The dark side of the moon – how to remember 1969

Neil Armstrong, who on July 20 1969 became the first human to walk on the moon, died August 25, 2012. In the wake of his passing, the press is awash in reminiscences of “THE MOMENT” (as headlined in The Globe and Mail 2012) when Armstrong took what he famously decribed as “a giant leap for mankind”. Armstrong and his fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin left a plaque behind, reading: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind” (Koring 2012). But 1969 has to be remembered with a little less rhetoric, and a little more analysis.


The Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human to travel into space, prompting then U.S. president John Kennedy to promise, in May 1961, to land a man on the moon before the decade was out. The Apollo program and the 1969 moonwalk by Armstong and Aldrin, was the fulfillment of that promise.

But the space race, in which the moonwalk was the highlight, was an integral part of the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. “[T]he first explorative space missions employed hardware originally developed for military purposes … military requirements often still provide the catalyst for space exploration” (Webb 2001, 18). The space program of the United States, to this day, is a deeply militarized portion of the country’s federal budget, an essential part of the development and testing of rocket technology that is the backbone of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Parallel to the Apollo story, is the less celebrated story of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or ICBMs. Requirements for something called the Minuteman weapon system were issued in August 1958. “The basic objective of the program was the development of a ‘simple, economical ICBM system capable of surviving a nuclear attack and of striking back” (Buchonnet 1976, 27). In October 1960, the year before the Gagarin controversy, the first Minuteman I missile was produced. October 1962, the year after Gagarin, the first operational flight of the Minuteman took place (Buchonnet 1976, 15–16). The Minuteman was not designed to take humans into space. It was designed to carry nuclear weapons to cities and military facilities in the Soviet Union. It did not “come in peace for all mankind” but was part of the very real threat of nuclear annihilation which cast its shadow over the entire decade of the 1960s.

Hundreds of these Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) were deployed in the years that followed. The second generation Minuteman II had its first flight in 1964. By 1969, the year of the moonwalk, the U.S. had a total of 1,054 rockets ready to launch, all armed with nuclear warheads, 500 of them Minuteman I missiles, 500 of them Minuteman II .

But most sinister was the development of the Minuteman III, authorized in March of 1966. The Minuteman III was bigger, faster and stronger than its predecessors. Significantly, it was capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads – the so-called “Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles” or “MIRVs”. The exhilaration over moonwalking in 1969 happened just eleven months before these WMDs became operational in June of 1970 (Buchonnet 1976, 16–17). Because the new generation of rockets could each deliver bombs to several targets, while the number of rockets ready to launch remained virtually unchanged until 1990, the number of “deployed warheads” doubled to 2,440. Even with a significant reduction in the number of rockets in the 21st century to just over 500, the number of deployed warheads as of 2002 remained at 1,700 (Natural Resources Defense Council 2002).

How deadly would be the actual use of these warheads? “[A]n American attack directed solely against Russian nuclear missiles, submarines and bomber bases would require some 1300 warheads in a coordinated barrage lasting approximately 30 minutes, according to a sophisticated analysis of US war plans by experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington DC … The attack would result in approximately 11-17 million civilian casualties, 8-12 million of which would be fatalities, primarily due to the fallout generated by numerous ground bursts” (Cirincione 2008). Those are the casualty figures for an attack on military bases. Should the missiles target cities, the casualty figures would be many times higher.


Remembering the ICBMs alongside the Apollo program is helpful, but our memories of 1969 are still incomplete. Armstrong and Aldrin were both veteran fighter pilots from the war in Korea. While they were landing on the moon, the US airforce and the other branches of the military were engaged in another American War raging in another Asian country. When we remember the moonwalk, we need to also remember Vietnam.

Here are some of details worthy of recall. In April of 1969, the year of the moonwalk, the deployment of the U.S. military in that country reached its peak at 543,400 (Lawrence 2010, 102). Of those half million U.S. young people, 11,616 were killed in 1969 alone, the second dealiest year (for U.S. personnel) of the entire war, surpassed only by the 16,592 killed the year previously. In total, 58,193 U.S. personnel would be killed (National Archives 2007) in what is often called the Vietnam War, but which from the standpoint of the Vietnamese is more accurately referred to as “The American War”.

But the slaughter of U.S. young people, horrible as it may be, pales in comparison to the far greater toll of broken Vietnamese bodies. For this, unlike the careful precision with which U.S. bodies are counted, there are no clear numbers. A 1995 demographic study came up with an approximate figure of one million for the years 1965 to 1975. That is in line with Guenter Lewy’s estimate of 1.25 million. Robert McNamara – who was Secretary of Defence for much of the war – puts the figure at almost double that, 2.358 million “Vietnamese war deaths (1.2 million civilian and 1.158 million military)”. And, according to the government of Vietnam, the figure from 1954 to 1975 is above 3 million, “1.1 million communist military deaths and amost 2 million civilion deaths due to war-related causes” (Hirschman, Preston, and Loi 1995, 807–808 & 791). Even if we take the lowest estimate of one million for the years 1965 to 1975, it means that, for 1969 alone, alongside the 11,000 broken bodies of U.S. youth, we have to line up something like 91,000 corpses of Vietnamese civilians and soldiers.

November 16 1969, the same year as the moonwalk, this slaughter became the centre of international controversy. That day, a handful of surviving South Vietnamese villagers reported that March 16, 1968, “567 unarmed men, women and children” had been massacred by U.S. infantry in “My Lai Hamlet No. 4 … about half a mile from Songmy”. These villagers had managed to survive “because they had been buried under the bodies of their neighbors” (Kamm 1969; UPI 1969).

Remember 1969, remember the moonwalk story, but also remember the ICBM story, the Vietnam story, and the My Lai story. There is one more detail to add.

Werner von Braun

At the end of World War II, a German scientist named Werner von Braun “engineered the surrender of 500 of his top rocket scientists, along with plans and test vehicles, to the Americans” (Marshall Space Flight Center). These scientists began their rocket-designing career in Adolph Hitler’s Germany. In this capacity, von Braun was an officer in the notorious SS, and was complicit in the use of forced labour for the development of the German V-2 rocket. “Atrocities perpetrated at V-2 production facilities at Nordhausen and the nearby concentration camp at Dora – where some 20,000 died as a result of execution, starvation, and disease – stimulated controversy that plagued the rocket pioneers who left Germany after the war” (Dunar and Waring 2000, 7). The Saturn V rocket which carried Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon, was designed by a team of scientists led by von Braun.

