The Way I See It

The Way I See It!

The Harper-Flaherty March 4th 2010 Federal Budget

Capitalism Still in Crisis – Again!

Time to Consider Socialism!

Don Currie, Chair Canadians for Peace and Socialism
March 8, 2010 (Updated March 10)

The March 4th 2010 Harper – Flaherty Conservative Federal Budget is based on a consensus among all of the Parliamentary political parties including the NDP that regardless of how deep and ruinous the economic crisis of the capitalist system becomes for the majority of Canadians who rely on wages and salaries to live, no alternative to the private profit system will be discussed.

According to this unspoken consensus, the Harper-Flaherty vision of Canada becoming a bigger player within the global capitalist system, dominated by the G7, in which US imperialism armed to the teeth plays the dominant role, will not be seriously challenged by the Liberals, the NDP or the Bloc.  While vigorously and effectively criticizing the obvious pro-corporate bias of the Conservative budget the leaders of the opposition parties and the organized labor movement express no fundamental disagreement with Prime Minister Harper’s boundless faith in the supremacy of the private profit system.

Parliamentary democracy permits all MP’s to mount clever criticisms of the Harper minority right wing economic policies and offer alternatives to its big business purpose, so long as those criticisms and alternatives do not say the obvious; that capitalism in the 21st Century is failing the people of Canada in every respect and must be changed. That dominant and obvious truth is never discussed in Parliament. If it were, the whole economic and political system would be shaken to its foundations. All political parties would then be compelled to acknowledge the dominance and control of finance capital over the affairs of state and do something to change it. That is something that none of the Parliamentary opposition parties have the stomach to do. All of the opposition parties aspire to manage the capitalist state not change it.

What the Parliamentary opposition parties are not prepared to do is precisely what the rank and file of the organized labor movement and the left must do; begin the process of discussing with the Canadian people an historical alternative to crisis ridden capitalism. The only alternative to capitalism in the era of global imperialism is socialism.

Until the alternative of socialism becomes the dominant matter of discussion among workers, their families and their organizations, the full latent power of a working class fight back against corporate power cannot unfold. The political party that masters that task is the party that will ultimately rise to the leadership of the whole country.

The struggle for full employment, relief from crushing family debt burdens, assured and affordable housing for all, assured free health and education for all, assured retirement income for all, assured civil, human and economic rights for all, assured access to the finest that life has to offer in art and culture for all, begins with a struggle to wrest more for the working people from the capitalist system but is realized in the final analysis with its overthrow.  

The Canadian people have been thrown a challenge by domestic and foreign finance capital and the political parties they control, the Liberals and the Conservatives. This cabal of private capital dares the Canadian people to oppose the violation of their sovereignty over all of the wealth, natural resources and riches of the country.

That challenge must be taken up by the working class. Which power will prevail over the destiny of Canada in the 21st Century finance capital or the people? That is the essence of the matter that confronts our country, a truth that cannot be evaded.

The Canadian people have been thrown a challenge by domestic and foreign finance capital and the political parties they control, the Liberals and the Conservatives. This cabal of private capital dares the Canadian people to oppose the violation of their sovereignty over all of the wealth, natural resources and riches of the country. The Harper Government has presented a budget that has thrown open the doors to foreign and domestic investors. “Come on in – everything is for sale.”

The government is poised to conduct a massive self off of public assets to private capital. At the centre of Conservative policy is transform the entire transportation system to facilitate the rapid export to US and other foreign markets, irreplaceable energy resources belonging to the Canadian people and before the long term needs of Canadian industry, agriculture, manufacturing and fast growing cities have been guaranteed affordable low cost energy.

The Harper vision for Canada must be challenged. It is a betrayal of Canada and its people. That challenge must be taken up by the working class. Which power will prevail over the destiny of Canada in the 21st Century finance capital or the people? That is the essence of the matter that confronts our country, a truth that cannot be evaded.

Where to start? The labor movement has said it will not be the victim of capitalism in crisis. That is a defiant response to Finance Minister Flaherty who never tires of asserting that the current global economic crisis was unforeseen and unpredictable. How could we have known?

Such an assertion can be dismissed as a flaw in Mr. Flaherty’s character that he is deaf to any viewpoint he disagrees with. The problem runs much deeper than the finance minister’s boundless faith in himself.  According to his simplistic elfin cheeriness, a major cyclical economic crisis of the global system of capitalism is simply the “price of doing business” and the working class will just have to put up with it until Mr. Flaherty fixes the problem.

Mr. Flaherty is willfully lying to the Canadian people on behalf of the class of wealth and privilege he serves. Ample warnings were given to him and his government that the mortgage bubble in the USA was about to spread chaos in the global financial system of capitalism and he and his government did nothing. He did nothing, nor did the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney until the crisis was upon us. After the crisis unfolded , Flaherty and Carney moved swiftly to move massive amounts of public money from the federal treasury and placed it the disposal of the banks. The Governor and the Finance Minister acted quickly coming out of the G20 meeting in December 2008 to assure the investment community that in spite of their profligate ways, they would not be penalized for reaping massive profits even as the capitalist global economy went into free fall. Since that time the quarterly reports of all the major banks report record profits. The current federal budget is a continuation of that deliberate bias.

The budget candidly admits that a complete revival of the Canadian economy is dependent on a rebound of the global capitalist system and its primary economy, the USA. While boasting that Canada’s economy has come through the crisis better that any other country of the G7, the budget provides graphs showing all of the G7 states, in particular the USA are wallowing in huge budget deficits and declining GDP aggravated by record high military budgets to conduct the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and prepare more interventions.

