The Opening of Parliament on Sep

The Opening of Parliament on September 19th 2011

Yes to Peace and Jobs ‚Äď No to NATO War, Energy Sell-Out and IMF Austerity

September 2nd 2011

Don Currie, Chair Canadians for Peace and Socialism


Elections are Important!

Class struggle politics are decisive! 

On September 19th the 1st Session of the 41st Parliament will formally begin.  The opening of Parliament precedes two important provincial elections in Manitoba on October 4th and Ontario on October 6th.  These three events will momentarily shift the struggle of workers and farmers back to the legislative arena.  Organized labour and farmers cannot afford to be indifferent as to which parties run government.  If the grip of corporate power over government can be weakened that outcome should be supported since it will strengthen the cause of workers and farmers and their ongoing struggle for full employment and stable markets and farm income. 

That is why it is important to agree on what is fundamental to the corporate agenda and how to defeat it.  To defeat corporate power labour-farmer unity must be organized around its’ own political and economic program and fought for by united independent political action.  United mass political action is the path to real political power for workers who must sell their labour power to live and farmers who work the land and must have stable markets and adequate returns to continue farming.

Three Fundamentals of Prime Minister Harper’s Right-wing Conservative Parliamentary Agenda and the Role of the NDP, Liberal, Bloc and Green Opposition

The Prime Minister Harper- Finance Minister Flaherty legislative agenda is based on three corporate profit fundamentals: protection of Canadian bank profits[1],[2],[3] increased military spending  [4],[5],[6] and placing reliance on resources, mainly energy exports to keep the economy afloat.[7]  Reliance on these profit fundamentals are the root cause of government deficits, class-based taxation, cut backs and privatization, NAFTA market dependency, costly NATO wars and the loss of energy and food self sufficiency for Canadians.

Sufficiency and Security are Not the Same Thing

The right wing conservative Stephen Harper government promotes NAFTA market dependency to protect the dominance of monopoly profiteering in energy and food production all over North America.  Government propagandists deliberately obscure the difference between energy and food security and energy and food self-sufficiency.  These terms have a class essence and are not the same.  

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) advocates energy security not energy self sufficiency.   John Manley CEO of the CCCE a couple of months ago at a government sponsored energy conference  laid out his vision of Canadian energy development and it was all about North American energy security, not Canadian energy self sufficiency.[8]

The same thing applies to the terms food self-sufficiency and food security.  Farmers have two markets for their production, global and domestic.  Without the Canadian Wheat Board, private marketers will drive down the price paid to farmers and drive up the profits for corporate marketers in the global market place.  At the same time, in the domestic market, corporate marketers are opposed to independent farmers producing for local markets because that competes with the dominance of big grocery chains integrated with corporate suppliers.  When corporate shills speak of the free market what they mean is freedom of corporate dominance in the capitalist market.

There is no solution to farmers being slaves to the market under capitalism.  That does not and will not stop them from fighting for a better deal in a bad system.

Energy self sufficiency and food self sufficiency are focal points of mass struggles because they affect the standards of living of millions.  Corporate media hacks tell us that energy and food security of supply is all that matters, not affordable energy and food.  That means in practice if workers have the money, they can buy food and pay for energy costs.  If they don’t have the money they can go to the food bank and walk.  

Security of supply is bafflegab for corporate appropriation and ownership of commodities produced by workers and farmers and dominance over the sale of those products in the market place.  Self sufficiency means the opposite, ownership and control by the people over production and development based on need.  The former is corporate semantics the latter is class struggle politics.

The other issues confronting parliamentarians on September 19th are important but derivative.  That includes the conservative government’s anti-labour, anti-Wheat Board legislation, the deliberate gradual erosion of the universality principles of the Canada Health Act inevitably to be followed by attacks on the universality principle of government funded pensions.  The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has provided ample and convincing warnings about the Harper government’s attacks on worker’s pensions and successfully promoted a resolution at the CLC Convention calling upon the NDP to vigorously defend pension entitlements in parliament.[9]

More on Security

Canada-US relations continue to be predicated on the provisions of the North American Security Perimeter.  Global Research and others have thoroughly analyzed the dangers of the scheme for Canadian, US and Mexican peoples.[10]  It remains the core of current right-wing conservative policy determining Canada-US integration and forms the basis of Prime Minister Harper’s stance on the Arctic which serves the geo-political aims of US-Canadian big oil and gas.

