Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Woman’s Right to Choose? Choose What?

Manitoba NDP Government to appeal funding for private abortions

Well they say politics makes strange bedfellows and here is a strange case indeed. The Manitoba NDP is being sued for not funding abortions at Dr. Morgentalers clinics, claiming they provide abortions in hospitals and the Morgentaler clinics are private hospitals. And they are being supported by New Brunswick Priemer Lord, a Tory.

Instead of including the Morgetaler clinics in the public health care system like some provinces have done with eye or hip replacement clinics, the stigma of abortion continues to discriminate against women and their health.

And they have the support of the Conservative Preimer of New Brunswick, Bernard Lord, a province that has one hospital willing to do abortions.
"I find it ironic to have the federal health minister telling us we must fund a private abortion clinic while at the same time going across the country against other types of private health clinics," Lord said during a telephone interview.

It is ironic. The fact this is happend on the 17th Anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that made abortion in Canada legal is pathetic. Here we have an NDP government which has a policy on supporting a woman's right to choose taking away that right by claiming that they don't want to go down the road to private health care. Ok ironic and pathetic. But of course whatever the party policy is does not affect them when in government after all they are the State and represent all people even those who didn't vote for them. Meet the new boss same as the old boss.

Well if they fully funded the services in the first place then they wouldn't have to pay Dr. Morgentaler to provide the services. By denying women access to fully funded safe abortions, like Morgentaler provides, is just another way of restricting abortion access through the back door.

The Federal Liberals decry waiting lists and vow to reduce them, well the average waiting list for an abortion in Canada is four to six months. And the provinces will only pay around $150-$200 for each procedure, which are barbaric in most hospitals the old D&C, while at the Morgentaler Clinic a completely safe non hospital stay procedure costs average between $500 and $750.

So why don't they just pay reduce waiting times? Such blatant sexism in health care should be an outrage, but it is quietly swept under the carpet of the debate on healthcare. Why? Pressure from
Catholic and other religious and conservative lobbyists continues to plague our politicians. Another reason to tax the churches and their charity registered lobbying frontgroups .

The Provincial New Democrats should hang their heads in shame, as low as the Provincal Tories in New Brunswick where it is all but impossible to get an abortion. Its time to live up to the Canada Health Act and have full funding for Morgentaler Clinics across Canada. Its not just a matter of choice its a matter of ending discrimination against women's access to fully funded healthservices.

Read on for my articles on this from the summer election.

Manitoba to appeal ruling on funding for private abortions
Canadian Press
Friday, January 28, 2005 - Page A5

WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government will appeal a court ruling ordering it to pay for abortions in private clinics to protect its right to decide how health-care dollars are spent, Health Minister Tim Sale said yesterday.

Mr. Sale said the case, which he believes is being closely watched by his colleagues in Alberta and Ontario, reaches far beyond the abortion debate.

It could affect the way governments handle long waiting lists for other procedures, such as hip and knee replacements, he said.

"We can't turn over to individual people the planning of the health-care system, no matter how strongly we might feel about their rights to the procedure."

Associate Chief Justice Jeffrey Oliphant said last month that provisions in the province's Health Services Insurance Act that make women pay for abortions outside public hospitals violate their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Judge Oliphant's written decision also took note of the time constraints many women are under when trying to book an abortion. "There is no reason or logic behind the impugned legislation which prevents women from having access to therapeutic abortions in a timely way," the judge wrote.

The decision cleared the way for a lawsuit by the hundreds of women who had to bear the cost of the procedure.

Two women started the class action against the NDP government in 2001. It is now on hold pending the appeal.

The women said they had no choice but to pay for abortions at the private Morgentaler clinic because the wait for a publicly funded procedure at a hospital was four to eight weeks.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, Manitoba and New Brunswick were the only two provinces that did not fund abortions outside hospitals. Last year, Manitoba began funding the procedure at a not-for-profit clinic in Winnipeg.

Meanwhile yesterday, New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord said his province stands by its policy of not paying for abortions in private clinics, despite pressure from Ottawa to change that position.

Mr. Lord said the province pays for abortions in hospitals, providing they have been deemed medically necessary by two physicians.

He said that is sufficient, and his Conservative government has no intention of covering the costs of the roughly 600 women a year who terminate their pregnancies at the private clinic in Fredericton run by Dr. Henry Morgentaler.

Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh warned the province this week the federal government may put the issue to a dispute resolution process. As well, he said New Brunswick could face financial penalties if it is found to be violating the Canada Health Act.

Mr. Lord pointed out that previous federal health ministers have also threatened action against the province, but they have never followed through on those threats.

It is believed only one hospital in New Brunswick performs abortions. Many women in need of timely access to the service turn to the Morgentaler clinic, where they have to pay the full cost of the procedure. The costs average between $500 and $750.

"I find it ironic to have the federal health minister telling us we must fund a private abortion clinic while at the same time going across the country against other types of private health clinics," Lord said during a telephone interview.

"I don't know why they're so intent on promoting private abortion clinics."

It is believed only one hospital in New Brunswick performs abortions.

Many women in need of timely access to the service turn to the Morgentaler clinic, where they have to pay the full cost of the procedure. The costs average between $500 and $750.

Lord made his comments on abortion while travelling in Texas where he and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer are on a joint trade and investment mission.

Doer, who joined Lord for the call, agreed with the New Brunswick premier that it is difficult for provincial governments to pay for private clinic abortions.

A Manitoba judge ruled recently that a law forcing women to pay for abortions at private clinics is unconstitutional, paving the way for a lawsuit by the hundreds who have had to bear the cost of the procedure.

"We do not support the idea that any procedure can just have a start-up operation and we would therefore have to fund under a private system all of the procedures based on somebody putting up a sign and opening up an operation," Doer said.

"We would lose some degree of control over our health budget."

Comment: Federal Election 2004

When it comes to Abortion, the Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Majority of Canadians

Abortion Services are privatized in most provinces.

Once again the Liberals are leaning left, in order to win votes.

In this case the announcement by Paul Martin that the Liberal Party would not support changes in Canada's abortion law while Harpers Conservatives would allow a private members bill to outlaw a womans right to an abortion.

The real question here is the right to access medical services, in this case abortion is NOT provided by most provinces in hospitals.

And in most cases the full cost of an abortion in a private clinic run by Dr. Morgentaler is either not covered or only partially covered.

The current situation as it stands is unacceptable for the majority of Canadians.

We need full abortion coverage provided under health care and in public hospitals or day clinics. The current situation is one of private health care being provided by Dr. Morgentaler.

Women in Canada have been left in limbo by the Liberals who have refused to force the public health care providers to provide abortion services.

In Alberta these services are not provided in all hospitals, funds for abortion services are pegged at what hospital rates are and they do not use the Morgentaler method.

We need designated hospitals to do the procedure, using the Morgentaler method fully funded. Why designated, because Catholic Hospitals though publicly funded refuse to provide this service. A public hospital not operated by the Catholic Church must then be designated to provide this service.

The NDP position that they would change the Canada Health Act to prevent private services is perfect for solving this intolerable situation that the majority of Canadians face in not having fair and equal access to public medical services for abortion.

This is something the Conservatives would deny the majority of Canadians and something the Liberals have failed to provide while in office for the past ten years.

June 2004 published on the Disabilities Web Site, email lists

Privatized Abortion Services is an Election Issue

Letter to Jack Layton, Leader of the NDP
June 2004

Dear Jack;

Once again the Liberals are leaning left, in order to win votes. In this
case the announcement by Paul Martin that the Liberal Party would not
support changes in Canada's abortion law while Harper’s Conservatives would
allow a private members bill to outlaw a woman’s right to an abortion.
The real question here is the right to access medical services, in this
case abortion is NOT provided by most provinces in hospitals. And in most
cases the full cost of an abortion in a private clinic run by Dr.
Morgentaler is either not covered or only partially covered. The current
situation as it stands is unacceptable and you need to say so. We need full
abortion coverage provided under health care and in public hospitals or day
clinics. The current situation is one of private health care being provided
by Dr. Morgentaler, which is unacceptable. Women in Canada have been left
in limbo by the Liberals who have refused to force the public health care
providers to provide abortion services. Your stance that we would change
the Canada Health Act to prevent private services is perfect for solving
this intolerable situation that the majority of Canadians face in not
having fair and equal access to public medical services for abortion.

