The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party “Thinkers Conference”

The Way I See It.

Don Currie, Chair Canadians for Peace and Socialism

March 29, 2010

The Liberal Party Thinkers Conference, Montreal March 27, 28th 2010, was convened on the false premise that capitalism in Canada between today and 2017, the 150 Anniversary of Confederation, is still capable of progressive development.

Nothing could be more remote from the truth.

The G7 imperialist states, within which Canada is tightly enmeshed, will continue to lurch from one major crisis to another dragging the Canadian people into more chaos in the years ahead.   Integration of these leading capitalist states neither assures strength nor unity.  The more rigid the interdependence of the G7 becomes, the less these states are able to avoid being impacted by the collapse or crisis of one or another of their number.  That would seem to be axiomatic to everyone except the Liberal and Conservative Parties, both of which promote an even tighter integration of Canada in the G7.

The next seven years will be years of recurring capitalist crisis for all the working people of Canada including those who depend on the agriculture sector.  Nothing that is being planned for discussion at the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings in Toronto June 25 to 27th 2010 can prevent new cycles of capitalist crisis - including the outbreak of new interventionist wars.

Global capitalist “recovery” and economic expansion in the future can only be at the expense of the economic needs of masses of working people.  The fact that a majority of Canadians have not yet arrived at that conclusion does not in the least alter the fact that it is happening.

Not all are unaware of the gravity of the current crisis unfolding in the global system of capitalism.  The aware democratic left is already planning counter-events to expose the reactionary purpose of the G8/G20 event in June.

The G8/G20 meetings cannot achieve unity of purpose among the capitalist system of states.  The G8 led by the US will attempt to impose self serving policies that the less developed capitalist states will resist.  Add to this the growing competition among the capitalist states to penetrate the China market, even as they attack its socialist system, and it becomes apparent that what lies ahead is an intensification of inter-capitalist competition, rivalry and disunity.

Intensification of labour, lengthening the working day, assaults on wages and deliberate state policies to expel more and more workers from the social safety net, increasing double exploitation of women, consigning youth to the status of a well educated partially employed reserve army, shifting the tax burdens from corporate wealth to wage earners and permanent mass unemployment is the new normal in the Canadian work place in the years ahead.

It is more apparent than ever, that in the imperialist era, capital derived from the exploitation of workers in developed countries such as Canada, has no loyalty or “homeland” and leaves the country and enters global markets with the sole purpose of seeking maximum profit.  Capital is blind to the damage it inflicts on the home market of the countries it leaves or assaults.  Undercapitalized industrial and manufacturing sectors are of no concern to investors.  Capital buys and sells whole economic sectors, ruining the livelihood of millions of workers without morals or remorse.

It is the unrestricted lawless flow of capital, not low productivity that is the root cause of declining GDP and the destruction of whole sectors of the Canadian economy.  How is productivity supposed to be improved when workers do not know from one year to the next if the industry in which they are employed may even exist?  Demands by the boss for higher productivity is double speak for voluntary acceptance of lower wages, speed up and longer working hours.  That is something organized labour must address this coming May Day and declare there can be no higher productivity in a shrinking economy nor any voluntary wage freezes or roll backs. 

The Liberal Party Thinkers Conference evaded serious discussion of the above reality.

The Ignatieff Liberals confront a harsh judgment of history.  They flounder because on all issues of importance they have failed the working people of Canada.  The best the latest crop of Liberals can do is to look back wistfully for inspiration to the days of Prime Ministers Louis St. Laurent, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and C.D Howe, Minister of Defense Production during the cold war.  They were among the principal Liberal architects of cold-war integration of Canada with US imperialism.  That fateful Liberal Party policy ushered in boom times for Canadian finance capital as it profited out of US wars and militarism but came at a high price to Canadian workers.  US Canadian cold war integration came with a loss of Canadian independence and gross distortions in the Canadian economy and its dependence on raw material extraction as its prime activity. 

Only the Communists, led by Tim Buck, warned at the time against the St. Laurent, Howe, and Pearson plan to integrate Canada with US imperialism’s quest for world domination.  Buck authored a book entitled “Canada the Communist Viewpoint” arguing convincingly for an independent course for Canada in international affairs in the post-war era based on non-belligerent political and economic policies towards the Soviet Union and the emerging European system of socialist states and socialist China.

The Communists in 1947 called for independent economic development, opposing the sell-out of Canadian raw material resources to fuel the US war economy.  Buck asserted that if Canada would trade with the newly emerging socialist system of states, it could bring about an all-sided development of the Canadian economy, expand its basic industry and manufacturing sectors, produce enough agricultural products to feed Canada and export surpluses to a starving post-war Europe and Asia while at the same time lessening international tensions and promote post-war peace.

