May Day 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada: More Rhetoric from a Union Rep: The Case of the President of the Ontario Public Services Employee Union (OPSEU), J.P. Hornick, Part Two: Do Corrections Officers Protect Us?

Introduction

In my previous post in this two-part series, I showed that J.P. Hornick, the relevatively new president of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union (OPSEU) holds social-reformist or social-democratic views. I showed that she used the social-reformist and euphemistic phrases, such as “fair contract” and “good jobs”–which the management rights clause contradicts.

I thought it appropriate to post the second part of the series now because Ms. Hornick appears to be a militant union leader who defends the rights of workers. She does indeed defend the rights of workers–to bargain collectively–but not their right to be free of exploitation and oppression (see Solidarity with Union Members–and an Occasion for Discussing the Limitations of Collective Bargaining: The Ontario Ford Government’s Legislation to Force CUPE Education Workers to Abandon Their Strike).

Further evidence of her reformist views is her praise of the work of correction officers–whom she believes “keep us safe” in some fashion.

From https://opseu.org/news/honouring-our-corrections-members-this-week-and-every-week/153542/  , dated May 3, 2022:

Honouring our Corrections members this week – and every week

Corrections Division logo (keys crossed)

It’s Correctional Services Staff Recognition Week, and we feel privileged to lead a union that represents thousands of these dedicated professionals.

OPSEU/SEFPO members include correctional officers, probation and parole officers, Nurses and Social workers, recreation and administrative staff. They put their lives at risk every day to keep Ontarians safe.

We were honoured to attend the Correctional Services Ceremony of Remembrance on Tuesday at the Ontario legislature, a tribute to Corrections workers who have died on the job. [my emphasis]

Our members care deeply about their communities, and it does not stop at the end of the workday.   OPSEU/SEFPO’s members created a Corrections Cares campaign recently, where they have raised money and collected food for community support groups.

OPSEU/SEFPO has for years warned of a crisis in the Corrections system. Understaffing and crumbling infrastructure have put the health and safety of both inmates and staff at risk.

In addition to the day-to-day challenges of working in Corrections, our members have had to contend with COVID-19. Some of our members have contracted COVID more than once during the pandemic.

Thanks to our union’s efforts, progress has been made, but so much more remains to be done. Most institutions continue to house far more inmates than they were ever designed to hold. The proportion of Correctional Officers to offender population continues to pose serious risks, leading to overwork, stress and burnout.  Probation and Parole are constantly having to juggle higher caseloads with inadequate staff.

As the Correctional Bargaining Unit is in the midst of negotiating a new collective agreement, we again demand that the government repeal Bill 124 [which “generally limits annual salary increases to one per cent for many parts of the public sector in the province” of Ontario]. Corrections is an inherently hazardous occupation. Working conditions are among the worst imaginable. If we wish to attract and retain correctional workers, they must be paid commensurately with the exceptional risks they take every single day on the job. [my emphasis] 

OPSEU/SEFPO will back its Corrections members at every step of the way with every possible professional and financial support. We are determined to ensure get the kind of contract that properly reflects their professionalism, integrity and contributions.

During Correctional Services Staff Recognition Week, OPSEU/SEFPO joins every Ontarian in thanking Corrections workers for their courageous and selfless work to keep us safe [my emphasis]

In solidarity,

JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Laurie Nancekivell, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer

This evident defense of corrections officers (prison guards) is interesting. Why the emphasis on corrections officers and not, say, on nurses (another profession which OPSEU represents)?

Questionable Assumptions

False Assumption 1: Unions Have the Power to Force Employers to Act Safely

Perhaps Ms. Hornick could provide research that substantiates that corrections officers’ work is much more dangerous than most workplaces. It may be the case, but  suassumptions should be looked at in relation to the issue of the health and safety of workers (and of citizens, immigrants and migrant workers). Thus, she wrote a message (dated April 27, 2022) for the April 28 Canadian National Day of Mourning of those who have died or been injured at work (https://opseu.org/news/day-of-mourning-2022-opseu-sefpo-remembers-lives-lost/153063/):

Day of Mourning 2022: OPSEU/SEFPO remembers lives lost

April 27, 2022 – 11:33 am
Notice
Awareness Days, Health and safety
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Workplace health and safety is one of the fundamental reasons unions exist, so that every worker feels safe and protected while doing their jobs. On this Day of Mourning, we remember those who were killed on the job because of workplace incidents, and we also stand in solidarity with those who have been injured due to workplace hazards.

Day of Mourning is observed annually on April 28. This day also commemorates the United Nations’ World Day for Safety and Health at Work, marked to highlight the importance of accident and disease prevention at work and to foster strong Occupational Health and Safety workplace cultures.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated workplace health and safety hazards in Ontario and around the world. It has increased the stress of our members working on the frontlines of the pandemic. They’ve faced increased risks and it has taken a mental and emotional toll.

OPSEU/SEFPO stands with our allies to honour those who were killed as well as those injured on the job. We must continue to work together to make sure Occupational Health and Safety legislation and workplace policies are strengthened and enforced. As safety risks increase, employers must work with us to ensure that the necessary protections keep pace.

We will continue to keep health and safety a top priority in every conversation with employers and the government, because all workers deserve to feel safe in their workplaces and return to their loved ones when the work day is done.

Find Day of Mourning events across Ontario that you can take part in.

In solidarity,

JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President

Laurie Nancekivell, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer

This is typical union rhetoric. Should workers not ask whether “Occupational Health and Safety legislation and workplace policies” actually provide protection–aka safety? Unions undoubtedly have provided some protection from death, injury and disease, but their power to do so should not be exaggerated.

Let me quote a union rep in relation to health and safety as quoted from Steven Bittle’s doctoral dissertation, Still Dying for a Living: Shaping Corporate Criminal Liability After the Westray Mine Disaster. The quote is in the context of legislation to make it a criminal offence for corporations to harm workers (ultimately diluted, of course). Page 202:

Another union representative expressed concern [with the proposed government legislation] that unions can be held responsible for workplace accidents, noting that unions and employees have little decision-making control with the organization:

…basically we wanted the legislation to go after corporate bosses, basically, because
they’re the ones that make the decisions. At the end of the day any decision that’s
made on anything to do with the business comes about as a result of management’s
decision. It doesn’t come about because of a union decision. We wish, but it doesn’t.
They have the ultimate authority to manage, and that authority is only restricted by
terms of a collective agreement, and in very few cases, maybe in terms of regulations or legislation. So we were hoping that it would focus more on criminal liability for those that have the power to make decisions. But in reality what it does is that it will hold anybody accountable if the investigation shows there was any part played in any particular incident by anybody from the janitor right up to the CEO. Now some people will argue, why not? Well normally, in my experience in almost forty years, is that any decision made by the janitor is usually something that is usually handed down from above, right. And there are very few cases where you could actually cite where somebody at that level had any type of malicious intent to do anything to cause harm “(Union representative, Interview 12).

Ms. Hornick simply engages in union rhetoric and does not address the fact, as the union rep above admits, that workers–whether unionized or not–have limited say over their own health and safety.Working for an employer is often dangerous and leads to injury–and sometimes death.

How is the work of corrections officers any different in this respect? Let Ms. Hornick provide concrete statistics to substantiate her assumption that corrections officers are subject to “the exceptional risks they take every single day on the job.” I doubt that she has looked at any such statistics. She assumes, without question, that correcions officers’ lives are more subject to risks” (why else use the adjective “exceptional”)? Such is the nature of the rhetoric of leaders of unions these days.

Interlude: The Prison System and the Property System in Which We Live

Let us look at the prison system, briefly. Obviously there is some truth in the function of prisons as protective; there are people who are violent and would probably do harm to others if they were not controlled in some way (Trump comes to mind). However, to appreciate the nature of prisons, it is necessary to link them up to the kind of society in which we live.

Most people in Canada and in many other countries need to work for an employer in order to obtain money. Some people–like me–do not want to work for an employer since, among other reasons, they find having to do so to be in effect a denial of our freedom to choose; in effect, having to work for an employer is a dictatorship (see for example Employers as Dictators, Part One). Being treated as a means for other person’s ends (see The Money Circuit of Capital) is hardly an expression of freedom; rather, it is an expression of a dicatorship.

For some of those people who find working for an employer to be disgusting, it would seem preferable to seek alternative means of obtaining money and hence an alternative means to live. Many legitimate alternative means to live have been gradually eliminated, leaving the need to engage in the exchange process with an employer as the primary means by which to obtain the means to live.

Exchange involves mutual recognition of the right of the other to own the property that is offered for exchange. In other words, it excludes direct coercion to obtain what one needs. You must have something to offer the other party that that party to the exchange relation wants  if you are to obtain what the other party owns.

Here is where the police, law, the courts, prisons and of course corrections officers enter the picture. In general, a system of general exchange has two forms of law to deal with breaches of exchange: civil law and criminal law.

Civil law deals with any breach of the exchange relation (or contract), and it usually applies to breaches between individual parties to a contract. A typical example these days is the credit card. Let us say that you use the credit card to purchase food at a grocery store. By using the credit card, you have implicitly agreed to pay the company that issued the credit card money after a certain time. If you fail to do so, the company can take you to civil court, and if proven, the court can force you to pay the company (unless you declare bankruptcy–which is another issue). You, legally, freely entered into an implicit contract with the company, and by breaching the contract, the civil court is forcing you to hold up your end of the bargain. The issue is a particular breach of contract between you and the company; you have not breached the general structure of exchange relations and the principles on which they are based.

Criminal law and criminal courts and crimes, on the other hand, deal generally with breaches of the general structure and the principles of exchange, which includes but is not limited to the employer-employee relation. This general structure and principles of exchange constitute the basic conditions for the class power of employers, the economic dependence of workers on employers and economic coercion since it is in and through exchange that workers are exploited and oppressed. (Undoubtedly, the distinction between civil law and criminal law is more complicated than this, but this initial distinction is useful for outlining the essential functions of police and corrections officers as defenders of exploitative and oppressive relations.)

The criminal system thus protects a property system that results in the exploitation and oppression of workers. That some people may become violent in such a system in order to achieve their ends, of course, then involves a demand, not only by employers but also by workers, of some form of protection from such violence. However, since the violence perpetrated by the class structure (such as the killing and injury of workers on the job) is not generally addressed by such a system, the police, the courts, the prison system–and correction officers– do not effectiely protect workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers from the dangers they face in such a society.

Prisons do not protect workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers from such violence. Do they, however, protect us from violent criminals?

Let us first look at the issue of whether prisons protect us from the dangers characteristic of a society dominated by a property system that protects the property of a class of employers.

False Assumption 2: The Legal System Protects Us Against the Dangers That We Face in Our Lives

Ms. Hornick’s rhetoric of corrections officers ‘keeping us safe” flies in the face of the real dangers that we face–real dangers that arise from a system driven by the class power of employers which, ultimately, is for the pursuit of profit. From Harry Glasbeek (2018), Capitalism: A Crime Story:

Law’s different definition of risk in non-capitalist
spheres

Welfare in terms of what people need to be safe and healthy plays no special role, certainly not a central role, in the normal practices of capitalism. If the central goal of production was not profit but the satisfaction of needs rather than wants, that is, if it was to meet people’s essential necessities rather than their desires (inbred or stimulated), the business plan of producers (even if still private) would be quite different. Some of the principal needs to be satisfied by the productive activity would
be the health and safety of the workers, of their communities, and of their physical and cultural environments. The balance between risk-creation and outcome would be totally different than it is under capitalism. There would still be injuries and harms, but they would be different both in kind and
number: the rate and kinds of “accidents” and “spills” would be totally different

Workplace and environmental injuries, diseases and deaths are linked to the class power of employers and the pursuit of profit, but they are not considered “violent crimes.” From Glasbeek:

She [Lisa Heinzerling, a writer on ethics and environmental law] notes the extent of some of the actual harms caused by ethical inattention and records that unchecked, uncalculated, but
checkable and calculable, impacts of for-profit activities, such as mining, mean that “fine particulates in the ambient air kill tens of thousands of people every year in the United States alone … 26% increase in premature deaths are attributed to fine-particulate air pollution … [and that] widely used chemicals such as vinyl chloride pose risks of lethal cancers and other diseases … greenhouse gases [also have grave impacts on health and welfare].”86

There are many similar data that strongly suggest that not taking precautions when there is a practically foreseeable certainty that harm will ensue inflicts a lot of injuries and environmental and other ills on society. Take, for instance, a summary compiled by David Whyte of the U.K. reports on the incidence of health and safety harms. His overview led him to conclude that

managements are responsible—and are legally liable—for the majority of deaths caused by working … we can say with little doubt that the minority of deaths caused by working can be regarded purely as “misfortunes” or “accidents” which were not avoidable … the majority of deaths at work do not result from “out of control” or haphazard circumstances, but are the result of decisions or non-decisions that could … be traced to the authors of those decisions. [emphases added by Glasbeek]

The infliction of potentially foreseeable deaths and harms short of death by routinely exercised inattention,87 by failures to act as the ethics and morality espoused by an idealized liberal society dictate, is commonplace in capitalism.

Worldwide, the actual harm characteristic of a society dominated by a class of employers undoubtedly remains one of the hidden facts which Ms. Hornick simply ignores. From Glasbeek:

Unlike fighters or hockey or football players, who all run a very similar risk of being the injured party as a result of the violence of their interaction, this is markedly not the case when the risks to workers,
consumers, communities, and the environment are created by capitalists and their corporations. Among the two million deaths, 270 million injuries, and 160 million occupational related diseases inflicted per annum worldwide, a miniscule number are suffered by employers. Of the millions of people adversely affected by pollution arising from profit-maximizing activities, the overwhelming majority are not profit-maximizers. Rather, they are people who cannot live on top of the hills, away from the prevailing winds, in wooded lands, or more pointedly, they are people who live in the
economically impoverished parts of the globe; they are non-capitalists and, among them, the poorest are likely to suffer the most.97 In capitalism, the risk of harm does not constitute an equal opportunity terrain. The riskcreators are not the risk-takers. In capitalism everything is upside-down. The point being belaboured is that, even when regulated capitalists search for profits within the boundaries set by regulations, their conduct is criminal in nature as they are allowed to continue to inflict harms on non-consenting individuals. Capitalism’s legitimacy should always be in issue.

What is the situation in Canada? As I pointed out in another post:

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.

Murders are the focus of the social media and the criminal legal system. Inquiries into murders do occur, and some are very thorough. On the other hand, inquiries into the extent to which the pursuit of profit played a major role in the death of employees (or the extent to which the undemocratic nature of work of public-sector employers) are lacking. There is an implicit assumption that such deaths are acceptable and the cost of living in the modern world. Should not those concerned with social justice query such an assumption? Is there much discussion concerning the facts? Or is there silence over such facts?

But Hornick does not call into question capitalism’s legitimacy. Rather, through her rhetoric, clichés or abstract slogans of “fair contracts” (see my previous post in this series, May Day 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada: The Case of the President of the Ontario Public Services Employee Union (OPSEU), J.P. Hornick, Part One: A Fair Contract)  and corrections officers ‘keeping us safe,” she herself contributes to the legitimacy of capitalism. And this from a so-called radical union leader.

False Assumption 3: Prisons Provide Major Protection for Workers, Citizens, Immigrants and Migrant Workers From Violent Crimes

Let us now look at the other question: Whether prisons protect us from violent crimes?

Not much, if at all.

I will use several quotations with brief commentaries by me from Jeremy Reiman’s and Paul Leighton’s book, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice (2017) to show what I mean.

From Jeremy Reiman’s and Paul Leighton’s book, pages 40-41:

The Brennan Center concluded that during the 1990s, incarceration had no effect (zero percent) on violent crime and reduced property crime by six percent; from 2000 to 2013, incarceration had no effect (zero percent) on violent crime and reduced property crime by 0.2 percent.79

The models from seven high-quality studies, when updated with new data for subsequent years, showed that between 2000 and 2013 incarceration caused between a four percent decline to a one percent increase in violent crime. This is consistent with the findings of the National Academy of Sciences panel on incarceration, which found that “mandatory minimum sentence and three-strike laws have little or no effect on crime rates,” and with respect to the effect of the overall increase in incarceration, “the evidence suggests it was unlikely to have been large.”80 This distinguished panel of criminologists noted further: “The evidence reviewed in this report reveals that the costs of today’s unprecedented rate of incarceration, particularly the long prison sentences imposed under recent sentencing laws, outweigh the observable benefits.”

The imprisonment binge had only a modest effect on crime rates because American jurisdictions have   always been highly likely to imprison violent offenders, so the increase in incarceration swept up more people with less significant criminal propensities. Incarcerating people who are less dangerous means there is less of
an impact on public safety. Indeed, a substantial number of those admitted to prison were people who had their parole revoked for technical reasons, not because they were charged with or convicted of a new crime.

False (Hidden) Assumption 4: Prisons Protect Us Without Discrimination

Correction officers do not just protect us from those who have committed violent crimes; They disproportionately “protect” us from poor male indigenous youth. Although the following claim would have to be modified by referring to other characteristics–such as being Aboriginal–it probably applies for the most part to the situation in Canada. From Reiman and Leighton, pages 82-83:

This was the Typical Criminal in 1974, but little has changed since. Let us look more closely at the face in today’s criminal justice mirror, and we shall see much the same Typical Criminal.

