The Sunshine List

March 26, 2023 at 4:57 pm (Uncategorized)

Sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? The recently published Sunshine list is actually an annual list published by the Ontario government containing the names and salaries of everyone employed by the Ontario government who earns over $100,000. As such, the list includes people like nurses and teachers as well as official government services.

The list was first published in 1996 by Mike Harris’ Progressive Conservative government. In the course of the so-called “Common Sense Revolution,” Harris sought to trim the fat from Ontario’s public sector and to let the public know how bloated the civil service had become.

As with many Conservative actions, it was accomplished with sleight of hand. Many members of the civil services were laid off, but in many cases immediately rehired as contract employees; thus, the government could proclaim it had shrunk the civil service as the payment for these newly contracted employees came from a different funding pool (a friend of mine was let go on a Friday, only to be immediately re-hired and came to work on Monday at his old desk.)

While this sort of public shaming is the stock response of conservatives standing up for the “little guy” it should be noted that the figure of $100, 000 from 1996 has been adjusted for inflation (the Liberal governments which ran Ontario from 2003 to 2018 also refused to adjust for inflation)


  • $60, 000 (1996) = $100, 000 (2023)
  • $100.000 (1996) = $160,000 (2023)

Without adjusting for inflation, eventually everyone who works for the Ontario government will be making $100, 000 and on the list.

It hardly seems a coincidence that the Sunshine list is published just as the Ontario government tabled its latest budget – a budget that despite its boast to have invested a record amount in education has actually trimmed that amount. The seeming increase includes money for daycare which it got…from the Federal government.

More sleight of hand.

Why it is so many fiscal conservatives can’t do math?

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Notes from Below

March 26, 2023 at 4:29 pm (Uncategorized)

When I first came into this field, everyone seemed to be doing notes: Collective Action Notes, Internationalist Notes and Revolutionary Notes (Was that something or an I misremembering?) . I added Red & Black Notes, and later there was Insurgent Notes.

Notes from Below is a UK based project I mentioned earlier this year. It began in 2018, and has published 16 issues based around the theme of workers inquiry (the about us column quotes the old Solidarity group – a big influence on me)

I’ve added a link to my blog role, but you can also go from here

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March 21, 2023 at 8:29 pm (Uncategorized)

A note for the Decompositions web page showed up in my social media feed the other day.

The list of things they are interested in makes this worth a look:

anti-state communism, anarchy, Marxism, ‘historical materialism’, Marxian political economy, ‘ultra-left’ theory, left communism, ‘insurrectionary’ theory, critiques of racial capitalism and colonial-capitalism, ‘radical ecology’/‘radical environmentalism’, social ecology (sans Bookchin, sorry), critiques of ‘civilization’ (a terribly imprecise term of art), ‘green anarchy’ (w/o the ‘primitivism’), animal liberation (=/= veganism), anti-work, pro- and post-Situationist theory


Tragic Theses

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The Heartbreakers – Born to Lose (Seemingly)

March 20, 2023 at 9:55 pm (Uncategorized)

It was the glorious spring of 1975, and Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan had left the New York Dolls during a tour of Florida and South Carolina. The story was that the tensions in the band were exacerbated by Thunders and Nolan’s ongoing quest to score heroin rather than performing.

By a weird coincidence, Richard Hell left Television the same week that Thunders and Nolan left the Dolls, and shortly afterward the trio became the Heartbreakers debuting at CBGBs in May 1975. By July, Walter Lure had been added as second guitarist. Could fame and fortune be far ahead?

Actually, no. Despite early popularity and rave live shows, there was already an issue. Both Thunders and Hell thought it was their band. In the first months of the band, things were amicable; songs were written together and Thunders, Hell, and Lure shared front-man duties; however, in early 1976, Hell apparently demanded he sing the majority of the songs, and Thunders be relegated to a couple of songs. Other versions of the story have it that Hell just did not fit. (To get a sense of the band at this time, you can find some of the demos recorded by the band at this time on the LAMF box set as well as the Yonkers Demos release – this also features some live material with Hell)

But, whatever the true cause, Thunders was supported by Nolan and Lure, and Hell quit and formed his own band Richard Hell and the Voidoids. He was replaced shortly afterwards by Billy Rath.

Later that year, the band was invited to be part of the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy tour, and they moved to England. Although most of the tour dates were eventually cancelled, the Heartbreakers still impressed with their ferocious live shows. On a somewhat less glorious note, they were also credited with introducing heroin to the British punk scene. Nancy Spungen, who was a part of the Heartbreakers entourage followed them to London where she met Sid Vicious, and we all know how that turned out.