At the same time it would be an error to ignore the ambition and reach of Canadian finance capital and its quest for a bigger role at the imperial tables of power at NATO, the IMF and in the EU.  That is why the Harper government is certain to aggressively promote the provisions of a Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA) in the House of Commons and the Conservative controlled Senate.  The social alliance of forces opposing the CETA, include Peter Julian NDP MP, the Council of Canadians, the CLC, and the NFU citing among other threats, the potential for increasing drug costs by 50%.[11],[12]

Many Issues - One Struggle - Merger Talks Diversionary

On the eve of the opening of Parliament where for the first time the NDP is the official opposition, merger talks with the Liberals are questionable.

Ken Lewenza, President of the Canadian Auto Workers is the latest to promote the idea of a Liberal-NDP merger adding his voice to Pat Martin NDP MP from Winnipeg.  No doubt the October 4th Manitoba election and the October 6th Ontario provincial elections have factored into the Lewenza-Martin statement.  The defeat of the NDP and the election of Conservative governments of the Mike Harris type in either of these elections would be a setback for organized labour and farmers of Ontario and Manitoba.  However a temporary electoral alliance to defeat the conservatives is not what Lewenza and Martin are discussing.

Martin and Lewenza are musing about a long term election strategy for federal Parliamentary politics. ¬†Merger denotes permanence over the long haul. ¬†That is not the same as a tactical temporary form of electoral unity. ¬†It is careless to mix up the two. ¬†The talk of Liberal‚ÄďNDP merger will be seized upon by the privately owned and corporate controlled mass media to divert public attention from the urgent issues affecting workers and farmers.

Time place and circumstance is important in merger talk.  This not December 2008!  The last serious merger discussions arose out of a parliamentary crisis when the right-wing conservatives were a minority government in crisis and the combined opposition could have formed a government and had signed an agreement to do so.  There was spontaneous mass support for the idea.

It is not December 2006! Then the left got its knickers in a knot when Buzz Hargrove then leader of the CAW called for Liberal-NDP unity at the polls to beat Harper when Harper was not yet in power and when it was still possible for NDP-Liberal unity at the polls to defeat his right-wing government.  The anti-monopoly fight back is still hurting from that blunder.  That was then.  This is now.

Today the situation is completely different.  The right-wing conservatives hold power as a Parliamentary majority and will continue to do so to the next federal election.  A Liberal-NDP merger now would rescue the liberals from their third party status and relegate the 105 NDP-Parliamentary-opposition to a captive position.  It would be a merger of NDP strength with Liberal weakness to the benefit of the Liberals.  Already the corporate media actively promotes the liberals as the real opposition.

What are the common sense working class things that need to be said about unity in action?

The working class has both temporary and long term allies.  The Liberals, a defender and upholder of the profit system can never be the long term ally of organized labour.  Life may present opportunities for temporary tactical advantage to the working class to march together for a short distance with those we do not trust.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  That is distinct from merger in which the working class loses its independence of action.  That is class collaboration.  The natural allies of organized labour are organized farmers, the peace, democratic, environmental and patriotic movements of the people with proven records of struggle.

Is there a basis for unity of action in parliamentary politics? Of course there is and that is determined on a case by case basis and always on the principle that it must serve the interests of workers and farmers and their families.

A merger over the long haul is different.  It involves a united front around a minimum program of class struggle.  It presupposes movements of the left commanding mass popular support.  United front action represents a high level of political consciousness and mass preparedness to organize and support such a front.  That takes work.  That takes a long period of struggle.  Without those preconditions, unity in action is a barren concept.  That is the underlying weakness in proposals for Liberal-NDP merger at this time.  A merger is the result of a movement that promotes it, and which is based on a minimum program of action.

With 105 NDP MP’s elected with the support of 4.5 million Canadians those who advocate merger now must be compelled to answer the question: What would be the program of a merged NDP-Liberal opposition at this time?