John Polanyi says that the moonwalk was a “blow for freedom … it’s the classic exultation of discovery” (Koring 2012). It was neither. The Apollo program to deliver men to the moon was the shiny storefront to the real commodity produced by the U.S. rocket scientists – the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles designed to obliterate entire cities. The U.S. airforce which trained Armstrong and Aldrin had as its principal goal in 1969, not getting these two to the moon, but dropping napalm on the little country of Vietnam. The leader of the team of scientists who designed these rockets, got his start in Hitler’s Germany. If we remember all of this together, then our picture of 1969 will be just a little more accurate.

© 2012 Paul Kellogg


Buchonnet, Daniel. 1976. “MIRV: A Brief History of Minuteman and Multiple Reentry Vehicles”. Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

Cirincione, Joseph. 2008. “The Continuing Threat of Nuclear War.” In Global Catastrophic Risks, ed. Nick Bostrom and Milan M. Cirkovic, 381–401. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dunar, Andrew J., and Stephen P. Waring. 2000. Power to Explore: a History of Marshall Space Flight Center, 1960-1990. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA History Office, Office of Policy and Plans.

Hirschman, C., S. Preston, and V. M. Loi. 1995. “Vietnamese Casualties During the American War: a New Estimate.” Population and Development Review: 783–812.

Kamm, Henry. 1969. “Vietnamese Say G.I.’s Slew 567 in Town.” The New York Times, November 17.

Koring, Paul. 2012. “An American Triumph That Drove a Dagger to the Soviets’ Core.” The Globe and Mail, August 27, sec. A.

Lawrence, Mark Atwood. 2010. The Vietnam War: A Concise International History. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marshall Space Flight Center. “Biography of Wernher Von Braun.” MSFC History Office.

National Archives. 2007. “Statistical Information About Casualties of the Vietnam War.”

Natural Resources Defense Council. 2002. “Table of US ICBM Forces, 1959-2012.”

The Globe and Mail. 2012. “Neil Armstrong 1930-2012.” The Globe and Mail, August 27, sec. A.

UPI. 1969. “Alleged Massacre Site Has Different Names.” The New York Times, November 25.

Webb, Dave. 2001. “The Militarisation and Nuclearisation of Space.” An Ethical Career in Science and Technology? London, U.K.: Scientists for Global Responsibility.

Remember the Dead – Remember all the dead

If you travel to Washington D.C., and you visit only one historic site, make it the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A gentle scar in the park that surrounds it, the modest stone wall slowly emerges into view as you walk towards it. On the pathway by the wall, medals lie propped up, along with letters, teddy bears – mementos of loved ones who passed away in the hell that was the American War in Vietnam. And on their knees, head in hand, or on their toes, reaching up to touch a name carved on a high portion of the wall, middle-aged men bear witness to fallen friends – hair now white, mouths set in anger, eyes fixed with grief. It is a simple, powerful memorial to the 58,220 United States men and women who died in Indochina between 1965 and 1975.[1]

These veterans need to be remembered. They went through hell. But there is a screaming absence in that quiet park, an absence so big, so powerful, it makes your head hurt. The ground in Indochina was in fact soaked by the blood of tens of thousands of young citizens of the United States. But it was also soaked by the blood of millions of citizens of South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. We need to remember the U.S. dead from that pointless war. But to really honour their memory, we need to remember all the dead. The point of remembrance is to learn from history. To do that we need all the history, no matter how horrible, no matter how painful, no matter how uncomfortable.

Think about it for a minute. The magnificent, moving Vietnam Veterans Memorial is 493 feet, 6 inches in length (150.42 metres), angling up from the ground to its highest point of 10 feet 3 inches (3.12 metres) at the very centre.[2] It has to be this massive so that every single one of the U.S. citizens who died in that war can have his or her name carved into the granite. But what if we made it just a bit bigger to incorporate those other citizens who died in that conflict?

Here are the names for which there would have to be found a spot on that granite wall.

Among the allies of the United States:

• 220,357 for The Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)
• 4,407 for the Republic of Korea (South Korea)
• 30,000 for Laotian Meo / Hmong
• 487 for Australia
• 351 for Thailand
• 37 for New Zealand

For these 255,639 allied souls, we would need to have four additional massive, smooth granite memorials.

But what of the “other side?” The truth is we don’t know. One estimate is that the number of dead soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the Viet Cong would total 1.1 million.[3] To record their names we would need 19 additional Vietnam Veterans walls.

But the story is not over. As in many modern wars, military casualties tell only part of the story. In war, after war, after war, the chief victim of the bullets, bombs and napalm, of the torture, rape and murder, are not men and women in uniform, but peasants, workers, housewives, children – otherwise known as civilians. We have no idea how many millions of these ordinary folk perished in the meat grinder of Vietnam. Only in 1995 did the government of Vietnam release its “official estimate of war dead: as many as two million civilians on both sides” being listed as war dead[4] – a horrifying total of four million.

To honour these dead – which we need to do to really remember that war, to remember all of it, not just part of it – we would need an additional 69 walls of granite on which their names could be inscribed.

But we are not done yet. There was also Laos; and Cambodia; and the First Indochinese War when the Vietnamese fought against terrible odds, and defeated the French colonialists. We are going to have find room for those additional millions, if we really want to remember, and properly honour, the huge experience that we call Vietnam.

The rage that grew inside U.S. society during the years of pointless slaughter in Vietnam, ultimately made it impossible for that war to continue. That rage continued after the war, and led to the construction of the magnificent granite monument which is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

But when some dead are remembered, and others forgotten – when some are made visible, and others are hidden from sight – there is a danger that we can over time forget the botched politics, the evil decisions, the corrupt elite who dragged us all into the quagmire that was Vietnam. Unless we remember all the dead – U.S. and Asian, white, black and yellow – we risk forgetting all the lessons we learned through such bitter experiences.

To remember – to really remember – is in itself an act of resistance.

(c) 2010 Paul Kellogg


[1] Anne Leland, Mari-Jana “M-J” Oboroceanu. “American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics.” 26 February, 2010: 3.
[2] “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.” On “Beverly Vietnam Veterans, Inc. Post #1: 1st Lt. Stephen H. Doane Chapter.” Accessed 8 November, 2010.
[3] “Vietnam War Casualties.” Accessed 8 November, 2010.
[4] Ronald H. Spector. “Vietnam War.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed 8 November, 2010. Spector’s language is ambiguous, capable of being interpreted as 2 million total casualties on both sides. The actual estimate is 2 million dead in each of South and North Vietnam, for a total of 4 million. See Agence France Press. 4 April, 1995. Cited in “The Lancet Study” Obsidian Wings. October 2006.