The person is, first of all, a he. Of 8.8 million persons arrested for crimes in 2014, 73 percent were males. Of persons arrested for violent crimes, 80 percent were men. Second, he is young. More than one-third (36 percent) of men arrested for all crimes were under the age of 25, and the same is true of violent crimes (37 percent). Third, he is predominantly urban.19 Fourth, he is disproportionately black: In 2014, with blacks representing 13 percent of the nation’s population, they made up 38 percent of violent crime arrests and 28 percent of all crime arrests.20 Finally, he is poor. Almost one-third (29 percent) of 2002 jail inmates were unemployed (without full- or part-time work) prior to being arrested, an unemployment rate considerably higher than that of adults in the general population.21 A 2004 study, updated to include inflation through 2014, found that the pre-arrest income of incarcerated males was 41 percent less than comparably aged nonincarcerated men. As the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice reported in 1967, “The offender at the end of the road in prison is likely to be a member of the lowest social and economic groups in the country.”

This is the Typical Criminal feared by most law-abiding Americans. Poor, young, urban,
(disproportionately) black males make up the core of the enemy forces in the crime war. They are seen as a menace, threatening the lives, limbs, and possessions of the law-abiding members of society, necessitating recourse to the ultimate weapons of force and detention in our common defense. This picture is widely shared.

In Canada (from  https://pressprogress.ca/canadas-prairie-provinces-are-failing-to-address-systemic-racism-in-the-criminal-justice-system-experts-say/#:~:text=Manitoba%20and%20Saskatchewan%20also%20have,Manitoba%20and%2076%25%20in%20Saskatchewan.), dated July 14, 2021:

Yet the number of Indigenous people incarcerated in federal prisons has been steadily rising — Indigenous people currently make up 30% of federal inmates despite making up only 5% of the general population in Canada

The class bias of the legal system against the lower layers of the working class  can also be seen in the length of sentences of those who obtain less income or who are unemployed. From Reiman and Leighton, pages 140-141:

Research on adult offenders consistently finds economic discrimination. D’Alessio and Stolzenberg’s study of a random sample of 2,760 Florida offenders found that poor offenders received longer sentences for violent crimes, such as manslaughter, and for morals offenses, such as narcotics possession.100 A study of individuals convicted of drunk driving found that increased education (an indicator of higher economic status) “increase[d] the rate of movement from case filing to probation and decrease[d] the rate of movement to prison.”101

Chiricos and Bales found that, for individuals guilty of similar offenses and with similar prior records,
unemployed defendants were more than twice as likely as their employed counterparts to be incarcerated if found guilty.102 McCarthy noted a similar link between unemployment and greater likelihood of incarceration.103 In his study of 28,315 Southern felony defendants, Champion also found that offenders who could afford private counsel had a greater likelihood of probation and received shorter sentences when incarceration was imposed.104 A study of the effects of implementing Minnesota’s determinate sentencing program shows that socioeconomic bias is “more subtle, but no less real” than before the new program.105

Tillman and Pontell examined the sentences received by individuals convicted of Medicaid-provider fraud in California. Because such offenders normally have no prior arrests and are charged with grand theft, their sentences were compared with the sentences of other offenders convicted of grand theft who also had no prior records. While 37.7 percent of the Medicaid defrauders were sentenced to some jail or prison time, 79.2 percent of the others convicted of grand theft were sentenced to jail or prison. This was so even though the median dollar loss due to the Medicaid frauds was $13,000, more than 10 times the median loss due to the other grand thefts ($1,149). The authors point out that most of the Medicaid defrauders were health professionals, while most of the others convicted of grand theft had low-level jobs or were unemployed. They conclude that “differences in the sentences imposed on the two samples are indeed the result of the different social statuses of their members.”106

Data on racial discrimination in sentencing tell the same story of the treatment of those who cannot afford  the going price of justice. A study of 9,690 males who entered Florida prisons in 1992 and 1993, and who were legally eligible for stricter sentencing under the habitual offender statute, shows that for similar prior records and seriousness of crime, race had a “significant and substantial” effect: Black defendants were particularly disadvantaged “for drug offenses and for property crimes.”107 Based on a total of 40 recent studies of both federal and state data, Spohn concludes that “Black and Hispanic offenders—particularly those who are young, male, or unemployed—are more likely than their white counterparts to be sentenced to prison; they also may receive longer sentences than similarly situated white offenders.”108 The National Academy of Sciences panel on incarceration finds that the racial “disparities are enormous,” not only with incarceration but also capital punishment and life sentences.

Ms. Hornick’s acceptance of the rhetoric that corrections officers mainly “keep us safe” hides the reality of an oppressive racist and classist legal system.

Indeed, as already pointed out above, Hornick plays into the stereotypical view of corrections officers as ‘keeping us safe,” since the real threats that we typically face in the real world are swept under the rug. From Reiman & Leighton,  pages 90-91:

This last point is important. It indicates that we have a mental image not only of the Typical Criminal but also of the Typical Crime. If the Typical Criminal is a young, lower-class male, the Typical Crime is one-on-one harm—where “harm” means physical injury, loss of something valuable, or both. Certainly this is the Typical Crime portrayed on any random sample of police or private-eye shows on television.

Moreover, the media portray violent crime way out of proportion to its occurrence in the real world. One in-depth study of local and cable news found that 30 percent of all stories on news programs were about crime, and half of those were about murder.33 In contrast, murder makes up about 14,000 of the 9.4 million crimes reported to the police.34 Further, popular police TV programs do not show the policing of consumer fraud, environmental pollution, financial crimes, or unsafe workplaces. When Law & Order detectives track down a well-heeled criminal, it is for a one-on-one harm, usually murder.

Notice, then, that TV crime shows focus on the crimes typically committed by poor people, but they do not present these as only committed by poor people. Rather than contradict the Pyrrhic defeat theory, this combination confirms it in a powerful way. The result of this combination is that TV crime shows broadcast a double-edged message: (1) that the one-on-one crimes of the poor are the typical crimes that rich and poor criminals alike commit—thus, they are not caused uniquely by the pressures of poverty; and (2) that the criminal justice system pursues both rich and poor criminals—thus, when the criminal justice system happens mainly to pounce on the poor in real life, it is not from any class bias. By overrepresenting violent, one-on-one crimes, television confirms the commonsense view that these are the crimes that threaten us. Since, in the real world those crimes are disproportionately committed by poor people, the image that it is the poor who pose the greatest danger to law-abiding Americans is projected for all to see.

It is important to identify this model of the Typical Crime because it functions like a set of blinders. It
keeps us from calling an industrial “disaster” a massacre even if 14 men were killed and even if someone is responsible for the unsafe conditions in which they worked and died. One study of newspaper reporting of a food-processing plant fire, in which 25 workers were killed and criminal charges were ultimately brought, concludes that “the newspapers showed little consciousness that corporate violence might be seen as a crime.”35 More recently, the Washington Post reported that the Peanut Corporation of America “knowingly shipped out contaminated peanut butter 12 times in the past two years.” The company’s salmonella-tainted peanuts were linked to 9 deaths and over 700 cases of illness, many requiring hospitalization.36 Media covered the recall of more than four thousand peanut-based products but made no mention of “mass murder” or even “crime,” although federal law makes it a felony to intentionally place adulterated food into commerce. A press conference, at which the victims called for criminal charges, received no attention from mainstream media.37 This is due to our fixation on the model of the Typical Crime. This particular piece of mental furniture so blocks our view that it keeps us from using the criminal justice system to protect ourselves from the greatest
threats to our bodies and possessions.

What keeps an industrial “disaster” from being a mass murder in our eyes is that it is not a one-on-one
harm where the desire of someone (or someones) is to harm someone (or someones) else. An attack by a gang on one or more persons or an attack by one individual on several still fits the one-on-one harm model of interpersonal violence. Once he selects his victim, the rapist, the mugger, or the murderer all want that person to suffer. A executive, on the other hand, does not want his employees to be harmed. He would truly prefer that there be no accident and no injured or dead workers. What he does want is something legitimate. It is what he has been hired to get: maximum profits at minimum costs. If he cuts corners to save a buck, he is just doing his job. If ten men die because he cut corners on safety, we may think him crude or callous but not a murderer. He is, at most, responsible for indirect harm not one-on-one harm. For this, he may even be criminally indictable for violating safety regulations but not for murder. The men are dead as an unwanted consequence of his (perhaps overzealous or under-cautious) pursuit of a legitimate goal. So, unlike the Typical Criminal, he has not committed the Typical Crime and therefore should not be a target of the criminal justice system—or so we generally believe. As a result, men are dead who might be alive now if cutting corners of the kind that leads to loss of life, whether specifically aimed at or not, were treated as murder.

This is our point. Because we accept the belief—encouraged by our politicians’ statements about crime and by the media’s portrayal of crime—that the model for crime is one person specifically and directly trying to harm another, we accept a legal system that leaves us unprotected against much greater dangers to our lives and well-being than those threatened by the Typical Criminal.

This focus on “individual crime” as opposed to the actions of institutions that harm us diverts us from focusing on those institutions and the economic, political and social structures that support them. From Reiman and Leighton pages 177-178:

Any criminal justice system like ours conveys a subtle yet powerful message in support of established
institutions. It does this for two interconnected reasons. First, it concentrates on individual wrongdoers. This means that it diverts our attention away from our institutions, away from consideration of whether our institutions themselves are wrong or unjust or indeed “criminal.”

Second, the criminal law is put forth as the minimum neutral ground rules for any social living. We are taught that no society can exist without rules against theft and violence, and thus the criminal law seems to be politically neutral: the minimum requirements for any society, the minimum obligations that any individual owes his or her fellows to make social life of any decent sort possible. Because the criminal law protects the established institutions (the prevailing economic arrangements are protected by laws against theft, and so on), attacks on those established institutions become equivalent to violations of the minimum requirements for any social life at all. In effect, the criminal law enshrines the established institutions as equivalent to the minimum requirements for any decent social existence—and it brands the individual who attacks those institutions as one who has declared war on all organized society and who must, therefore, be met with the weapons of war. Let us look more closely at this process.

What is the effect of focusing on individual guilt? Not only does this divert our attention from the possible evils in our institutions, but it also puts forth half the problem of justice as if it were the whole problem. To focus on individual guilt is to ask whether the individual citizen has fulfilled his or her obligations to his or her fellow citizens. It is to look away from the issue of whether the fellow citizens have fulfilled their obligations to him or her. To look only at individual responsibility is to look away from social responsibility. Writing about her stint as a “story analyst” for a prime-time TV “real crime” show based on videotapes of actual police busts, Debra Seagal describes the way focus on individual criminals deflects attention away from the social context of crime and how television reproduces this effect in millions of homes daily:

By the time our 9 million viewers flip on their tubes, we’ve reduced fifty or sixty hours of mundane and compromising video into short, action-packed segments of tantalizing, crack-filled, dope-dealing, junkiebusting cop culture. How easily we downplay the pathos of the suspect; how cleverly we breeze past the complexities that cast doubt on the very system that has produced the criminal activity in the first place

Seagal’s description illustrates as well how a television program that shows nothing but videos of actual events can distort reality by selecting and recombining pieces of real events.

A study of 69 TV crime dramas finds that fictional presentations of homicide focus on individual
motivations and ignore social conditions: “Television crime dramas portray these events as specific
psychological episodes in the characters’ lives and little, if any, effort is made to connect them to basic social institutions or the nature of society within which they occur.”15 (Criminology, too, focuses on why individuals break the law, and the study of neighborhoods, cities, and larger regions is “the road not taken.”16)

To look only at individual criminality is to close one’s eyes to social injustice and to close one’s ears to the question of whether our social institutions have exploited or violated the individual. Criminologists James Unnever and Shaun Gabbidon in their important book A Theory of African American Offending link black criminality with a “long history of public dishonor and ritualized humiliation”—including by the criminal justice system—due to racism.17 As a result, African Americans are less likely to have respect for the law and weaker bonds with conventional institutions. Focusing only on individual responsibility obscures the contribution of racism to African American criminality.

Justice is a two-way street—but criminal justice is a one-way street. Individuals owe obligations to their fellow citizens because their fellow citizens owe obligations to them. Criminal justice focuses on the first and looks away from the second. Thus, by focusing on individual responsibility for crime, the criminal justice system effectively acquits the existing social order of any charge of injustice!

This is an extremely important bit of ideological alchemy. It stems from the fact that the same act can be criminal or not, unjust or just, depending on the circumstances in which it takes place. Killing someone is ordinarily a crime, but if it is in self-defense or to stop a deadly crime, it is not. Taking property by force is usually a crime, but if the taking is retrieving what has been stolen, then no crime has been committed. Robin Hood’s thefts from the rich to give to the poor are seen as heroic and just even though the legal system run by the rich declared him a criminal. Further, acts of violence are ordinarily crimes, but if the violence is provoked by the threat of violence or by oppressive conditions, then, like the Boston Tea Party,18 what might ordinarily be called criminal (even terrorist) is celebrated as just.

This means that when we call an act a crime, we are also making an implicit judgment about the conditions in response to which it takes place. When we call an act a crime, we are saying that the conditions in which it occurs are not themselves criminal or deadly or oppressive or so unjust as to make an extreme response reasonable or justified or noncriminal. This means that when the system holds an individual responsible for a crime, it implicitly conveys the message that the social conditions in which the crime occurred are not responsible for the crime, that they are not so unjust as to make a violent response to them excusable.

Although we definitely need to take into account the social context within which society has been or not been responsible towards the individuals who commit crimes, we should also take into account that characterizing them as pure victims is one sided. To be a pure victim of society takes away the capacity and responsibility of individuals to make decisions towards their own social situation and towards others. Thomas Mathiesen (1980) calls the view that those who suffer from societal oppression and exploitation the symptom theory. The opposite theory, which attributes responsibility purely to individual activity, he calls action theory. From  Law, Society and Political Action Towards a Strategy under Late Capitalism, pages 243-244:

… it is also true that the ‘action theory’ which Hollie presents (the expression is mine, as a counterpart to ‘symptom theory’), leads, if that theory remains alone, to a one-sided reform-oriented policy out of touch with the fundamental conditions which necessitate the use of drugs for an increasing number of
people. While Hollie is right in emphasizing that the symptom theory alone is politically pacifying, the action theory alone is obstructive to the political perspective. The action theory is necessary for the mobilization to struggle, the symptom theory (or a refinement of the symptom theory) is necessary for the understanding of the forces one struggles against; neither of the theories is sufficient in itself; both are necessary because both contain elements which together comprise a total truth. Again the combination is implemented this way: the information which a given political action provides about the system which the action opposes is captured and made into common knowledge through continual discussion, so that a continually larger number become more and more alert to the deeper
premises of the system.

Both the victimization of individuals by the class system and the need for individuals to take responsibility for their actions are required–as are discussions of how individual actions against the class system affect that system.

Mathiesen’s distinction between symptom theory and action theory is useful since it addresses the problem of whether social structures completely determine our actions, or whether individuals can be agents of their own actions and change their social circumstances or conditions:

From Mathiesen, page 246:

The insurmountability of the structural barriers presupposes (i.e. has as a necessary and sufficient condition) precisely the political demoralization and passivity which follows from the perspective of
domination if it reigns alone. In other words, the insurmountability of the structural barriers presupposes a phenomenology, on the part of the suppressed with potential power, which emphasizes the futility of opposition. This phenomenology is itself generated by the domination perspective, if it prevails alone. The compelling imperatives of domination, the insurmountable boundaries of the structure, are, on the contrary, in principle able to be abolished if the main condition for domination—the political passivity, the phenomenology of futility—is abolished in those who are suppressed and also have potential power. In society a series of consciousness-producing agencies are established, the function of which is precisely to maintain the ‘domination perspective’ as a single perspective among the suppressed. Thus the surmountability of domination, which exists in principle, is prevented from being materialized.

This does not mean, if we return to the economic level of the mode of production, that the individual capitalist may act very differently from normal if he wishes to survive. Neither does it mean that the individual worker may act very differently if he wishes to survive. For both, individually, the structural barriers constitute insurmouhtable boundaries for action: the capitalist must accumulate
in order to survive; the worker must sell his labour in order to survive. It does tnean, however, that the workers collectively may break the barriers of the structure. In principle and in the end the workers can, if they stand entirely united and ict in unison—nationally and internationally— with one stroke abolish the earlier insurmountable and structural barriers.

It should be sufficient from the above that Hornick deals with rhetoric, cliches or abstract slogans by claiming that correction officers “keep us safe.”

Not only does Hornick, by claiming that corrections officers “keep us safe,” assume that those who are in prison are the real threat to our lives, but she assumes that she (like her fellow former trade-union bureaucrat, Herman Rosenfeld, who refers to the police protecting us from murder and theft  (see Reform versus Abolition of Police, Part Two),there is some homeogenous “we” (direct object form “us” in her “keep us safe”) that are being kept safe by corrections officers (and others, like the police).This is another myth and cliché. From Reiman and Leighton, page 173:

Households with annual income below the poverty level were victims of violent crimes at a rate nearly twice that for high-income households. Indeed, as Table 4.1 shows, rates of victimization by all categories of “common” crime are substantially higher for the poorest segment of the population and drop dramatically as we ascend the economic ladder.

The difference in the rates of property-crime victimization between rich and poor understates the difference in the harms that result. The poor are far less likely than the affluent to have insurance against theft, and because they have little to start with, what they lose to theft takes a much deeper bite out of their ability to meet their basic needs. Needless to add, the various noncriminal harms documented in Chapter 2 (occupational hazards, pollution, poverty, and so on) also fall more harshly on workers and those at the bottom of society than on those at the top.

What is Hornick’s situation? Would she face the same probability of experiencing a crime, violent or non-violent, when compared with the lower levels of the working class? As a professor at the School of Labour, in 1921, she received $116,957.02 + $74.25 in benefits, for a total of $117,031.27 (https://www.sunshineliststats.com/Salary/jphornick/2021/9/?employer=georgebrowncollegeofappliedartsandtechnology&f=1).  Hornick is much less likely to experience crime, however defined, than the lower echelons of the working class. Her reference to the work of corrections officers who “keep US safe,” hides how the legal system is both bias against the lower layers of the working class and their personal actions when compared to the impersonal but violent actions of employers and against the greater likelihood of being incarcerated.