Eugene Plawiuk
cc. all NDP candidates, and various NDP discussion lists, women’s groups,


TORONTO - Canada's leading abortion rights activist waded into the federal election campaign Friday, warning a woman's right to choose could be in "serious danger" under a Conservative government.

In an open letter to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Dr. Henry Morgentaler said Harper's "evasive answers" on abortion lead him to believe he has a hidden agenda.

Harper has ruled out introducing legislation on the issue, but wouldn't rule out a free vote if a private-member's bill is introduced.

Morgentaler says he's concerned abortions could be re-criminalized if the Conservatives form the next government.

"The Conservative Party is full of members who are anti-choice and it would be quite easy for them, and there will be pressure on Harper, to do something about the abortion law," said Morgentaler.

Conservative MP Rob Merrifield recently said women should seek independent counselling before having an abortion.

Responding Friday at a campaign stop in London, Ont., Harper said he hasn't proposed anything that would limit a woman's right to choose.

But he said he won't limit the rights of backbenchers, either.

Morgentaler also critisized the Liberals, saying they haven't fulfilled a pledge to bring in an abortion law in Canada.

Liberal Leader Paul Martin has said he wouldn't infringe on the basic rights of Canadians.


Jun. 6, 2004. 03:41 PM
By Joan Bryden Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Two veteran Liberal MPs say there is no difference between their party and the Conservatives on abortion, contradicting Paul Martin's claim that there is a "gulf" between the two parties on hot-button moral issues.

Toronto MP Tom Wappel and Sarnia MP Roger Gallaway also say that Liberals are deeply divided over gay rights, with Gallaway going so far as to predict that a free vote on same-sex marriage would be defeated.

"My view is if it were put to the House, which it will be, it won't pass," Gallaway said in an interview. "I think there's enough people opposed to it to knock it down."

Among those opposed to same-sex marriage is Judy Sgro, the cabinet minister sent by Liberal campaign officials last week to heckle Conservative Leader Stephen Harper over his stand on abortion.

Sgro, who supported an Opposition motion last fall reaffirming the traditional definition of marriage, taunted Harper with the question: "Whose rights are you taking away tomorrow?"

The comments from Wappel and Gallaway puncture Martin's attempts to portray the Liberals as defenders of civil liberties and the Conservatives as a regressive party with a hidden agenda to recriminalize abortion and deny gay rights.

Over the past week, Harper has been dogged by questions about his party's stand on sensitive moral issues.

He has said he has no plans to legislate on abortion but would allow backbenchers to bring forward private members' bills on the matter.

Harper has noted that private members' bills, which must go through a tortuous process, rarely make it to the floor of the Commons but said if they managed to get that far, he would allow a free vote.

Martin countered by saying he would "strongly advise" his backbenchers not to propose private members' bills on abortion because they would be contrary to party policy.

However, Wappel, a staunchly pro-life MP, said Harper's comments were merely "a statement of the obvious" about the way private members' business works and Martin would act no differently.

"I don't think too much should be made of the prime minister's comment," said Wappel.

He said private members' business has never been subject to party discipline.

He noted that Martin has vowed to eliminate the democratic deficit to give backbenchers more power and said Martin would not, therefore, roll back the clock by trying to direct the content of private members' business or deny free votes on it.

"I have no fear that private members' business is somehow going to be attempted to be controlled," said Wappel, who once proposed a private members' bill to recognize that life begins at conception — a bill that never came to a vote.

Gallaway, Martin's point man on parliamentary reforms to empower MPs, said Martin is entitled to say he won't encourage private members' bills on abortion "but that's not a prohibition either."

"There's nothing that can prevent a member of the House who's not a cabinet minister from bringing in any private members' bill," Gallaway said.

Wappel suggested Martin simply got caught up in the heat of the campaign when he suggested he'd interfere in private members' bills.

Senior Liberal strategist Scott Reid said Martin will not allow parliamentary opinion to overrule a woman's right to choose, or any other "fundamental charter right."

Martin's position on same-sex marriage also seems to have evolved rapidly over the past week as he strives to turn gay rights as a wedge issue against the Tories.

A devout Roman Catholic, Martin initially admitted he was torn on the issue and was lukewarm in his support for former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's draft legislation to legalize same-sex marriage.

Anxious to avoid turning it into an election issue, Martin delayed a Supreme Court hearing on the matter by asking the top court also to consider the constitutionality of allowing only civil unions for gay couples, the option favoured by Harper.

By the end of last week, Martin suggested that lower courts have already settled the matter and said "there is no way anybody should be allowed to prevent same-sex marriage."

He denounced Harper for refusing to rule out using the notwithstanding clause to override the Charter of Rights and deny gay couples the right to marry.

However, seven of his cabinet ministers — including Sgro and the co-chair of his election campaign, Helene Scherrer — voted last fall against same-sex marriage.

A total of 52 Liberals joined Harper's party in affirming the traditional definition of marriage and another 19 didn't show up for the controversial vote. The motion was defeated by a razor thin vote of 137 to 132.
Harper has said he'd withdraw the reference to the Supreme Court and put the matter to a free vote in Parliament. He has suggested the court would defer to Parliament's decision on the matter but has refused to rule out using the notwithstanding clause if it doesn't.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Radical Robbie Burns, Peoples Poet

A'hae toast ya laddie with a wee dram.
It is Robbie Burns Day around the world.

A day to celebrate the common man, the common poet, of the common people; Robbie Burns. It's a day where we all become Scot's for a moment, drinking a wee dram of the namesake liquor in a toast to that countries greatest lover, poet and radical. Around the world there are Robbie Burns dinners and celebrations.

This unique popularity of Burns as the voice of the common people is not shared by any other poet. Other poets of the common people and their struggles, are not celebrated internationally by men and women of all nations as one of their own. As great a voice for their people as they may be.

The great Ukrainian poet
Taras Shevchenko is known as the Robbie Burns of the Ukraine. Some would say this is idle boasting but compare this final verse from Shevchenko's poetic eulogy, Zapovit (My Testament) with the last lines of Burns immortal; Scots Whae Hae, they both ring with eternal truth, that stirs the heart and brings a lump to the throat. A clarion call to revolution, and the fight for social justice for all.

Oh bury me, then rise ye up
And break your heavy chains
And water with the tyrants' blood
The freedom you have gained
And in the great new family,
The family of the free
With softly spoken, kindly word
Remember also me

Scots Whae Hae
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do, or die!

Shevchenko's "ZAPOVIT," or "TESTAMENT," written in 1845, is considered sacred by Ukrainians around the world as it calls on Ukrainiansto arise and break the chains of oppression. In fact, when that work is sung, much like a hymn or national anthem, you will notice that the public stands in respect to the author and his message. "

Non Ukrainian scholars have noted the similarities between the two poets.
W.K Matthews* speaks of Shevchenko's affinity with Ukrainian folk poetry, proving at the same time through his analysis of Shevchenko's versification technique that the poet was not "a simple imitator of folk-songs." In his comparison of Shevchenko with Burns, the author stresses both similarities and differences between the two poets. Matthews feels that "the transition from Romanticism to Realism" may "be followed as plainly in Shevchenkospainting as in his literary work" and that Shevchenko's "patriotism plays a highly important part in his poetry and has been rightly chosen by nationally-minded Ukrainians for special emphasis, just as the rather less important social criticism in his work has been emphasized by those intent on proving his revolutionary affiliations."