Anti-Tory Then and Anti-Tory Now: ‘Power in the Darkness’

MAY 11, 2010 – So David Cameron is Britain’s new prime minister. His accession to 10 Downing Street is reminiscent of another May election when the smug elite organized in the Conservative Party outpolled the Labour Party. May 3, 1979, Margaret Thatcher defeated James Callaghan. She would in the 1980s, partner up with her U.S. equivalent – former B-movie Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan – the two becoming symbolic of what we now call the neo-liberal revolution. Britain in the 1970s, however, did not just give the world neo-liberalism. It also produced cultures of resistance. And as the election results rolled in May 6 and 7, the tunes from one part of that resistance kept coming to mind. Power in the Darkness, the Tom Robinson Band’s breakthrough 1978 album, contained song after song which became anthems of resistance for young activists in the Thatcher/Reagan years. There are some parallels between 2010 and 1979, some important differences, and a new relevance for a thirty-two year old album.

Both 1979 and 2010 marked the end of distinct eras for the Labour Party. In 1997, 13 years before Brown’s humiliation, “New Labour” led by Tony Blair had thrown out the hated Tories, getting the support of more than 13.5 million voters in the U.K. Thirteen years later, Gordon Brown’s vote total came in almost five million votes below that figure.[1] Thirteen years of Blairism and almost a decade of war in Central Asia and the Middle East had seen a massive haemorrhaging of Labour Party support.

In the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, we can see some similarities. Harold Wilson had captured office in 1964 with just over 12 million votes, increasing that to 13 million in 1966. Labour did not rule without interruption in the coming years – there was the Ted Heath interregnum from 1970 to 1974 – but Labour was the dominant party during that 15-year period. When Labour lost to Thatcher in 1979, 1.5 million of those 1966 votes had melted away. By 1983, in Labour’s second loss to Thatcher, support for the party had disastrously collapsed to under 8.5 million – 3.5 million fewer than the 1966 peak. That terrible performance in the 1983 election was called a crisis for British social democracy. The sobering news for Labour supporters in 2010, is that Gordon Brown’s 8.6 million votes sit only marginally above the disastrous showing in 1983. It is in fact, a much worse showing, as there are 10 million more voters in Britain in 2010 than there were in the mid-1960s.

But if there has been a loss of millions from the base of the Labour Party, all is not well with its chief rival – the Tories. From Thatcher’s first election in 1979, until John Major’s victory in 1992, the Tories were always able to muster more than 13 million votes at the polls – in the 1992 election, the figure actually topped 14 million. David Cameron’s Tories, by comparison, did very poorly. In spite of the steep decline of Labour, they failed to win a majority, polling just over 10.5 million, well down from Thatcher-era Tory support. We gave that earlier era the nickname “Thatcherism.” As of this writing, David Cameron has a ways to go before he gets his name attached to the current political era in the U.K.

The combination of deep demoralization with Labour and an ideological assertion of free-market dogma made the 1980s a grim era for politics in Britain. But, while there are similarities, you cannot draw direct parallels with 2010. Labour’s policies have created demoralization, but the disaffection with New Labour’s pro-market policies and the long shadow of the Great Recession make a strong re-assertion of free-market dogmatism difficult indeed. The post-election landscape is much more nuanced. Among the elements of this landscape are an increased fragmentation, a marginal increase in interest in the “third party” (the actually very old Liberal-Democrats, who in spite of all the hype only received 900,000 more votes than in 2005), and a withdrawal by thousands from engagement with the electoral process. In every election from 1966 until 1997, turnout at the polls in British general elections was always above 70 per cent, topping out at above 78 percent in the first election of 1974 (there were two in that turbulent year). Such figures now are a distant memory. The 1997 election was a harbinger of this, with turnout coming in at just 71 percent “the lowest for 62 years.”[2] In 2001, participation fell to just 59 percent, recovering only slightly in 2005 (61 per cent) and 2010 (65 per cent). The reaction by millions to having their 1997 anti-Tory hopes dashed, has been to stay away from the polls altogether.

Another important element in the landscape is something that did not happen in the Thatcher era – the emergence in the 21st century of serious left electoral alternatives to Labour. Not surprisingly, this has been a difficult project. For millions of working people, supporting Labour has for generations been the only realistic means of challenging the party of the bosses. To indicate that another such alternative exists, and not just as a token, was always going to be a challenge. However mixed the record, it marks an important advance on the 1970s and 1980s.

In Scotland, it was the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) which first gathered international attention. In 2001 it was a factor in all 72 constituencies in Scotland, averaging over 1,000 votes in each. In 2005 it did less well, but still could poll 43,514 votes in 58 constituencies – an average of 750 per candidate.

In the U.K. as a whole, the 2001 election saw the emergence of the Socialist Alliance. It stood candidates in 98 constituencies in 2001, and garnered 57,553 votes, an average of 587 per constituency. In 2005, the place of the Alliance was taken by Respect, a party deeply rooted in the mass anti-war movement of 2003 and 2004. George Galloway – exiled from New Labour because of his opposition to the war in Iraq – became the standard-bearer for the new party, and his 2005 election as a Respect candidate in the London constituency Bethnal Green and Bow was a defining moment. His 15,800 votes gave him a narrow victory over Labour – and gave the anti-war movement a voice in the House of Commons. This left-wing anti-war vote was not simply a vote for one prominent individual. Salma Yaqoob came second in her Birmingham constituency with over 10,000 votes. In total, in 26 constituencies, Respect received 68,094 votes, or an average of 2,619 per constituency.

Lost in the coverage of the 2010 election is the fact that the electoral response to these left-of-Labour forces – though fragmented into different components – was comparable to the response in 2005. The best result was achieved by Caroline Lucas, a left-wing member of the Green Party, who became that party’s first sitting MP gathering over 16,000 votes in the constituency of Brighton Pavilion. Respect was able to stand candidates in eleven constituencies winning 33,251 votes in total, averaging 3,023 votes per candidate. Galloway came third with over 8,000 votes in the London constituency of Poplar and Limehouse; Abol Miah also polled above 8,000 coming third in Galloway’s old constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow; and Yaqoob actually won 2,000 votes more than in 2005, coming in second in Birmingham Hall Green. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stood candidates in 42 constituencies, winning 12,275 votes – an average of 292 per constituency. The SSP, while much reduced from years past, still managed to field 10 candidates, each receiving an average of 316 votes.

