIDzero that leaves no one behind.

To add your name (individual and/or organization) to this statement, and/or to get involved with the coalition’s work, please complete this short form.

We are an Ontario-based group, but the need for a just, equitable #COVIDzero strategy transcends local boundaries. We invite collaboration with people struggling towards the same goal elsewhere. We also encourage groups outside Ontario to adopt and adapt this statement freely for your own purposes.

In Ontario, here are some ways you can plug into powerful community organizing and take action:

  • Follow, boost, and contribute to groups like the Encampment Support Network, People’s Defence Toronto, and Keep Your Rent Toronto that are fighting for housing justice.

  • Volunteer with and donate to Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction, providing encampment support and working to mitigate the harms of the catastrophic overdose crisis.

  • Join the Migrant Rights Network to demand justice, safety, and #StatusForAll migrants.

  • Support the labour organizing of the Workers Action Centre and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change to ensure that no one is left behind.

  • Take action with 15 & Fairness and the Decent Work and Health Network to demand paid sick days for all.

  • Learn more about the work of COVID Long Haulers Support Group Canada, a large grassroots organization of COVID survivors experiencing debilitating effects months after infection, and sign the support group’s petition demanding recognition, research, and rehabilitation for Long COVID sufferers.

  • Get involved with the Toronto Prisoners Rights Project to fight for justice for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, and take action to demand decarceration.

  • Demand better for residents and workers in long-term care, by following the work of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Canadian Union of Public Employees, and Unifor, and contributing to their calls to action.

  • Follow and boost Green Jobs Oshawa’s campaign for domestic PPE production, crucial long-term healthcare organizing by the Ontario Health Coalition and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, and the campaign to #MakeReveraPublic.

  • Write to elected officials to express your support for the demands of the Wet’suwet’en Chiefs who are calling for a stop to resource extraction projects as COVID-19 outbreaks recur in B.C. work camps.

  • Protect public sector jobs and collective bargaining with the Toronto & York Region Labour Council by adding your voice to their Forward Together campaign.

  • Join TTC Riders to demand adequate funding for safe and physically distanced public transit options.

  • Call the Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services to demand increased social assistance rates.

  • Demand that the Ontario legislature adopt an intersectional gender equity approach to its pandemic response

Conclusion

My general criticism on this blog has been and will continue to be that the so-called radical left fail to connect up a general criticism of a society dominated by a class of employers–with the associated oppressive and exploitative economic, political and social structures–and particular issues. The organization Suppress the Virus Now Coalition failed to do just that.

The pandemic should have been an occasion to develop a movement against the systemic nature of capitalist society. There has really been no such movement–in part undoubtedly because grass-roots social movements fail to link the particular issues surrounding the pandemic with the general issue of the impossibility of maximizing the health of workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers in the context of a society dominated by a class of employers.

My comments and criticisms were never addressed. My criticisms, in effect, were censored. I leave it to the reader to decide whether such censorship expresses the democratic nature of some (if not many) grassroots organizations–or if it expresses something else. 

The last post of this series will include further comments and questions about “The People’s Pandemic Shutdown.” 

The Real World of the Rule of Law: Courts as Oppressive Organizations, Part Three: Arbitrary Arrest and Police as Privileged Citizens

Introduction

This is a continuation of a series that exposes the reality of courts as part of the exposure of the reality of the rule of law. 

The series involves quotes from the book by Doreen McBarnet (1983) Conviction: Law, the State and the Construction of Justice as well as short commentaries related to the quotes. I use her book as a way of exposing the real nature of the rule of law and the role of courts in both hiding the real nature and enforcing the real nature of the rule of law.

The courts and the police are interrelated, and as a consequence what the police do and the nature of the police have an essential bearing on what courts do and on the nature of courts–as courts have an essential bearing on what police do and the nature of the police. 

Does the law protect workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers from arbitrary arrest, and does it treat the police on the same level as workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers? 

The Ideology of Evidence for Arrest Versus the Reality of Arrest to Find Evidence (Arbitrary Arrest)

Theoretically, or ideologically, the police are supposed to have some basis for arresting citizens rather than arresting them and then finding evidence. From page 27:

In principle then the police must have evidence against someone before detaining him, not detain him in order to obtain evidence against him-exactly the principle one might expect to be enunciated in an ideology of legality which seeks to safeguard the citizen from the state by prohibiting arbitrary arrest. At the level of abstract principle, due process and crime control seem well and truly at odds. And the question facing us is how do the police, in the face of legal definitions of due process, acquire the requisite information for incriminating suspects and setting the whole process in motion?