*(professor of Russian at the University of London and head of the Department of Language and Literature at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, was invited by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain to deliver an address on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Shevchenko's death. The address was given at St. Pancras Hall, London, on 11 March 1951)

Like Burns, Shevchenko is accepted as a nationalist, but his revolutionary beliefs and convictions are dismissed as myth making by those on the left.
Shevchenko's revolutionary ardor cannot be dismissed by scholars writing during the hey day of the Cold War, speaking to a largely nationalist and reactionary Ukrainian community in exile.

"For a dialect poet, Burns has a wide appeal. Gerry Carruthers of Glasgow University points out that he was unusual in being appreciated by both sides in the cold war: Russians regarded him as a socialist icon, while Americans liked his republicanism."

Andrew Noble in the Scottish Left Review argues that more than 200 years of depoliticisation have presented Robert Burns, a radical political poet, as a writer of the safe and pastoral. As we will see below new revelations about Burns revolutionary convictions have been discovered.

Freedom was the cry for Wallace as it was for Burns and it was for Shevchenko, and Ivan Franko and all the great voices of the people and revolution, their appeal is not merely national but internationalist and a rallying cry against oppression everywhere. Which is the international appeal of the Burns dinners and celebrations.

Burns the freethinker speaking out against Calvinist religious hypocrisy against the tyranny of Church and State. For the love of women and their liberation. For the fight and victory of those that have
naught and shall be all. And for a day we can all be Scots, and celebrate their revolutionary history against the English Crown. Burns celebrates Wallace and the Bruce, and all the great Scots battles against the English Crown and their own comprador ruling class.

Ukrainians too share in the Scots sense of homeland and peasant rebellion, we celebrate the struggles of Cossack heros
Ivan Mazepa, Stenka Razin , and Nestor Makhno, against The Tsars, The Poles, the Tartars and the White Russians

Ukrainians outside of the Ukraine, were subject to a hundred year Diaspora. And so cultural survival was deeply imbued in Ukrainian diaspora politics, left and right. Ukrainian's who came to this country were treated with racist disdain by the British Canadian ruling classes, and may were deported from 1918-1930 for being revolutionaries.

The English ruling classes have always seen the Welsh, Irish and Scots as being their subjects, part of their Imperial domain the so called United Kingdom. And like all imperial states, they have played off them against each other. It is always a good reminder to those whom the English have oppressed to remind them that they have more in common with the colonized then their colonial masters.

And that despite bans on learning Gallic it thrived in Canada like Ukrainian did, the Scots and Ukrainians defending their cultural heritage against the culture of the ruling class. The oppressed of all lands hold their culture as a sacred trust in the face of imperalism.

It was the post-folk music revival that began in the late sixties that moved out of Traditional folk music into an understanding of World Music, beginning in their own backyard with the Celtic revival. It corresponded to the revival working class folk music by Ewan McColl and with such hits as Steeleye Span's, Hard Times in Old England.

Behind much of the Celtic revival were Ukrainians, always ready to subvert culture to undermine imperialism especially English imperialism. "1970-1980 Allan Stivell, An Triskell, Tri Yann, Gilles Servat and other musical groups were at the origins of the cultural rebirth of Brittany.Allan Stivell's producer was Ukrainian. And Stivell's work was the real source of much of the Celtic Revival which has grown with the world music movement.

Revolutionary poetry, the use of vernacular poetry or parables, arises when the Imperial states of the late medieval period dominate the countryside. The language of the colonized is rich in feminine vowels, rhythms and rhymes. The Imperialist languages are guttural and full of consonants, the masculine voice of command and authority, of State and place.

Poets like Shevchenko and Burns celebrated their cultures in the language and retelling of the stories of the oppressed in effect the feminine vowels and the bardic voice. In the vernacular of the colonized, whose language was always viewed as the authentic voice of a culture. Imperialism in its urge to unify all under the double eagle of the aristocracy, in its urge to create one unified autocratic state, begins by banning the language, the poetry, the expression of the common people. English Imperialism did it to the Scots, Irish and Welsh, Polish and Russian Imperialism did the same to the Ukrainians.

So lets join in the greatest secular holiday of the year, and toast not just to Burns, but to the brotherhood/sisterhood he advocated for. Auld Lang Sang.

Read on....

Robert, son of William Burns, a Scotch farmer, was born near the town of Ayr, January 25, 1759. His father, though very poor, gave him a solid English education; and the boy read eagerly all books he could come at. But the life was hard, and at the age of 15 Burns was working as his father's head labourer. The father died in 1784, brought to great straits through the failure of a lawsuit. Burns, with his brother Gilbert, struggled on bravely, but with poor success. He was then in the first glow of his passion for Jean Armour, whom he finally married, and but for her parents' opposition would have married earlier. During the next two years many of his best poems were written, as the Cottar's Saturday Night, Holy Willie's Prayer, Address to the Deil, The Mouse, The Daisy, and others. In 1786, having published some of these to gain passage-money for the West Indies, an invitation to Edinburgh, then containing the most brilliant intellectual society in Britain, made him famous. He gained, however, nothing but the rather meagre appointment of exciseman, with which he settled in Dumfries. Like other brave spirits of his time, he was accused of sympathy with the French Revolution. It is the fact that in the spring of 1792, Britain being still at peace with France, he sent to the Legislative Assembly two guns that had passed into his hands from a captured smuggler. And two of his noblest lyrics, Scots wha hae, and A man's a man for a' that, written 1792-5, show that the fiery heat of the great crisis had reached him. His poetry was the outcome of his nature. His scathing satire of Calvanistic hypocrisy, the wild humour of Tam o' Shanter, the burning passion of his love-songs, will live as long as the language endures. Burns died at Dumfries, 21st July 1796.

Humanist, humourist and patriot --By 1801, a group of Ayrshire men were already honouring their friend at an annual dinner. This year, on the 239th anniversary of his birth, thousands of men and women will toast the immortal memory and drain a glass or two. When they do, they'll be furthering a cause that was near and dear to his heart. He held inebriation in high regard as he remarked: "Whiskey and freedom gang thegither". Imbibing a wee dram would have enhanced many of the things he loved best: sociability, earnest argument, music, dancing and, of course, the lassies! These shameless flirtations were so successful that he and his long-suffering wife raised at least three of his illegitimate children in the family home. He may have scandalized polite society, but despite, or perhaps because of, that, he had a phenomenal way of raising people's spirits and making them glad. He emphasized decency in a world that barely knew it, and fostered a sense of dignity and self worth in his all but broken people.

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do, or die!
Burns on Robert the Bruce, relating to the song Robert Bruce's Address to His Troops at Bannockburn (Scots Whae Hae)

William Wallace & Robert Burns
This was a talk given to the Society of William Wallace at Elderslie Village Hall on Tuesday 19th February 2002 by David Brown
Wallace inspired the Scots of his day to follow his leadership. His memory has lived on and has motivated many generations of Scots, both before and after Robert Burns. Burns’ poetic genius captures the spirit of Wallace and will ensure that both of them will be remembered as Scots Patriots for many generations to come.

Robert Burns - An advocate for Scottish Independence
Various modern established media have tried to belittle Scotland's Bard and especially play down Burns desire for Scottish Independence. Just as the Tory and Labour parties tried to claim that Sir William Wallace fought for Scottish interests and the Scottish identity (none of them could bring themselves to utter Wallace's true cause - INDEPENDENCE), so too they have tried to play down Robert Burns nationalist spirit.

Burns, was employed latterly by the state as an exciseman, and undoubtedly received veiled threats concerning his political writings, indeed at one stage in 1794 he was threatened with the charge of sedition. To this end Burns started to temper his writing and even wrote letters and article under assumed names.

Can anyone question the cultural and economic nationalism of a man who penned the following ? A man for whom Liberty, Freedom and National Identity meant so much ?

"Alas, I have often said to myself what are the boasted advantages which my country reaps from a certain Union that counterbalance the annihilation of her Independence, and even her name !"

