A Statement from Revolutionary Initiative – 17 January 2011
A battle is squaring off in Toronto between Rob Ford’s City Hall and the growing proportion of people who see Rob Ford for the enemy of the people that he is.
In recklessly pursuing his anti-union, anti-poor, anti-working class agenda, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has done at least two things which he most likely did not intend to do: (1) discard his populist, ‘man-of-the-people’ election image to reveal the callous, reactionary basis to his politics; and (2) expose to many of Toronto’s residents the bankruptcy of the political and economic structures at the City level.
Certainly, Ford’s attempts to slash social services and jobs must be resisted in every way possible. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to view this as an isolated incident or simply one of ‘bad governance’. This battle is part of something much larger and goes to the core of how Toronto is currently run.
Making sense of the numbers
For months, both media and politicians have been throwing around the figure of a $700 million deficit to signal an imminent cut to City expenditures. This huge, intimidating statistic stands in stark contrast to the $300 million surplus presented last year and the $180 surplus generated this year. To most people, this doesn’t make any sense at all. How is there such a large discrepancy between what is budgeted and what is spent? These numbers reveal the shadiness of this budget process as a whole, where the people are not given accurate, honest information, but rather are fed bloated statistics and convoluted, contradictory financial explanations to justify the political objectives of whoever is in government. In this case, these have figures have been the rationalization for reductions in expenditures to social programming and unionized public sector jobs.
Downplayed by virtually all sides has been the refusal by any of the politicians to question the City’s single largest budget line – the Toronto Police Service (TPS). While most City departments were forced to present budgets that included a 10% reduction, the almost $1 Billion operating budget (approximately 15% of the City’s overall budget) of the TPS came in with an increase and was approved! For the TPS to be given more money following the mass arrests of the G20, the murders of Junior Manon, Charlie McGillivary and others, and the ongoing police corruption scandals involving the Drug Squad reveals the hypocrisy of this entire process.
The previous 20 years of downloading the responsibility for certain spending (such as Toronto Community Housing) is erased from memory. The City government allows the Liberals and Conservatives at the federal and provincial levels to wash their hands clean of the problems at municipal levels. The misspent priorities of the previous Miller administration (who significantly increased the Toronto Police budget and implemented an expedited budgeting process) go unacknowledged.
In Toronto, there is clearly an increasing amount of people who are seeing through this fog of confusion and realizing that there are other issues at play.
Make no mistake about it: The Budget being put forward by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his allied City Councillors is just part of a broader, international offensive by capitalism against concessions previously fought for and won by the working class. From the concessions forced on Postal Workers and Air Canada workers, to the wage concessions being rammed down the throat of the Caterpillar workers in London, Ontario, to the cuts being imposed on Greek, Italian and Spanish workers, all over the World we are seeing the imposition of wage and services cuts being forced on to the working class. The new ‘austerity’ offensive is only the latest and intensified phase of a decades long offensive that was waged under the banner of ‘neoliberalism’. In the oppressed, ‘Third World’ countries, this offensive by international monopoly capitalism took the form of socially devastating ‘structural adjustment programs’, which included the same sorts of attacks we in Toronto and Canada are facing today, only at a far more violent and intense level.
The root of this problem is not Rob Ford, but rather a local manifestation of this broader, structural crisis of capitalism and imperialism. There is no doubt that he is a repugnant individual and an enemy of the working class; however the problem does not go away by simply electing someone different. George Smitherman also promised to explore jobs cuts and privatizations. If we look at the Provincial level, the McGuinty Liberals are also signalling that there will be austerity measures imposed on provincial workers and services. Capitalism on a global scale is in a period of crisis that is being used as justification for a roll back on concessions and transfers of wealth from workers to the super wealthy and the biggest corporations.
As working people, we must think and go beyond elections and the tokenistic spaces for participation that have been ‘set aside’ for us. Mayor Ford showed us very clear how insignificant these are. We must build organizations for real people power, organizations that can not only defend us against the current round of attacks, but to advance our struggles for real revolutionary c change in the long run.
It may seem out of reach to us, but we must look to building long-range alternatives to depending on the goodwill and sympathetic ear of elected ‘representatives’, individuals who are held to account not by the people who elect them, but by the corporate media and other institutions representing the power of capitalism that have the power to discipline them when they don’t fall in line with the interests of big money.
We must organize the people locally and within our communities and workplaces, and build organizations with our neighbours and fellow workers where people can come together, analyze local realities and create collective solutions and build people’s power.