Nobody knows a man better than his best friend.
So, for an understanding of the character of the man elected to be the Premier of Manitoba, we turn to a most reliable source, a person who calls Greg Selinger his mentor and his close friend for over 35 years.
Tom Simms is executive director of the Community Education Development Association (CEDA), one of those made-up leftwing groups whose only purpose in the community is to promote the leftwing agenda of the regional leftwing political party. Oh, and it gets its funding from the government and any do-gooder organization, like the United Way, that it can tap into.
Shortly after the NDP took office and Selinger was installed as Manitoba's Finance Minister, Simms gave an extremely unguarded interview to an American fellow traveller. (That's not a euphemism; he says in his preamble he was literally travelling across Canada doing interviews with his fellow community organizers.)
The interview with Simms is online:
Talking with Troublemakers: Interviews with Canadian Community Organizers
Center for Community Change
In Fall of 2000, Dave Beckwith and his family traveled nearly coast to coast in Canada, interviewing community organizers about their work.
Simms, speaking with one of his own, talked freely about his debt to Selinger for teaching him the tactics he's used throughout his career as a community organzier. In doing so, he spilled the beans on a variety of dirty tricks he and the NDP were involved with in Winnipeg.
* He told how the Left seized control of the Assiniboine Credit Union and uses it to fund their projects.
* He told how the Crocus Investment Fund used tax-deductible donations to fund the work of NDP community organizers.
* He told how he forced the Christmas Cheer Board to kowtow to him when they refused to join his anti-corporation agenda and tried, instead, to get the most value for their public donations
* He told how he threatened to smear the United Way with a false claim of racism unless they backed away from supporting the Christmas Cheer Board
* He told how instrumental Greg Selinger was in making the United Way a part of the leftwing backup plan to support social activists in case of a change of government
* He told how the NDP used a professional American radical to disrupt the Manitoba Legislature, and
* He told how the NDP collaborates with social activists in a public charade in which they both agree on a course of action, the activists pretend to pressure the government, and the government pretends to bow to the community's wishes.
Throughout the interview, Simms promoted Greg Selinger as the master and himself as the student. He even proposed arranging an interview with Selinger for the project. Dive straight into this rare and revealing interview with a true Selinger insider:
"When I graduated they hired me and so I’ve really kept in touch over the years with this individual. Actually that would be a great interview if you could ever get it. Greg Selinger, who is now the finance minister in the provincial government of Manitoba, he's the second most powerful person in the province of Manitoba right now. But he's an excellent organizer, and we could if you're interested, I could try and put a call through. He’s got a whole entourage now, but he just got elected like last year and he's really been my mentor over the years, I did my master's degree and there is no community development program at the school, so it took an organizer to really make it work. So I wrote up all these green courses and I basically focused everything on community development and he was my advisor here, too. "
"... So over the years we've kept a pretty close relationship and kind of feed off each other in terms of strategizing and knowledge around community development, community organizing, so that's how I kind of got into it...."
Q. Greg was at CEDA?
A. "Greg was at what ultimately was to become CEDA. We've known each other for 25 years out of that, and I was kind of following in his footsteps, he was the executive director. You see a lot of people come and go, kind of keep your spirit in this organizing. Like when 5 years ago we got half our funding cut, he was right there and we were strategizing together and there's just a life long bond around this thing. Now he's got this big job, but he'll come down here, he was here last month. What an interesting guy, it was this hot afternoon, he's got to wear suits now, but he comes over on his bike from the Leg sweating away on his bike!"
"One of the interesting things I think now, we see how we can try and shape this province...I've always believed and he knows it, too, in terms of trying to achieve change we need the organizers pressuring the politicians, so even though I think this guy is a great guy, I understand that he's got different kinds of strengths and roles now and he needs pressure from the streets in order for us to really achieve certain things. So we've seen with this new government a lot of our community organizers have been hired for government."
"We're actually the driving force in the community to shape government policy because there's a vacuum there, that leadership is missing."