Burns was a supporter of the French Revolution and even used some of Tom Paine's radical words from "The Rights of Man" in "For a' That and a' That". (it has been suggested that this should be used as a Scottish National Anthem). After the outbreak of the French Revolution, Burns became an outspoken champion of the Republican cause. His enthusiasm for liberty and social justice dismayed many of his admirers; some shunned or reviled him. See: British poets and the French Revolution Part Five: Robert Burns Man, poet and revolutionary By Alan Woods

In 1859, at a centenary dinner in Boston, Ralph Waldo Emerson affirms that "The Confession of Augsburg, The Declaration of Independence, the French Rights of Man, & the 'Marseillaise' are not more weighty documents in the history of freedom than the songs of Burns." "It is for his songs that Burns is famous. More than any other one factor, they have sustained the cultural consciousness of Scotland. Burns gathered fragmentary songs & legends & transmuted them into something more wonderful & more socially powerful than the originals. As the revolutionary nationalist MacDiarmid also notes, Burns took folksongs of Scottish nationalism, of Stuart legitimism, & subtly altered them into something quite different. Jacobite becomes Jacobin. The songs of partisans filtered through Burns become battle songs of freedom, hymns to the integrity & independence of the individual.".. Kenneth Rexroth

Burns, the Freemason
The very mention of the name "Robert Burns" brings to mind images of red roses, starry-eyed lovers, Tam-O'-Shanter and the Cutty Sark, and the glens of bonnie Scotland. And while these images describe Scotland's "ploughman poet" to some extent, There is another side of Burns that is not as well known: Burns the radical--Burns, the supporter of the French Revolution--Burns, the critic of Religious hypocrisy and Puritanism--Burns, the Freemason.

On the 13th of January, 1787, we find him at a great Mason-lodge meeting, where the Grand Master proposed his health as Caledonia’s Bard, Brother Burns; and he, trembling in every nerve, made the best return in his power, and was consoled, while sitting down amidst the vehement applause of the audience, by overhearing the loud whisper of the Grand Master, "Very well indeed!" How we wish that Wilkie or some other genuine Scottish painter had given us this scene in colours—"Burns at a Grand Mason-lodge Meeting!" Alas! that of this splendid meeting, with all its grand worshipfuls and grand officers, nobles, lawyers, squires, and merchants, that one trembling figure, Brother Burns, sitting down bashful and blushing to the toe-points, and comforted by a friendly compliment accented aloud for his ear, is the only figure that would now be recognized!

Robbie Burns: Drink a toast to a progressive man
Barry McClatchie pays tribute to Scottish poet Robert Burns

Thousands of people, from all walks of life, all over the world celebrate
the immortal memory of Robbie Burns — the aristocracy, the gentry, the
military, the masonic order, political parties, Burns clubs, trade unions
and working people.

In Robert Burns we have a poet who straddles class barriers and who is
toasted by a great diversity of people who might agree with Burns when he
said: "Whisky and Freedom Gang Thegither".

They might all have a common liking for whisky, which many of us here do,
but, unlike Burns, some among the aforementioned have precious little
liking for freedom — especially the freedom for working people.

Burns suppers should not be used as an occasion upon which to hang
political theories nor to draw political parallels, but now, as in Burns'
time, nationalism and the role of the Scottish Parliament are major issues.

Burns was, on this issue and on every other, first and foremost a radical.
He knew and understood the national question.

Most of the current struggles are a continuation of past struggles. Take
the women's struggle. Over 200 years ago, Burns was declaring:

"While Europe's eye is fixed on mighty things"
"The fate of empires and the fall of kings"
"While quacks of state must each produce his plan"
"And even children lisp the Rights Of Man"
"Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention"
"The Rights of Women merit some attention."

We should honour Burns for his belief in a better future for humanity in
his inspiring words:

"The golden age we'll then revive"
"Each man will be a brother"
"In harmony we all shall live and"
"Share the earth together"
"In virtue trained enlighten youth shall"
"Love each fellow creature"
"And future years shall prove the truth"
"That man is good by nature"
"Then let us toast with three times three"
"The reign of peace and liberties."

Ian R Mitchell is stimulated by a new study of Robert Burns
Amongst the steady stream of works on our national bard, Liam McIlvanney's stands out as an ambitious and important study. His aim is to establish that Burns was "one of the great political poets of his own- or any- age." You might think there is nothing original in that, for we are all familiar with the barbs Burns aimed in his poems at the rich and powerful, and his sympathy for the poor. But MacIlvanney's point is this; the image of Burns as an "unlettered ploughman" has made his political ideas seem to be the often inconsistent outpourings of the poet's heart, rather than of his head. In contrast to which, this book argues that Burn's political ideas were a coherent and sophisticated philosophical whole, which - though certainly stimulated by the American and French Revolutions through which he lived - stretched back to an authentic British, and indeed, very Scottish, tradition of radical political thinking

Burns the Radical--- First full study of Burns politics

LIAM MCILVANNEY is Lecturer in English, University of Aberdeen. He is also currently the General Editor of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies

In politics if thou wouldst mix,
And mean thy fortunes be;
Bear this in mind, be deaf and blind,
Let great folks hear and see.

But Robert Burns did mix in politics, and very often it was the 'great folks' who suffered the invective of a poet with a keen satirical eye for political abuses. As a political poet, however, Burns has been ill served by a critical tradition which views him as a na-ve practitioner of rustic verse. In this, the first book-length treatment of Burns's politics, Liam McIlvanney looks behind the trivialising image of the 'heav'n-taught ploughman' to uncover the intellectual context of the poet's political radicalism. McIlvanney reveals Burns as a sophisticated political poet whose work draws on a range of intellectual resources: the democratic, contractarian ideology of Scottish Presbyterianism, the English and Irish 'Real Whig' tradition, and the political theory of the Scottish Enlightenment. Throwing new light on the poets education and his early reading, McIlvanney provides detailed new readings of Burns major poems. The book also offers new research on Burns links with Irish poets and radicals, providing a radical reinterpretation of the man who is coming to be recognised as the poet laureate of the radical Enlightenment.
Burns the Radical-Poetry and Politics in Late Eighteenth century Scotland'
Liam MacIlvanney, £ 16.99, Tuckwell Press ISBN 1 86242 177 9

The Culture of Glasgow
Freddy Anderson

Generally speaking, and with some few exceptions, it is obvious that indigenous Culture in Glasgow is finding it a very difficult struggle to make its way.

Why should this be when there is a wealth of literary and theatrical talent in Glasgow, including its huge peripheral housing-schemes? It is my opinion that the authorities, for all their lip-service to Culture, are very wary lest they open the flood-gates in Glasgow to an immense popular Culture, not Hollywood, Broadway or London-based, that will sweep away within a very few years the hackneyed, time-worn ideas that have been foisted on the people by a servile, manipulated media-machine for decades. I also contend that this suppression and distortion of truth began in Glasgow at the end of the eighteenth century with the appear­ance of Robert Burns' works in the Kilmarnock Edition.

These poems of Robert Burns were such a powerful exposure of the wickedness of the Establishment that it sent them scurrying for ways to undo the damage Burns was causing. Burns received not a single review in any Glasgow paper for his Kilmarnock Edition, but two mealy-mouthed letters that might have come from Holy Willie's pen appeared in The Mercury, signed Amicus by an obvious denigrator of Burns. Such is how the authorities in Glasgow hailed Scotland's greatest literary genius ever. I would not choose to mention this, had, after the great Edinburgh Edition of 1787, the City Fathers and Chamber of Commerce tycoons repented. They never did. Burns presented such a challenge to their philistinism, hypocrisy and 'North British' servitude, that they erected the highest monument in George Square to the loyalist minion, Sir Walter Scott, decades before the pennies of the Glasgow people paid for the much lower plinth of Rabbie Burns on the grass verge. And despite their sustained verbal accolades to Burns every January, they are still unrepentant. There is scarcely a plaque in the entire city to acknowledge the twenty or so links Burns had with Glasgow.

