Thursday, August 30, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Christo Aivalis discusses the future of organized labour and the need for workplace democracy in an era of increased automation:
New organizing models and shorter workdays are both viable solutions to address the struggles of encroaching automation, but neither strike to the heart of the matter that AI exposes. In our current capitalist system, the politics of automation are inherently adversarial, because while productivity increases and cost savings are consistently sought by owners, managers, and shareholders, the workers themselves don’t want to be displaced from the job that provides them their livelihood. Historically, many workers and socialists have acknowledged the immense social value automative processes have had in eliminating the most tedious and dangerous of jobs, meaning that we can shift our human resources in more productive and fulfilling directions. But automation driven primarily by profit motives serves to further concentrate power and wealth, making our society more unequal, and our democracy more imperilled. Even things like the basic income guarantee may fail to solve this issue, because putting the masses of people on mere subsistence incomes while an increasingly small number of owners and technical workers reap riches is more likely to lead to Elysium than to a just society.

So the rise of AI may well provide the conditions for a reinvigorated challenge to capitalism. Unions must not only bargain for better wages and conditions, but must push for mechanisms that give workers greater say in the direction of their workplaces, and a greater share of the value derived from actions which have traditionally served to unemploy them. But beyond bargaining, labour must align with politicians seeking to democratize workplaces and the wider economy by increasing the proportion of our economy owned not by capitalists, but by cooperatives and the public. If we are indeed at the precipice of a new industrial era, the only way to ensure 90 per cent or more of the population isn’t permanently marginalized from economic life is to demand that our democratic levers extend into the operation of industry. Put another way: in the automated age, democracy will need socialism.
- Wojciech Keblowski makes the case to abolish fares for transit to maximize the public good it can achieve. And Ricardo Tranjan discusses the crucial role of public service employment as a matter of both economic and social development.

- Maude Barlow and Sujata Dey offer a reminder that Canada can do just fine without NAFTA. Jerry Dias implores the Trudeau government to be willing to walk away from NAFTA negotiations if the Trump administration is being as reckless and heavy-handed as it appears. And Brent Patterson wonders whether an even worse NAFTA might serve as the impetus for a more fundamental challenge to elite-driven capitalism.

- Carlyn Zwarenstein writes about the value of harm reduction as a response to addictions issues. And Liam Britten reports that in keeping with its stellar early returns in managing British Columbia's public resources, John Horgan's government is suing opioid manufacturers for their harm maximization model of drug distribution.

- Finally, Bashir Mohamed highlights why birthright citizenship - and the associated recognition that no person should be treated as illegal or without status - is important for all Canadians.

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