False (Hidden) Assumption 5: Implicit Connection Between the So-Called Exceptional Risks Taken by Corrections Officers and the Risks Taken by Police Officers

When we look at the OPSEU webpage for the event “Corrections Ceremony of Remembrance”  ( https://opseu.org/event/2022-corrections-ceremony-of-remembrance/#:~:text=The%202022%20Corrections%20Ceremony%20of,Park%20Cres%20E%2C%20Toronto%20ON.), we read the following:

2022 Corrections Ceremony of Remembrance

Corrections Bargaining Unit logo
Tuesday, May 3, 2022
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

The 2022 Corrections Ceremony of Remembrance, which honours Correctional workers who died in the line of duty, takes place May 3 at 12 noon at Queen’s Park.

The ceremony takes place beside the Ontario Police Memorial Park, at  23 Queen’s Park Cres E, Toronto ON.  Queen’s Park Circle. It is just to the east of the legislative buildings.

It is instructive to note that the place of the memorial for corrections officers who have died at work is “beside the Ontario Police Memorial Park.” This is hardly a coincidence. The memorial for murdered correction officers is obviously meant to be closely tied to murdered police officers. Toronto Police Service

We read the following (http://Ontario Police Memorial – Toronto, Ontario, Canada):

Ontario Police Memorial – Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Ontario Police Memorial

Preserving the memory of fallen officers

The Ontario Police Memorial is dedicated to all of the brave police officers in Ontario’s history who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The memorial is made up of a bronze statue of a male and female officer standing atop a large granite pedestal. The names of fallen officers are carved into a granite wall – the Wall of Honour – that stands on each side of the pedestal.

The words, “Heroes in Life, Not Death,” are carved on the memorial. This is to recognize that police officers risk their lives, every day, to protect people and neighbourhoods, and deserve the respect and gratitude of the citizens they serve [my emphasis]. The Ontario Police Memorial is in a small park at the corner of Queen’s Park Crescent and Grosvenor Street in Toronto.

Given the intent of making a close tie between murdered correction officers at work and murdered police officers at work, and given that the main function of the police is to maintain social order in an exploitative and oppressive society dominated by a class of employers (see Reform Versus Abolition of the Police, Part 8: The Police and the Political Economy of Capitalism), it is highly likely that the main function of correction officers is also to maintain social order in an exploitative and oppressive society–and not “to protect people and neighbourhoods,” After all, there is an obviously close connection between the power of the  police to arrest and the prison system.

Conclusion

Ms. Hornick’s political tendency is towards social reformism at best. She makes a number of false assumptions (more or less open) concerning the work of corrections officers and unions. Unions do not, generally, have the power to enforce health and safety on the job. The legal system does not protect us agains the major dangers that we face in our lives. Prisons do not provide us with protection against violent crimes. Prisons do not protect us from discriminatory practices against the lower-sections of the working class and Aboriginal and Afro-American peoples. Corrections officers no more than police protect us from many of the dangers that we face but rather protect a system that involves systemic exploitation and oppression.

My prediction is that Ms. Hornick, as leader of OPSEU, will be more militant than the former president Mr. Warren “Smokey” Thomas, but she will still be a typical union bureaucrat. Her belief in the collective-bargaining system as a system that produces “fair contracts” is typical of most Canadian union reps. Furthermore, her belief that corrections officers really “keep us safe,” although it contains a grain of truth, hides the reality of many unsafe environments for Canadian workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers.

Is Amnesty International a Progressive Organization?–or Is the Term “Progressive Organization” an Example of an Abstract Slogan of Social Democrats? Part Two

Introduction

In a previous post, I looked in a general way at the shortcomings of Amnesty International (AI) as a “progressive organization”–one of the abstract slogans of the social-democratic or social-reformist left here in Toronto (and undoubtedly elsewhere).

In an article posted on the Socialist Project’s website (https://socialistproject.ca/2021/12/swords-into-ploughshares/), Simon Black speaks to Sam Gindin, a social democrat or social reformer here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and author, along with the late Leo Panitch, of the book (2013) The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire. 

Mr. Black states the following:

SB: Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia have been opposed by a range of civil society organizations, from Amnesty International to Oxfam. Collectively these organizations have also called for the federal government to work with trade unions representing workers in the arms industry to develop a plan that secures the livelihoods of those who would be impacted by the end of arms exports to Saudi Arabia. And in Labour Against the Arms Trade’s work with these organizations, we’ve always stressed the importance of centring this demand. Why is it important that mainstream, liberal human rights and humanitarian organizations are calling for a just transition for arms industry workers?

Mr. Gindin’s response?

Progressive organizations like Oxfam and Amnesty [my emphasis] are right to see that this [challenge to profit priorities] is a challenge to capitalist power and capitalism itself and so can be a barrier to convincing people, particularly workers and communities where these arms are manufactured, like the LAVs in London, Ontario. But it’s the only honest – and possible – way forward. The message is not just that there are potential alternatives, but also that they could be introduced only if we could build the kind of social force that’s necessary to [implement them]. Sometimes people want to obscure the fact that our demands are radical, because they feel like [this reality will make it] harder to mobilize. [But] unless we can respect workers enough to address the reality and win them over, we’re left with a progressive demand that is in essence an abstract slogan.

I have already addressed the issue of whether Oxfam is a “progressive organization” in a previous post (Is Oxfam a “Progressive Organization?”–An Abstract Slogan (Rhetoric) of Social Democrats).

In this post, I will look at the specific shortcoming of AI in relation to the world of work in the context of a society dominated by a class of employers. I will also look, briefly, at its shortcomings when it comes to the capitalist state in general and to police in particular.

The Focus of AI on Human Rights Leads to Silence Over Economic Coercion, Exploitation and Oppression of Workers on a Daily Basis

As I argued in the previous post, the human-rights movement emerged as a substitute for a socialist movement. In essence, the class power of employers is, implicitly or explicitly, assumed to be legitimate. AI therefore shifts our attention from the daily economic coercion characteristic of a society dominated by the class power of employers to more direct forms of coercion that involve work. Although such forms of coercion should hardly be ignored, the shift to an almost exclusive focus on more direct forms of coercion at work lead to a legitimation of the economic or indirect form of coercion characteristic of the more industrialized capitalist countries (and also of many less industrialized capitalist countries).

On Amnesty International’s website (https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/ , there are 19 issues listed:

  1. armed conflict
  2. arms control
  3. child rights
  4. climate change
  5. corporate accountability
  6. death penalty
  7. detention
  8. disappearances
  9. discrimination
  10. freedom of expression
  11. indigenous peoples
  12. international justice
  13. living in dignity
  14. police violence
  15. refugees, asylum seekers and migrants
  16. sexual and reproductive rights
  17. torture
  18. United Nations
  19. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Quite a list. Let us, however, look at at point 13, “Living in dignity.”

The ideal company would provide “fair conditions of employment” (drawn from the “Living in Dignity” section). What “fair conditions of employment” would mean is not elaborated on at the website, but the AI document (2014) Human Rights for Human Dignity: A Primer on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights does elaborate. From page 54:

The right to work and rights at work

The [United Nations] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has emphasized the interdependence of the provisions of the Covenant that safeguard the right to work, rights at work and the right to form and join a trade union, as well as to strike. The right to work remains less well understood than some of the other rights discussed here and is sometimes misinterpreted as the right to a job. The right to work entails access to employment without discrimination of any kind, to choose freely and not be forced into work, access to a system of protection against unfair dismissals, and a supportive structure that aids access to employment, including appropriate vocational education.105 The right to work covers both paid work and people working independently (referred to as
livelihoods in certain contexts) and requires governments to extend protections to people
working in the informal sectors of the economy.

Rights at work protect the right of everyone to just and favourable conditions of work,
including to fair wages, equal pay for work of equal value, safe and healthy working
conditions, reasonable limitations on working hours, protections for workers during and
after pregnancy, and equality of treatment in employment.

The idea of the right to work is thus taken from a document published by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The AI document referred to above says:

The right to work entails access to employment without discrimination of any kind

The implied emphasis here is on discrimination and not on the absolute right to access employment. Employers are not to discriminate in permitting access to work–they need to treat all workers equally regardless of race, gender and so forth. If there is a lack of discrimination, it is implied, then the employment relation is legitimate–subject to other conditions, such as not being coerced employment. From Karl Widerquist (2010), “The Physical Basis of Voluntary Trade,” in pages 83-103, Human Rights Review, Volume 11, page 87:

… coercion (or force) implies a deviation from “the normal course of events;” thus, the answer depends on what one considers the normal course of events to be.

What does AI consider to be “the normal course of events?”

The right to work entails … [the right] to choose freely and not be forced into work.

AI’s position assumes a normalized conception of what constitutes work that is freely chosen, and thereby judges what deviates from this normalized conception as a human rights abuse.

A lack of discrimination at work and not being coerced directly to work for an employer, however, is quite consistent with the indirect coercion of workers and their exploitation and oppression  that characterizes the class power of employers–aka capitalism. AI is silent about economic coercion–the golden chain which obliges workers to work involuntarily.

Mr. Gindin, by referring to AI as a “progressive organization,” simply papers over the issue.

From Widerquiest, page 84:

In two senses, a market economy can be characterized as voluntary. First, people can choose with whom they trade subject to the limits of the property rights of the people involved. They can say yes or no to any one other than the participant. Second, people have the legal right to choose whether or not to trade at all. They have the legal right to say yes or no to trade with all other participants. We can call these the physical conditions of voluntary trade.

But, there is a crucial third sense in which trade is not voluntary for many people today. That is, they are effectively denied any legal means to survive without providing services to someone who controls property. If the law ignores the existence of human needs, it can nominally establish the legal conditions of voluntary trade while legally subverting the physical conditions necessary for voluntary trade. Many people enter the economic system owning nothing; finding that all the resources are owned by someone else, they see that someone will interfere with any effort they make to meet their own needs. Therefore, they are forced to provide services for property owners to obtain money to buy resources. It is the aspect of obtaining money that concerns the discussion here, not spending it. Although trade involves both buying and selling, it is the things we do to obtain money that involve providing services for others; spending money involves other people providing services for us. It is not particularly problematic that a person with government-created tokens called money has to hand them to other people to receive goods and services, but it is a problem for voluntary trade if a person without money has no legal means to survive unless she provides services for people who hold money. It is, of course, desirable that nonmarket interaction, such as marriage and friendship, is also voluntary; but, the primary concern here is trade, specifically the things people do to get money which, for most of us means the labor market.

This article builds on the work I have done to define and argue for the importance of
freedom as effective control …  which, in short, is freedom as the power to say no. More exactly, … freedom is the effective power to accept or refuse interaction with other willing people. I have argued that genuinely voluntary interaction requires that all people have … freedom and that … freedom requires an exit option—some way that a person can survive without being forced to provide services for, to take orders from, or to meet conditions set by any particular group of other people (Widerquist 2006a). … the conditions necessary to secure the power to say no are often ignored in law and in many discussion of economics and human rights, in ways that make one group of people subservient to another. A society that establishes nominal self-ownership but interferes with individuals’ attempts to preserve their effective control self-ownership secures the right to say no but denies the power to say no.

AI makes an implicit distinction between “forced work” and work that is freely chosen. If the work is freely chosen, then it is legitimate, and there is no human rights abuse, as far as AI is concerned. Only if the work is not freely chosen is it illegitimate and a breach of human rights. However, AI implicitly accepts that the billions of workers who work for an ideal company somehow freely choose to work for that employer. As I have argued elsewhere, workers do indeed have some freedom to choose–they generally are not forced to work for a particular employer; that does not prevent them from being forced, as a class, from working for an employer (see Do Workers Work for a Particular Employer or for the Class of Employers? Part One: A Limitation of Some Radical Left Critiques of Capitalist Relations of Production and Exchange (A.K.A. Capitalism) and  Do Workers Work for a Particular Employer or for the Class of Employers? Part Two: Critique of Unions and the Social-Reformist or Social-Democratic Left; see also The Money Circuit of Capital).

Of course, AI implicitly considers that workers who work for an employer without any explicit economic coercion are not forced to work. Mr. Gindin may not consciously agree with such a view, but by rubber-stamping the view that AI is a progressive organization, he in fact does agree to such a view.

Forcing workers to work for employers is not personal; such a situation forms part of the economic structure of a society dominated by a class of employers and is reinforced by the legal system. From Widerquist, page 88:

The question is why people enter the market in a position in which they must sell their labor to people who own property. For this, there is only one explanation: if propertyless individuals try to produce goods to meet their own needs without trade, someone who claims ownership of the natural resources they need to do so will interfere with them, thus, forcing them to work for people who own property. According to Robert Hale, if the law designates other people as owners of anything with which an individual might secure her own diet, those laws coerce her to offer whatever services she can to someone with property (Hale 1923, 471–473).

Contradictory Call for States to Enforce Human Rights

According to AI:

States have a responsibility to protect human rights.

Human rights as defined by AI can only be enforced by states. However, as AI recognizes in its 19-point list, states often abuse AI’s definition of human rights–such as torture or disappearances. States are supposed to enforce human rights–but states are, even in terms of AI’s own limited definition of human rights–some of the worst perpetrators of human rights. How are states then to enforce human rights with any consistency since they themselves can only enforce human rights?

The old question “Do not the educators themselves need to be educated?” applies here: Do not states themselves need to be regulated? Who is going to do that? AI simply does not address the problem.

Consider point 14 on “police violence.” According to AI:

The most important thing to remember is this: it is the utmost obligation of state authorities, including police, to respect and protect the right to life.

This is ideology in a number of ways. Firstly, the emergence of the modern police goes hand in hand with the oppression and control of members of the working class (see Reform Versus Abolition of the Police, Part 8: The Police and the Political Economy of Capitalism). AI simply ignores the major function of the police as a control mechanism for ensuring workers do not get out of hand. As I wrote in that post:

Modern police function to maintain workers, citizens, immigrants and migrants in a state of poverty–not in the sense of a level of consumption below a defined poverty line, but in terms of a state of dependence on having to work for a class of employers. Those who form the edges of this kind of poverty–who are almost teetering into indigence–are particular targets of the modern police since they represent a more likely direct threat to the premises of that state of poverty and dependence on employers.

Secondly, police hardly exist to “respect and protect the right to life.” If they did, then the police would protect workers’ lives at work–which is hardly what happens. As I wrote in another post:

Some representatives of employers surely did not know what was best for the capitalist economy–whether to shut down for as long as necessary until the number of deaths and infections were reduced, to leave parts of the economy (in addition to essential economic structures, such as food, hand sanitizer and mask production) functioning or to leave most of the economy dominated by a class of employers functioning. But “sacrificing ourselves for our employers” even in normal times is run of the mill. Why is it that there are, on average, over 1,000 deaths officially at work per year and more than 600,000 injuries in Canada (and many more deaths when unofficial deaths are included (see Working and Living in a Society Dominated by a Class of Employers May Be Dangerous to Your Health).

That the police do protect life to a certain extent is true–but a half-truth. The other side is not only the lack of protection of life at work but the persistent threat of the use of the police as a weapon against workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers.

AI recognizes that laws may make it legal for the state or government to threaten life; on the other hand, it relies on the state or government to protect workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers. This position is contradictory, but nowhere does AI address the contradiction.

Conclusion

Nor does Mr. Gindin. Indeed, his abstract slogan “progressive organization” hides the contradiction, sweeping it underneath an apparent purely positive characterization of AI as “progressive.” For anyone who has been subject to the exploitation and oppression of employers, on the one hand, and the power of the capitalist state (including the police) on the other, Mr. Gindin’s reference to AI being “a progressive organization” rings hollow.

As I wrote Mr. Gindin claimed, as I indicated in my post in this series on Oxfam (see Is Oxfam a “Progressive Organization?”–An Abstract Slogan (Rhetoric) of Social Democrats):

Mr. Gindin implied that it was necessary to create “material structures” first rather than engage in criticizing the ideology of trade-unions (see my critique Fair Contracts or Collective Agreements: The Ideological Rhetoric of Canadian Unions, Part Four: The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)). Oxfam certainly has a material structure. Is Oxfam the embodiment of Mr. Gindin’s ideas (since it is “a progressive organization”)? Or is there need to question the implicit assumption by Oxfam that the exploitation and oppression of workers is legitimate? If so, why would Mr. Gindin call it a “progressive organization?”

Does not Mr. Gindin, like so many social-democrats, engage in abstract slogans by claiming that Oxfam is a progressive organization that somehow threatens capitalism?

The same critique applies to AI.

Does not Mr. Gindin, like so many social-democrats, engage in abstract slogans by claiming that Amnesty International is a progressive organization that somehow threatens capitalism? Or are organizations that do not threaten capitalism somehow progressive?

The Real World of the Rule of Law: Courts as Oppressive Organizations, Part Four: To Resist or Not to Resist the Police

Are You Arrested? The Ambiguity of Being Detained by the Police

When a police officer stops a citizen, an immigrant or a migrant worker, it may be understandably unclear whether s/he is arrested or not and what s/he can do or not do if stopped by the police. From McBarnet, page 36:

Arrest-that is, the detention of a person against his will-may be legally carried out only in relation to a specified offence. Otherwise attendance at the police station is purely voluntary. This is the spirit of the Judges’ Rules. Barry Cox ( I975) points out succinctly the gap between this ideology and practice:

Detention for questioning is therefore in theory impossible; in practice ‘helping the police with their inquiries’ is a daily event. (p. I72)

How is this possible? Partly because of the simple fact that if such arrest is impossible in theory it is nonetheless perfectly possible in law. Although they are much referred to as a symbol of legality, the Judges’ Rules are not law, only principles for administrative guidance. Authoritative law on arrest is rather different.