What is the basis for unity in action with Bob Rae Liberal interim leader? ¬†Rae is no friend of labour. ¬†For starters, Rae has it backwards.[13] ¬†Prime Minister Harper‚Äôs policy is not ideologically driven - its corporate profit driven. ¬†Economic reality determines political ideology. ¬†Right-wing dogmatic bafflegab about balancing budgets, reducing corporate taxes to be competitive and downsizing government, is the familiar form of all right-wing propaganda used by all G7 state-monopoly governments to uphold and promote the fundamental law of capitalism ‚Äď global domination for maximum profit. ¬†Obama, Sarkozy, Cameron, Berlusconi, Merkel, Noda[14] and Harper all sing from the same hymnbook and Bob Rae is part of the chorus. ¬†In his long political career Rae has never opposed the fundamental law of capitalism.

At this stage and at this time, it is important for organized labour to enunciate its own independent political position and fight for it in every extra-parliamentary way it can.  First of all, that means a critical evaluation of the political platforms of all parties.

Thoughtful labour activists will reflect on the fact that there isn’t a single party in the House of Commons that has an independent alternative program to the Conservative government’s corporate program of NATO wars, IMF austerity and energy resource sell-out.  The Conservatives, the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc and the Greens either agree or are unwilling to break with the Harper Government’s big business agenda.  To do so would mean the opposition would have to openly confront the domination of finance capital over Canadian economic and political decision-making.

The organized labour, peace, patriotic and democratic movements of the Canadian people must say what none of the elected politicians have the courage to say, that the only path for progressive peaceful economic and social development for Canadians is to confront the domination of finance capital over society.

End Canadian Participation in NATO Wars

The first step in confronting finance capitalist control of Canada is to challenge its support for NATO wars.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper will return from the 60 nation Paris conference boasting to parliament that after his government helped NATO to destroy a member state of the United Nations it now stands ready to profit from its rebuilding.  Those who derive private profit from war industries and supplying the Canadian military for handsome profit[15] will be happy to hear Harper’s commitment that Canadian forces will remain in Libya in another long and costly occupying role.[16]

Prime Minister Harper will stand in Parliament and boast of Canadian fighter jets participating in 1000 NATO bombing raids dropping 550 bombs that killed many Libyans on all sides of the conflict and destroyed the social achievements of the Libyan people and vital and essential civil infrastructure.  The Prime Minister will then magnanimously give to a motley, artificially contrived and quarrelling so-called Transitional Council, some of the state funds that Canada and other G7 states appropriated and froze as NATO bombers destroyed the country.  Reuters estimates that the Harper government froze $2.4 billion in Libyan government funds.[17]

The small country of six million, it‚Äôs economic and social achievements as a result of G7-NATO intervention now in ruins, rife with bloody factional fighting, revenge killings, water, food, medical ¬†and power shortages and confronting foreign occupation has been ‚Äúliberated‚ÄĚ according to Prime Minister Harper. ¬†The resistance of the Qaddafi government to foreign invasion is pitched by the Harper government as defiance of the ‚Äúinternational community.‚ÄĚ

The Prime Minister will insist that such NATO inflicted carnage was necessary to save civilians and had nothing to do with the fact that Libya has the sixth largest oil reserves in the world that Canadian oil companies are gearing up to go back to exploit on behalf of rich private investors.[18],[19]

The Canadian People are Not Required to Support Unjust Wars ‚Äď UN Sanctioned or Not!

The Prime Minister seeks to mute the opposition and convince Canadians that his government is free to participate in NATO destruction of any country and to kill its people so long as the aggression is ‚ÄúUN sanctioned‚ÄĚ. ¬†A weak kneed opposition Liberal, NDP and Bloc MP‚Äôs share that view. ¬†The ‚Äúduty to protect‚ÄĚ has become the pretext for G7-NATO states using overwhelming military power to impose regime change on any country they choose. ¬†NATO chooses to destroy countries that seek a path of economic development that does not have the approval of G7-US-EU-IMF authorities.¬† All parties in the House of Commons go to fanciful extremes to evade their culpability and responsibility both morally and legally for supporting and condoning the criminality of that purpose.

The opposition parties in the House of Commons accept the right-wing conservative view that sovereignty, national independence the right of nations to self determination including choosing an economic system different from capitalism is no longer a universal inherent right of all countries but a conditional right determined by an amorphous ‚Äúinternational community‚ÄĚ a contrivance of the G7 imperialist states, led by the USA.