Robert Crawford, ed., Robert Burns and Cultural Authority.
Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997. xiii + 242 pp. $29.95. (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-87745-578-3).1
Reviewed by Ian Duncan, University of Oregon

A. L. Kennedy's essay on Burns and sexuality tries to loosen the poet's writings (letters as well as verse) from the grim phallic monument into which his reputation has hardened; she arrives at a rueful, humane recognition of the ways, overdetermined but not perhaps predestined, in which writing is conditioned by the ideological investments of readers as well as writers. In "Burns and God" Susan Manning traces Burns's quarrel with religion with admirable deftness and sensitivity to register, although one of the hobgoblins of Burns criticism, the location of the poet's authentic voice, slips in and out of the argument. Marilyn Butler offers what is perhaps the most succinct and useful account of a complex topic, Burns's politics, to have been written, and I predict its frequent reappearance in course reading packets. Her essay was written before it could take account of the recent discovery in Scotland of a hitherto overlooked corpus of Burns's Radical writings, which looks likely to revise our sense of the matter, although perhaps it is too early to tell.

The Radical Tradition of Robert Burns
In particular through his book on the 'lost poems' (1), the independent Burns scholar Patrick Scott Hogg has done a great deal to demolish the myth that at the end of his life Burns had become just another disillusioned ex-radical. Patrick is also joint editor of the recently published The Canongate Burns (2), which has irked certain sections of the 'Burns establishment'. The following article is the text of a paper given by him at the Burns Now Conference at the University of Strathclyde on January 18, 2002.

Uncovered: After 205 years experts find lost Burns poems
Ten politically-explosive poems penned anonymously more than 200 years ago have been pronounced the work of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns.

Five years of research by Scottish academics have proved the works were written by Burns, but were so radical he could have been hanged for treason had he put his name to them.

The ‘lost’ poems are to be published in major new book about Burns’s life, The Canongate Burns, which reveals that, contrary to popular belief, Burns was as radical in later life as he was as a young man.

Until now, it has been argued that when Burns became an Exciseman for the Crown in 1793 he abandoned radical political composition. However, the authentication of the poems, published in 18th-century London magazines, has led to a reassessment of his work after that date.
For the first time, all Burns’s songs, poems and other controversial work, such as the ‘Merry Muses of Caledonia’ - classified as pornography until the mid-1960s - will be printed in the order that they were first published.

Extensive footnotes will also place Burns in a much more radical light.

One of the researchers’ most significant finds was a note indicating that Burns had reworked a poem about revolution in America to give support to the cause of an independent Ireland.

In the new version, the poem, ‘Ode for Hibernia’s Sons’, openly criticises the British government and the royal family for their oppression of the Irish.

Hogg, who unearthed the new information, said: "This is explosively treasonable stuff. As an Exciseman he could well have been tried for treason which could have led to a noose around his neck."

Soapbox Girls Editorial
A few months ago, I turned the television on, switched it to PBS, and there was Maya Angelou, talking to a bunch of white folks. Very white folks. Like, the kind of white that you get from never seeing the sun. Sure enough, it turns out that they were Scottish. (Of all the bits of my mongrel heritage, Scots is the biggest, so I have an eye for that paler-than-the-undead look.)

As it happens, Dr. Angelou was visiting Scotland on a research mission, because she is a great lover of Robbie Burns. The documentary showed her laying her hands on a first-edition collection of Burns’ poems, and speaking with some professorial sort who clearly has near-daily access to it; chatting with a group of resident Burns experts, talking about his love of women and his political spirit; and most rivetingly, sharing in an evening of celebration of Burns’ life and work.

The celebration took place in a castle, in a room so large and dark you could barely make out the walls. The participants sat at tables, and took turns performing for one another. Some sang traditional Burns songs; others read favorite poems; still others sang and played their own compositions to Burns’ words. Maya Angelou told stories, and read poems, and talked, and she was simply her usual incredible self.

At one point, after a tall, burly man finished a spine-tingling rendition of “Scots, Wha Hae” Angelou rose from her seat, embraced the singer, and then turned to face the rest of the hall. She told them that they had a great deal in common, because their people had known slavery, and so had hers.

Tears sprang to my eyes. I didn’t know why, exactly, but I recognized that something very powerful had just passed before my eyes. The camera panned around the room, and intent gazes and nodding heads conveyed a long moment of mutual understanding. I realized that a connection had been made that affected me, personally-the history of my people was connected to other histories of oppression, and suddenly we were more alike than different. It was this abrupt and radical shift in perspective, combined with Angelou’s generous spirit of commonality, that brought intense emotions to the surface.

Toast to Caledonia
BURNS SUPPER - GLASGOW,Friday January 19, 2001
Afif Safieh The Palestinian General Delegate to the UK and the Holy See

On this night we also celebrate the brotherhood of all mankind, wherever
their homes or their exile be, "that man to man the warld o'er shall brothers
be for a'that"…

For me and my Palestinian compatriots to be regarded in this way, as Scots,
is a singular honour, deeply welcomed and cherished and I wish to reciprocate
it tonight. There is so much we can share - though a Scottish friend did
advise me that he would wish to spare me the Scottish weather…. As Burns
might have said, he told me,

'You wouldn't want to be 'dreekit, drookit an' drooned in Drumnadroket',

But questionable weather apart, how can one forget the human warmth we,
Palestinians encounter each time we move beyond Hadrian's Wall. It was
Scotland that pioneered in twinnings with Palestinian cities: Dundee with
Nablus and Glasgow with Bethlehem even when it was still perceived as
suicidal to be pro-Palestinian, even when it was seen as electorally
rewarding to be anti-Palestinian.

Scotland's vision for the future is informed by its political, social and
cultural traditions…its earnest desire -

For social inclusion,
human rights
learning opportunities for all
better health services
new business opportunities and prosperity
information technologies
the love of your land and seas and the nurture they require
supporting Peace and Justice…

Lord Provost, my people will eternally be indebted to the Scottish friends of
Palestine, to the Trade Union friends of Palestine, to the
Scottish-Palestinian Forum and the newly established Scottish-Palestinian All
Party Parliamentary Committee for their dedication in raising awareness here
in Scotland about the dilemmas of the Middle East.
In Palestine, we still suffer, search and struggle, knowing where we wish to
go, knowing the freedom we desire…

The Immortal Memory By Len Murray
Toast At the World Burns Club

He lived in a world of either opulence or oppression.
By accident of birth all were born with privilege or in poverty.
With privilege there was wealth and position.
Without it, there was destitution and despair.
And it was that world of privilege and position, poverty and injustice that Burns hated and constantly condemned.

And the sentiments of change, drastic change in society, then being kindled in Europe, sentiments which would drive the Americans on to Independence and the French to Revolution, they were still anathema to huge swathes of the privileged in this country and elsewhere.
Burns, however, was above all a humanitarian, one who cared for the people like no one before him.
His sympathies were with the poor and the oppressed, the common folk, his fellow man.
And he had a love for all men that no other writer, before him or after, of any age, or of any country, had ever shown.
And so the pen of Robert Burns became the voice of the people; and he expressed the thoughts and the hopes of the people.
"God knows I am no saint. I have a whole host of follies and sins to answer for. But if I could, and I believe that I do it as far as I can, I would wipe all tears from all eyes."
"Whatever mitigates the woes or increases the happiness of others," he wrote, "this is my criterion of goodness; but whatever injures society at large or any individual in it, then this is my measure of iniquity."
No figure in world literature had ever written with such compassion for his fellow man.

But RB left one, a message for all men; for all nations and for all times.
It is a message of friendship; a message of fellowship; but above all else a message of love. It is a message that is just as relevant and just as vibrant today as when it was written over two hundred years ago.
"It's comin' yet for a that an' a' that,
That man tae man the world o'er shall brithers be for a' that."

Delivering Inaugural Robert Burns Memorial Lecture,
UN Secretary-General Annan Calls for Brotherhood, Tolerance, Coexistence among All Peoples

ONE might think there is an ocean of distance between the hard-nosed give-and-take of international diplomacy as it is practised at the United Nations in New York, and the lyrical verse of Robert Burns that emanated from rural Scotland two centuries ago. But look closer.