If a person is not arrested when stopped by the police, what can the person do? Can s/he just leave (apart from some exceptions–as when the police require a person to take a breathalyzer test)? Not really. They, of course, can try to leave, but the legal interpretation of such an act is rather tricky. From McBarnet, page 36:

For example, the voluntary nature of helping the police with their inquiries has been interpreted in law, to say the least, very widely. Consider the Scottish case of Swankie v. Milne in I973 which defines the current situation. This was deemed not only not to be an illegal arrest but not to be an arrest at all. The judges accepted that the police had stopped the accused in his car, taken his keys away, waited with him and would have prevented him from leaving if he had tried to. However, they concluded that the accused had remained voluntarily and had not therefore been arrested.

Furthermore, what if the police try to stop the person? What right does the person have in this case? Referring to the above case, From McBarnet comments, pages 36-37:

What their judgement would have been if he had tried to leave is unclear. But it is also an arrestable offence according to the 1964 Police Act to obstruct the police in the execution of their duty, and this has been interpreted as ‘the doing of any act which makes it more
difficult for the police to carry out their duty’ (Rice v. Connolly, I 966). What precisely that means remains an open question. Although Lord Justice Parker in the same case refuted the idea that refusing to answer questions, even allied with a generally obstructive and
sarcastic attitude, was not obstructing a policeman in his duty. Justice James made a point of noting that:

I would not go so far as to say there may not be circumstances in which the manner of a person together with his silence could amount to an obstruction within the section; whether it does remains to be decided in any case that happens hereafter, not in
this case, in which it has not been argued. (Rice v. Connolly, Ig66)

It becomes rather difficult to see how someone can avoid being arrested if the police have a mind to arrest him.

Doing anything that indicates resistance to the police can easily be interpreted as resistance of arrest–and guilt. From McBarnet, page 37:

Furthermore, refusing to co-operate is not a far cry from resistance, which is, of
course, an arrestable offence; nor is resistance far from another offence, assault.

Indeed, in court, resisting arrest tends to be presented by prosecutors as indicative of guilt and therefore a justification of the arrest on the first charge anyway. ‘Only the guilty take advantage of civil rights’ is the line taken.

A person stopped by the police, on the other hand, who does not resist arrest may be accused of being guilty for that very reason. From McBarnet, pages 37-38:

On the other hand, with the nice skill lawyers have of always holding the winning trick, failing to resist is also suspicious. Witness Case 8.

The prosecutor was suggesting that the accused must have been guilty or he would not have allowed himself to have been seized (uncharged) by two men (the police were in plain clothes) without resisting:

Prosecutor: You didn’t do anything?
Accused: I couldn’t.
Prosecutor: You didn’t say ‘What are you doing?’
Accused: No, it was all too quick.
Prosecutor: And no explanation was given at all?
Accused: No
Prosecutor: When did you gather they were policemen?
Accused: I asked them-they said they were taking me to the station.
Prosecutor: But why assume they were policemen? There are railway stations.

The same applies to friends who do not assist the accused. From McBarnet, page 37:

In his summing up the prosecutor considered it doubly suspicious that the accused’s companion had not fought off the two policemen if his friend was being innocently seized:

Prosecutor: According to his story, his companion made no protest while the accused was dragged out by two unknown men. This is quite incredible. He is clearly guilty of this charge.

The flip side of this catch-22 situation–damned if you do and damned if you don’t–is you may be accused of resisting arrest if you do aid someone detained by the police. From McBarnet, page 38:

The companion in question might, however, have been relieved that he had not intervened if he had heard the accused’s mother’s account of her night in jail charged with breach of the peace when she went to protest, or if he had witnessed Case 13:

Policeman: One youth ran towards us saying ‘What are you taking him in for? It’s a fucking liberty. He’s done fuck all!’ He was cautioned and charged with breach of the peace.

What if there is no ground for arrest, the police arrest the person and the person resists? The person can be charged and convicted of assault. From McBarnet, page 38:

In any case, the prosecutor’s argument was only about the credibility of the accused not the legality of the arrest. Indeed, in cases of resistance or assault, even if the arrest was unfounded and illegal it is still, in English law, ‘open to the jury to convict of common assault’ (Halsbury, 1g6g, vol. 25, p. 364) and the charge sticks even if the resister did not know the person seizing him was a policeman. In short, the law itself does not encourage standing on one’s right to freedom from arbitrary arrest.

The Social-Democratic Left and Criminal Law

What would the social-democratic or reformist-left say about this? They would likely repeat what the social democrat Herman Rosenfeld stated:

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

Okay. How does Mr. Rosenfeld or other social democrats propose to do that? Frankly, I think that you should not hold your breath while waiting for a response. The article written by Mr. Rosenfeld from which this quote is drawn is dated May 4, 2020. I have searched on the Net to see if Mr. Rosenfeld has elaborated on this assertion since then; I have not been able to find anything at all written by him on the topic since his May 4 article.

This is just social-democratic rhetoric passing it off for something real; it is pretending to be something that it is not. It is fake social reform. Workers, citizen, immigrants and migrant workers hardly need such pretentious rhetoric. Mr. Rosenfeld has no real intention to lift a finger to formulate let alone implement a policy for police “reform.” I suspect that this applies to many other social-democratic or reformist arguments.

Indeed, when Mr. Rosenfeld, Jordan House and I were giving a course on union organizing and socialism for airport workers at Toronto Pearson airport, I mentioned that we workers at a brewery in Calgary had engaged in sabotage of the machines in order to have one foremen fired (he was pressing us constantly to produce more), I had the impression that Mr. Rosenfeld was uncomfortable in my stating this fact; he was probably afraid of challenging the beliefs of the workers. I could of course be wrong, but Mr. Rosenfeld’s lack of elaboration of how the police are to be transformed and reformed provides further evidence of my suspicion that he actually holds social-reformist views and that his socialist views take second place; this conclusion probably applies to many so-called socialists.

Furthermore, the title of his article from which the above quote is drawn expresses a hostility to the view that what is needed is the abolition of the police and not its reform:

Reform and transform: Police abolitionism and sloppy thinking

Such hostility to a politics of abolition by calling it “sloppy thinking” without engaging in any further inquiry also points to a social-reformist or social-democratic point of view.

Perhaps social democrats or social reformers can provide counterarguments to the above. I welcome such counterarguments–but I suspect that they will not provide any counterarguments.

If there are no counterarguments by the social-democratic or social-reformist left, does that not point to the need to abolish the police and the associated court system that is linked to it? Would not a people’s court and armed citizens be much more in the interests of workers than a separate police force and courts that engage, systematically, in oppressive measures against those who challenge social order? After all, as Mark Neocleous argues, the essential function of the police (and the courts by implication)–is to maintain social order of a society dominated by a class of employers–and not to administer social justice (see Reform Versus Abolition of the Police, Part 8: The Police and the Political Economy of Capitalism).

Conclusion

Workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers who are stopped by the police, even if they have not broken the law, could easily be arrested for refusing to comply with police officers’ instructions. On the other hand, complying with police officers’ instruction could also be used in a court of law against them. Such is the illogic of a system of justice within a society dominated by a class of employers.

You would not know it from the rhetoric of the social-democratic or social-reformist left, though. They provide little or no research to educate workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers on the real nature of the work of police officer and the real law as expressed in courts of law. Rather, they paper over the real nature of such social institutions with their empty phrases of transforming such institutions “into a more humane, limited and less autonomous” form.

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

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: 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. 

Immediate Family Context, Or How I Failed Francesca, My Daughter, the First But Not the Last Time  

As I indicated in my last post in this series:

In my next post, I will fast forward to 2007-2008, when Francesca skipped school so much that she was obliged to repeat grade eight in 2008.

I started my Ph. D. in 2002 and received a scholarship for three years, from 2002 until 2005, which helped financially, gave me some time to work on my studies without having to work as much as a substitute teacher, and enabled me to register Francesca in extra curricular activities without going into further debt (I owed around $16,000 from student loans associated with attending a bachelor of education program between 1994 (when Francesca was born) and 1996).

After 2005, however, I had to increase my work as a substitute teacher and, despite this, I increased my debt (by 2008, I had a credit card debt of around $7,000 and about $20,000 in student debt).

In the 2006-2007 school year, Francesca attended Elmwood High School, an inner-city high school not too far from the house where she lived with her mother. I was concerned about the impact her experiences at that school would have on her–as well as the kind of friendships she was establishing. (I had substituted at the school only a few times; my experiences did not impress me. For example, I substituted in one class that could lock from the inside. I had a key to the room where I was substituting, but it was in my jacket in the classroom. One student got up and left for no reason, and I followed him outside. Some students locked me out of the classroom. I had to go to the office and have the vice-principal open the door. I can certainly understand why students would do what they did in the context of an oppressive classroom setting–but I did want my daughter to learn something as well.

For the school year 2007-2008, her mother agreed to have her attend River Heights School, a middle-years school where I had substituted as well. The teaching, as far as I could see, was more rigorous, and there were more opportunities for extra-curricular activities.

However, my need to earn a living and my work on my doctoral dissertation led me to fail Francesca by not ensuring that everything was working out well at the new school. Her uprooting from her friends, and my lack of monitoring her situation, led to her skipping school more and more (I assume–her mother had fully custody–but I could have been much more active in ensuring that she felt more at home in the school and, if not, at least tried to talk to her and support her in attending. Francesca, it is true, erased messages that I received from school concerning her attendance–but that is hardly an excuse for my lack of rigor in monitoring the situation.

Furthermore, I should have known that something was wrong. At one point, she stole coins from one of my drawers. At another point, I had dropped her off for her swimming lesson at the Pan Am Pool in Winnipeg, and I received a call; the police had been called. Francesca had been caught stealing money from a purse in one of the lockers. Francesca was not charged–I convinced the police that this would not happen again. There is a difference between personal theft, which is wrong and theft from large stores and from companies–I told Francesca I do not do that not because it is wrong but because it is not worth the consequences of possibly going to jail or at least a criminal record. On the other hand, Francesca’s own defense of herself in front of the police was impressive.

In any case, I failed Francesca by not monitoring her situation. Not for the last time.

As I wrote in my last post in this series:

By that time, not even her mother could control her. Nor could I. Francesca had been violent towards me since 1999, when her mother refused to let me see Francesca or let  Francesca to see me for almost three months. 

In 2008, I obtained a position as a permanent teacher in September 2008, in Ashern, Manitoba, a very small town about 160 kilometers north of Winnipeg. Francesca’s mother agreed to have Francesca live with me since her mother could no longer control her. I decided to home school Francesca while living in Ashern and teaching there. I enrolled Francesca in distance education courses in June 2008, and I gave her the courses. She then left with her cousin, Laura, for Kelowna, a city in the province of British Columbia. I expected Francesca at least to work a bit on the distance education courses during the summer of 2008. She never did. That was the beginning of our problems. 

Since Francesca was going to be taught by me by means of home schooling and distance education, I set up a schedule for the various courses. For example, for the social studies course, I wrote the following: 

Assumption: Two days of work before August 31 and every day working on social studies Studying every day working on social studies until finished.

With such a start date, it is necessary to finish about 4 pages of the distance education package per day. The 4 pages do not mean just 4 pages of reading. It means that whatever is assigned for the 4 pages must be read or done and understood. For example, on page 3 of Lesson 1 for Module 1, it is necessary to become familiar with the Table of Contents by doing the exercise. 

Module 1
August 21=Lesson 1, page 4 
August 26=page 8
August 31=Lesson 2, page 12
September 1=page 16
September 2=Page 20
September 3=Lesson 3, page 24
September 4=page 28
September 5=32
September 6=Lesson 4, page 36
September 7=Lesson 5, page 40
September 8=Lesson 6, page 44
September 9=Lesson 7. page 48
September 10=page 52
September 11=Lesson 8, page 56
September 12=Lesson 9, page 60
September 13=Lesson 10,page 64
September 14=page 66, Review for Test 1
September 15=Test, Module 1
September 16=Review test, Module 1

How I Failed Francesca, My Daughter, A Second Time 

We started to argue shortly after we moved to Ashern. Francesca did not study as she needed to if she were going to finish grade 8. In retrospect, I should have either hired a tutor (if possible since Ashern only had a population of 1,400) or registered her in the school where I was going to teach. I was afraid, though, that if I registered her in the school where I taught, she and I would have further arguments that would spill over into my workplace and, I could lose my job. For those who abstractly consider this irrelevant, I will simply point out that economic security forms a vital component of why the working class has a tendency to fight for socialism (see Marc Mulholland (2009), “Marx, the Proletariat, and the ‘Will to Socialism’,” Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory,” pages 319-343, Volume 37, Number 3; and by the same author (2010) “‘Its Patrimony, its Unique Wealth!’ Labour-Power, Working Class Consciousness and Crises: An Outline, Consideration” pages 375-417, Volume 38, Number 3.

The social-democratic left do not even talk about the conflict that members of the working class often face between their existence as members of a family and as members of the working class (wage workers, or workers who must subordinate their will to an employer) and how this contradiction ties into government actions. It is ironic because many movies and tv programs do just that–in a conservative manner, of course. How many reading this post have not watched a movie or tv program where the protagonists experience a conflict between the existence as family members, as members of the working class or as members of the state? 

For example, Raju Das, in his book Marxist Class Theory for a Skeptical World, recognizes that family relations aid in identifying the class interests of family members. Thus, he writes (page 42): 

A woman who is a school teacher and married to a working class man is not in the same class location as another woman school teacher married to a male ceo (1989d: 328). So the class location of husbands and wives should be treated as a function of both direct class location and their mediated location. Sometimes they can have a common class location and sometimes different.

Mr. Das is primarily concerned with indicating the primacy of class position or location (relative to, for example, being a member of a family); this is important, but from a practical point of view of how to organize the working class into a class capable of overcoming those class recognitions, we need to acknowledge and take into account the relationships that retard class consciousness or accelerate it.

Being a member of a family can do both. On the one hand, being a member of a family can make workers more militant as they struggle to maintain and improve their family life. On the other hand, it can also make workers more conservative when being a family member results in acceptance of subordination of the worker’s will to the power of the employer. For example, I remember one worker in the capitalist brewery where I worked (in Calgary, Alberta, Canada), who explicitly stated that his family was more important than his job. Of course, what a person says and what a person does need not coincide, but to ignore the importance of the family to members of the working class, organizationally, is bound to be fraught with problems.

Or it can result in contradictory tendencies since workers can be pulled in opposite directions simultaneously. Blindness on the part of academic Marxists to these issues indicate the extent to which Marxism as theory has become divorced from Marxism as practice. 

In any case, I made the wrong decision by trying to homeschool Francesca on my own. We generally worked on her studies together after supper; before supper I prepared lessons and marked other students’ work. I worked late at night and on the weekend on my doctoral dissertation (which I finished in 2009, the following year).

Our arguments became more and more heated as it became evident that Francesca was falling further and further behind. I was becoming the person and father that I did not want to become–an oppressive father by pressuring Francesca to keep to the schedule. I had to revise the schedule several times, but it was always in need of revision.

One time, when we were arguing over her studies, Francesca, who was in the kitchen, picked up a pot lid and threw it at me like a frisbee. The lid nearly hit my face; she could have easily hurt me. I walked up to her and put her in a headlock, forced her to the ground, and obliged her to state that she would not throw anything further at me. She promised not to do so. 

I do not to this day regret doing this; Francesca was out of control and could have easily thrown a knife at me. 

Another time, we were arguing about her studies, and she punched me in the face. I pinned her arms in order to prevent her from hitting me again. I do not regret doing that either. 

There was another time, however, which I do regret. We usually studied on the futon in the living room (where I slept). Francesca obviously felt tense when we were studying, and when she did not understand something, she would dig her elbows into my side. 

One day, I was sitting on the futon, with Francesca on the right. We were studying, and I was drinking some tea. She began to dig her elbow into my right side, and it hurt. I responded spontaneously, and the tea went flying from my hands. Unfortunately, some of the tea hit Francesca’s face. She started to cry. Fortunately, the tea was not hot enough to burn her–but it could have been. 

Yes, I stand condemned for hurting my daughter. The mitigating circumstance is that, unknown at the time, I had invasive bladder cancer, and the cancer had blocked my right kidney (it no longer functions). That is why I was having pain on my right side, and that is why it hurt when Francesca dug her elbow into my right side. 

I had had drops of blood in my urine on and off for some time (usually at the end of urination). I had gone to the doctor’s office when I lived in Winnipeg, but he discouraged me from getting a scan because of the expense–it was a time of cutbacks, and he also discouraged me from having a cystoscopy (he said it was not a pleasant procedure–which it is not. But having cancer is also not pleasant). He thought it was a urinary infection and prescribed some antibiotics. The blood went away, but it returned when I was living in Ashern with Francesca–but it was much worse than before. 

I started to urinate blood–my urine was red rather than yellow. After the incident with the tea, I showed Francesca this by showing her the toilet, which was filled with blood. This had no effect in her increasingly violent behaviour towards me or in the advance of her studies. 

I went to see the doctor in Ashern, and he at first recommended antibiotics, if I remember correctly. Eventually he recommended a CT scan. 

Francesca also started to communicate with her mother; undoubtedly, she was complaining about me and our relationship. She wanted to return to live with her mother. 

I felt that I could not handle Francesca anymore, and since she was indifferent to my health, I also responded inappropriately by indicating that I never wanted to see her again. I failed Francesca again. 

