Canadian politics have never been Great or Grand. MacDonald’s National Dream was the Orangeman’s conceit; racist and murderous. Trudeau’s vision of the Just Society followed the bent of the times and the prodding of the NDP; the times were led by Che Guevara, the student protests in Paris, and the Civil Rights/Anti-War movement in the United States. Our contribution to something approaching Great has been the efforts towards multi-culturalism and international multi-lateralism, and the latter reached its zenith during the Cold War when Canada was seen as a credible middle power in the world. Our attempt at multiculturalism is being left to rot as surely as books in a moldy basement.
Last week the last nails were hammered home in the coffin of the Canadian experiment. Liberal leader Dion (with Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff hanging like ghouls in the background) supported the Harper government in both the Bill on the Canadian military extension in Afghanistan and on the budget. Mr. Dion and the liberal party have sold out whatever is left of their ideals and cannot in good conscience declare themselves distinct from the conservatives. If Mr. Dion is wielding a hammer, (after politely taking one from Mr. Harper) then surely too many Canadians are providing the nails, blueprints and direction for the coffin building.
There was hope in the early years of the 20th century, when the working class found expression in socialism and we fought the elites for economic and social justice until the end of the 1940’s. Then the so-called long boom lasted into the 1970’s and this too has proved to be a dead end because consumerist, suburban expansion is not sustainable. This boom did allow us to fall into the trap of thinking that the working class had “won”. Yet, all we managed was to simply enable capitalists to squander resources, creativity and labour potential so those few capitalists could live lavish lives.
Global neo-liberalism is the new name for the exact same animal that was battled during the Progressive Age of the 1870’s to the beginning of WW I – industrial capitalism. Industrialization created vast wealth for the few while workers toiled and died in misery. The Third World is today’s meat packing plants exposed by Upton Sinclair in his 1906 novel The Jungle. The workers of China, Mexico, Vietnam, etc. are today’s wage slaves, just like the miners and garment workers of Sinclair’s day. The people of Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq, Pakistan – the so-called terrorists – are the equivalent to First Nations living on land valued for resources or militarily strategic. The capitalists of 100 years ago were always on guard for the slightest signs of rebellion and were ruthless in the suppression of unions and socialists. The armies of Canada, the United States, and NATO are the same armies which destroyed First Nations cultures; the same armies sent to kill miners in Colorado; the same armies sent to shoot strikers in Winnipeg in 1919. We must not fall for Peter MacKay’s continued reference to WW I. Those who died in that and other wars must surely have had on their lips as last words: please God, never again. And yet, here we go again.
Mr. Dion has helped to continue these crimes on a global scale. Canada is an occupier in Afghanistan because capitalist elites fear rebellion by those excluded and denigrated by neo-liberalism. If Canadians could wake up, they would see that history is repeating itself. We are taken in by the excellence of PR techniques pioneered in exactly the same pre-WW I years by men such as Edward Bernays and, later, Walter Lippmann. Modern corporate and government media specialists are trained to sound reasonable in order to soothe us while armies bludgeon dissent; while the rest of the media distracts with circuses. As in the 1900’s and 1968, we should be outraged, and spurred to action. We should at least be demanding an election so we can turf these hard hearted men out.
And just today ( Mar. 18), it was announced that the liberals, including Bob Rae, won three of four by-elections. The Canadian working class is in dire trouble and too many of us are refusing to take responsibility for ourselves.