Never defined the term ‚Äúinternational community‚ÄĚ is bandied about as some lofty presence, akin to God, that arbitrarily accords to itself the exclusive right to determine what sovereignty means for other peoples. ¬†A compliant privately-owned corporate controlled mass media presents victim as aggressor and aggressor as victim. ¬†It does this by creating what it believe is an inviolable term ‚Äúinternational community‚ÄĚ. ¬†

So long as the opposition accepts the self-appointed role of the G7-NATO states as the final word on which states will be considered part of the ‚Äúinternational community‚ÄĚ and which will not, the opposition parties are just as guilty and accountable as the US-NATO aggressors.¬† The opposition parties are culpable for the carnage inflicted resulting from the NATO military aggression that results from the attempt to suppress people‚Äôs and states not willing to fall on their knees and accept G7-NATO diktat.

There are innumerable options short of war that all states have at their disposable to express their disapproval of other states.  If the opposition parties have no foreign policy alternatives to that of the conservatives, they inevitably become Prime Minister Harper’s major support.

The Opposition Parties Must Openly Break With Support for NATO

Without consulting the Canadian people, the right wing Conservative Stephen Harper government actively promotes Canada as a NATO enforcer state.  The launching of undeclared war on member states of the UN that do not pose any threat to Canada, is now routine.  In the case of Libya, Foreign Minister John Baird is hinting at an occupation role for the Canada in the war torn country beyond the September 27th Canadian withdrawal date.[20]  Already the parliamentary limitation placed on Canadian participation in UN sanctioned bombings of Libyans beyond September 27th is being dismantled by Prime Minister Harper and a new mandate of occupation will be placed before parliament.

The NDP is called upon to oppose any extension and oppose any occupation role for Canadian armed forces.  The consequences of the failure of the NDP to oppose Canadian participation in the occupation of Libya will be dire for the people of Canada.

The civil war in Libya is not over.  It is likely to descend into a long desultory conflict bringing great misery and suffering to the common people of Libya just as western imperialist intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan inflicted death and misery on the people of those countries.  Canadian participation in the occupation of Libya can also embroil Canadian armed forces personnel in another Afghanistan type engagement with casualties resulting.

The corrupting of Canadian foreign and military policy in the interests of a small core of investor classes that profit from war must stop.  It is time to recognize and speak out against the purpose of Prime Minister Harper’s vision for Canada in the world.  It is a corporate vision of profit and must be opposed.  That vision is to put Canada on a permanent war footing and choose militarism as the first option of Canadian foreign policy in all matters.  The right-wing Conservative government has no peace policy - it only has a war policy.  A majority of Canadians do not support US style militarism in our country and that is not why they elected the NDP as the official opposition and positioned it to take federal power.  If the NDP has no foreign and military policy different from the Harper Government it should explain to its voter base why it should continue to deserve their support.

The right wing Conservative government of Prime Minister Harper is spending billions on preparing the Canadian military for more NATO wars.  On top of an unprecedented costly expansion of the armed forces to make it more interoperable with US-NATO-EU forces, Defence Minister Peter McKay on behalf of the government is seeking seven military forward bases abroad for the Canadian military.[21]  The Harper Government has put Canada on a permanent war footing and the opposition parties in Parliament are going along with the plan.

The opposition parties cannot indignantly oppose the anti-labour domestic policy of the Harper Government and support his pro-imperialist foreign policy.  The Harper right-wing Conservatives are consistently reactionary at home and abroad.

Economic Recovery for Bank Profits ‚Äď Government Austerity for the People

Finance Minister Flaherty will come before parliament and boast that Canada was spared the worst of the global recession but the Canadian people will have to pay for it anyway.  Flaherty will attend a string of G7 G20 meetings[22] to fine tune plans to impose his particular brand of IMF austerity[23] on the Canadian people. 

Finance Minister Flaherty will make more exaggerated claims of how his government among the G7 and G20 states saved Canadians from the global recession.  When Finance Minister Flaherty talks of recovery, it is not about the economic recovery of wage and salary earners and working farmers, it is about bank profit recovery.

Finance Minister Flaherty is adept at attributing his cleverness to any economic success and blaming the global recession for any failures.  Close observers of what has sustained the Canadian economy since 2008 has to do with the demand among developing countries for Canadian resource commodities.  