In early January, I took Francesca back to her mother’s place. Within a couple of weeks, though, Francesca and her mother fought again to the point that Francesca started living with her cousin, Laura, who already had children and was foster parenting. I did not communicate with Francesca, though–I was still hurting from her apparent indifference to the deterioration of my health. 

The Experiences of a Sick Worker

In the meantime, I tried to hide my sickness from my employer, Lakeshore School Division,  until I obtained my permanent position as a teacher, by cleaning up red spots that splashed on the men’s bathroom floor. 

In January or February, I believe, the Ashern doctor informed me that the CT scan indicated that I had a tumor, but that I should not worry–in most cases tumors are benign. 

In March, 2009, I was diagnosed with invasive bladder cancer. I waited for about two weeks before I communicated with Francesca.

I had surgery, but my urologist indicated that the tumor was too big to remove entirely through surgery without removing the whole bladder. He recommended chemotherapy followed by radiation. 

In the meantime, Laura, Francesca’s cousin, was married to Sean, whose mother started to tutor Francesca. I also paid for an independent tutor for Francesca. She did finish grade 8. 

In June 2009, the chemotherapy oncologist had his intern inform me that I had a 60 percent chance of dying in the next five years since the cancer had penetrated the muscle; I told Francesca this.  He recommended the removal of the bladder. My urologist, who was also a professor at the University of Manitoba, informed me that surgery was the typical treatment for bladder cancer in North America whereas in Europe doctors usually tried chemotherapy followed by radiation to see if the tumor could be eliminated. I chose chemotherapy. 

The chemotherapy worked during the summer of 2009. There was no visible cancer after the nine weeks of chemotherapy. 

Francesca, in the meantime, started to attend St. James Collegiate in grade 9 and continued to live with Laura. 

My urologist still recommended radiation treatment, but for some reason it took a long time before I saw the radiologist. After some time, the radiologist informed me that she refused to perform the radiation treatment because she claimed that my intestines and my bladder were too close together. She did indicate, however, that there was a procedure for placing a mesh inside me in order to shift the intestines out of the way in order to receive radiation treatment. 

I reluctantly agreed to the surgery. The surgery was scheduled on April 19, 2010. Before that, on March 10, I believe, I received a letter from the doctor who was to perform surgery. I had to provide the letter to my employer in order to obtain time off. 

Francesca and I were not getting along at the time. She was becoming more religious and refused to hear anything about the theory of evolution or my Marxist ideas. 

Francesca’s Apprehension by the Winnipeg Child and Family Services: Oppression by a Welfare Service

On March 10, the day that I received the letter from the surgeon, I went to Tim Horton’s across from St. James Collegiate. I was going to tell Francesca about the surgery, show her the letter and also give her a book on evolution. She was, however, if I remember correctly, with another friend. She was taking the bus to return, I assumed, to Laura’s place. I decided that I would make a copy of the letter and put the book and the letter in the mailbox at Laura’s place. 

I made a photocopy of the letter at Shopper’s Drug Store along the way, and then was going to go to Laura’s place by cutting across from Portage Avenue, ironically between the Manitoba Teachers’ Society building (McMaster House), on the one hand, and the building where the MTS Disability Plan office was located (as well as the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association-see illustrations below). 

I took this route because Francesca was living on Nightingale Rd, where Laura, her cousin, lived; this was a shortcut that Francesca had showed me (see map below).

However, as I was turning to enter the shortcut, I saw Francesca walking towards this shortcut; she had obviously taken the bus, had gotten off and was going to take the short cut. I drove a little further on, parked the car, got out and gave her a photocopy of the doctor’s letter and the book on evolution.

I left to return to Ashern, Manitoba, 166 kilometers north of Winnipeg (where I worked as a French teacher); that evening, however, I received a phone call from the Winnipeg Child and Family Services (WCFS) indicating that Francesca had been apprehended by the WCFS and that I was forbidden from seeing her–on pain of being arrested. It was claimed that I had cornered Francesca and that she was afraid of me. It was also claimed that I had choked Francesca some tima ago, thrown her to the ground and that on another occasion I had pinned her arms.

I fought against this oppression for the next month. The WCFS sought custody from both parents, and I attended a meeting with a judge and the lawyer for the WCFS. The lawyer tried to insult me by asking whether I had ever been “psychologically assessed,” to which I responded by asking him the same question. I indicated to the judge how Francesca had been physically abused in various ways. The judge indicated that if the issue went to court and he were judge and the WCFS lost, then he would have no choice but to grant custody either to me or to the mother. Given Francesca’s and my present rocky relationship, I could not fathom our getting along together. Furthermore, now that it was probably that Francesca had played some part in the false accusations of choking her and throwing her to the ground, I felt that I could not trust her.

Of course, I did not feel that Francesca’s mother should have custody given the history of physical abuse.

I went to court one final time, indicating that I would abandon custody–but without prejudice.

The whole experience was very stressful.

On April 19, I had surgery in Winnipeg at the Health Sciences Center, but I had a lung infection and stayed in the hospital for 16 days. Francesca visited me once, and when I tried to talk to her about the claim that I had choked her and threw her to the ground by reminding her that I had put her in a headlock and forced her to the ground until she agreed not to throw anything else at me, she claimed that the choking and throwing her to the ground was a different occasion. Since there was no other occasion, my suspicion that she played some role in her apprehension by the WCFS was confirmed.

Expression of My Opposition to the NDP, a Social-Democratic Government 

Once I left the hospital around May 5, 2010, I stayed with a friend in Winnipeg for a couple of months. Since I knew that I had not choked Francesca nor threw her to the ground, her apprehension by an organization that was instrumental in contributing to her physical abuse and her violence towards me angered me, to say the least. I began to send emails to the New Democratic Party (NDP, the social democratic party in Canada); the NDP were in power in the province of Manitoba. In one email, I titled it “J’accuse”–a take on the following (from Wikipedia):

J’Accuse…!” (French pronunciation: ​[ʒ‿a.kyz]; “I Accuse…!”) was an open letter published on 13 January 1898 in the newspaper L’Aurore by the influential writer Émile Zola. In the letter, Zola addressed President of France Félix Faure and accused the government of anti-Semitism and the unlawful jailing of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff officer who was sentenced to lifelong penal servitude for espionage. Zola pointed out judicial errors and lack of serious evidence.

I sent, among other things, a table that contained some of Francesca’s and my experiences with the WCFS (I will be posting a modified version of this table (the updated version is more inclusive) on this blog, much of which I have included in this series of posts. I also sent the material to the  Manitoba Minister of Justice and to the Manitoba Minister of Education. I also began to send the material to government institutions outside the province of Manitoba. 

Return to Teaching Before My Arrest by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)–and Revelations

I returned to Ashern in the summer of 2010 to prepare for teaching. The surgery had failed–the radiation oncologist still refused to perform radiation because, she argued, my intestines were still too close to the bladder. 

On October 6, 2010, Darrell Shorting, of the Anishinaabe Child and Family Services, called me at school. It was recess time (Ashern Central School, where I worked, was a grade 5-12 school). He stated that he knew what I had done, namely, choked Francesca and threw her to the ground. Mr. Shorting obliged me to inform the principal at the time (Mr. Chartrand) that I was under investigation. 

I was put on administrative leave for perhaps one week. The staff, I believe, were told that it was medical, so I  felt obliged to leave Ashern early every day early. 

I had a subsequent meeting with Randy Chartrand, the principal, and Janet Martell, the superintendent. I categorically denied having choked Francesca and throwing her to the ground. 

Lakeshore School Division decided to have me placed in the clinical supervision model for the year; my performance as a teacher was evaluated by Randy Chartrand, the principal at the time. I passed the assessment. 

During the 2010-2011 school year, a few curious experiences arose with the RCMP. It was my habit to go, every Saturday at 12: 15, to a coffee and bakery shop called “Just My Kind of Bakery,” about a block and a half from where I lived. (see photo below). I read the Saturday Winnipeg Free Press there. I could have easily walked to the bakery, but I also often worked on either preparing lessons or marking student work after having read the paper and needed . I also generally bought groceries afterwards. It was more convenient to take the car with the newspaper and school work. 

Screenshot (1)

One time, I left the house where I lived at around 12:15 on Saturday, as usual, on a fall day, and I saw two RCMP cars enter the alleyway behind the row of buildings that included Just My Kind of Bakery. They went to the end of the alley, turned right and then turned right again–going towards Just My Kind of Bakery. I did not make anything of it–until I arrived at Just My Kind of Bakery. I took the shortest route to the bakery, but to park at Just My Kind of Bakery, I had to cross the yellow line. When I got out, the RCMP officers from the two cars approached me, and one of them stated that what I had done was illegal–I had crossed the yellow line. When I asked how I was supposed to get to Just My Kind of Bakery, he stated that I could approach the bakery from the other side in order not to have to cross the yellow line (the same route that they had taken–although they did not say that). Of course, apart from this instance, I had never seen the RCMP ever enforce this “law” during the three-and-half years that I lived there. 

Sometime afterwards, I believe, I moved to the window seat in Just My Kind of Bakery because I wanted to be able to identify my accuser, Darrell Shorting. I suppose the workers there felt “threatened”–but my purpose was a typical claimed right of an accused–to confront one’s accuser. I had been charged and condemned for physically abusing Francesca without a trial; I wanted to know who was it who was accusing me (apart from the fascist organizations called Child and Family Services, whether in Winnipeg or in Ashern). 

Ashern Anishinaabe Child and Family Services 

Screenshot (3)

Relation of Just My Kind of Bakery (Indicated by Fork and Knife) and Ashern Anishinaabe Child and Family Services

Screenshot (4)

Another time, I was going to the school when it was dark to obtain something from the school in preparation for lessons; I saw an RCMP car nearby. 

I forget exactly when, but Francesca contacted me, and we began to see each other. It must have been in 2011, before April 4. By coincidence we went to see a movie called “The Dilemma,” with Vince Vaughan as actor, among others. The dilemma was whether Vaughn, who saw his business partner and friend, should tell him that he had seen his wife kissing another man. My dilemma was whether I should confront Francesca with the false allegation of choking her and throwing her to the ground. After the movie, I dropped her off, and I decided to talk to her about it. We talked on the phone, and I indicated that I had not choked her nor threw her to the ground. She said that it did not matter since she forgave me. I insisted, however, that I had done no such thing. If I remember correctly, she hung up. When I tried calling back then and other times, there was no answer. 

It was around the same time, or perhaps a little earlier, that Francesca was temporarily living with the parents of the husband of Laura since one of the teenagers who lived under Laura’s care had apparently tried to commit suicide, and there was blood in the house. I went to see Francesca there, and she told me for the first time that she had been sexually abused by Juan Ulises, the common-law husband, when she was a child. Given that she still claimed that I had choked her and threw her to the ground, I did not believer her at the time. Now I do. I attributed her earlier violence towards me to her mother’s physical abuse. However, even after she admitted that I had not choked her nor threw her to the ground, she insisted that Juan Ulises had sexually abused her. Her extreme violence towards me can be ascribed both to the physical and emotional abuse of her mother, the lack of action by the WCFS, the Progressive Conservative government and the NDP social-democratic government (elected in 1999)–and her sexual abuse by Juan Ulises. 

My Arrest and Harassment by the RCMP 

Just before the spring break, I noticed that two RCMP cars were parked outside the house where I lived and had flashed their lights. 

After spring break, on Sunday evening, there was someone stamping outside the house–and when I looked outside, there were a couple of flashes of light from one of the RCMP cars. I heard a knock on the door, got dressed and opened the door. There were two RCMP officers at the door. They indicated that I was under the arrest. When I asked what charge, they asked whether I wanted others to hear about the charges or whether it would be better to hear about them inside. I “invited” them inside. They informed me that I was charged with three counts of assault of Francesca. I asked them what the charges were. Two of the three were the same allegations as the Winnipeg Child and Family Services–choking Francesca and throwing her to the ground. The third allegation was new–assaulting Francesca by throwing tea at her. The RCMP officer also indicated that I was not to approach Francesca and not to leave the province; otherwise, I would be put in jail. I was fingerprinted at a later date. 

On the following Saturday (April 9, 2011),  for the first time ever, several RCMP officers (some in street clothes) sat opposite me at “Just My Kind of Bakery” in Ashern, probably to intimidate me and to ensure that I was no longer looking out the window to see who Darrell Shorting was. One of the officers, not in uniform, was the father of one of my former French students at the secondary level. On April 16, 2011, several RCMP officers once again do the same thing, including the father once again–this time in uniform. 

(As an aside, it may be that Darrell Shorting is the same person who complained about how children in First Nations communities should be kept in their own communities rather than shipped to Winnipeg under the “protection” of Winnipeg Child and Family Services (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/cfs-is-new-residential-school-system-says-former-cfs-investigator-1.2788730 ). If so, then Mr. Shorting saw fit to falsely accuse me of choking Francesca and throwing her to the ground and contributing to Francesca’s legal separation from me. Mr. Darrell, Shorting, as the article shows, was a former CFS abuse investigator for Aninshinaabe CFS.) 

An Oppressive Working and Living Atmosphere

I returned to school next morning to teach. Curiously, one of the parents of a student I was teaching wanted to attend my class. I “agreed” to this. 

Subsequently, at a teacher’s meeting, in May 2011 I believe, Neil MacNeil attended. He was a former teacher at Ashern Central School who had taught their for around 30 years. He was a principal in another school in another town within the same school division, but he was going to become the new principal at Ashern Central School during the 2011-2012 school year. At the meeting, he stated that he wished he could teach French since the French program was going downhill–which in itself I found inappropriate and humiliating since it was I who taught French.

Later that month, I was informed that I would no longer be teaching French at the high-school level (grades 9-12)–but I would still be teaching French in grades 6-8 (another teacher would teach French at the grade 5 level). Jennifer Bjorg, the daughter of the former French teacher whom I replaced once she retired (Darlene Hanlon), would be teaching basic French at the high-school level. 

I enjoyed much more teaching French at the high-school level. It was optional for students, and most students wanted to be there and learn French. Since I did not like teaching basic French in the earlier years–especially since it was obligatory although many students did not really want to learn it–the stripping of my seniors French class resulted in an oppressive atmosphere for me.

Near the end of August, when I went outside, I found that one of the windows of my car had been smashed. The rock was still in the car. I went to the RCMP station a few blocks away to report it. The RCMP officer said that they could do nothing and that fingerprints could not be obtained from a rock. Nothing was done about it. There was no inquiry into the vandalism at all–further proof against the idealized version of the police by the “Marxist” Herman Rosenfeld (see, for example, Reform versus Abolition of Police, Part Two).  

The oppressive atmosphere where I worked and lived increased substantially when I was assigned the position of a glorified teaching assistant by having to supervise one special needs student instead of teaching the seniors French classes in September, 2011. It was humiliating, and my heart started to pound excessively in September 2011. Furthermore, I was placed on clinical supervision once again–with Neil MacNeil as principal, not Randy Chartrand. 

I started to have problems sleeping at night due to the pounding heart. I started to take sleeping pills–which did not reduce the pounding heart, but they at least permitted me to distance the pounding heart sufficiently to sleep. I also started to drink a maximum of a cup of red wine every day (a measuring cup since I knew what alcohol could do to a person–my father had been an alcoholic and died when he was 50). (In fact, I started to drink red wine twice a week because my former supervisor for my master’s degree and Ph. D. Rosa Bruno-Jofre, who had cancer around the same time as I did, recommended a book “Foods That Fight Cancer.” In that book, the author recommended drinking red wine since it had a concentrated chemical not as easily metabolised if a person ate only red grapes. Drinking red wine every day, though, was due to the oppressive situation). 

The whole situation was oppressive. Ashern is a very small town–around 1,400 people. I never stated to anyone that I had been arrested, but the three charges were to be addressed when a judge was to hear the  charges. I did not attend personally (I hired a criminal lawyer “at a reduced rate” because I was a member of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society–Josh Weinstein It cost me around $3,000). Obviously many people knew about the arrest. I could not rest neither at work nor at home.

I also started having problems teaching French with some of the students. I always had classroom management problems in the grades 7 and 8 levels, and they intensified as the year proceeded. I also experienced the oppression of the principal hovering around the classrooms where I taught, looking in whenever he wanted. 

Of course, the threat of being jailed if I tried to communicate with Francesca was also oppressive.

In October, I believe, I started to see Gene Degen, a counsellor for the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at the Manitoba Teachers Society building–the very building where I allegedly cornered Francesca and frightened her. I also inquired about going on sick leave.

The extent of the feeling of oppression can be seen from a series of communication between Adele Field Burton, case manager for the Disability Benefits Plan of MTS and me: 

— On Wed, 11/2/11, Adelle Field Burton <afieldburton@mtsdbp.ca> wrote:

From: Adelle Field Burton <afieldburton@mtsdbp.ca>
Subject: Apology
To: “Fred Harris” <umharri5@yahoo.com>
Received: Wednesday, November 2, 2011, 8:44 AM

Hi Fred

I am sorry if I have offended you or misunderstood what you were trying to say.  It was not my intention.

You are entitled to apply for benefits if you are medically unable to work.

I am here to help if needed.

Take care,

 Sincerely,

  Adelle Field BurtonBA BSW CCRC

Case Manager

Disability Benefits Plan of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society

101-2639 Portage Ave, WPG, MB R3J 0P7

Direct phone:  934-0383

Toll-free phone: 1-866-504-9373 ext.207

Fax: 957-5347

Toll-free fax:  1-866-216-9014

Email: afieldburton@mtsdbp.ca

 

From: Fred Harris [mailto:umharri5@yahoo.com]
Sent: October-31-11 10:03 PM
To: Adelle Field Burton
Subject: RE: Stress Leave

Hello Adele,

I find the contents of your email interesting–in its naivety.