The attempt to build a left-of-Labour alternative takes on heightened importance when we shift our gaze to the right of the political spectrum. There is a far-right section of the British political landscape that has been steadily and stealthily making headway in the shape of the British National Party – this decade’s organizational hiding place for the racist right in the U.K.

It is true that the BNP failed to make the breakthrough for which its more naive supporters had hoped. In the London seat of Barking, BNP leader Nick Griffin received a humiliating 18,000 fewer votes than victorious Labour Party candidate Margaret Hodge. Hodge claimed to “have not just beaten” Nick Griffin but to “have smashed the extreme right.”[3] Excellent as it is that Hodge humiliated Griffin, her analysis has to be challenged.

The BNP cannot be smashed solely through an accumulation of votes for a party which ruled in the manner Blair/Brown New Labour. As a cabinet minister in both Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s cabinets, Hodge was complicit in the Blairist New Labour project. She was reported to have distanced herself from Blair’s war on Iraq in 2006, but instead of embracing that criticism and making herself part of the anti-Blair left, she insisted she had been misquoted.[4] It is impossible to “smash” the BNP while refusing to break openly from the wars which have fuelled Islamophobia – the anti-Arab racism that has made all forms of racism – and with it the BNP – a more legitimate factor in British politics.

What Hodge has to confront is that even though the BNP did not make its hoped for breakthrough, it was a visible presence across the country, winning more than half a million votes – an average of more than 2,000 per candidate – and representing by far the highest vote total achieved by the racist right in Britain in modern history. The BNP’s 2010 results are considerably up from its 192,745 votes in 2005 and 47,129 in 2001 – and higher than anything the noxious National Front (the 1970s version of the BNP) was able to achieve, the NF’s greatest success coming in 1979 when it captured 191,719 votes. Labour Party supporters need to soberly assess the fact that the high water mark for both of these far-right parties came after years of rule by Labour. The mass demoralization and fragmentation that arises from social-democratic attacks on its own base is the seed bed on which such politics can grow.

The last and most important issue in the comparison between the two eras is inherently the most difficult properly to assess – the level of class struggle. Whereas electoral politics can be mapped through the ebbs and flows of voting results and electoral turnouts, class struggle has no such precise indicators. There is a complex relationship between ideas, organization, confidence and economic conditions which go into what Karl Marx and Frederick Engels called the motor force of history – the struggle between classes.

Without question there has been mass struggle. We have seen huge political mobilizations in Britain and around the world in the 21st century. In Britain, the most impressive of these were the mobilizations of the movement against the war in Iraq. The millions who again and again took to the streets in London, made “Hyde Park” into a verb in some quarters. To “Hyde Park” meant to oppose the war in the heart of imperialism itself.

But a demonstration is not a strike – and the beating heart of resistance to the system, which ultimately sustains all other forms of resistance, is the willingness of workers through their own organizations, to directly challenge their employers and the state. An imperfect, but indispensable, measure of this willingness, comes from the statistics on strikes and lockouts that are produced by governments everywhere. We know in North America that strike levels in the 21st century are much reduced from any of the last three decades in the 20th century. A similar situation exists in Britain.

Tom Robinson anticipated something when – in 1978 – he came out with his song “Winter of ’79.” In terms of workers involved in workplace actions or strikes, the 1978-79 Winter of Discontent resulted in 1979 being the peak of the 1970’s strike wave, with some four and a half million workers during the year being involved in some kind of workplace action.[5] In the years which preceded that confrontational winter, it was a regular occurrence for there to be one million or more workers involved in strike action during any 12 month period. Those levels of activity sustained themselves through the bitter first half of the 1980s, which culminated in the great miners’ strike of 1984-1985. But from the mid-1980s through the entirety of the 1990s, strike activity was much lower than in the preceding generation.

Charts accompanying this analysis can be found at the end of the article. The contrast captured in the first chart is striking. This century, there has been a return in some years to strike levels of the late 1980s – but nowhere near the peaks achieved in the 1970s. Throughout the entirety of the decade of the 1990s and the first eight years of the 21st century, there has not been one year where one million workers have been involved in strike activity. In many years the figure has been below 300,000; in 1998 and 2005 the figure fell below 100,000. A generation of trade unionists has grown up with much less experience on the picket line than the generation which came before.

When measured as “Days not Worked” because of workplace action (as does the second chart), the picture is even more clear. Through the 1970s and into the months of the miners’ strike, three great waves puncture the graph – with more than 20 million, and then twice between 25 and 30 million, days not worked in the course of a year because of workplace actions. However, the impact of the defeat of the miners’ strike is plain to see in the years since. Through the 1990s and into the 21st century, the number of days not worked due to workplace actions has fallen to extremely low levels when compared with the 1970s and 1980s.

The big mobilizations against the war have to be seen in this context. They were part of a magnificent political upturn by thousands who were willing to take action against traditional social democracy. But here, the analysis sketched out by the late Tony Cliff describing an earlier period, has to be taken extremely seriously. In a 1996 interview he analyzed the movement associated with Tony Benn and the Labour Party Left in the early 1980s.

The problem was, people flocked to Benn in 1981 as a political solution when the industrial struggle was going down – but you cannot have a political upturn indefinitely at a time of industrial downturn. This expressed itself in interesting ways but the long term outcome was passivity. There was struggle in the 1980s. It was not like the 1970s but there were big struggles. The Labour left never organised centrally around them. It remained basically electoral, and that meant it was passive. If you are passive, you disintegrate. That’s why today there is demoralisation and passivity.[6]

Cliff uses the language of an earlier generation – subsuming all workplace actions under the term “industrial” – but his analysis remains otherwise, strikingly relevant. We have seen, in Britain and elsewhere in the Global North, big political upturns associated with movements against war and against corporate globalization. But these movements have yet to find a sustained echo in the struggle between capital and labour, at least as reflected in strike statistics. If the struggle between capital and labour is the central struggle of the capitalist system, then when that level is at a low ebb, it is going to have an impact on every other form of resistance. If this is true, the decline of the anti-war movement from its heights in 2003 should not be seen as the failure of that movement, but rather understood as a reflection of the very low level of workplace struggle in society as a whole.