"Do you know the story of, this may not be true but I've been telling it for so long that by now, Franklin D. Roosevelt was forming a new deal. The brain trust came in and they were all men, they came in and laid a big memo on his desk. He would only read the top page of any memo, everybody knew it, and he wanted a big fat case, but you better make a good case on the front page or he'd never read it. He looked at it and he says, well boys, you’ve convinced me. Now go out and put pressure on me. And it's true, the smart politicians understand that, that there's all these other pressures. And they need somebody to balance it. So that's where I have kind of positioned myself..."
"One of the things that I think we were able to do is say, hey, look, there's already resources at the table, right? CEDA with our staffing, and that’s dedicated, and we pay for the operation of the building and stuff. The north end community Development Corporation is housed in this building... and then MCC bought the building and has provided staff support. So there's dollars there. SEED Winnipeg kicks in staffing right now. We were able to get some funding from United Way for some staffing. There's a labour investment fund called the Crocus fund which has seconded a staff person."
Q. So how much hell gets raised? ... One of the things I'm interested in is the United Way, does that tend to damper down or do they have a hands off policy?
A. "Well for years we were the lunatic fringe of United Way. They didn't want to know what we were doing and I didn't want them to know, you know! You know, they kind of just left us alone and you know, they would call you in and--- not you, but the Board. I guess we’ve got so much credibility and we're rooted in the community like we just blow them off and say, this and this, oh, well, okay!"
Q. And that actually happened, you had a controversy and a campaign and they called you in and told you to...what was it?
A. "Well, we wanted to challenge this charity approach. And so, a big thing in this town around Christmas is the corporate community gets together, and the media, and they get Christmas hampers going, eh."
"And, you know, people need those immediate needs met, but it just kind of reinforces the residual welfare state. I mean, the corporate types don't look at the taxes they're avoiding or the programs that they oppose and all that. The United Way can be corporate proud."
" So we organized this counter campaign called the Christmas Local Investment Towards Employment campaign, so the acronym was LITE, Christmas LITE campaign... What we did, what we talked about is that a million dollars is raised in this town, but all the purchases are made at all these big corporate Wal-marts and all this kind of stuff but really there's a million dollars being raised in the name of poor people but it's all these corporate entities that are getting the perks, all the toys and all this kind of stuff. So in terms of bringing that into our local economic development strategy we started with one initiative that was to expand an aboriginal worker co-op, a grocery store. Of course it's all local people. It kind of started out when Neechi approached the Christmas Cheer board and said look, we'd like you to purchase your goods from our store. It's a two for one deal, you get the hampers out to the people and you're supporting local jobs."
"And the cheer board said, naw, we ain't going to do it, your prices are too high! Well I mean, these guys are dealing with big corporate wholesalers and all this kind of stuff to get the best deal. So they came back and we were pissed off, eh, so we said well screw it, we'll organize a counter campaign and we organized this Christmas LITE campaign."
" We said look, all the money you donate to the Christmas LITE campaign will be used to purchase food and goods at Neechi foods. The Christmas Cheer Board hated us. Actually it was a good war, and we, in turn, will go donate these goods to the Christmas cheer board, because we don't want to..."
Beckwith: Bring it all down!
"We don't want to distribute any hampers, eh?"
"You could just feel the tension; we had the media there and all that. There was actually an interesting story where a fairly progressive reporter from a religious paper here interviewed the head of the cheer board who just was saying that we were scam artists and, you know, how dare we, and we're not going to buy, you know, from this loser. Tough bananas was what the guy said!"
"And so this woman publicly said that, verbatim. You could see that they so betrayed themselves you know, Christian types, and this guy looks like the real asshole in this article, eh? She ended off the article saying thank goodness these people with Christmas Lite aren't going to back down and that they're going to move forward and tough bananas to the Cheer Board, eh?"
" So United Way sees all this get played out in the newspaper and so they haul me in. They say, they lay down the basics. What is this? What's going on here, and I just said, well you know, the co-chair… We knew this was going to happen so we got sort of high profile people to legitimize the thing along with community people. I says you know, the co-chair of the Christmas Lite campaign is with the United Church...So there's this aboriginal person who was the highest-ranking officer of the United Church; he had just sort of finished the gig, and he lived in Winnipeg so we got him to co-chair the thing and then we had another aboriginal woman co-chairing. So we said you know, laying out who's involved with it and then talking about this charity model you know, you were hitting them where they were not able to defend it."