Fact 1: I went to see a brand new doctor since my previous doctor had left Ashern (a typical phenomenon in rural areas, so I am told).

Fact 2: I only indicated that I was under extreme stress; I did not elaborate.

Fact 3: The doctor listened to my heart.

Fact 4: I had an EKG.

Fact 5: He prescribed to me a drug and told me to look up on the Net its effects.

Fact 6: I looked up on the Net the drug and discovered that it was addictive.

Fact 7: I purchased the pills–with the intention of taking them for the purpose of addressing my immediate concerns–my stress as expressed in my increasingly intensified heart.

Fact 8: It was the pharmacist who informed me (not the doctor) that the pills would likely have no effect for the period of the prescription; it would be necessary to take the pills for probably six weeks to notice any effect.

Fact 9: I have been taking over-the-counter sleeping pills to try to sleep; although they do not alter the pounding heart, they do allow me to exist in a state of semi-sleep, with the feeling (though not the fact) of a pounding heart to be less intense;

Fact 10: You presumed that I refused to take the pills based on my Marxist beliefs;

Fact 11: My immediate concern is my constant pounding heart and a solution to that–not in 6 weeks henceforth.

Fact 12: Neither the doctor nor you seem to recognize what stress involves and what the person under stress needs.

Opinion: I do not appreciate your “aside” etc. You apparently have little understanding of the situation.

As an “aside,” on November 15, I have a cystoscopy. On Novemeber 17 I will have a CT scan. Anyone who knows anything about those who have experienced cancer can infer that at least some will be nervous about such procedures because of the possible outcome of a a negative diagnosis. Indeed, I had a conversation yesterday with my advisor for my Ph. D. about this since she had colon cancer at the same time as I had invasive bladder cancer.

Furthermore, on November 16 is the court date. Couple that with the clinical supervision and the humiliation of being shifted to “teaching” one student for 8 weeks and for being denied the right to teach senior-high French this year (despite having taught it for three years in a row), my stress level is quite comprehensible.

I will address my problems and my needs without your help. Should I need assistance, I shall contact another person from MTS.

Rest assured that I have no intention of ever contacting you again.

Dr. Fred Harris, Marxist

— On Mon, 10/31/11, Adelle Field Burton <afieldburton@mtsdbp.ca> wrote:

From: Adelle Field Burton <afieldburton@mtsdbp.ca>
Subject: RE: Stress Leave
To: “Fred Harris” <umharri5@yahoo.com>
Cc: “Roland Stankevicius” <rstankevicius@mbteach.org>, “Adelle Field Burton” <afieldburton@mtsdbp.ca>
Received: Monday, October 31, 2011, 5:15 AM

Hi Fred

I am sorry to hear that things are feeling worse for you.

 

I guess there are a couple of things for clarification. 

Although you are certainly under stress, this is not a diagnosis, it is a cause.   In order to take time off work for medical reasons you need to have a note from a medical doctor that states you are unable to work for “medical reasons” (that includes psychological). If your doctor is prescribing an anti-depressant then likely feels you are exhibiting signs of depression.  I do have clients who chose not to take medication as a first line of treatment, preferring to use talk therapy first.  My approach to that is – Unless there is a past history of mental health problems where medication has been useful, I think it is reasonable to try counselling first but if after 6 months, the depression (etc.) is not improving, then medication becomes a part of “appropriate care and treatment”.

So I guess the first thing is to see if your doctor will support your going off work for medical reasons.  If he does, then I can refer you to a psychologist – I would try to chose one who I think might fit for you.

If your doctor does not support medical leave and you still feel that is necessary, I can refer you to a psychiatrist who would just provide a medical opinion on whether you could work and provide treatment recommendations.  It would mean one, two-hour visit.  I would be clear with him about your concerns with psychiatry and I believe that your concerns would not be well-founded.  There is really no other way to confirm your medical status if your doctor does not agree with time off.

As an aside, it sounds like you may be choosing what you consider to be the “lesser of two evils”, so I still wonder about your ability to participate fully in sessions with the psychologist.  In any case, I would rely on the psychologist’s assessment of whether that was taking place.  I wish there was some way we could help without impacting your philosophical beliefs but I am not sure what that would look like.  The plan document is very clear about appropriate care and treatment.

Please let me know how you would like to proceed.

Sincerely,

Adelle Field BurtonBA BSW CCRC

Case Manager

Disability Benefits Plan of

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society

101-2639 Portage Ave, WPG, MB R3J 0P7

Direct phone:  934-0383

Toll-free phone: 1-866-504-9373 ext.207

Fax: 957-5347

Toll-free fax:  1-866-216-9014

Email: afieldburton@mtsdbp.ca

In October, I had a meeting with Mr. MacNeil, the new principal. Among other things, claimed that the staff found the articles on educational matters that I provided in a binder (and then binders) in the staff lounge to be disdainful. No staff member had ever expressed such a view to me. It was obvious, though, that Mr. MacNeil, thoroughly incorporated into the oppressive school system, had disdain for such articles (especially since some of them were directed against his views–such as his views on the “teenage brain”) (see for example Critical Education Articles Placed in the Teacher Staff Lounge While I Was a Teacher, Part Four: Brains, the Body and Intelligence or Critical Education Articles Placed in the Teacher Staff Lounge While I Was a Teacher, Part Six: The Reduction of the Nature of Teenagers to Their Brains).

In November 2011, the charges of assaulting Francesca were dropped–with no explanation at all. 

I was to begin teaching an English class and a math class in November 2011, which I did–as well as the grades 6-8 French.

Neil MacNeil, the principal, submitted his clinical supervision report in December, 2011, evaluating my teaching during November and December 2011. I responded with around a 42-page critique, but I submitted it to Roland Stankevicius, a staff officer at the time with Manitoba Teachers Society (and later General Secretary), for comment. He recommended reducing it in certain places (and eliminating all evidently emotional language), so the final response was around 32 pages. Mr. Stankevicius indicated at the time that the clinical supervision report reflected badly–on Mr. MacNeil:

— On Mon, 12/19/11, Roland Stankevicius <rstankevicius@mbteach.org> wrote:From: Roland Stankevicius <rstankevicius@mbteach.org>
Subject: RE: Response to Clinical Evaluation
To: “Fred Harris” <umharri5@yahoo.com>
Received: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:32 AM

 

Hi Fred,

I have tried to play the role of editor here.  Cut down on the length, improve tone.  The strikeouts should be deleted in my opinion and the yellow highlights added.

You have provided a very scholarly response but it needs to be shortened.  I hope you agree with my suggestions. Please call me over lunch to discuss.

Best to get this put away. You have made your points here.  NM does not look good in a lot of how he states his observations (in my opinion).

I really liked the John Lennon analogy.

Take care,

Roland Stankevicius

MTS Staff Officer

888-7961 ext. 236

831-3069 (direct)

299-6401 (cell)

email: rstankevicius@mbteach.org

(I will be publishing, in several parts, my reply to Mr. MacNeil’s assessment sometime on this blog.) 

However, Janet Martell, the superintendent and Mr. MacNeil had other plans. Mr. MacNeil, Ms. Martell, Leanne Peters, assistant superintendent, had a meeting with Mr. Stankevicius and me on February 13. Mr. Martell mentioned my cancer and my arrest–without Mr. Stankevicius responding at all to this. I was to be put on “intensive clinical supervision”–which meant that I would be put under her supervision–all supposedly to provide supports for my teaching. However, Mr. Stankevicius, a staff officer at the time with Manitoba Teachers Society (and later General Secretary) indicated that it was a prelude to my being fired. The starting date was to be February 14, 2012 (see letter below): 

Fred Harris
Box 473
Ashern, MB
R0C 0E0

February 14, 2012

Dear Mr. Harris:

Intensive Guided Supervision

This correspondence is further to our meeting on February 13th, 2012. Also in attendance at the meeting was Neil MacNeil, Principal, Ashern Central School, Roland Stankevicius, MTS Staff Officer, and Leanne Peters, Assistant Superintendent, Lakeshore School Division. During this meeting, we discussed the need to move you from a clinical model of supervision to the Intensive Guided model as per Lakeshore’s Regulations and Procedures.

This change in supervision is necessary as your competency in providing a quality education to our students has been brought into question and your teaching is deemed unsatisfactory by myself, as determined in consultation with Neil MacNeil. We clarified the procedures and reviewed, in general terms, the elements and expectations of good teaching and professional responsibility. We discussed the opportunity you would have to assist in determining supports required to meet the expectations. The timelines, in a broad sense, would run from today’s date until the end of April 2012. At the conclusion of the timeline, I will convene a meeting of all participants to determine the outcome of the Intensive Guided Supervision. Possible outcomes are as follows:

  • Recognition that the plan to achieve satisfactory teaching was successfully completed, or

  • A recommendation to the Board of Trustees for termination of your contract.

A second meeting has been scheduled for Friday, February 17th at 9:30 a.m. at Ashern Central School to develop a plan for Intensive Guided Supervision. The plan will include:

  • a clear description of the areas requiring improvement,

  • a clear description of the expected changes in those areas requiring improvement,

  • a description of resources available within and outside the division to assist the teacher to improve teaching performance,

  • the timeline for satisfactory improvement to occur,

  • the meeting dates to review progress, and

  • an outline of the evaluation process and timelines which shall be followed, including expected dates of reports, both interim and final.

At this meeting, you will have the opportunity not only for input into the process, but to request clarification of any component of the supervision model, which will ensure you are in complete understanding of the Division’s expectations. If you are successful in meeting these expectations and demonstrate your desire and ability to continue to do so, no further changes in your performance will be necessary.

I am optimistic that regardless of what has happened in the past, progress can be made to the benefit of all concerned.

Sincerely,

Janet Martell

Superintendent/CEO

CC: Personnel file

Neil MacNeil, Principal, Ashern Central School

Leanne Peters, Assistant Superintendent, Lakeshore School Division

Roland Stankevicius, MTS Staff Officer

On February 16, 2012, I had a meeting with Mr. Stankevicius and a lawyer for MTS at the MTS building (McMaster House): 

Marni Sharples <msharples@mbteach.org>
To:umharri5@yahoo.com
Cc:rstankevicius@mbteach.org
 
Wed., Feb. 15, 2012 at 1:37 p.m.
 
 
Thank you!
 
Marni Sharples      
Coordinator, Teacher Welfare
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society
191 Harcourt Street
Winnipeg, MB  R3J 3H2
‘ (204)837-4666 Ext. 239 or 1-800-262-8803
(204) 831-3077 or 1-866-799-5784
8 msharples@mbteach.org
 
 
—–Original Message—–
From: Fred Harris [mailto:umharri5@yahoo.com]
Sent: February-15-12 12:36 PM
To: Marni Sharples
Subject: Re: Meeting – Thursday, February 16th
 
Hello Marni,
 
Yes, I will be attending.
 
Fred
 
— On Wed, 2/15/12, Marni Sharples <msharples@mbteach.org> wrote:
 
> From: Marni Sharples <msharples@mbteach.org>
> Subject: Meeting – Thursday, February 16th
> Cc: “Roland Stankevicius” <rstankevicius@mbteach.org>, “David Shrom
> Received: Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 10:26 AM
 
>
> Dear Mr. Harris:
>   
> On behalf of Roland Stankevicius,
> this will confirm that a meeting has been scheduled for
> 10:30 a.m., Thursday, February 16th in Room A, McMaster House, MTS.
>   
> Please confirm your attendance by
> return email.
>   
> Thank you.
>   
> Marni Sharples
> Coordinator, Teacher
>  Welfare
> The
>  Manitoba Teachers’ Society
> 191 Harcourt
> Street
> Winnipeg, MB
> R3J 3H2
> ‘
> (204)837-4666 Ext.
> 239
>  or 1-800-262-8803
> 6
> (204)
> 831-3077 or 1-866-799-5784
> 8

On February 16, 2012, I had a meeting with Mr. Stankevicius and David Shrom, a lawyer (probably a labour lawyer–he has since been on an arbitration board). Mr. Shrom informed me that the issue was grievable, meaning that the issue could be grieved on the basis of collective agreement provisions (but he did not specify, if I remember correctly, which provisions could be used to justify the grievance). However, he (or Mr. Stankevicius) indicated that, despite being grievable, I would still have to undergo intensive clinical supervision while the grievance was in process. Since I had no further desire to work for Lakeshore School Division (or for that matter any other employer), I decided not to pursue the grievance and made a deal to agree to resign if I was “allowed” to work one day in March to qualify for short-term disability until I qualified for long-term disability;

Bureaucratic Rules for Going on Short- and Long-term Disability 

Fred Harris <umharri5@yahoo.com>
To:rstankevicius@mbteach.org
 
Sat., Feb. 18, 2012 at 9:29 a.m.
 
 
Hello Roland,
 
I received a doctor’s note yesterday for two weeks. I will fax that to the Division office. I also explained to the doctor the situation in relation to std [short-term disability], and he stated that he had no problem with signing another doctor’s note afterwards.
 
What are other conditions for std? Seeing a doctor regularly? Other conditions attached? What is the level of benefits?
 
I understand that I will have to work at least one day in March. In what would that consist? And where? I am unconcerned about the other teachers knowing about the situation–they undoubtedly will be curious. However, I have no desire to see Neil.
 
I do have some questions. Is std to be a bridging gap for ltd [long-term disability]? However, I skimmed through the ltd plan, and a condition for ltd is that the teacher still be employed. If the idea is to negotiate a deal and terminate, then I would not qualify for ltd. So I am unsure of this.
 
I also am wondering about prospects for future employment in other divisions. I would probably start out as a substitute teacher, but then again I do now know how difficult it is to be on the substitute teachers’ list in various divisions. Any ideas?
 
I also, as you know, plan on going to Toronto. Whether this year or next I am unsure. What probable impact, if any, would this have on working in Toronto, at least initially, as a substitute teacher?
Fred
— On Fri, 2/17/12, Roland Stankevicius <rstankevicius@mbteach.org> wrote:

From: Roland Stankevicius <rstankevicius@mbteach.org>
Subject: FW: Lakeshore short term disability insurance (std)
To: “Fred Harris” <umharri5@yahoo.com>
Received: Friday, February 17, 2012, 12:24 PM

Hi Fred, I heard your voicemail message.  I am in the office call if you are available.

Further to the previous email.

The note for next week can be “on sick leave for an indefinite period while under doctor’s care and will be reassessed on 28th February.”

The matter is that you need to be ‘not on sick leave’ for at least a day (at work) on or after March 1st.  It is a bit complicated but basically you will be transitioning from one medical leave to the other and therefore will need a second medical note after March 1st.

Roland Stankevicius

(204) 888-7961 ext. 236

1-866-494-5747 ext. 236

(204) 831-3069 (direct)

299-6401 (cell)

email: rstankevicius@mbteach.org

 

From: Roland Stankevicius
Sent: February-17-12 11:14 AM
To: ‘Fred Harris’
Subject: Lakeshore short term disability insurance (std)

Hi Fred,

I hope your meeting yesterday afternoon went well and I hope that our meeting with David Shrom was helpful as well.

I have some information about the short term disability plan that Lakeshore now has as part of your benefits package.

The Lakeshore STD plan start on March 1st 2012.  It is 3rd party plan through Wawanesa Insurance and they have some very specific requirements.

As a contractual part of the plan you need to be at work (not sick) on or after March 1st  to be eligible for insurance benefits going forward.

So your sick leave needs to be interrupted (be at work) for at least one day (March 1st  or any day thereafter) to apply/be eligible for benefits.

As part of my discussions with Janet (next week), and with your input, we will work this out.

Therefore your sick leave note should be for a period up to February 29th  return to work after that (one day). 

A new sick leave note post March 1st  (for the insurance company) will have you eligible for their benefit after your sick leave days expire.

I’m sure you have some questions about this. Feel free to call on this or any other matter.

Roland Stankevicius

(204) 888-7961 ext. 236

1-866-494-5747 ext. 236

(204) 831-3069 (direct)

299-6401 (cell)

email: rstankevicius@mbteach.org

My email to a doctor involved specifying what was required to satisfy the short-term provisions of the disability program: 

From: Fred Harris <umharri5@yahoo.com>
To: “samy.faltas@hotmail.com” <samy.faltas@hotmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 02:09:46 p.m. EDT
Subject: Doctor‘s Note
 
Hello Doctor Faltas,
 
I am a patient of yours who saw the psychiatrist, Dr.Morier.
 
Lakeshore School Division requires a doctor‘s note, with two parts to it.
 
The first part should indicate that I was capable of working on March 23 (whether formulated as alternative work or simply as work is your decision).
 
The second part then should indicate that I was not capable of working as of March 26. The MTS representative (union representative) suggested that the wording should indicate that I am incapble of performing full-time teaching duties due to general stress and anxiety (this last wording, he suggested, should also be used for the Wawanesa form when you fill it out after having received the Dr. Morier’s report). Of course, it is up to you how you formulate the note.
 
The note can be addressed as To Lakeshore School Division
 
The note can be sent to the following address:
 
Lakeshore School Division
Box 100
Eriksdale, MB
R0C 0W0
 
If you have questions of the Division, you can phone the Division at 739-2101 and ask for Janet Martell (superintendent).
 
If you have any questions for me, my cell number in Winnipeg is: 951-2764.
 
Thank you, Dr. Faltas.
 
 
Fred Haris

 

Political Lessons to Be Learned

When we look at all these experiences, it can be seen that the government and its representatives in many ways functions to oppress workers and citizens. The left seem oblivious to this aspect of the regular person’s experiences. Indeed, the left’s frequent reference to the solution of “expanded public services,” for many sounds like a call for an expanded system of oppression. Is there really any wonder why workers and citizens have moved to the right in many instances? The left, of course, absolves itself of any responsibility for this turn. It chastises the lower levels of the working class for, for instance, voting for the likes of Trump, while it fails to look critically at its own contribution to the continued oppression of workers and citizens. 