Understanding the class struggle context in which we are operating is important. Until it turns upwards, it will be difficult to sustain a big breakthrough to the left. We have seen recurring upswells in radicalization – in particular, against corporate globalization at the turn of the century and against war in the years that followed. But until such radicalizations gain traction and find a reflection in the economic struggle against capital, they will inevitably be prone to fragmentation and decline.

This is not an excuse to therefore do nothing. “If you are passive you disintegrate.” The situation in Britain will be no different in this regard, to the situation in other countries. The future left alternative to social democracy everywhere will be built from the local struggles against racism, against the cuts, against global warming, against war and imperialism – even if these struggles are happening at a lower ebb, with fewer numbers, with less generalization, and at a slower pace than we had hoped. It is in these local struggles that a new generation of anti-capitalists is finding its voice and developing capacity.

There is a final reason for taking seriously the level of class struggle. If we know that the reason we are having difficulties is not because of the personal failings of this or that individual, this or that organization, but because of the complicated circumstances in which we operate – then we will develop the patience to minimize differences and maximize unity. That unity is not an optional extra. In Britain, the wreckage left behind by 13 years of Labour in office makes plain, again, that social democracy is no alternative to capitalism. The danger of disunity is starkly revealed by the insidious presence of forces like the BNP.

TRB looked out at the landscape of the late 1970s – at the racism of the NF, at the betrayals of Labour, at the threat of the Tories, at bigotry, sexism and anti-gay politics – and sang out “We ain’t gonna take it.” It’s not a full program of resistance. It wasn’t meant to be. But it was a pretty good song, a pretty good place to start in that era, and a timely reminder of what we face today.

Prejudice poison
Polluting this land
I’m a middle-class kiddie
But I know where I stand
We got brothers in Brixton
Backs to the wall
Bigots on the backlash
Divided we fall

Women with children
Have to carry the can
Till they lose them in divorce courts
To some pig of a man
We got Benyon and Whitehouse
Trying to get us stitched
Cos abortion and a gay scene
Only meant for the rich

Sisters and brothers
What have we done
We’re fighting each other
Instead of the Front
Better get it together
Big trouble to come
And the odds are against us
About twenty to one

But we ain’t gonna take it
Ain’t gonna take it
They’re keeping us under
But we ain’t gonna take it no more

Ain’t Gonna Take it

Glad to be Gay

Don’t Take No for an Answer

Up Against the Wall

Grey Cortina

2 4 6 8 Motorway

Charts referenced in the article

© 2010 Paul Kellogg

Publishing History

This article was published as Anti-Tory then and Anti-Tory now.” The Bullet, 14 May


[1] Voting, participation and other election statistics cited in this article are compiled from: “Election 2010: National Results”; The Electoral Commission, “Election 2005: constituencies, candidates and results,” March 2006 and “Election 2001: The Official Results,” (London: Politico’s Publishing, 2001): “1997 General Election Result,” “General Election, 9th April 1992,” “General Election, 11th June 1987,” “General election, 9th June 1983,” and “General Election Results 1885-1979,” www.
[2] “The 1997 General Election,”
[3] Cited in Matthew Taylor, “BNP setbacks put Nick Griffin under pressure,”, May 7, 2010
[4] “Minister ‘attacks Iraq mistake,”, Nov. 17, 2006
[5] Labour dispute statistics taken from International Labour Organization, “LABORSTA Labour Statistics Database,”; and Office for National Statistics, “Labour Market Statistics: Labour Disputes: Summary,”
[6] Tony Cliff, “Labour’s crisis and the revolutionary alternative,” Socialist Review 202, November 1996
[7] Tom Robinson Band, “Ain’t Gonna Take It,” Power In The Darkness, 1978

Afghanistan – Et tu Bruce?[1]

Bruce Cockburn sang against U.S. imperialism in Guatemala. He sang for the revolution in Nicaragua. He is now singing for Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan. Our movement is weaker for it.

In the 1980s, Central America was in the throes of revolution and counter-revolution. The signature event was the 1979 overthrow of the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, an overthrow led and organized by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). That revolution was bitterly opposed by the Generals who controlled many Central and South American states at the time, and the United States which had long backed military regimes in the region. U.S. president Ronald Reagan, funded a bloody proxy war against the Sandinistas, leading to tens of thousands of deaths. Building solidarity with the Sandinista revolution – and with the other resistance movements in Central and South America – was a central political task for activists in the Global North in that decade.

Cockburn did his part. In 1983 he traveled to Mexico and Nicaragua, “with several other Canadian artists at the invitation of OXFAM, the world hunger organization.”[2] The result was a beautiful and moving 1984 album, Stealing Fire, many of whose songs were inspired by the repression and resistance he encountered on his trip. “Nicaragua,” “Dust and Diesel” and “Yanqui go home” are explicit tributes to the new society being wrenched from imperialism’s grasp in desperately poor and embattled Nicaragua.[3] “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” is the best-known track from the album, famously covered by Bareknaked Ladies.” It is not explicitly political, but when he calls out that you’ve “got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight,” we knew what he meant.

Bruce has now stumbled into the darkness of support for Canada’s war effort in Afghanistan. His brother is a Captain in the Canadian military, and part of Canadian forces in Afghanistan. In early September, Bruce went to the country, visited his brother, and performed for Canadian troops while he was there.

“It’s a long discussion on whether we should be in Afghanistan” he said, “whether anyone should be in Afghanistan … but since we are, and since we’ve gone this far, I don’t think it’s appropriate to leave at this stage.”[4]

This won’t do. Many of us have friends and relatives in Afghanistan. All of us want them to come home unharmed. All of us want them to come home without having done harm to others. But all of us – Cockburn included – have to ask ourselves the hard questions.

Are Canada’s troops – troops that include Bruce’s brother, two of my cousins, one of my close friend’s brother, and thousands of other Canadians either in Afghanistan or on their way – are these troops risking their lives for democracy and freedom?

What if the answer is “no?” What if we realize that the regime Canada is supporting is far from democratic (as the farce of the recent elections has clearly shown)? What if it is true that Canada is there for the same reason the U.S. is there, for the same reason the U.S. was, and is, in Central America – to expand the spheres of influence of the Great Powers in the region? And what if, as a brutal bonus, we conclude, as many military experts long ago concluded, that this war is not winnable?