The band signed to the ironically named Track Records and began work on their debut album. LAMF. The story has it that the title, an acronym for “Like a Motherfucker” was street gang graffiti in New York. But despite their fearsome live reputation, a great collection of songs, and the fact that Thunders and Nolan already had two albums under their belts with the Dolls, recording did not go well. The band recorded in a number of different studios and recording was frequently interrupted by Thunders and Nolan’s need to score. Producer Speedy Keen was not an engineer and eventually was awarded the lion’s share of the blame for the sound, but each member of the band tried to mix the album. When the first single, the Dee Dee Ramone song “Chinese Rocks,” was released critics noted the sound was…not good. This did not bode well for the album.

When it was released, the reviews were …um…mixed. While the album contained all of the hits, critics complained that the production was poor – Jon Savage referred it is as “mud” and it stuck. Listen to “Born to Lose” and see. A great song, but sludgy. Subsequent versions are cleaner and more powerful as a result.. But whether it was the production or as recent theories have suggested the mastering, things were so bad in the band that Jerry Nolan threatened to quit if the sound was not cleaned up. It wasn’t, and he did.

The band carried on with replacement drummers including Paul Cook and Terry Chimes, but by early 1978, they were done. The band reunited several times to play live shows including the cracking Live at Max’s Kansas City 1979.

Thunders released a stunning debut album So Alone in 1978 containing his most perfect song, “You Can’t Put your arms around a memory.” The album featured contributions from Paul Cook and Steve Jones, Peter Perrett from the Only Ones, Phil Lynott, and Steve Marriott.

Thunders never again hit that high (pun intended), although the covers album Copycats is pretty good. The rest of his career is a testimony to the law of diminishing returns with some good albums often padded out by dubious live material and demos. The Too Much Junkie Business cassette released by ROIR (later on CD with extra material) is a good example. Some good songs, some poorly recorded live stuff and demos which should never have been saved, released seemingly in an effort to make some money to feed Thunders’ habits (I’ll confess too, that despite my complaints I bought a lot of these recordings). The rumour was that people kept coming to Thunders’ live shows knowing that this might be the final one.

I saw Thunders play at the long gone Apocalypse club on College Street in Toronto a few years before his death. It was a sad spectacle. Here was a man of tremendous talent, but one who had surrendered to his appetites. One of the audience members was smoking a joint, and Thunders refused to continue playing until he got a taste.

Of the five Heartbreakers, all except Richard Hell are gone. Thunders died under mysterious circumstances in 1991, and Nolan the following year after a stroke. Rath died in 2014 after a long illness, and Walter Lure died from cancer in 2020. Richard Hell is retired from music and now concentrates on writing. His book, I was a Very Clean Tramp is worth a look.

So that’s it. One studio album available in various mixes, some demos, a couple of live albums, and some dubious post-band recordings. But man, what a debut. What might have been, what might have been.

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A Debate on the Trajectory of Capitalism

March 19, 2023 at 4:38 pm (Uncategorized)

The following exchange was just posted on the Internationalist Perspective website. Last year, Mcl (Controversies) criticized IP’s view of the trajectory of capitalism, and IP have now replied. (There is a link to Mcl’s original article) .

One of the things I admired about IP before I was a member, and which, apart from the shared analysis, led me to join was the commitment both to respectful debate and not to be bound by rigid orthodoxies.

A Debate on the Trajectory of Capitalism

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I am the Law

March 17, 2023 at 11:10 pm (Uncategorized)

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a big fan of comic books, both in the graphic novel version and even some of the Marvel and DC stuff.

Recently picked up a copy of Michael Molcher’s book, I am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted our Future. You might know Judge Dredd from two movie adaptations, a terrible one starring Sylvester Stallone, and a fairly faithful one with Karl Urban, but the series goes back over forty years.

Despite the fact that Judge Dredd first appeared in the second issue of British comic 2000 A.D. in 1977, the story takes place in a future United States. After a nuclear war, the giant US city Megacity -1 (population 800 million) is patrolled and “protected” by the judges, an organization of judge, jury and frequently executioners. And unfortunately, many of the notions in the story are becoming fact in increasingly authoritarian police structures. Molcher examines this and contemporary political movements (Black Lives Matter for one) in the context of the comic and current political realities. Well worth a read.

And if you want to read more, you can get a free download of 2000 A.D. comics, including Judge Dredd by subscribing to their newsletter.

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From Behind Bars…

March 17, 2023 at 8:13 pm (Uncategorized)

In 1920, Eugene Debs ran for President of the United States as the candidate of the Socialist Party of America. He received over 900, 000 votes, the highest amount the SPA ever received. At the time of the election, Debs was in prison for sedition, but he promised that he would pardon himself if he won.