It should be noted that, in some ways, I was a lucky person. I was to receive short-term and then long-term disability. A friend of mine who worked in a private school ended up in the psychiatric ward after suffering constant criticisms from administration and relatively well-off parents. He received no financial help whatsoever. 

Of course, my luck is relative; I would have preferred, of course, not to have had to experience such “luck” in the first place. 

In another post in this series, I will outline the oppression that I experienced while on short- and long-term disability. 

Exposing the Intolerance and Censorship of Social Democracy, Part One: The Working Class, Housing and the Police

Introduction

From around February 20 until May 23, 2021 I belonged to an organization in Toronto called Social Housing Green Deal. The organization came to my attention when one of my friends on Facebook invited me to join.

The reason why I joined is that it is involved in a movement for defunding (if not abolishing) the police. I thought that perhaps I could participate in such an organization and contribute by expressing my own point of view. I was wrong.

The following outlines how I actually started participating in the organization and how such participation led to the practical censorship of my views through both actual censorship and the possible manipulation of protocols used for general meetings.

My conclusions about the efforts of this group, at least in relation to defunding the police (and abolishing it) is: it will not be very effective. Its characteristic lack of critical spirit will result in an incapacity to determine what really is required to defund and abolish the police. Its lack of willingness to critically analyze other organizations’ statements will undoubtedly contribute to that incapacity. Finally, its probable use of control over protocols to silence others expresses as well an incapacity to engage in self-criticism–a basic condition for any political advance.

I wish I were wrong, but given their collapse of strategy into tactics and their lack of a critical spirit–my prediction will probably come true. In May 2022, it will be interesting to see whether the social-democratic left has managed to defund the police to any great extent in Toronto. I doubt it.

I believe that Meursault, the protagonist of the existential writer Albert Camus, in his book “L’Etranger (The Outsider in English) sums up my conclusions concerning this organization:

 J’avais eu raison, j’avais encore raison, j’avais toujours raison. [I had been right, I will still right, I was always right.

It is necessary to critique the social-democratic left from the outside since they will try to take measures to stifle dissent from their dogmas. I will elaborate on this assertion in a future post. 

Joining the Group

To join the group, it was necessary to answer why you wanted to join. Anna Jessup is the moderator and administrator. Ms. Jessup asked the following question on February 17, 2021:

Hi Frederick.  Before I add you to our group tell me a bit about yourself.  What made you want to join?
 
Anna

Here is how I responded on February 18, 2021:

Hello Anna,
 
  1. We have met before–at ETTO, I believe, and at Black Creek Community Farm, where, unfortunately, a list of things to be done were itemized but, as far as I know, nothing came of it.
  2. The question, perhaps, is meant to ensure that right-wing people do not attend.
  3. To answer the question properly would involve much personal information and history, and I am uninclined to share that at this time.
  4. I could, as well, ask what the purpose of the group is; I am somewhat reluctant to get involved in organizations that are purely reformist in nature.
  5. To be more specific: Why do I want to “participate?” Because the police are a central feature of a society dominated by a class of employers. They are central to the reproduction of a social order that treats human beings as things to be used by employers.
  6. I have a blog (the abolitonary.ca–although I do not think it is accessible only via that URL, but you made try if interested.) I have posted five posts with the title “Reform versus the Abolition of Police,” and I argue for the abolition of police.
  7. I will be posting a sixth post on Friday concerning the relation between police and unions (not police unions), where I use an article that tries to show that unions function to protect workers by limiting their exploitation (defensive mechanism) but simultaneously function as ideological organizations to integrate workers into the class system of employers.
  8. James Wilt, in Canadian Dimension, argued for the abolition of police whereas Herman Rosenfeld argued for their “transformation.” I criticize severely Mr. Rosenfeld’s view, arguing that his claim that Mr. Wilt engages in sloppy thinking in fact applies to him.
  9. I will be drafting a critique of Harry Kopyto’s critique of Mr. Rosenfeld’s claim that the police can somehow be reformed–and then concedes way too much by claiming that Mr. Rosenfeld is however correct to argue for “reforms” “in the meantime.” This is a social-democratic trick of putting off forever the aim of abolishing the police. Of course, the police cannot be abolished all at once, but the aim of such abolition should always be present–and accepting reforms for the moment when there is insufficient power but always pressing for the abolition of the police. 
  10. My purpose of “participating” in the zoom conference is really to listen–nothing more, for now (perhaps I can learn some things). I have experienced insults from “the left” here in Toronto–“condescending prick” from Wayne Dealy, executive director of CUPE 3902, and “insane” from Errol Young, of JFAAP. I am undoubtedly considered by some among the left as “sectarian”–but they do not seem to want to engage in any kind of debate on my blog concerning issues that I have raised. 
  11. I self-identify as a Marxist.

    Fred Harris

Ms. Jessup responded as follows, on February 20, 2021:

Yes Fred, I remember you.  I respect your Marxist analysis and certainly wish to apply such an analysis to on-the-ground work. 
 
One complication I ran into with our previous work, was that your posts ignited more discussion than I had the time or resources to moderate.  
 
Are you willing to avoid debate on this google group, and simply use it as a way to receive information about upcoming meetings and events?
 
Anna

I responded on the same day as follows:

Hello Anna,
 
I was going to participate at least to a  minimum degree at first, but given the email, I will not even do that. I will limit myself to listening and taking notes.
 
Fred

Being Drawn into Participation 

 
The same day I received the following message: 
 
The link to the meeting will come to you by email a few minutes before 3PM today.
Hope to see you all there.
 
Anna
The important point in the above message is that the zoom “link to the meeting will come to you by email before 3PM.” This is relevant for what happened on May 23, 2021.
 
On February 21, 2021, I wrote the following: 
 
Hello Anna,
 
I am copying below part of a post from my blog that may be relevant to the discussion yesterday–namely, the creation of protective teams, which I believe is a better approach than relying on pressuring council members to vote for defunding the police (until there is sufficient power on the ground).
 
Feel free to use part or all of it–or not.
 
Fred
What I sent Anna was a large part of the post on alternatives to policing (see  Reform versus Abolition of Police, Part Four: Possible Alternatives). 
 
Ms. Jessup’s response was: 
 
Wow, what a great read.
 
I will post it if that’s alright.  I’ll cut out the criticism of Herman as I don’t want to make my friends defensive. 
 
I will post it on our Facebook group. 
 
Very glad I read this.  Thank you.
Ms. Jessup then sent a quest to have what I wrote put up on the organization’s website–which it was.
 
Being drawn into the organization, I started sending recommendations for reading, and in the process expressed some of my own views. On March 10, 2021, for example, I sent the following:
Hello Anna,
 
Attached is another open text document file, this time relating the police to the emergence and maintenance of capitalism. It is, as I indicate in the text, a series of short comments followed by many quotes from the book by Mark Neocleous (2000), The Fabrication of Social Order: A Critical Theory of Police Power.  I will be posting this in the future on my blog. Again, feel free to do anything you want with part or all of it or anything at all.
 
Fred

Ms. Jessup’s response on March 11, 2021:

Thank you!

On April 3, 2021, I sent the following, along with the documents:

Hello Ana,
 
I am attaching two items. The first is a document recommended by SURJ  [Showing Up for Racial Justice] that I received recently, “Building the World We Want: A Roadmap to Police Free Futures,” assembled by Robyn Maynard, graphics by Sahra Soudi. In the document, there is much about defunding the police (much less about its abolition), and very little about the kind of society that the police protect. It is my view that unless the two are connected, it is highly unlikely that the police will be defunded/abolished on a permanent basis since, as I tried to show in the quotes from the book by Mark Neocleus (The Fabrication of Social Order: A Critical Theory of Police Power) and my short comments, the emergence of the modern police and the emergence of a society dominated by a class of employers went hand in hand. 

Hence, the second document is from my blog, quoting from Elizabeth Anderson’s book on the nature of employment relationship: what, in effect, the police protect, is a dictatorship.

Feel free to edit it any way you want.
 
Fred
Ms. Jessup, on April 5, 2021, responded (edited to omit personal information that I should respect): 
Thank you so much.  I’ll need time before I can get to it … But it is very nice to get an email about something positive!
The second document is from my blog:  Employers as Dictators, Part One.
 
On April 6, 2021, Ms. Jessup added: 
 
Good reading.  Thank you.  I have added the Maynard piece to our group’s resource folder.
 
Out of curiosity, in your piece, which I enjoyed, why did you characterize totalitarian aspects of our society as communist rather than simply as totalitarian?
To which I responded on the same day:
 
Hello Anna,
 
To answer your question concerning communist vs. totalitarian: It was not I but Elizabeth Anderson who made a parallel between the dictatorship at work and a communist dictatorship.
 
I believe it was an astute tactic on her part. Many Americans undoubtedly still equate the former Soviet dictatorship with communism. To make a parallel with this former dictatorship may shock many Americans (and undoubtedly many Canadians and Europeans), but it also resonates with their experiences at work. It may thereby create an opening–by creating a contradiction in the readers’ point of view–for discussing the issue of just how democratic the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, England, etc. are. Such discussions are sadly lacking in the labour movement in general and the union movement in particular.

 On my blog, I have systematically tried to exhibit the dictatorial nature of employers even in unionized settings via the implicit or explicit management rights that employers have. I have also tried to expose how unions not only fail to address the dictatorial power of employers but serve, through their rhetoric of “fair contracts” and the like, as ideologues of employers. For example, I searched for the expression “fair contract,” “fair deal,” and similar expressions on the Net for CUPE–the largest union in Canada. I quoted 10 different CUPE sources using such ideological rhetoric.

I will be posting, in the future, a similar post on the second largest union in Canada, this time in the private sector, Unifor. 
On April 6, 2021, I received an email indicating that we would have a zoom meeting the following day (April 7), with a zoom link (so that we could video conference). It was to be at 7:30 p.m. rather than the usual 3:00 p.m.: 
 
At that meeting, the eviction of a father with his children was discussed, with twenty-three police cars showing up in Toronto.  I suggested that we need to try to connect this incident with larger issues (the micro with the macro). Ms. Jessup suggested that I do that. I stated that I would do that if someone else would jointly work on it since I lacked the specific details. There was silence.
 
As a consequence, I decided to draft something on my own that would connect up the micro with the macro, starting with the micro and linking it up with wider and wider issues. I did some research to familiarize myself with some writings on the subject of housing as well as to gain a more concrete understanding of the specific incident.
 
As a result, I wrote to Ms. Jessup, on April 15, 2021, I sent the following to her, with the subject heading “Write up: A Critical Analysis of the Life Situation of the Working Class in Relation to Housing and the Police—and What To Do About It.” 
 
Hello Anna,
 
Attached is a draft on some thoughts about the relationship between left-wing activism and the situation of the working class and what can be done about it–by linking short-term problems with long-term goals. 
 
If you or anyone else has any criticisms or suggestions, feel free to make them. I am all ears.
 
Fred
The draft follows. It is quite long (13 pages in draft form). The last part I copied from the page from this blog The Money Circuit of Capital, so I will omit that part. 
 

A Critical Analysis of the Life Situation of the Working Class in Relation to Housing and the Police—and What To Do About It

Introduction

I have been accused, among union circles, of being condescending. However, if by condescending is meant questioning actions that do not lead to goals that I believe are worth pursuing, then I admit to be condescending.

Some may consider the following to be academic. However, I have had some experience with activism. For example, in the early 1980s, when I worked at a brewery in Calgary, I refused an order by supervisors and justified my refusal by stating that I had nothing but contempt for capitalists and their representatives. I was sent home on two consecutive nights. When the union president and the bottling manager met to discuss the issue, the bottling manager stated: “Do you know what that Marxist son of a bitch said?” We workers won this particular battle—the order was cancelled. That, of course, did not mean that we had won the war.

I would appreciate criticisms and suggestions for improvement in what follows, both in terms of accuracy and in terms of arguments.

Immediate Incident as an Occasion for Grassroots Activism

On Good Friday, April 2, 2021, 23 police cruisers showed up at 33 Gabian Way, which is a 19-story building owned by Vila Gaspar Corte Real Inc., or Villa Gaspar Corte Real Non-Profit Housing Inc. (there is some inconsistency in spelling the company).

The building is a combination of rental and social housing, built in 1993. There are 248 residential units. Apparently, the building is linked to Project Esperance, which is a non-profit registered charity. It services 111 units of from one- to three-bedroom units. Rents are geared to income.

According to the police, there were so many police present in order to remove a large number of protesters. The facts speak otherwise.

There were indeed protesters; they were protesting the eviction of Alex, a father of a one-year old and a six-year child. Alex had made arrangements with the landlord to pay rent arrears by March 29. Alex had managed to obtain the money to pay the rent, but a sheriff’s officer showed up to evict him on April 2, without warning. He left the apartment with his two children, but he returned to obtain his possessions. The police showed up and forced their way into the apartment.

The police denied that they were there to enforce the eviction—but if that were the case, why did they force their way into the apartment? Furthermore, one police officer claimed that the police had a court order for eviction and that they were there to evict Alex.

Due to the resistance of neighbours and supporters, Alex was not evicted.

This incident has several aspects to it. Firstly, immediate organized resistance to those with power and wealth can be effective in the short-term. Secondly, when there are supporters for those who are to be evicted, it is likely that the police will show up—in force.

Thirdly, and something that was not emphasized in references to the incident, it is sheriff’s who have the legal right to evict a tenant (with the assistance of police if the sheriff believes there will be trouble), and they need not inform the tenant when they are coming, as the website Steps to Justice: Your Guide to Law In Ontario points out (https://stepstojustice.ca/questions/housing-law/what-happens-if-theres-eviction-order-and-i-dont-move):

After the Landlord and Tenant Board makes an order to evict a tenant, a court official called the Sheriff is in charge of enforcing or carrying out the order.

If you have not moved out by the date the eviction order says you must move, the Sheriff can make you leave and let your landlord change the locks.

Only the Sheriff is allowed to physically evict you

The law does not let your landlord, a private bailiff, or a security guard physically evict you or lock you out. Only the Sheriff can do this. The police can’t evict you either but the Sheriff can ask the police for help if the Sheriff thinks there might be violence.

You can get evicted at any time of year

Many tenants believe that the law does not allow evictions in the winter. That is not true. The Sheriff can enforce eviction orders at any time of year.

The Sheriff does not have to tell you when they are coming to evict you

If you have an eviction order against you, the Sheriff could come to change your locks on any weekday after the date the Board ordered you to move out.”

The issue of the power of sheriffs to evict links up to the more general issue of the modern property system and the aims of those who engage in resistance to evictions (and other forms of resistance involving law-enforcement officers).

Fourthly: What was the aim of the supporters and neighbours? To prevent the eviction, evidently. It worked. It is a short-term victory, however. There will be other evictions, and other evictions, and other evictions. This issue can be looked at from a number of angles.

Strategy and Tactics

The left here in Toronto and elsewhere frequently collapse strategy and tactics, in effect advocating only tactics. This leads nowhere except the perpetuation of the problems and the constant need to resist and to struggle—without any realistic hope of resolving the conditions which constantly generate the problem. This does not mean that reforms should be thrown out of the window. It does mean, however, that activism that stays at the level of tactics will never address the more profound causes of the immediate problems. Robert Knox (2012) addresses this problem in his article titled “Strategy and Tactics.” in pages 193-229, The Finnish Yearbook of International Law, Volume 21, writes, p. 205:

only tactical interventions occur, which are then branded as strategic interventions, foreclosing the possibility of an actual strategic intervention.”

What is the difference between strategic interventions and tactical interventions? The difference has been specified in terms of war as follows (pages 197-198):

Carl von Clausewitz, one of the most influential exponents of modern military theory, defined strategy as:

[T]he use of the engagement to attain the object of the war … It must therefore give an aim to the whole military action. Its aim must be in accord with the object of the war. In other words, strategy develops the plan of the war, and to the aforesaid aim links the series of acts which are to lead to it; that is, it plans the separate campaigns and arranges the engagements to be fought in each of them.

Strategy is – in essence – how it is that one would fight and win a war: connecting the various individual battles together so as to achieve this broader objective. In contradistinction to this is tactics, which is concerned with smaller and shorter term matters. Tactics are concerned with how to win the individual battles and engagements of which the war is composed.

If we wish to translate this metaphor into more general terms, we might say that strategy concerns the manner in which we achieve and eventually fulfil our long term aims or objectives, whereas tactics concerns the methods through which we achieve our shorter term aims or objectives. The obvious conclusion here, and one that will be important to bear in mind throughout this article, is that when we talk of ‘pragmatism’ or ‘effectiveness’ it need not be referring to only the immediate situation. As will be explored more fully below, any tactical intervention will also have strategic consequences. This means that when thinking about effectiveness, it is necessary to understand the inherent relation between strategy and tactics. In so doing, the distinction allows us to consider how effective particular (seemingly ‘short term’) interventions might be in the longer term.

If evictions are going to be stopped permanently, then immediate forms of resistance and immediate actions need to be linked to that goal—not just to incidents of crisis as they arise.

Nothing Fails Like Success

This is a take on the title of chapter one of Jeremy Reiman’s and Paul Leighton (2017), in The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice; that title is “Nothing Succeeds Like Failure.” They argue that the police and prisons fail to reduce crime rates and, in their failure, perpetuate their own need or existence. Page 45:

“Failure is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. Here lies the key to understanding our failing criminal justices ystem: The failure of policies and institutions can serve vested interests and thus amount to success for them!