Police work is typically presented in relation to the right of a citizen not to incriminate oneself (as typically presented in police shows (such as those on Netflix and Amazon Prime), with the police then engaged in a process of investigation to establish evidence that substantiates criminal charges. This situation, however, is the exception of criminal charges rather than the rule. Page 27: 

…how difficult the incrimination process is depends on the kind of offence involved. In what the police see as ‘real police work’ (Cain, 1971, p. 88) incrimination may well be problematic. For this is the stuff detective fiction is made of, where only the offence comes to light and both offender and evidence for incrimination have to be established by investigation. But this is not the kind of offence that dominates the work of either the police or the courts. Petty offences, particularly offences against public order, are much more typical and these are of quite a different nature. They are largely a matter of police-citizen encounter with the police defining marginal behaviour as subject to arrest or not, with the
policeman and the culprit on the spot, with no investigation involved, and the process of incrimination simply begun and ended with the charge. In short for the vast majority of cases that are processed by the police and the courts, incrimination, and the constraints of law on incrimination, are simply not a problem.

This does not mean that the police are satisfied with such a situation. They do indeed seek to obtain enhanced powers that would allegedly permit them to widen their field of arrests to include more professional criminals. The problem is that such professional criminals, as professional, often will adapt their procedures to take into account the changed procedures of the police, thereby once again eluding the police. The probable result is that either it will be more likely that the same petty offenders will be arrested, or more petty offenders will be arrested. Page 27:

Of course the police demand for more powers is less concerned with such petty offenders than with the ‘hardened criminals’ who escape conviction by slipping through the net of procedures that are ‘excessively solicitous towards accused persons’. The irony is that
the people most likely to be caught by wider police powers are the petty offenders who, as it were, know not what they do. Successful professional criminals are, as Mack ( 1976) notes and Mcintosh ( 197 1) demonstrates historically, successful professional criminals
exactly because they can find their way round and adapt their methods to new procedure.

As an aside, but related to this, Herman Rosenfeld, a supposed Marxist radical here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, claimed the following: 

Shouldn’t that institution [the police] be thoroughly transformed, by political struggle, into a more humane, limited and less autonomous one?

Since the police, when they make an arrest, do so in the majority of cases because of petty crimes, where the person is allegedly “caught in the act,” how does Mr. Rosenfeld propose to “transform the police as an institution into a more humane, limited and less autonomous one” under these circumstances? I am still waiting for Mr. Rosenfeld’s elaboration of such a proposal. I predict that he will never elaborate on such a proposal because his statement is pure rhetoric–typical of many social reformists or social democrats. 

Returning to the issue of the so-called right not to be arrested arbitrarily, not only are the vast majority of arrests for petty or minor  offences but they are “easy” in that they do not involve substantial investigation or inquiry. Page 28:

there are so many marginal arrests [because]  they are easy.

Arrests without warrants rarely go challenged. Pages 28-29:

… as Renton and Brown (I972) point out in discussing arrest without warrant, ‘it is not often challenged’ (p. 28). Given the methods available for challenging an arrest, this is
hardly surprising. The opportunities are limited: one may challenge the arrest in the course of a trial, one may take out a civil action or one may lodge a complaint against the police under the 1964 Police Act. 

Furthermore, most such offences do not even go to trial since most of those charged plead guilty. Page 29:

But most cases do not come to trial since most defendants plead guilty (whether they believe themselves guilty or not) 4 and the legitimacy or otherwise of the arrest is therefore never challenged.

Even the presence of a lawyer hardly guarantees that police conduct will be challenged. Page 29:

… even defendants who are represented may find their lawyer advising against questioning police conduct since it might turn the judge against him (Baldwin and McConville, 1977)

If the accused does challenge the arrest, the probability of winning is less than 20 percent: Page 29:

Box and Russell (1975) show that only 18 per cent were found-by the police-to be substantiated. The improbability of successfully challenging an arrest, particularly for a trivial offence, provides one immediate reason for the ease of marginal arrests.

This lack of probability of successfully challenging the legitimacy of an arrest  and being taken  into custody is due: 1. in part to the vagueness in the law’s reference to the legitimacy of an arrest in the interests of justice; 2. in part to only the subjective requirement of the police’s belief that the arrest was justified and 3. in part in the history, character and living circumstances of the person taken into custody. Page 29: 

The legality of custody is defined in terms of reasonableness or the interests of justice (Renton and Brown, 1972, p. 30), neither of which sets the parameters very clearly, allowing wide scope for subjective discretion. Indeed, the common law merely offers a post
hoc check on the ‘reasonableness’ of the policeman’s belief that arrest was justified. The law also accepts the belief that people ought to be taken into custody if they have a past record (Carlin v. Malloch, 1896) or are jobless or homeless. Lord Deas, in Peggie v. Clark ( 1868)
made it clear that the arrest of a member of ‘the criminal classes’ or of someone with no means of honest livelihood or fixed abode is easier to justify than that of someone who:
even although expressly charged with a crime by an aggrieved party, be a well-known householder-a person of respectability-what, in our judicial practice, we call a ‘lawabiding party’.