The Liberals and the Conservatives supported by the CCF, the forerunner of the NDP, ignored the Communist standpoint and gave full support to Prime Minister Pearson’s proposals for NATO.  NATO was founded as an aggressive military alliance of western powers led by the USA and directed against the Soviet Union.  Part of that plan was to rearm Germany in violation of the post-war agreements reached with the Soviet Union and the allies at Yalta and Potsdam.  Several Hitler Generals were promoted to leading posts in NATO.  In violation of Allied agreements to disarm Germany, the German Wehrmacht was kept intact and integrated into the NATO forces.

NATO was an arrogant betrayal of all those who had died to defeat Hitler and all of the nations of the world that supported the UN Charter and the proposals it contained for post-war collective security.

Instead of a UN brokered post-war peace, an Anglo-US cold-war edict was proclaimed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Fulton Missouri in 1946 that dashed all of the hopes of  humankind for a post-war world of peace.  The anti-Soviet cold war was launched.

The cold war was launched by Churchill and Truman with the express purpose of preparing the masses of the capitalist states to accept a complete about face.  For five years the people of the Socialist Soviet Union and the capitalist USA and Britain and Canada had acted together in unity and friendship and at great sacrifice, to defeat Hitler Germany.  Anti-fascist unity had struck deep roots.  How could the masses of the west be persuaded to go to war again, this time against an ally in the struggle to defeat Nazism?

The imperialist planners of a war against the Soviet Union required two things to persuade the hundreds of millions of anti-fascist minded people in capitalist countries to overnight become anti-communist.  The first was a weapon of mass destruction so terrible that it would intimidate into silence dissenters by the horror of its power.  The second was to create a menace greater than Hitler that threatened all of “western society “its values”– defined as religious and individual freedom and democracy.  

Without notifying its Soviet ally which was engaging the Kwantung Japanese Army and driving it out of Manchuria and Korea thus ensuring the defeat of Japan, President Truman of the USA authorized the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6th 1945 and on Nagasaki August 9th 1945 and ushered in the nuclear arms era, forcing the Soviet Union to respond with development of its own nuclear deterrent.

The human and economic losses that occurred during the cold war have not been calculated.  Such an estimate would have to include the gargantuan costs of the nuclear arms race, such forgotten post-war calamities as famine in India in which millions perished, the Korean and Viet Nam wars where additional millions died.  Such an estimate would have to include the millions of victims of a steady stream of US military interventions in Asia and South America and the brutal colonial wars conducted in Africa by France, Belgium, Portugal, Apartheid South Africa and Great Britain against the independence movements of the African people struggling to achieve freedom.

The Liberal “thinkers” were incapable of critically reviewing their own cold war legacy and break with its fundamental premise - self-anointed US imperialist supremacy in the 21st Century.  The Liberal thinkers carefully stepped around Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s legacy, the last gasp of ‘liberalism” and the false hopes he inspired, in millions of Canadians, that a reformed capitalism in the 20th century was still possible.  Trudeau was able to promote “the Just Society” not because of his brilliance but because of the time in which he held power.

Trudeau was that rare breed of enlightened capitalist thinker that included West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme and US President John Kennedy, all of whom concluded that for capitalism to survive into the 21st century it would have to consider reforms, in the first place, a non-belligerent relationship with the Soviet Union.  Palme and Kennedy were assassinated.

Trudeau passively promoted détente with the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union demanded a formal recognition of post-WW2 boundaries, (the Helsinki Agreement) and a scaling back of strategic nuclear weapons as its centerpiece (START and NPT).  Trudeau promoted a practical defacto relationship with Socialist Cuba.  While his foreign policies were a departure from rigid cold war doctrines, his domestic policies did not challenge the supremacy of finance capital over the commanding heights of the economy and the state.  Trudeau was the architect of the discredited wage and price controls policies. Trudeau’s National Energy Policy (NEP) that aroused such indignation among Alberta and US oil investors was a good idea lacking the political will to carry it into effect.

What is the new reality 40 years later?

The Liberals have become a spent political force in Canadian bourgeois politics. That is the logical conclusion of their retreat from the fundamental task of the capitalist state; the protection and development of the home market, the expansion of the productive capacity of basic industry and manufacturing, the development of self sufficiency in food, energy, and transportation.  All are obligatory to overcome regional disparities and underdevelopment. The Liberals have allowed the gradual disintegration of east-west development of the country and are now indistinguishable from the neo-con Harper Conservatives on any of the key questions of national vision.