For people of Bruce’s generation these hard questions might be hard to answer. In the 1980s, the progressive movement in Canada was dominated by “left nationalism.” Thousands in Canada understood the horror that was U.S. imperialism and joined movements to oppose it. But at the same time, many of those same people thought that Canada too was a victim of U.S. imperialism. The U.S. was bad, but Canada was good, peace-loving and democratic.

Cockburn’s confusion on Afghanistan represents the confusion of an older generation, looking to find the “good” Canada exporting its values abroad. Canada is at war in Afghanistan, and Canada is not the U.S., so maybe that makes Afghanistan “the good war,” a war to bring “Canadian values” to a far-off land? And besides, this war was problematic when it was conducted by the evil George W. Bush, but now we have the progressive Barack Obama in the White House. Surely Obama’s war is a good war?

Afghanistan is not a good war. The thing that made Afghanistan the wrong war was not that it was being conducted by George W. Bush – it was the wrong war because it was a war for U.S. corporate power. At the end of the day, that is what Bush represents – and it is what Obama continues.

The bitter reality is, that Canada is not one of the countries oppressed by the United States – it is a partner with the United States in keeping the world safe for corporate profits. They have Exxon and General Motors. We have Magna and Research In Motion. The fact of a border does not magically make “our” corporations any less greedy and avaricious than those in the United States. Our government is in bed with these corporations just as much as the U.S. government is in bed with its own corporations. This is what their democracy looks like, and it is not pretty.

Let’s not choose a “good” U.S. imperialism under Obama over a “bad” U.S. imperialism under Bush. Let’s not choose “good” Canada over “evil” United States. Whether we live in Canada or United States, we live in the privileged Global North that for too long has lived off oppressing the impoverished countries of the Global South.

Cockburn’s signature political song from Stealing Fire was, without a doubt, “If I had a Rocket Launcher.” He sang it to “wild applause” to members of Task Force Kandahar, after which – in a grotesque parody of the song and of Cockburn’s whole anti-imperialist past – he was temporarily presented with a rocket launcher by Task Force Kandahar commander General Jonathan Vance.[5]

Let’s not remember Cockburn for his new role as progressive cover for Canada’s imperial adventures abroad. Let’s remember him for his anti-war, anti-imperialist anthems from the 1980s. Let’s remember the helicopters which bring death and destruction to peasants and the poor in Guatemala, Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here’s your playlist to help in that process.

If I Had A Rocket Launcher
Lovers in a Dangerous Time and as performed by The Barenaked Ladies
Dust and Diesel
Call It Democracy

This article written in memory of anti-war teacher Wayne McCrank, 1960-2009.

© 2009 Paul Kellogg


[1] From “Et tu, Brute?” William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar,” Act III, Scene I, line 77 in Peter Alexander, ed., Tragedies: William Shakespeare (London: Collins, 1971). “Perhaps the most famous words uttered in literature, ‘Et tu, Brute?” (Even you, Brutus?) this expression has come down in history to mean the ultimate betrayal by one’s closest friend.” “Et tu Brute? Shakespearean Quotes,”
[2] “Songs: If I Had A Rocket Launcher,”
[3] Bruce Cockburn, Stealing Fire (Toronto: Golden Mountain Music Corp., 1984)
[4] Canadian Press, “Cockburn visits brother in Afghanistan,” Sept. 10, 2009
[5] Canadian Press, “Cockburn visits brother in Afghanistan

Dear Jack: Do you really want this war?

Open Letter to Jack Layton, federal leader of the NDP • Everywhere I go they are burying Canadian soldiers. Walking down Donlands Avenue December 12, there were the cameras and the men in uniform – waiting outside the Metamorphosis Greek Orthodox Church for the funeral of Private Demetrios Diplaros, killed in Afghanistan the week before.[1] Back at work in Peterborough, preparations were underway at Calvary Church for the funeral of Private Michael Freeman, killed in Afghanistan.[2] But this is the war that you say you want to inherit.

Your only Quebec MP, Thomas Mulcair has told the press, “the NDP is putting aside its differences that have existed historically with the Liberals on such issues as Afghanistan.”[3] And Jack, your coalition government – if it gets its way – will stay in office till 2011. Will there be another 100 Canadians killed on its watch? Another 200? And how many thousands of Afghanis?

Knowing that the NDP was calling for an immediate troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, was an enormous boost of confidence for thousands. Your actions have completely betrayed those thousands.

Last election, young people – the young people I see every day as a teacher, the young people that you and I both saw when we were both teachers at Ryerson University – just didn’t care about a choice between Harper, Dion or yourself. They didn’t see themselves in any of the parties. But I was able to tell them – in good conscience – that there was a big difference between your party and the others. Your party was committed to bringing the troops home – the troops sent to war by the Liberals, and dying in increasing numbers under the Conservatives. That argument worked. Young people hate this war. So when they were told that there was one party calling for an end to the war, they voted for you.

You have now lost their vote. You have sent them the message that principles like stopping a murderous, barbaric war are not as important – as what? What exactly did you get from your deal with the Liberals? Afghanistan is on the shelf. Taxing the corporations is on the shelf. The only thing you seem to have “won” is the promise of six cabinet seats. A religious man who greatly influenced me – an anti-war minister of the United Church – would have known what to call this – a mess of pottage. Look it up.

The coalition gambit was a top-down bureaucratic, back-room deal – and has been perceived as such by millions of ordinary Canadians who are recoiling in horror. The terrible effect of this backroom coalition adventure has been to bring Stephen Harper back from the dead – he’s soaring in the polls – and to accelerate the arrival of Michael Ignatieff as head of the Liberals – the same Michael Ignatieff who supported George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. Do you really want to sit at the cabinet table with Michael Ignatieff in the chair?

The war has come home, Jack. That funeral on Donlands was in your riding in Toronto, the riding that has time and again come out to the polls and sent you to Ottawa. If you say “troops out now” you have something to say to those folks. If you say “we’ll talk about it in 2011,” you have nothing to say that is any different from the Harper Tories.

Whatever. The movement goes on without you. We’ll be demonstrating April 4 in Toronto and in dozens of other cities chanting “troops out now!” You’re welcome to join us. There will be thousands of other NDP members there with us. But don’t expect a very warm welcome. On those marches, being against the war is a principle, not a bargaining chip.