Attributing growth in the Canadian economy to right-wing Conservative economic theocracy and neo-con corporate tax reduction and government downsizing is fraudulent.  The right wing Conservative Stephen Harper Government has no all-sided nation-building plan for Canada and its people.  Balancing budgets is punitive against working people.

The Internationalization and Centralization of Imperialist Power

The opposition parties in particular the NDP must critically review and change its world view.  There has been a fundamental change in the global imperialist system.  The 21st century is not business as usual.  The internationalization and centralization of imperialism in the form of G7-NATO-EU collusion against all peoples seeking an alternative to 21st century imperialism, is not yet grasped or is opportunistically effaced.

What has been ignored by social democracy is the aggressive drive of the Harper Government to seize a more influential place for Canadian finance capital at NATO, the IMF and the World Bank.  The interests represented by the right-wing Conservative government of Stephen Harper are dedicated to reshaping Canada into an aggressor imperialist state.  Harper’s rapid militarization of the economy and participation in NATO wars can only take place at the expense of universal public health care and pensions, and the neglect of the rebuilding of vital public infrastructure such as public transit, schools, libraries and recreational facilities.

Perpetual war and progressive economic development is a contradiction.  The political reality is that none of the separate agendas of reformist movements can achieve their separate goals unless they integrate their separate struggles into a common struggle to break the NATO-EU-IMF dominance over all countries, including Canada.

 The right-wing Harper Conservative government is a type of right-wing reactionary government reflecting the current stage of imperialist development.  Similar type governments are in power in all G7 states.  All have similar reactionary programs.  All are anti-labour, pro-war, and involved in dismantling state programs that are based on universality and provide real benefits to the majority of the people.

Such governments are consistently reactionary in both domestic and foreign policy and exhibit autocratic tendencies hinting at fascism.  All have applied state violence and repression against social protest in their own countries.  The current stage of imperialism determines the types of governments that emerge.  It is not random.  It is historically predictable.

If progressives want a different type of government dedicated to all of the worthy goals of all of the combined reformist movements of our time, there is no alternative but to base the struggle for such a government on opposing the system of state monopoly capitalism, 21st century imperialism.

The right-wing Conservative Stephen Harper government has defiantly set itself against the majority of Canadians who want our country to be a force for peace in the world and to use the wealth of the country to provide real economic security for families.  Canadian voters in the last federal election were so convinced that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals can be trusted to promote peace and economic security that they withheld majority support for the Conservatives, reduced the Liberals to a third rate party and elected the NDP as the official opposition.

That is a significant change in Canadian electoral politics reflecting a hardening of the resolve of millions of Canadians to seek something better than what is offered by the parties of the profit system.

Such a political development is not an end point, it is a starting point.  It represents a growth of the awareness that if the economic and social well being of Canadians is to change for the better, a qualitative change in labour politics must also occur.

That change involves a struggle to compel government to work for the majority of Canadians who must labour to live and not for a minority of Canadians who live parasitically on the labour of others.

Prime Minister Harper acts exclusively for elites of wealth and privilege offering nothing to hard working Canadians except more militarism and war, IMF economic austerity and selling-out Canada’s vital energy reserves for a fast buck.  The Prime Minister leads a right wing government of unprecedented autocratic societal division, national disunity, foreign wars and economic decline.

The Stephen Harper Conservative Government imposes its regressive IMF economic and social policies on Canadians with the same indifference as to its consequences as he showed for his decision ordering NATO Canadian armed forces to drop bombs on the people and treasure of Libya.  The difference is one of degree not of substance.

Finance Minister Flaherty’s monetary, fiscal and budgetary policy, implemented on the advice of an inner circle of unelected private bankers, investors and academics is designed to remove all impediments to the profit goals of private domestic and international finance capital while simultaneously imposing IMF austerity on the wages, salaries and farm income of the people of Canada who actually create the real wealth of the country.  The transfer of wealth from the working class and working farmers and small business producers to private banking, industrial investor appropriators, has never been more blatant and crude.  Such a system is the antithesis of real people’s sovereignty.[24]

Instead of diversionary talk of Liberal-NDP mergers, trade unionists, NFU members, all of the patriotic and democratic movements of the Canadian people can unite in their demand that the NDP, the Greens and socially aware Liberals defiantly confront the right-wing Harper Conservatives.

That is what the left progressive movement must also be saying.

Left Turn Canada!