The homeless and jobless are automatically suspect as being of the “criminal” type; only those who work for an employer (and thus are oppressed and exploited) and, possibly, own some form of property (such as a house or condominium) as well as employers and professionals, should be free from arbitrary arrest since they form essential means or material for the continued existence of capitalist society. 

As I have pointed out elsewhere (Reform Versus Abolition of the Police, Part 8: The Police and the Political Economy of Capitalism), the legal system is designed to ensure that workers remain workers for employers, and those who are on the fringes of the employer-employee relation are always suspect and easy prey for arbitrary arrests by police. This situation is not despite the law but because of the law. From pages 30-32:

Given the law’s attitude to the homeless and jobless we could not expect equality anyway. Pragmatics and rationalisations at the informal level-with the consequence, intended or otherwise, of class and racial bias-are also endorsed in formal law. As for having sufficient evidence on a specific offence, there is also plenty of scope for legally circumventing that principle. The specific offence may itself be rather unspecific: breach of the peace (whose
peace?), loitering with intent or being on premises for unlawful purposes (how does one determine purpose or intent?), possessing goods for which one cannot satisfactorily account (how many people carry receipts and what is satisfactory?), carrying implements
that could be used for housebreaking (where does one draw the line?), or as weapons. Even an empty milk bottle has been defined as a dangerous weapon (Armstrong and Wilson, I973). If the police operate at this level with wide discretion (Bottomley, 1973) it is not just because they surreptitiously take it into their own hands but because they are formally allocated discretion on what constitutes an offence via vague substantive laws and wide procedural powers.

So, in vague cases like breach of the peace, the offence exists because the police say they observed someone loitering, drunk, ‘bawling, shouting, cursing and swearing’, to quote the daily menu for the district courts, or more unusually but nonetheless an observed case, ‘jumping on and off the pavement in a disorderly fashion’ (Case 30). These offences may be, in Maureen Cain’s term, marginal. They are, as described, amazingly trivial. But they are also numerically significant ( 76 per cent of the arrests Cain (1971) observed), hence her interest in probing the non-legal reasons for police making such arrests (p. 74). But what is also important is the formal structure which makes such arrests, whatever their
motivation, legal.

Likewise, one must refer to more than informal stereotyping to explain the arrest of two young boys (Case g), a ‘known thief’ and his companion, who, according to the police evidence, were ‘touching car handles’. Whatever the motivation of the police, the legality of their action is indisputable and the stereotyping more than informal. The General Powers Act 196o lays down the law that known or reputed thieves in suspicious circumstances are subject to arrest. A known thief is someone with a previous conviction for dishonesty: previous convictions become therefore not just informal leads for narrowing-down suspects on committed crimes but legal grounds for arresting them. A reputed thief is someone who keeps bad company and has no known means of honest livelihood: stereotyping and assuming the worst are thus written into the law. Suspicious circumstances are left to the police to define. Thus police evidence in this case is expressed purely as subjective interpretation:

‘they were touching them as though to open them .. .’,
‘he seemed to say to Craig to stand back .. .’,
‘they appeared to be watching and waiting .. .’ (McBarnet’s emphasis).

Note that it is not just police practice but the formal law here which deviates from the ideals of legality, replacing arrest for a specified offence with arrest on suspicion or for prevention; replacing established law with arbitrary definitions; replacing the doctrine of trying each case on its merits with the relevance of  previous convictions. Personal and bureaucratic motivations can explain why the police want to make arrests; the law itself explains why they may.