© 2009 Paul Kellogg


[1] “A hero’s farewell,” Toronto Sun, December 12, 2008
[2] “Holidays delay Peterborough soldier’s funeral,”, January 2, 2009
[3] Murray Brewster, “NDP will not oppose Afghan war while in coalition,” Canadian Press, December 3, 2008

Afghanistan is still the issue – anti-war movement in convention

December 6, on the second day of the biennial (every two years) convention of the Canadian Peace Alliance, 100 or so delegates and observers gathered in the bitter cold on the sidewalk outside the student centre at Ryerson University in Toronto. Behind a massive banner and carrying dozens of placards saying “Troops Out of Afghanistan” we marched to join the 3,000 strong anti-Harper rally taking place that day at City Hall. We took the streets, and as our little contingent turned the last corner before arriving at City Hall, we took up the chant, “Harper Out of Ottawa, Canada Out of Afghanistan.” The message couldn’t have been clearer – no matter what government is in office, there is a movement on the streets telling any who will listen, Afghanistan is still the issue.

Most in the crowd greeted us with enthusiasm. Thousands of NDP members have been central to the anti-war movement. But Jack Layton has told them that the Afghanistan file is on the shelf while he pursues the increasingly forlorn project of coalescing with the Liberals. Suddenly, it is not at all clear that the NDP federal leadership considers it “legitimate” to be against Harper and against the war at the same time. The CPA contingent gave voice again to the crowd that was in its vast majority anti-war. The reception was fantastic (except for some disgruntled senior Liberal Party members). It was a moment when all present were very proud to be part of Canada’s anti-war movement. Opposing the war in Afghanistan is not a bargaining chip to be used in parliamentary coalition negotiations. It is a non-negotiable matter of principle. The troops must come home. The killing must stop.

The convention was an intense three-day event, December 5 to 7, which brought together elected delegates from 39 anti-war and peace organizations from across the country. Together with observers, more than 100 people attended.

The central decision of the conference was the adoption of a two-year “Campaign Goals, Strategy and Actions.” The delegates unanimously agreed that for the next two years, the war in Afghanistan and the War Resisters Campaign would be the strategic focuses for the CPA. The plan commits the CPA to two bi-national demonstrations against the war in Afghanistan each year, one in the spring, one in the autumn. The first one in 2009 will be held in the first week of April to coincide with the call from anti-war groups in Europe to mark the 60th anniversary of the creation of NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is prosecuting the brutal war in Afghanistan.

One of the most intense discussions occurred at a packed workshop centred around the war at home, and the attack on civil liberties. Matthew Behrens from Homes not Bombs said “the biggest losers from the Coalition have been the people of Afghanistan.” He and others expressed the fear that along with the war taking a back seat, so would campaigns around Islamophobia and the attacks on racialized communities. Delegates from the Tamil Youth Organization talked about how their community has been harassed and labelled as “terrorist”, and the implications that has had on community members. There was considerable enthusiasm for the idea of organizing a conference centred on the defence of civil liberties.

The issue of the changing political terrain and the war in Afghanistan was a recurring theme throughout the convention. On the opening panel, Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians said of the coalition, “we don’t agree with the concession around Afghanistan,” but nonetheless said that the coalition gave us “an opportunity to have our voices heard.” You can support the coalition, she argued, without agreeing with all its policies. On the Saturday panel, “Thinking Strategically: Building the movement to end the war,” Susan Spratt from the Canadian Auto Workers Union made a similar point. “Without a coalition” she argued, “we’re going to end up with a fascist regime that won’t budge on the war.”

But the overwhelming sentiment at the convention was that the anti-war movement had to steer an independent course. The CPA has a responsibility to keep the issue of “Troops Out of Afghanistan” in the public eye, by keeping the anti-war movement active and on the streets. This is even more the case when the political party with an official position calling for Troops Out – the NDP – has shamefully traded the push to end to the war for the promise of six cabinet seats.

The coming months will not be easy. In Canada, the Afghanistan issue has become confused because of the actions of the Coalition. In the United States, the election of Barack Obama has rightly excited millions. But while Obama is committed to winding down the war in Iraq, he is equally committed to a major escalation in Afghanistan. He is using his massive popularity to argue that Afghanistan is the “good war,” an argument that will confuse many people.

Raymond Legault from the Quebec based “Collectif Échec à la guerre” – attending the convention as an observer – argued that we had to face the fact that “fewer people are at our protests and rallies, not more.” This doesn’t mean an end to organizing, it just means that organizing has to take a different shape. “We don’t hear much about the reality of the war,” he said. “We need to bring this reality to people.” To that end, Échec à la guerre is organizing a Peoples’ Summit in Quebec for the autumn of 2009, to provide a forum where the bitter reality of war can be made more visible. The CPA delegates voted to organize a similar Peoples’ Summit in English Canada.

The convention was a real success, a coalescing of local anti-war organizing that revealed the framework around which our movement can continue to organize and build in the coming months – challenging Canada’s war both abroad and at home.

For more information, check out, and

© 2008 Paul Kellogg

How not to remember World War I

Letter to the Editor submitted to The Guardian, Nov. 16, 2008 • Some wars are controversial. There is a huge debate, for instance, about World War II – which may have been the most destructive war in history, but is nonetheless justified by many as a “necessary evil” – the war to stop the Nazis. That is a debate that should be had. But about World War I there is little debate. It was a senseless slaughter, poor boys dying for the greed of the rich, fighting over the imperialist carve-up of what today we call the “Global South”.

Apparently not. British academic Gary Sheffield was given the honour of kicking off a week-long retrospective on World War I, by the usually “progressive” editors of The Guardian.[1] Sheffield – a professor of war studies at the University of Birmingham – tells us that “this war was no accident.” But to make his case, he throws the study of the “Great War” back several generations – returning to the oldest argument in the book – that it was a war by the civilized democracies against expansionist Germany.

Sheffield discusses the “world policy” of the Kaiser of Germany, his Weltpolitik which “was an attempt to gain colonies and expand German power and economic influence.” Well, that is true. Germany was trying to gain colonies. But the “civilized powers” – Britain and France – didn’t have the same imperative. They already had their colonies. Sheffield glosses over this detail.

Sheffield warns us that the Kaiser was “mentally unstable.” Perhaps that is true. But why no mention of the interestingly limited mental capacities of the Czar of Russia – key ally to Britain and France? Or perhaps a long discourse on Rasputin the very interestingly unstable “adivsor” to the Czar’s wife Alexandra. Not a whisper.

The war professor tells us that the German parliament was “largely toothless” – to make the point that this was a war of democracies (England and France) against autocracies. But what teeth did the Russian Duma (parliament) have? About this not a word.