The essence of the Liberal failure is the lack of courage and imagination to critically assess their historical legacy.  The Liberals have failed to place the interests of Canada and its people before the interests of US imperialism and a dwindling circle of wealth and privilege that prosper from that relationship.

Not a single presenter at the Liberal “thinkers” event had the courage to confront the Liberal Party’s past.  The only one to come close was Robert Fowler Canadian Diplomat who hammered the Liberals for a failed foreign policy.  While the remarks of diplomat Fowler were widely reported in the media, the remarks of Derek Burney, one the main architects of NAFTA and former advisor to Brian Mulroney were not.  Burney made his fortune as a corporate insider in the Conservative Party   and is still promoting Mulroney’s discredited legacy.

Burney began his remarks by lauding Prime Minister St. Laurent’s post-war relationship with the US and proposed a revised form of that basic policy today declaring Canada’s relationship with the US to be “all pervasive“.

Burney views the trading relationship with the USA as primary citing a $2 billion per day trade without defining its current content or discussing its evolution, leading one to conclude that he considers it is both static and permanent.  Nothing could be further from the truth as manufacturing exports dwindle and raw material, primarily energy exports, increase.  Burney evaded the task of dissecting the content of the $2 billion per day trade.  Much of it is the back and forth flows of investment capital that does much to prop up the stock market but nothing for the average wage earner.

Burney asserts that the US Canadian trade relationship transcends foreign policy and urged the Liberals to rise above a “partisan stance” on foreign policy asserting that an independent foreign policy for Canada was not possible.

Burney said the guiding principles for Canadian US relations was a single coherent voice that took into account US “sensitivity” when establishing relations with China, India and Brazil.  Burney asserted that US concerns about its security and Canada’s immigration policy were valid.  He called for following the US lead to streamline customs, borders, standards and regulations, harmonization of immigration policy, and a common external tariff regime and collaboration in the war on drugs.

Burney said that the primary relationship in North America was bi-national, Canada and the USA and not tri-national that implied excluding Mexico.

Burney advocated an integrated Air Defense Command extending the land and sea “perimeter concept” to the Arctic.  He promoted an integrated transportation, environment and defense strategy with the USA.  He advocated a merger of what he called the growing “cybernation” of space, double speak for collaboration on controlling the free flow of information through the internet.

Burney saw no independent stance for Canada on environmental or energy issues, considering the two “to be joined at the hip” and advocated promoting a harmonized US Canadian approach to carbon tax.

On energy, Burney promoted what he termed an “ideal” plan of bulk power grids for electricity and energy exports. He ended with a plea for the Liberals to consider forgoing the all sided-development of the Canadian economy for the promotion of what he “Canadian global” economic champions.  Taking into account his emphasis on energy, that would have to be the main, “champion”.

Burney without openly saying so invited a merger of right-wing Liberals and the Harper Conservatives into a party that would unite all of the power elites, the commanding heights of finance capital in a cosmopolitan, amoral and self-serving alliance with their US finance capitalist counterparts.

The Liberal Thinkers Conference could do no better than propose a warmed over version of a historically failed era.  They have nothing to offer Canadians except more of the same.

The Liberal Thinkers Conference was a flop and more evidence that the historical era of progressive capitalist development is over.  Progressive capitalism ended with the advent of imperialism about 100 years ago.  Imperialism is the last stage of capitalism, an entire epoch of recurring capitalist economic crisis, imperialist wars and people’s democratic and socialist revolution.  The global system of imperialism is the root cause of environmental crises, the threat of nuclear war and international tensions due to rogue actions of NATO.

The NATO alliance today, of which Canada is now a key player, is an aggressive alliance in search of a new enemy.  To justify its enormous military expenditures levied on the treasuries of the 27 states that comprise its member states, requires a political face lift to mask NATO’s aggressive purpose as imperialism’s international gendarme.

Canadians are compelled to consider an entirely new global relationship for our country.  There is a new world evolving.  New progressive and peaceful political and trading relationships based on mutual respect and benefit is possible.  Opportunities exist with the BRIC states, trading without political preconditions with non-aligned and socialist states that are not captive to US imperialism are promising.  Such a vision is unthinkable for the Liberals because within that discussion is posed the question of the viability of capitalism itself and the fact that it has no future.

Instead of a restructured coalition of bourgeois forces subservient to monopoly capital as Derek Burney preaches the progressive left must move more vigorously to engage all Canadians in a discussion about an entirely new coalition, an anti-monopoly coalition of progressive and patriotic forces led by the working class.

What is urgently needed is a working class thinker’s conference to discuss that vision of Canada.  It is long overdue.