The Real Rule of Law Privileges the Police Over Citizens

The real rule of law privileges police over citizens. An arrest by the police makes the probability of a finding of a guilty verdict quite high. The police in the courts, in effect, are treated as privileged citizens who have a higher regard for the truth. From page 32: 

What is more, judicial sanctions on police arrests at this level are meaningless. Vague laws and wide powers effectively sidestep standards of legality and proof by equating the subjective police decision with substantive law and requisite evidence. The police are given the statutory powers to define the limits of the behaviour that constitutes public order. It is not necessary to prove any ill effect, for example, in a breach of the peace, that anyone was offended or even affected: a breach has occurred:

where something is done in breach of public order or decorum
which might reasonably be expected to lead to the lieges being
alarmed or upset. … (Raffaeli v. Heatly, 1949; McBarnet’s emphasis)

So the refusal of members of the public to say they were offended in witnessing the incident, a point regularly made in police reports, is rendered irrelevant, as indeed judges point out to juries, reading out the legal definitions and emphasising: ‘Note that ‘might be’. There need not be evidence that anyone was actually upset’ (Case 93). Nor is there any need to prove intent in cases like these, by, for example, reference to:

any particular act or acts tending to show the purpose or intent;
he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case and
from his known character, the court is of the opinion that he was
intending to commit a felony. (Vagrancy Act 1824, s. 12)

No further evidence than the policeman’s general statement of his impression unsubstantiated even by details of how he formed it seems to be required. Hence Case 29 where the accused were convicted of attempted theft from cars:

Prosecutor: And was anything missing?
Policeman: No. They didn’t get in. 
Prosecutor: But you are sure they were trying to get in?
Policeman: The behaviour of the boys left me in no doubt that they were trying to enter the van.

Let us now return again to Mr. Rosenfeld’s social reformist political rhetoric: 

Shouldn’t that institution [the police] be thoroughly transformed, by political struggle, into a more humane, limited and less autonomous one?

Given the above situation, how does Mr. Rosenfeld propose to remedy the situation? Through phrases? He refers to “political struggle,” and yet I have yet to see Mr. Rosenfeld engage in political struggle in this area. How are arbitrary arrests to be prevented? How is the main focus of police on petty offences (if indeed they are offences at all) to be transformed into a more humane form?  Political struggle for him must mean–engaging in political rhetoric (in order to hide no real political struggle through challenging the power of the police and courts either on the streets, by way of his writings or a combination of the two). 

Furthermore, what does he mean by “more humane police institution?” Some police institutions are certainly better than other ones (where police are personally corrupt in various ways versus not being so, for example), but the police as an institution is in itself inhumane and an expression of inhumanity. Mr. Rosenfeld, through his rhetoric, really wants the police to continue to exist indefinitely; that is the practical meaning of his political rhetoric. His reference to “more humane police institution” is an “abstract slogan”–a slogan with little meaning in the real context in which workers, citizens, migrants and migrant workers live and experience this world. 

Let us now return to McBarnet’s exposure of the reality of law as opposed to its rhetoric. Minor charges (which are the vast majority of criminal charges) require little proof for guilt to be found. Court bias–and hence the bias of the law–is to assume that the police are telling the truth and that the charged person is lying unless there is evidence to the contrary. Police who arrest on the basis of minor charges in effect are assumed to be disinterested or neutral in making the charge rather than individuals whose prime function is to maintain social order in a society dominated by a class of employers. From page 35:

For the minor offences which dominate the courts incrimination is not a problem either practically or legally. Indeed the three analytical stages of incrimination, assembling a case, and convincing the court collapse into one. The policeman’s observations constitute the grounds for arrest, the substance of the case, and the authoritative presentation to convince the magistrate. There is little at issue for the court to decide in its role of reaching a verdict-nor indeed for it to control in its role of watchdog on the police.

Conclusion

Arbitrary arrest, most arrests involving alleged minor offences,  the unlikeness of challenging arbitrary arrest and the privileges status of police in relation to workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers: these are the characteristics of the real rule of law and not the rhetoric or abstract slogan of the rule of law. 

The social-democratic left, however, cling to the their rhetoric or abstract slogan of “transforming the police [and courts]” into a more humane form–without ever specifying how the real world of the rule of law functions nor how they propose to transform this real world of the rule of law into such a more humane form. They cling to the rhetoric or abstract slogan of the rule of law–its public face and by that very fact hide the reality of the rule of law, with its oppressive social structures in the form of oppressive legal structures (courts and police).

Having myself been arrested and subject to police harassment (see A Worker’s Resistance to the Capitalist Government or State and Its Representatives, Part Eight), I find this rhetoric to be quite offensive. It fails to recognize the extent to which people are persistently oppressed in a society dominated by a class of employers and the associated oppressive and exploitative economic, political and social structures. 

Perhaps the social-democratic or reformist left will specify how they propose to ‘transform the police and the law, by political struggle, into a more humane, limited and less autonomous one’? I doubt that they will–or can.

Workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers deserve much more–they deserve that their experiences of oppression and exploitation be recognized. They deserve that this recognition be the preparation for the abolition of such oppressive and exploitative conditions. They deserve to live a human life.