The method is an old one – the use of selective information to reinforce an idée fixe. This was a war of democracies against autocracy. So we will ignore the fact that the biggest army on the side of the democracies was that of the autocratic Russian Czar. This is a war of good against evil, so we will emphasize the instability of the German Kaiser, and stay mute on the capacities of the Russian Czar and one of his principal advisors.

“Britain entered the war because it, too, could not afford to see Germany triumphant.” That is true. It couldn’t bear another imperialist power encroaching on its territory in Africa and Asia. The world was already divided up – Germany was not allowed into the party.

Most outrageously, Sheffield tells us that “the drafters of the Versailles treaty had it broadly right after all” when it stated that “ ‘the aggression of Germany and her allies’ was responsible for the war.” So as well as showing us that the war was necessary, he is rehabilitating a treaty that many analysts see as laying the basis for World War II – a treaty so punitive toward the German people in the war reparations demanded, that it created fuel for the racist nationalism that would lead to the creation of the Nazis.

This is no way to remember the ten million who died in the horrible slaughter of the “Great War” – including 65,000 Canadians. Their deaths should remind us of why we need to build an anti-war movement. Their deaths are dishonoured when used for articles that amount to pro-war apologetics. For a more balanced account, Sheffield and others should study Marc Ferro’s sobering and authoritative The Great War 1914-1918.[2]

© 2008 Paul Kellogg


[1] “First World War,” insert in The Guardian, November 8, 2008
[2] Marc Ferro, The Great War 1914-1918 (Routledge, 2002)

War Free Schools

Here’s a nice thought for public education – let’s put automatic weapons into children’s hands, and let’s show them how to use them. Even better – let’s pay them $600 a week for the training. Sounds a bit wrong? Well, since 2006 it’s been the policy of the Toronto District Public School Board.[1] One other point – the students actually get credit for this, their placement with the military being done through the Army Reserve Cooperative Education Program.

A similar program existed in the 1990s, but was terminated in 2002. In this earlier program, when placed with the military as part of their “experiential” learning, students were not paid, as is the case with every other placement. In 2002, the Canadian Armed Forces terminated the program “since the army reserve in June 2002 determined that first they must pay students and second that they could not afford to pay.”[2]

But in 2005, talks opened up between the School Board and the Army Reserve leading to a revival of the program – this time with the students – who “actually become members of the Canadian Forces Primary Reserve” – being paid a salary equivalent to about $600 per week. In 2005-2006 there were 14 Toronto school children taking part in this program – one just 16 years old, three others just 17 – along with 104 others from “boards such as York Region, Peel, and Toronto Catholic School Boards.”[3]

This is being sold as a way of building character. “The military is great for time-management skills” said Martin Boreczek a corporal in the Reserve now attending York University. “A lot of things need to get done on time, which is something procrastinating university students could learn and apply.” But the real reason has more to do with war than study skills. Boreczek, for instance, was a soldier in Afghanistan from 2004-2005.[4] It is the needs of the war machine – now committed to fighting in that country until 2011 – which is behind the intrusion of war-making into the school system.

In response, Educators for Peace and Justice (EPJ) have launched a “War Free Schools” campaign. A fund-raiser to launch the campaign was held June 19 in the East End of Toronto. Teachers and students from high schools and universities listened to a presentation from Dylan Penner of Operation Objection, who made the case for getting the military out of our classrooms. Playing in the background were images from the War Free Schools Organizing Kit – a Backgrounder and a Handbook available from their web site,

Canada has a reputation as being a peacekeeper, but it is clear that this peacekeeping moment is now over. In 1991, Canada was a full participant in the first Gulf War. Its 1993 intervention in Somalia looked to the Somalis more like occupation than peacekeeping.[5] In 1999 it was one of the principal contributors to NATO’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. And from 2001 to the present, it has been a central component of the war in Afghanistan. This has been accompanied by initiatives from both Liberal and Conservative governments to increase spending on the military. Most recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government announced a plan for a significant expansion of Canada’s military. In May, the National Post gave a “sneak preview” of the plans.

Over the next 20 years, the Tories want to commit Ottawa to spending $30-billion more on the military. Mr. Harper foresees an expansion of our Forces to 100,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen. Troop strength will include 70,000 regular forces, up from 65,000 today, while the reserves will expand from 24,000 to 30,000. Ageing warships will be replaced, and new transport aircraft and armoured vehicles will be purchased. New medium-lift helicopters will be bought immediately to ferry our troops over and around roadside bombs and snipers in Afghanistan.[6]

This was confirmed while the fund-raiser was in progress. On the evening of Thursday June 19, 2008 – “the night before Parliament adjourns for the summer”[7] – a major document appeared on the National Defence web site, announcing a 20 year, $490-billion “Canada First” Defence Strategy to steadily upgrade Canada’s military capacity over a generation.[8]

This is being accompanied by a serious intensification to recruit young people into the Canadian military. In February 2006, then Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hiller, launched “Operation Connection” whose goal was to enlist all the uniformed personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces into the recruitment effort, saying: “I expect every sailor, soldier, airman and airwoman to recognize their role as a potential CF recruiter, effectively spreading the load from the shoulders of recruiting centre personnel to the shoulders of all Regular and Reserve personnel.” The effect would be to enlist 85,000 uniformed personnel as active recruiters to the armed forces.[9]

This pressure to pull young people into the service of Canada’s wars abroad is not going to end anytime soon. Building a movement to get the troops out of Afghanistan, is going to require building a movement to get the military out of our schools. No blood for oil, no youth for the killing fields.

© 2008 Paul Kellogg


[1] “Briefing Note: Cooperative Education and the Canadian Armed Forces,” Toronto District School Board, June 5, 2006
[2] “Briefing Note”
[3] “Briefing Note”
[4] “Military co-op opens door to a career,” ylife: York’s Weekly Newsletter for Students, October 2, 2006
[5] Sherene H. Razack, Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004)
[6] “Bolstering our Forces,” National Post, May 14, 2008
[7] David Pugliese, “Parliament in the dark on major weapons purchase,” Canwest News Services, June 19, 2008
[8] “Canada First Defence Strategy,” National Defense, Canada, June 18, 2008
[9] “Op CONNECTION: Reaching out and touching Canadians,” National Defense, Canada March 9, 2006. For the response of the anti-war movement, see Dylan Penner, ed., War Free Schools: The Rise of the Counter-Recruitment Movement (Toronto: Act for the Earth, 2006)