To take just one example, Burns was born into poverty, and spent his youth working on a farm. Burns’ poems dignify and illuminate the struggle faced by the vast majority of the world’s population today.

Burns has also been described as a poet of the poor, an advocate for political and social change, and an opponent of slavery, pomposity and greed - all causes very much supported by the UN.

But it is one of Burns’s most famous lines - "a man’s a man for a’ that" - that I should like to serve as the touchstone for my remarks. And in particular his prayer, in the same poem, that "man to man, the world o’er, shall brothers be for a’ that".

Living together is the fundamental human project - not just in towns and villages from Scotland to South Africa, but also as a single human family facing common threats and opportunities.

The year just past has seen dramatic challenges to that project. The war in Iraq, failed negotiations on opening up the global trading system and other events have revealed deep fissures. These are not just differences over cotton exports or compliance with UN resolutions. There are world-views at odds.

For many decades now, states and peoples have woven a tapestry of rules, institutions and principles that, it was hoped, would promote prosperity and protect the peace. Today, this fabric may be starting to unravel, and I sense a great deal of anxiety about that, around the world.

Scottish Government First Minister Jack McConnell, in a special video message to mark the 246th anniversary of Burns birth on January 25, 2005, says the poet's message of international brotherhood is as relevant today as it was more than 200 years ago.

Mr McConnell said:

"As Scotland prepares to welcome world leaders to the G8 summit in July, it is worth pausing for a moment to reflect on the message that lies at the heart of Burns work - a message that is truly international and knows no boundaries.

"He despised poverty that surrounded him in 18th century Scotland; relentless grinding poverty that stifles ambition and destroys lives.

"And he mocked the privileged few who prospered but then did nothing to try and alleviate the plight of the majority they left behind.

"If Burns had been alive today, he would certainly have been at the forefront of the campaign to make poverty history.

"The words of frustration he wrote on a banknote in 1786 could have been written today to describe the economic plight of the developing world.

I see the children of affliction
Unaided, through thy curst restriction

"Burns would have argued with passion for an end to the inequalities between nations that condemn millions across the globe to a life of misery while those of us living in Scotland and Europe prosper.

"He would have written, with unparalleled force about the plight of millions of children in Africa condemned to die a premature death from hunger, or Aids, or from 'man's inhumanity to man that makes countless thousands mourn'.

"And he would have spoken with great eloquence of common humanity, of the things that unite us regardless of race, colour or belief.

"2005 is a rare opportunity for the home of Burns to stand up and again proclaim the eternal message of the brotherhood of man.

Welcome to The Burns Encyclopedia online - the complete text of the definitive Robert Burns reference volume.

Burns's political allegiance has been claimed by supporters of every political party or faction from extreme right to extreme left. He was, in fact, a good example of Dr Johnson's dictum about the unwisdom of giving one's loyalty of mind to a
Single party in that his attitude to the political parties of his day changed as he grew older. In any case he was never wholly committed to either.

In a sense, however, Burns's involvement in the wider issues of politics — the values behind politics, of which political parties are necessarily so partial an expression — remained fairly constant, although, like sensitive Scots of his day (and, for that matter, our own) he had to try to balance seemingly irreconcilable opposites. Thus, on the face of it, Burns was at the same time a Jacobite and a Jacobin. But only 'on the face of it!'

His nationalism, his internationalism, and his radicalism never wavered. He believed constantly and passionately in Scotland, in 'the brotherhood of man' and in the rights of the ordinary man.

In his autobiographical letter to John Moore, Burns described his recognition of his feelings for Scotland: '... the story of Wallace poured a Scottish prejudice in my veins which will boil alang there till the flood-gates of life shut in eternal rest.'

His Jacobitism led him to write such songs as 'O Kenmure on and awa' ' and 'Scots wha hae'. It could lead him to send to the Editor of the Edinburgh Evening Courant a protest when a minister of religion, celebrating the Revolution of 1688, reviled the Stuarts:

'Bred and educated in revolution principles, the principles of reason and common sense, it could not be any silly political prejudice that made my heart revolt at the harsh abusive manner in which the Reverend Gentleman mentioned the House of Stuart, and which, I am afraid, was too much the language of that day. We may rejoice sufficiently in our deliverance from past evils, without cruelly raking up the ashes of those whose misfortune it was, perhaps, as much as their crimes, to be the authors of these evils... The Stuarts have been condemned and laughed at for the folly and impracticability of their attempts, in 1715 and 1745. That they failed, I bless my God most fervently, but cannot join in the ridicule against them... Let every man, who has a tear for the many miseries incident to humanity, feel for a family, illustrious as any in Europe, and unfortunate beyond historic precedent; and let every Briton, and particularly every Scotsman, who ever looked with reverential pity on the dotage of a parent, cast a veil over the fatal mistakes of the Kings of his forefathers.' Whatever his sentimental attachment to the Jacobites, Burns was aware that theirs was a lost cause. In 'Ye Jacobites by name', he advised:

"Then let your schemes alone,
In the State!
Then let your schemes alone,
Adore the rising sun,
And leave a man undone
To his fate!"

That he was keenly aware, however, of the inadequacies of the ruling representatives of the House of Hanover he showed in 'A Dream'.

"Tis very true, my sovereign King,
My skill may weel be doubted;
But facts are chiels that winna ding,
An' downa be disputed:
Your royal nest, beneath your wing,
Is e'en right reft and clouted,
And now the third part of the string,
An' less, will gang about it
Than did ae day."

Nor was he under any illusions as to the real nature of the political jobbery which accomplished the unpopular Treaty of Union of 1707:

"What force or guile could not subdue
Thro' many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitor's wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour's station:
But English gold has been our bane
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation."

Which of us today does not echo his protest: 'Nothing can reconcile me to the common terms, 'English ambassador, English court, & etc...'?

His internationalism and his radicalism were bound up with one another:

"For a that, and a' that,
It's comin' yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brithers be for a' that."

What was coming, so far as Burns was concerned, was not only the brotherhood of Man, but changed social conditions where no longer hundreds would have to

"... labour to support
A haughty lordling's pride."

One aspect of his attitude prior to the French Revolution is perhaps summed up in 'The Twa Dogs', in which the manners of the rich are satirised much as Beaumarchais satirised them in The Marriage of Figaro. (Incidentally, the kin

Ship between Mozart and Burns, whose short lives coincided within a few years, is not unworthy of comment, since social satire lies behind not only Figaro, which appeared the same year as the Kilmarnock Poems, but also Cosi fan Tutte and Don Giovanni.)

Nor are his 'Lines on Meeting with Lord Daer' the toadying contradiction they are sometimes made out to be, for Daer sympathised with the Friends of the People, as did Burns. Besides,

"The fient o' pride, nae pride had he,
Nor sauce, nor state that I could see,
Mair than an honest ploughman!"

But after 1793, Burns's sympathy for France seemed to sharpen. Certainly, if 'The Tree of Liberty' is by him, there can be no doubt about his revolutionary sentiments:

"But vicious folk ay hate to see
The warks o' Virtue thrive, man;
The courtly vermin's bann'd the tree,
And grat to see it thrive, man!
King Louis thought to cut it down,
When it was unco sma', man;
For this the watchman crack'd his crown,
Cut aff his head and a', man."

This certainly accords with the sentiments in his letter of 12th January 1795 (the month in which 'Is there for honest poverty? was written) that so offended Mrs Dunlop:

'What is there in the delivering over a perjured Blockhead and an unprincipled Prostitute to the hands of the hangman, that it should arrest for a moment, attention, in an eventful hour, when, as my friend Roscoe of Liverpool gloriously expresses it -

"When the welfare of Millions is hung in the scale
And the balance yet trembles with fate!",

Nor is there much doubt about the significance of the 'Ode on General Washington's Birthday':

"Here's freedom to them that would read.
Here's freedom to them that would write!
There's nane ever fear'd that the truth should be heard
But they wham the truth would indite!"