If we look at the system as “wanting” to reduce crime, it is an abysmal failure that we cannot understand. If we look at it as not wanting to reduce crime, it’s a howling success, and all we need to understand is why the goal of the criminal justice system is to fail to reduce crime. If we can understand this, then the system’s “failure,” as well as its obstinate refusal to implement the policies that could remedy that “failure,” becomes perfectly understandable. In other words, we can make more sense out of criminal justice policy by assuming that its goal is to maintain crime than by assuming that its goal is to reduce crime!”

Leftist activism, similarly, but from the opposite end, by succeeding in short-term tactics, perpetuates its own constant need to engage in activism—activism for activism’s sake. It may make those who engage in such activism feel useful, but it fails to address the need to incorporate a strategic approach into activism. If activism succeeded in eliminating the need for activism, it would eliminate itself. This is one reason why strategy is collapsed into tactics—it permanently perpetuates the need for activism. Its short-term successes guarantee the continued need to engage in—short-term tactics.

The Bad Infinite

We can give this problem a philosophical turn. G.W.F. Hegel, a German philosopher, criticized the theoretical equivalent of this view in the following terms of the “bad infinite”–an infinite that never reaches an end (from The Encyclopaedia Logic, page 150:

“A limit is set, it is exceeded, then there is another limit, and so on without end. So we have nothing here but a superficial alternation, which stays forever within the sphere of the finite. If we suppose that we can liberate ourselves from the finite by stepping out into that infinitude, this is in fact only a liberation through flight. And the person who flees is not yet free, for in fleeing, he is still determined by the very thing from which he is fleeing. So if people then add that the infinite cannot be attained, what they say is quite correct….”

The bad infinite never reaches any end since it presupposes the general context that generates the particular or specific problems will continue to exist. To go beyond the bad infinite requires questioning that context—and hence developing a strategy designed to specify the problem at the general level while simultaneously addressing more immediate problems in such a way that successes feed into the resolution of the problem at the more general level.

Housing and Capitalism

Houses and housing form a central aspect of capitalist society. This has been noticed since the World Economic Crisis of 2007-2008. Wolfgang Streeck (2016), in his book How Will Capitalism End? Essays on a Failing System, argues that there have been four crises of democratic capitalism since the last world war:

“With the crash of privatized Keynesianism in 2008, the crisis of postwar democratic capitalism entered its fourth and latest stage, after the successive eras of inflation, public deficits and private indebtedness (Figure 2.5). With the global financial system poised to disintegrate, nation states sought to restore economic confidence by socializing the bad loans licensed in compensation for fiscal consolidation. Together with the fiscal expansion necessary to prevent a breakdown of the ‘real economy’, this resulted in a dramatic new increase in public deficits and public debt – a development that, it may be noted, was not at all due to frivolous overspending by opportunistic politicians or misconceived public institutions….”

Monetary instability (inflation), unemployment, public deficit spending and indebtedness followed by a shift to private indebtedness and deregulation of credit (and austerity measures) led to a bubble in housing prices and to speculative credit extended to those unlikely to be able to pay for mortgages once interest rates rose or they became unemployed. Of course, the crash of 2007-2008 increased public debt several fold and the pandemic has done the same.

Housing, Capitalism and the Police

Brendan Beck and Adam Goldstein (2017), in their article “Governing Through Police? Housing Market Reliance, Welfare Retrenchment, and Police Budgeting in an Era of Declining Crime, argue somewhat differently from Reiman and Leighton—though both arguments may complement each other.

They note, like Reiman and Leighton do, that crime rates have generally declined since the 1990s. On the other hand, police budgets have generally blossomed. They explain this general increase in municipal police budgets because of the increased centrality of real estate in the city economy. Page 1183:

“One key puzzle is why penal state growth continued unabated long after crime levels peaked in the early 1990s. We focus on local policing and consider the relationship between growing city-level law enforcement expenditures and two shifts: first, the move toward an economy increasingly organized around residential real estate; and second, city-level welfare retrenchment. We argue that increasing economic reliance on housing price appreciation during the late 1990s and the 2000s heightened demand for expanded law enforcement even as actual risks of crime victimization fell. At the same time, cities increasingly addressed social problems through criminal justice—rather than social service—capacities.

As homes became a vehicle for workers to not only live but also to obtain some security with rising house prices, their interests in maintaining the price of the house increased. This interest has spilled over into support for policing efforts (however ineffective) that contribute to the maintenance of the prices of housing and land. This spillover, in turn, has racist implications since concentrations of coloured and minorities are perceived by homeowners as threats to property prices—but there is counterevidence that in the case of the Latino population there is no such perceived threat. Page 1186:

Thus, the threat theory hypothesizes that investment in police forces (per capita force size and/or expenditure) will be positively associated with racial minorities’ share of the local population, net of crime rates. Studies have consistently found support for this hypothesis (e.g., Carmichael and Kent 2014; Jacobs and Carmichael 2001; Kent and Jacobs 2005; McCarty, Ren, and Zhao 2012; Sever 2003; Vargas and McHarris 2017). In fact, the percentage of black residents typically appears as one of the single most significant predictors in models of city police strength. However, recent studies find no evidence of a similar positive association between the percentage of Latino residents and police strength, neither cross-sectionally nor longitudinally (Holmes et al. 2008; Zhao, Ren, and Lovrich 2010).”

On the other hand, it is necessary also to consider competition between workers in working for an employer:

Two different studies, King and Wheelock (2007) and Stults and Baumer (2007), use geocoded survey data to probe the mechanisms underlying racial threat effects. Both found that the observed association between the percent of black residents and police size is driven substantially by whites’ perceived economicthreats in the labor market and in social service provision. Racial threat is driven to a lesser extent by whites’ fears of crime victimization (Stults and Baumer 2007).”

However, their study seems to use the threat of falling residential prices as a proxy or for economic threat. Page 1187:

In examining the use of police as a means of governing housing markets, we also consider how the ethno-racial makeup of cities might have interacted with shifting forms of economic threat. As we elaborate below, as urban economies came to be based more and more around real estate, perceived economic threats (and the racialized fears on which they draw) increasingly took the form of concerns about protecting housing prices. Previous research, using the Gini coefficient to measure economic threat, finds a positive effect on police department size (Carmichael and Kent 2014). We use measures of more specific economic threats: those around housing.

They mention other factors that influence the growth of police budgets, such as the structure of municipal politics (the degree to which it is subject to partisan politics), whether it is a mayoral election year and the previous year’s budget.

The Financialization of the Housing Market

Beck and Goldstein argue that, as crime rates declined in the 1990s, there was a simultaneous financialization of the housing industry. This compensated, at least in part, for the stagnation in wages and salaries. Page 1188:

Between 1992 and 2005, the median home price doubled and the amount of outstanding mortgage debt tripled (Census Bureau 2012; Federal Reserve Board 2016). Wages were stagnant during this time, but the proliferation of home equity loan instruments allowed homeowners to utilize their houses as income streams, making homeownerseconomic livelihoods predicated increasingly on continual housing price growth (Davis 2010). Home equity extraction made up 10 percent of householdsincome nationally and as much as 15 percent in places like California and Florida (Greenspan and Kennedy 2007; Irwin 2006). Home value was important for homeowners and for regional economies.

Homeowners, especially in the present, where heightened prices for homes takes up some of the slack for limited wage and salary increases, tend to support the police more than renters:

“Given linkages in popular narratives between crime rates and residential property values, we suspect that part of the explanation for continual expansion of policing can be found in the increasingly central role of housing markets in the economy, and politicians’ responsiveness to homeowners’ concerns about protecting property prices. As Simon has theorized, “the more a person’s future economic security depends on the value of his or her home, rather than earning capacity, the more we might expect this person to focus on factors like crime that could damage the value of the home” (2010, 195). Past research has shown that homeowners are more satisfied with and supportive of police than are renters (Reisig and Parks 2000; Schuck, Rosenbaum, and Hawkins 2008).

The shift from homes being a place primarily to live in and have a private life to a form of equity involves not just support for measures to reduce crime but other measures to ensure that the “public area” of the surrounding neighbourhood be protected from potential threats of disorder and not just crime:

Economists have long documented the negative effects of reported crime levels on housing prices, and this effect was especially pronounced during the 1990s (Hellman and Naroff 1979; Pope and Pope 2012; Schwartz, Susin, and Voicu 2003). The deleterious impact of crime on property values represents a salient social fact within the residential real estate field, one that is ubiquitously repeated in popular media and on real estate websites. Indeed, the reorientation toward real estate heightened the importance of guarding against not only crime, but also disorder, lifestyle nuisances, loitering, and anything else that might threaten property values. The salience of such economic fears may help explain the fact that the same exact majority of GSS respondents (57 percent) supported spending more public money on law enforcement in 2006 as they did in 1990, when crime rates were 50 percent higher.3 Even safe-feeling homeowners might have supported expanded policing to protect home values.”

It was no longer actual crime (however defined by the status quo) but the threat or possibility of disorder and crime that became a concern. Pages 1188-1189:

“…policing strategies that had police respond to perceived disorder, the expanded role for police went hand in hand with an expansion in the justificatory logics and motives to rationalize continued growth. For instance, a 2010 Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services report aimed at the law enforcement community argues that police agencies should reconceptualize their role and refocus their energies on combating fear of crime (rather than crime) because—among other things—it undermines residential property values (Cordner 2010).

At the same time, as governments retrenched on welfare services, the police were called upon to address problems normally handled by such services. The expansion of police services and the retrenchment of welfare services, however, should not lead the left to idealize welfare services. Welfare services have been oppressive in various ways such as supervising personal lives to ensuring that those who receive assistance are the “deserving poor.”

Furthermore, as the incident at 33 Gabian Way demonstrates, public housing can be quite oppressive. Evictions can occur in just as brutal fashion as in private housing. The left should not idealize the public sector—which they often do.

Housing, Police and the Working Class

The use of houses as equity among the working class has led to a split within the class in terms of immediate material interests. From Michael Berry, Housing Provision and Class Relations under Capitalism: Some Implications of Recent Marxist Class Analysis, in pages 109-121, Housing Studies, Volume 1, Issue 2, pages 115-116:

Income differences are, as has been argued, also internalised within classes. In the case of the working class, for example, higher paid workers in primary jobs are doubly advantaged; they enjoy both higher and more secure wages and a higher probability of: (a) gaining access to owner-occupation; and (b) securing high capital gains from domestic property ownership. Conversely, workers in the secondary job market and those relegated to the reserve army of unemployed are more likely to be denied access to home ownership, or, if allowed access, concentrated in housing submarkets where property values remain relatively stable. Tenancy therefore evolves as a residual tenure category in a dual sense; not only can land supporting rental housing often be converted to more profitable non-residential uses, it evolves as ‘housing of last resort’ for less privileged sections of the working and nonworking population whose low incomes place strict limits on the rental returns to landlords, both factors leading to a degree of underprovision and homelessness.

In summary, working class disunity, associated with unequal access to and benefits from home ownership, and its political expression through various forms of struggle, is part of a wider system of inequality and exploitation. Both forms of advantage to higher paid workers privileged position in the workplace, over and against the immediate interests of other workers. depend on their being able to maintain their privileged position in the workplace, over and against the immediate interests of other workers.

Bad Infinity Again, or the Labour of Sisyphus—Unless We Begin to Link Strategy and Tactics

The upshot of all this is that unless activists begin to linking the immediate issues to larger issues, it is highly likely that they will achieve only fleeting success. The split in the working class means that there will be substantial resistance by a substantial section of the population to efforts to defund the police or to abolish it unless measures are taken to address the wider concerns and issues.

How to Link Strategy and Tactics

How can this be done? One possibility is to divide those who do have relatively secure positions, with relatively well-paid jobs (frequently the unionized sector) into two or three age groups as well as dividing each group into homeowners and those who do not own homes (condos, townshomes, houses, life leases or other forms of home ownership).

Those who are nearing retirement are unlikely to want to threaten their own security, both in terms of their pensions and in terms of their home ownership (for the importance of security for identifying working-class consciousness, see Marc Mulholland (2010), ‘Its Patrimony, its Unique Wealth!’ Labour-Power, Working Class Consciousness and Crises: An Outline Consideration. Pages 375-417, In Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, Volume 38, Issue 3—although I believe he fails to include other aspects that motivate workers, such as the fight for their freedom and justice). Older workers also do not also have a whole life ahead of them to work for an employer. It is likely that only if their livelihood were threatened in some way (such as redefining the age of retirement) would they be prone to engage in serious battles with the aim of changing the economic and political structure. Older unionized workers would more likely support the police and less likely support a movement for defunding the police or in abolishing the police (empirical studies are needed here. Are there any?)

Some middle-aged workers, on the other hand, may still have to pay off their mortgage and still have to subordinate their will to the power of an employer for some time; others, of course, may approach older unionized workers in having a secure life. Some middle-aged workers may thus be more prone to oppose the police whereas others may be more prone to support them. It all depends on their life circumstances.

Younger unionized workers may have inherited housing from their parents, so they may be more prone to support the police. On the other hand, they more likely have a lifetime of having to work for an employer (although some may aspire to owning their own businesses, of course). These workers may be more susceptible to opposing police funding and the existence of the police because of their life situation.

To combat some of the unionized workers’ tendency to support the police, it would be necessary to show them the nature of their situation for the foreseeable future and to criticize alternative views that present their lives as somehow being fair. On the one hand, it would be necessary to show that their life working for an employer in hopes of owning a home entails a substantial part of their lives being used as means for employers’ ends over which they have little control. On the other hand, it would be necessary to criticize union rhetoric that presents collective bargaining and collective agreements as somehow fair.

To provide such criticisms, it is necessary to show that workers are used as means for other person’s ends. To that end, I reproduce the page on my blog on the money circuit of capital (it is fairly detailed, but it is necessary in order to oppose the rosy picture presented by union and business rhetoric about the future life of workers—especially younger workers) (if anyone has alternative means for exposing the limitations of union rhetoric, feel free to criticize this writing, including what follows, or if they can simplify it in any way).

… 

Conclusion: Using All Opportunities for Criticizing the Treatment of Human Beings as Means for Other People’s Ends

If a movement for defunding the police is to gain ground, it is necessary to use every opportunity that arises to criticize the economic and political structure in the wider sense and not just engage in activist actions at the micro level. The micro (where tactical decisions must be made) and the macro (where strategic decisions must be made) need to be linked constantly. How to do that is the central question.

In the movement for a fight for $15, for example, for whatever reason, the fight in Canada (not in the United States) has been paired with the concept of “fairness.” This provides the more radical left with an opportunity to challenge such rhetoric.

The same could be same with union rhetoric. For example, I compiled a list of 10 statements by CUPE on the fairness of collective agreements, put them up on my blog and queried how collective agreements, which limit the power of employers (and hence are, generally, better than no collective agreements) are somehow fair.

I would like to hear from others on how to link strategy and tactics together in the case of defunding the police and abolishing the police. Alternatively, I would be interested in reading arguments that short-term tactics can solve long-term problems.

The Silence of the Social-Democratic Left 

On April 18, 2021, I received an email indicating another meeting was to take place on April 24 at 3:00 p.m.  However, on April 24 the meeting was postponed until the following week. I received an email on April 29, which contained a zoom link for the Sunday, May 2 meeting. 
 
I was already feeling frustrated by any lack of response to what I considered to be a request by Ms. Jessup as administrator and monitor of the organization for a linking of micro and macro issues. Ms. Jessup’s silence–and the possible lack of circulation of the draft that I had written to other members of the previous zoom meetings–seemed to indicate that my draft work may have been censored. I had agreed at the beginning of joining this organization not to participate in its meetings, and then I was invited to participate, which I did by drafting something that tried to link up issues on the ground with more general issues–only to be met with–silence and possible censorship. 
 
I wanted to place the issue on the agenda (it was not on the agenda), but I also wanted to avoid clashing with Ms. Jessup, so I did not say anything about it at the May 2 meeting. However, I did draft something else that was more immediately relevant to the meeting: On the agenda, there were two motions for support of statements made by other organizations; I made some comments on these statements. One was a statement made by an organization in Toronto called Justice for Immigrant Workers (J4MW). I sent it to Ms. Jessup on May 1, 2021. 
 
Ms. Jessup’s reply:
Great.  Looking forward to seeing you Sunday
I also sent her some comments on another motion for support of the statement made by “Suppress the Virus Now Coalition.” 
 
Since this post is already quite long, I will post the two drafts  in future posts and conclude this series by including my final writing to this group, on the People’s Pandemic Shutdown.
 
I will merely repeat what I wrote near the beginning of this post: The reason why I joined is that it is involved in a movement for defunding (if not abolishing) the police. I thought that perhaps I could participate in such an organization and contribute by expressing my own point of view. I was wrong.
 
My conclusions about the efforts of this group, at least in relation to defunding the police (and abolishing it) is: it will not be very effective. Its characteristic lack of critical spirit will result in an incapacity to determine what really is required to defund and abolish the police. Its lack of willingness to critically analyze other organizations’ statements will undoubtedly contribute to that incapacity. Finally, its probable use of control over protocols to silence others expresses as well an incapacity to engage in self-criticism–a basic condition for any political advance.
 
I wish I were wrong–even partial defunding of the police would improve our lives, but given the dogmatism of the social-democratic left and their lack of a critical spirit–my prediction will probably come true. In May 2022, it will be interesting to see whether the social-democratic left has managed to defund the police to any great extent in Toronto.
 
I believe that Meursault, the protagonist of the existential writer Albert Camus, in his book “L’Etranger (The Outsider in English) sums up my conclusions concerning this organization: 

J’avais eu raison, j’avais encore raison, j’avais toujours raison. [I had been right, I will still right, I was always right.

It is necessary to critique the social-democratic left from the outside since they will try to take measures to stifle dissent from their dogmas.