"... I said, that's what's happening, if you don't like it, tough! You know, it seems like the community is responding to this thing and they backed off."
"One of the things that we're working with the government on, that Selinger understands quite well is, when the Tories were in power they were slashing programs and slashing advocacy groups like crazy, and the United Way was there. Really, there is more voice still around in United Way for funding this thing. So we're saying in terms of simple long term strategies, we think the Winnipeg United Way is one institution to look at for the longer term sustainability thing, so that when the government swings there is a resource base there."
"You know I remember we brought up Shel Trapp from Chicago, and he said how can you organize when you're getting funds from United Way, but here it works. I know some images of the United Way is that it's corporate you know, but I think Selinger played a good role of developing some really good credibility. And you know what, action speaks louder than words and when they see all this stuff happening, how can they turn their face."
"We organized this coalition called Choices; A Coalition for Social Justice. We organized the coalition in 1991. The right wing Tory government got elected in 1990 and basically we were organizing sort of a counter force to the government, it was very political..."
"I remember one of the times around the labor bill where we organized the community filibuster. This guy from the States, he was great, he was the lead organizer on it. They had a provision in the bill where that if people were lined up to present they had to keep the committee open and there was no provision for breaks so they literally had to run the thing round the clock. We would be lining up people like all night, people there in sleeping bags. The other thing that we found out was that they didn't have any provisions for time limits on the presentations so we would have guys go on for 4 hours and these guys would be just listening to this thing."
Beckwith: And that's how you survived the Tory government.
"Well we got some people who are now in government who are from our coalition."
" You want to talk about the personal... we took over the largest credit union in Winnipeg. We set up this group called the Draining of the Assiniboine. There's a nine-person board and they got elected every 2 years and over a two-year period we took over the entire board. I sit on the board right now still and that was very instrumental in getting loans out for SEED Winnipeg. We started about the same time we started Choices in 92 I think. I think there is an example of a social action strategy to help support the building of a community economic development program."
Q. I'm interested in what your experience has been with other kinds of organizing strategies, other kinds of organizing approaches or networks or training centers?
A. I think in terms of organizing strategy, you know, I was, I still am, I love the Alinsky kind of style of organizing. Like I say, I like a good fight and I like raising hell, but---and Selinger and I would talk a lot about that---it's like Alinsky would come into a community and leave... like you might get some really good action going around some issues but where are you 10 years after once he goes? And some of the stuff we need to do is organizing long term."
"I mean one of the things that really helped me move in my organizing skills was a book that Lee Staples put together with ACORN called Roots to Power."
The once-mighty community activist group ACORN disbanded in 2010 after employees got caught on video advising conservative community activists posing as a prostitute and her pimp on how to avoid paying taxes. Funding, which had continued despite years of convictions and allegations of ACORN voter registration frauds, dried up, forcing them out of business. In 2008 alone, election officials in a single state rejected 400,000 bogus voter registrations collected by an ACORN registration drive.
Alinsky is Saul Alinsky, whose book Rules for Radicals is the Holy Bible for "community organizers." Anyone who watched the 2011 provincial election and saw how Tory leader Hugh McFadyen was eviscerated need only turn to one of Alinsky's basic principles to understand how Selinger applied what he learned.
"The thirteenth rule: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that the organizer should always regard as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and “frozen.” By this I mean that in a complex, interrelated, urban society, it becomes increasingly difficult to single out who is to blame for any particular evil."
When choosing a target, he said, "it must be a personification, not something general and abstract...It is not possible to develop the necessary hostility against say, City Hall, which after all is a concrete, physical, inanimate structure or against a corporation which has no soul or identity..."
The leader of the CIO labour organization in the 1930's never attacked General Motors, but always its president, wrote Alinsky.
Even when you could find the NDP strategy in a 40-year-old book, and posted on the Internet, the useless Conservative war room couldn't figure out what was happening to them. And people still wonder why they lost....