So much for Burns's political attitudes. His actual political alignment can be gauged from his various election Ballads. Those written in 1789-90 — the 'Election Ballad for Westerha', 'The Five Carlins', and the 'Election Ballad at Close of the Contest for Representing the Dumfries Burgh, 1790' — are more or less Pittite in sentiment, and therefore pro-Tory. But in 1795, Burns had swung over to the Whigs with his four Ballads in support of Patrick Heron of Kerroughtree, which show, as Thomas Crawford puts it, Burns 'interpreting the French Revolutionary doctrines in terms of the general Whig demands for Parliamentary Reform'. The threat of French invasion may have induced doubts about the intentions of France:

"... For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted !"

but not about the original principles behind France's revolution: so, said Burns:

"...While we sing God save the King
We'll ne'er forget the People!"

"A Man's a Man For A' That"

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave - we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

For Hawk

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Laundry Workers Fight Privatization

Around the world Laundry and Custodial workers are the 'canaries in the mine' of public sector privatization.What happens to them will happen to you.

A question was posted on
H-Labour Discussion about the history of Laundry workers in the US. Having written and researched the privatization of Laundry Workers in Alberta's hosptials I responded with a note and the links below. I expanded the links to include a wide variety of countries to show the battle of laundry workers against privatization of is world wide.

The privatization of the work of this largely immigrant and female workforce is widespread through out Canada and around the world. Even when unionized these workers remain the lowest paid in the workforce. They become interchangable workers, being the same workers who are forced into low waged jobs in the private sector, if their public sector jobs are privatized they end up being the benificaries of a reduction in wages. In the UK and other countries these same workers also are part of the underground economy, as illegal immigrants they are paid under the table and work the same jobs as their 'legal' counterparts.

Overall these jobs in hotels, hospitals, schools, etc. are done by 'invisible workers', when we think of staff in schools or hospitals we refer to the professionals or para-professionals in those institutions, teachers, doctors, nurses, teacher aides,etc. We do not consider the importance or impact of those who
'clean healthy built environments'. Instead these invisible workers are the first to be laid off, cut back or privatized. They and their jobs reflect the 'canaries in the mine' of capitalism, if a move is afoot to privatized or contract out their invisible services will be the first to go.

But laundry workers have fought back, despite the government, the privateers and even their own unions. The Calgary Laundry workers, largely immigrant women, held a
wildcat strike in 1995 to save their jobs, it almost led to a General Strike of workers not only in Calgary but across Alberta. A General Strike that would have done more to stop the Klein government then the marches and demonstrations in the streets did.

It was the power of women workers, once again, who having nothing to lose actually fought against the contracting out of their jobs. The union representing provincial workers
AUPE and the national public sector union CUPE both had jurisdicition in the hospitals, and like the government the leadership of the unions was terrified of a general strike. So they capitulated to the government, and accepted the death by a thousand cuts, the eventual contracting out of these workers jobs.

Jobs that were lost to K-Bro an international company located in Edmonton. K-Bro eight years later is benefiting from the B.C. governments largese, and the unions protesting the privatization had an opportunity to nip it in the bud in 1995. But they are terrified to use the power of the General Strike and once again as in Alberta, on the verge of a
General Strike in B.C. last summer, the unions packed up and went back to the table to .....get what? Nothing. Another sell out.

Contracting Out (privatization, outsourcing) is the beginning of the process of casualization/flexible work at all levels of the organization except administration and management. It is the management theory of just in time production/delivery developed by the Japanese state capitalist corporations after studying the works of U.S. engineer Demming and his Total Quality Management (TQM) theories.This coincides with increasing reliance on technology to impose more teleworking, home working and contracting out of IT services at the higher end, again resulting in lowering of wages and reducing organizational costs of benefits and pensions. What begins with laundry workers ends up with part time nurses, etc.

The great irony of contracting out is that it actually began over two decades ago in the computer industry and IT services, where it still dominates today. It began with having a just in time delivery process for production of semi conductors produced by low waged immigrant women workers who were not unionized, then led to the idea that IT services themselves were best delivered not by inhouse IT specialists but by IT corporations. Today outsourcing of IT services is the norm. However in Canada, where the largest outsourcing of IT has been done by the Federal Government this has led to massive cost overruns as well as outright theft by IT contractors. The billion dollar Canadian Firearms Registry boondogle is just one example of how expensive outsourcing can be.

Outsourcing was part and parcel of the 'Reinventing Government' movement of the ninties, the creation of lean mean, government, replacing government delivery of services with the contracting out of those services for private delivery. It's the new bugaboo of CNN's Lou Dobbs, who sees American jobs going to China and India, however he didn't go on a tirade when American corporations laid off workers and contracted out their work in America nor did he oppose the privatization of government services all of which logically and eventually lead to outsourcing work abroad. And he goes on nativistic tirades about illegal immigrants, ignoring the fact that they are needed for working inthe new just in time contracted out form of globalized capitalism in the era of free trade. If there were no jobs available there would be no immigrants, illegal or otherwise. It's not that Canadians or Americans or Brits don't want these jobs, it's the fact they are low waged jobs and they certainly are not what one considers 'careers', which now includes many IT jobs such as call centres. And in some cases this low waged work such as nannies, are only available to immigrant women who are willing to agree to live in indentured servitude, slavery by any other name. Contracting out profits from low wages despite rhetoric about better service delivery, efficiencies, or quality etc. This is the real secret of this new age of global capitalism; privatization and outsourcing. See: Global Labour in the Age of Empire.

K-Bro is based in Edmonton Alberta Canada though it has venture capitalist shareholders in Boston. They have benefited the most from this which is why the
IWW Edmonton Branch issued a call out to labour unions to oppose K-Bro and the privatization of laundery workers in B.C.

Unfortunately privatization of support services, laundry and caretaking, did not get criticized in the
Romanow report on health care commisioned by the Federal Government. In fact Romanow, ever the social democrat approved of contracting these "non-essential" service, which is ironic because if they ever went on strike they would be deemed as 'essential', as Romanow did when he was Premier of Sasakatchewan.

All the reports on Medicare in Canada have allowed for the contracting out of these support services. They have not called for a reduction of administration, or putting doctors on salary, or reducing the university qualifications for a basic GP degree. Nope these might break the doctors guild monopoly they have on services. Easier to pick on the immigrant workforce, they are replaceable and interchangable. The same workers unionized today, will be working tommorow for contractors.

The Edmonton IWW criticized the Romanow report for these shortcomings
as did unions representing public sector workers. And as we can see from the result of the privatization putch in B.C. , "Alberta set's the agenda for the rest of Canada". Like Alberta (which has been ruled by a one party dictatorship for 33 years under the Conservatives, and a decade under the Premier privateer Ralph Klein) Gordon Campbells Liberals ( an unholy alliance of the Old Socreds -Social Credit-Federal Reform/Alliance/Tory party members, the B.C. Conservative Party and the B.C. Liberals) won an unprecidented 98% of the seats, decimating the NDP and leaving an opposition of two! With this mandate, the Liberal Government went on a privatization spree, especillay in Health Care using the old deficit/debt hysteria to claim that health care costs were out of control. They also sold off B.C. Rail and are looking at privatizing liquour sales, and hydro.

This is already the case in Alberta, where electrical deregulation has created increasing profits for electrical utilities and higher costs for consumers including industrial and farming consumers (businesses) and the governments liquor board was privatized, stock and buildings sold below cost, and wiping out small distributors as the market ineviatbly moves towards monopolization. The favorite argument of the right is that the State has a monopoly on public services and privatization increases competition and lowers prices. The facts show otherwise, private contractors lead to increased costs over time and monopolization of the market. That old Karl Marx was right on, again.

K-Bro purchased the actual laundry equipment from the University of Alberta Hospital, the Royal Alexandera Hospital in Edmonton, and hospitalis in Calgary at cut rate fire sale prices. They have used this model for privatization across Canada and into the United States. They not only provide the workers and their own laundry equipment, they make sure their monopoly is maintained by stripping hospitals of their taxpayer funded laundry equipment so they don't face in house competition. And it makes it harder if not fiscally impossible for hospitals to return to in house laundry services if they have to purchase new equipment. Where hospitals have maintained their own laundry equipment they eventually returned to in house services, finding that the contractors were more expensive, and increased their charges for services (surprize, surprize).