I mention this because I read this morning that another figure is running for president from a prison cell. (I know some of you were thinking, “but Trump isn’t in prison…yet,” but alas, not the Donald)

No, instead Joseph Maldonado AKA Joe Exotic AKA The Tiger King, and currently incarcerated at a federal prison in South Carolina has announced his goal of seeking the Oval Office. Maldonado (I’m sorry, I can’t just call him Exotic, I just can’t) ran for president as an independent in 2016, and for governor of Oklahoma in 2018 on the Libertarian Party ticket (although the party voted to revoke his membership after his arrest). Despite his libertarian status, he apparently hopes to enlist Liz Chaney as his Vice-President.

I assume his present in the debates will be on Zoom.

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Hard Crackers – Hymns and Arias

March 14, 2023 at 1:34 pm (Uncategorized)

I first played rugby when I started secondary school in England in 1975. I haven’t played (or followed) the game since I left high school in 1980. It’s not something I miss.

As a child, I wasn’t a big sports fan, but to the extent I followed and played sports, it was football (soccer). Football was the most democratic of sports to play with friends – all you needed was a ball. But when we got to high school, the three school terms each had their own sports:

  • fall – rugby and cross country
  • winter – football and cross country
  • Spring – cricket and athletics

So in the fall of 1975, we were introduced to rugby. Can’t say I really enjoyed it. I never fully understood the rules (except no forward passes) or the positions. I did play second row for the school team once (we lost), but other than that it was just in P.E.

Rugby, like cricket, seems confined to Britain and its former colonies, though it never really made it to Canada, and I’m OK with that. Still, this piece from Hard Crackers, Hymns and Arias , about rugby in Wales, where the sport is probably more popular than football, is worth a read.

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Red & Black Notes and the Anarchist Library

March 13, 2023 at 9:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Time was once that most of the issues of Red & Black Notes were housed on a Geocities’ site. Well Geocites is long gone, and as far as I know, the holdings are not available anywhere elsewhere (…I know, I know)

Libcom has a Red & Black Notes page, for which I’m grateful, but…

  • There’s no real order to it, and material from the Australian anarchist Red & Black Notes is mixed in as well.
  • The best thing I did, a long interview with Martin Glaberman is missing from there, but included in the Glaberman without attribution. I really should write to libcom about that.

Does that sound petulant? Hmm.

Anyway, just noticed that two articles I wrote and a piece by Henri Simon first published in Red & Black Notes (again Libcom publishes it with a different title and lists it as from another source) are posted at the Anarchist Library . Have a look.

Anyway, for future reference, anyone is free to re-publish anything I’ve written, but credit would be nice. (If anything turns up as a physical copy, I’d love one too)


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UK Grim (II)

March 12, 2023 at 8:53 pm (Uncategorized)

Whenever I see a news clip from the UK about some awful Tory policy, my first thought is usually is another ex-Revolutionary Communist Party member behind this?

The most recent example is Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s recent statements about “illegal” immigration. As far as I know Braverman is not a former RCP type, and in a recent article, a Spiked columnist noted “the various cruel, illiberal and ill-thought-through features of this bill.” (Although, that last part is troubling and much of that article was directed against critics of the bill, so you be the judge.)

The Revolutionary Communist Party began its independent existence in 1978 as the Revolutionary Communist Tendency, a split from the Revolutionary Communist Group, itself expelled from the Socialist Workers Party a few years earlier. A common dis of the group, which seemed to thrive on its contrariness, was “the SWP with hair gel.” For the longest time, it seemed to be yet another Trotskyist sect with a series of publications and fields of interest (oddly enough, the RCP doesn’t seem to have pursued international links – which among the scores of “Internationals” is unusual.). But nothing more.

Then the group launched Living Marxism in 1988 (rebranded as LM in 1992 until it ceased publication in 2000), but within a few years, the group was beginning to present itself as “libertarian” rather than a Marxist organization. Decades later, contributors to the continuing “network” can still wield Marxist terminology as the occasion demands, though only to provide cover for rightist views. By the year 2000, the process seemed to be complete.

Several ex-RCP members ran as Brexit Party candidates. Claire Fox was a Euro MP and is now a peer in the House of Lords (!). Munira Mirza was a close associate of Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London and later Prime Minster. The suggestion that the RCP now existed as a kind of secret network has been rejected by many former members. Brendan O’Neill dismissed the idea as McCarthyite conspiracy.

People change their politics. Sometimes within a general framework (myself for example), sometimes more fundamentally. People often leave radical politics for something more conservative. James Burnham and later Max Shachtman come to mind. Sometimes entire milieus. I’m reminded of Alan Wald’s book The New York Intellectuals as a good example. But for an organization to transform itself from a left-wing Trotskyist group into a very right-wing libertarian organization? Are there other examples? Let’s leave aside cults like the LaRouche organization.

I confess, I’m fascinated in a detached way. I never met the RCP or really paid any attention to them, but the transformation intrigues me. Any thoughts, anyone?

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