Even if it were true that the Canadian financial system has weathered the storm better than its G7 rivals, to pin all of Canada’s economic future on a shaky global revival led by the USA is a gamble not even Flaherty is prepared to bet on.

The budget quotes data showing that the biggest engine of global economic growth is not one or even all of the G7 capitalist countries, rather it is a socialist state, the People’s Republic of China that is currently experiencing 8% to 9% annual growth in GDP and that every economy in the world is looking to for trade opportunities.

The budget has been dissected and diced, analyzed and good alternatives advanced by the best critics of capitalism. Taken together these analysts have exposed the budget for what it is, a holding operation by the Conservative brain trust hoping to reap the political benefits of a dubious global revival and poised with even a more draconian budget if the global economy tanks, as it may very well do before the next federal election.

The federal budget is the work of a small group of well connected private sector advisors acting for finance capital. The 17 million Canadians who work for wages and salaries and their labor organizations representing close to 30% of all employed Canadians were left out of these deliberations.

Finance Minister Flaherty is incapable of acting without first consulting this hidden hand of corporate power that ultimately determines all of the major economic and political decisions of Government that affect the day to day lives of 33 million Canadians. Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Flaherty are so confident of the approval of the top echelons of finance capital that their fondest boast is that everything they do has their approval.  In carrying forward the interests of big capital the Conservative Government deliberately and willfully sets itself against the majority of Canadians that reject the principle of elevating the interests of finance capital above the interests of the country as a whole.

The contempt expressed by Prime Minister Harper for Parliament and the majority will of the Canadian people is not some cunning maneuvering of a bloodless faithful servant of power and privilege, it is much worse than that. Prime Minister Harper has no other vision for Canada except as a ruthless competitor for imperialist aggrandizement in the dying system of global capitalism.

The budget underlines once more, that Canada has no future as an imperialist state, competing ruthlessly for a bigger piece of a crisis ridden war driven global system of capitalism. Canada’s future lies in breaking out of this shrinking imperialist pie.

That is why the Liberals meekly folded when the prospect of forming a coalition government with the NDP and the Bloc arose last a year.  The Liberal brain trust backed away in panic and fear, realizing that in a coalition with the NDP and the Bloc, both of which have broad labor support and a semblance of peace and anti-monopoly policy in the their programs, the Liberals would be compelled to publicly confront corporate power, the very power with which they seek an accommodation. 

The objective of the Liberals is to replace the Conservatives as a more astute, less obvious, more facile, manager of the affairs of the capitalist economic system.  The Liberals confront the problem that their particular brand of capitalist rule is now out of fashion with the top echelons of corporate power, the banks, the military elite and the energy giants. In a period of economic depression, high finance demands a harsher hand, and Prime Minister Harper is prepared to offer it, hence his preparedness to violate bourgeois democratic and Parliamentary norms and abandon the unemployed.  

The Liberals and the other opposition parties have a serious problem. The minority right-wing Harper Conservative Government has become adept at incorporating the rhetoric of liberal and social democratic criticism into their policies, while retaining the three extreme right wing pillars of Conservative policy. Those pillars are: 1. complete unfettered license for finance capital to use the power of the state to advance its profit interests; 2. sell out to the highest bidder of Canada’s vast combined energy resources as the main driver of the economy; 3. historically high military budgets and aggressive militarism within NATO.  The budget is replete with measures that strengthen those fundamental economic interests.

The Conservatives utilize the vast power of the state with cunning and vigor to promote these three fundamentals of their policy. Prime Minister Harper and his advisors have been successful in wrapping their reactionary policies in shameless and aggressive patriotism, borrowed from the USA. Accompanying this repellant brand of chauvinism is a steady and relentless chipping away of all bourgeois democratic and Parliamentary norms.  

Prime Minister Harper uses the rhetoric of Quebec sovereignty and independence to win votes in the camp of the defeated Action Democratique and the remnants of the old Union Nationale. Some of the supporters of these movements have descended to extreme chauvinist and racist positions on immigrant and language rights and see in the Conservatives a federal party closest to their extremist views.

The Harper Conservative Party is the big tent party of the extreme right in Canada drawing support from all social and class interests that identify first with corporate power and blatant self interest.

All of the opposition parties, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc demur from an open confrontation with finance capital, because they fear above all else, the popular response such a stance would engender among the people.  If the NDP and the Bloc openly confronted finance capitalist domination over the state they would be compelled to consider an economic program of bringing monopoly under public control starting with imposing the power of the state over the banks, a consistent stance against militarization of the economy, and to bring the nation’s energy resources under public ownership and control.

Any Federal Budget is above all else an accounting by the government in power to the investor classes and a small circle of wealth and privilege as to how they intend to manage their economic and political interests going forward. The initial response of all of the big business think tanks, the banks, and the associations of the big and small business interests are singing the praises of the Harper-Flaherty Budget, because it provides generous support to their narrow profit interests.

The hesitancy of all of the opposition parties to unite and defeat the Conservative government is not in the interests of the country. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s assertion that Canadians are opposed to an election is unconvincing. There is popular majority opposition to the Harper Government. The majority of Canadians are opposed to Conservative policies. Canadians are the victims of Conservative power. They want and end to Conservative rule and a government in power that will challenge the power of finance capital over the economic and political life of the country.

The sooner the Harper Government is brought down the better. Then the people of Canada can move to a better alternative on the path to socialism, the ultimate solution for Canada and its people.