To add insult to injury, as the B.C. government forced opening of collective agreements with HEU, the International Woodworkers of America( IWA) began raiding public sector unions, hand in paw with the privateeers. See Has the IWA, the flagship of B.C. labour unionism, signed a yellowdog contract with a multinational British health services corporation, the Compass Group?

Once again business unionism proved it was a business first and a workers organization second. Facing declining membership and reduced dues, the IWA looked at the privatization of laundry workers as an opportunity to gain membership and dues. It created an unneccasary second front battle between the unions as the workers were getting screwed by the government. Laundry workers were privatized and those who joined IWA took a 50% cut in pay to save their jobs. Between a rock and a hard place they had no other choice when sold out by a business union. The declining fortunes of the IWA led to it raid HEU and then to do what all capitalist organizations eventually do when faced with an economic decline; mergers and acquisitions. The result was the IWA has merged with the USWA the Steelworkers.

Workers Air Boston's Dirty Laundry... Until September 1995 when Royal purchased K-Bro, another industrial laundry offeringhigher wages and benefits, Royal workers received no sick days, holidays ...

M & A Divestitures Advisory Services

BG Affiliates LLC is a private equity investment firm that provides capital to high quality, middle-market operating companies.

Berkshire's no tortoise, but slow and steady wins the day

Edgar Search of SEC on Berkshire Reality co.

Canadian Corportation Profile K-Bro, Industry Canada

City of Toronto Report on K-Bro In September 1998, K-Bro terminated its agreement with the City of Toronto. As a result of the circumstances surrounding the termination, the parties have exchanged correspondence identifying areas of financial dispute. In addition, when K-Bro terminated the agreement, their unions filed complaints with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The City of Toronto is a respondent to these proceedings.

City of Toronto-The Community and Neighbourhood Services Committee recommends the adoption of the following report (July 16, 1998) on K-Bro


1995 Health Care Reform in Alberta by the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)

Laundry: Where are we at? Calgary Health Region 1998


CUPE on Privatization of Laundry Services in B.C. 2002

BC Legislature Hansard Debate on Privatization of Laundry Services

BCNU on contracting out laundry work to K-Bro

Health Authority short-sheets laundry workers Chilliwack Times

THREATENING OUR RIGHT TO HEALTH CARE: Contracting Out Support Services

Swept away Vancouver Courier

Health care: American connection in hospital laundering

Formal FOI appeal launched to force release of laundry privatization deal

Vancouver Sun: Sodexho Blacklisting Union Members? - 5/4/02

This story comes from a Colorado university student labour web site where the French company Sodexho is attempting to take over laundry services.
Sodexho is another large scale privateer who provides support staff services, custodial and laundry, etc., for universities, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. and have been the beneficiaries of State funded contracts thus allowing workers as taxpayers to pay for the contracting out of their jobs and for the use of worker/taxpayer funds to promote low wage work...makes a lot of sense.... to capitalists and their right wing think the rest of us working folks we are being asked to pay and pay and pay while watching our jobs be privatized. The New Deal: public funding of private profit.

Hospital workers deserve higher pay than hotel employees: economist

Do comparisons between hospital support workers and hospitality workers make sense?by
Marjorie Cohen

Destroying Pay Equity: The effects of privatizing health care in British Columbia by Marjorie Cohen

Council of Canadians AGM October 25, 2003 BC's Experience in Privatization

Taped phone calls reveal health service contractors vowing to fire, blacklist thousands of health workers in first wave of Liberals' hospital privatization

BC Privatization Agenda Exposed -Working TV reveals online the taped phone calls

Pink slips and gin and tonics

Breaking Contracts

Environmentalists slam FHA scheme to ship four million pounds of hospital laundry to Calgary

Privatizing hospital support services B.C. Teacher Magazine

Northern Directions Health Care contracting out support staff

Despite critical nursing shortage Filipino Health Workers in Canada May Lose Jobs

The Real Story (sic) on the Hospital Employees' Union Strike BC Liberal Government Caucus Briefing Notes

Quality Reports from Vancouver Hospital Authorities 2004
As part of managment strategies around privatization is their counterpart in the Team concept of TQM, Total Qaulity Management, that is doing quality reports on the contractors. However they have no base data to go from, that is they DID NOT do quality reports prior to privatization. Here are the reports on K-Bro for Laundry services and
Aramark for custodial services. Aramark is a large American service contractor, orginally owning hotels and operating hospitality services- see Marjorie Cohens work above on the difference between cleaning hospitals and cleaning in the hospitality industry.

Satisfaction is always a subjective matter, what is clean to one person is not clean to another. Whether cleaning a room or laundry. What these stats show is that cleaning times have decreased, thus saving money, and any savings made has been only because the hospitals no longer have to pay wages, benefits etc. directly. The savings end up being reletevaly small while the reduction in work time for cleaning clearly will have a long term impact of leaving rooms dirtier and dirtier.

Clean Hospitals Prevent Disease

Health Reform Cutting costs at patients' and workers' expense

Workers Who Care A Health Care Workers' Roundtable Our Times Fall/Winter 2002

SARS & NEW NORMALS Health and Hospitality Workers Fight Back Our Times Summer 2003

SARS spread aided by contracting out hospital cleaning and laundry, says head of Taiwan's disease control agency

Follow Alberta and B.C.
Liberal government plan to slash hospital workers' wages and contract-out jobs will hurt patient care CUPE PRESS RELEASE November 26, 2004

Anybody but the ADQ: unions

Does NOT follow the privateers lead
Union commends government for laundry decision


Among the Most Exploited?: Fair Labor Standards Act and Laundry Workers
Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on June 25, 1938, the last major piece of New Deal legislation. The act outlawed child labor and guaranteed a minimum wage of 40 cents an hour and a maximum work week of 40 hours, benefiting more than 22 million workers. Although the law helped establish a precedent for the Federal regulation of work conditions, conservative forces in Congress effectively exempted many workers, such as waiters, cooks, janitors, farm workers, and domestics, from its coverage

Field Service Company Soldiers take pride in their work In Iraq soldiers who support combat troops in the field find themselves working beside private contractors doing laundry work. In this forthcoming article from the US Field Infantry the soldiers who do the laundry raise the same issue as their counterparts in civilan life: they provide better services and quality than the private contractors. This report from troops in Iraq show the extent of the privatization of war that the US government has engaged in. See my article on the privatization of war.

When the boss is Uncle Sam

State WORKERS /State WAGES: North Carolina

Think Big about the Living Wage

Alameda County Superior Court rules that laundry workers claims for unpaid wages may go forward

California Government Code SECTION 19130-19134 Contracting Out

"Privatization, Labor-Management Relations, and Working Conditions for Lower-Skilled Workers of Color" by Immanuel Ness & Roland Zullo July/August 2003 issue of Poverty & Race

Hotel Laundry Lockout Ends December 2004

GAO report on Contracting out Support Services for Veterans Affairs


Bring It BACK!
Privatized jobs return to the public sector as governments discover the flaws of contracting out.

Clean Sweep Laundry Workers Win Union Recognition, Contract

Subcontracting Med Center duties is dirty business

Dirty Laundry Literally and figuratively, the UCSF-Stanford hospital merger gets fouler every day

The two-tier workforce: an IPPR briefing

The textile maintenance markets UK Competition Commission

Information on assessment of Government contracts


Union welcomes Greens ERB Paper on contracting-out

Sue Bradford Speech on Employment Relations Bill Tuesday, 8 August 2000, 5 Speech: Green Party

Government hospital support workers in Western Australia have borne the brunt of cuts to the health system over the past 8 years.

This paper was written by Gerard Greenfield for the 6th IUF Asia Pacific Conference for unions organising in the hotel, restaurant, catering and tourism (HRCT) sector, held in Manila in May 1999.