No coalition with Liberals. Fight for socialist policies!
Vote NDP on May 2!
The defeat in the House of Commons of the most hated federal government in a long time triggered the fourth election campaign in seven years. Voters across the Canadian state go to the polls on May 2 to choose their pill for the continuing economic maladies. With unemployment at nearly 8 per cent officially (double that figure if one includes discouraged workers and the chronically underemployed), with each person on average $100,000 in debt, with homeless shelters and food banks strained to the breaking point, voters have much to ponder.
The Stephen Harper-led minority government Conservatives, mired in election financing and deceit scandals, booted from office for being found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to disclose the cost of their corporate tax cuts, and their plans for new prisons and stealth combat jets, are asking for a majority. Harper began his campaign in full attack mode, hyping the threat of "a coalition of free-spending opposition parties". He portrayed his agenda of social cutbacks, war spending, and gifts to the rich and powerful as "staying the course" -- this in the midst of a dismal economic 'recovery'.
The Liberals under Michael Ignatieff donned populist vestments. While skewering Harper's (twice) undemocratic suspension of Parliament, Ignatieff championed support for more child care spaces, and for more aid to students burdened with rising tuitions. He claims to be for stronger public pensions and health care. His hope is that the electorate will forget, or at least forgive the Liberal sponsorship scandal, the severe social cuts of Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin in the 1990s, and Liberal decisions to send the Canadian military and police to Afghanistan and Haiti.
Gilles Duceppe's Bloc Quebecois advanced its demands for more federal transfer payments to Quebec, downplayed the Bloc's commitment to bourgeois sovereignty, and put a 'progressive' veneer on its pro-system perspective.
The Green Party's Elizabeth May concentrated on trying to win a first seat for the party. Her policies would force working people pay for the mess created by capitalism, with a regressive carbon tax, and measures that favour 'greening' of the private sector. Notwithstanding her platform, exclusion of May from the TV leaders' debate, which is posed again, would be outrageous.
Jack Layton and the labour-based New Democratic Party thus had a golden opportunity to offer a refreshing and radical alternative. But Layton started off with the totally uninspiring slogan "take the strain off your family budget, make everyday essentials less expensive".
It is commendable that Layton wants to help seniors, extend the ecoEnergy Retrofit programme for homeowners, remove the federal sales tax on home heating bills, and put an 8 per cent cap on the interest that can be charged by credit card firms. But this is comparatively light work. The timidity of these proposals reveals something else -- that the labour party brass is unwilling to reverse the huge tax concessions to big business of the past twenty years; that it lacks the courage to challenge the agenda of capitalist austerity. The NDP campaign shies away even from proposing to dismantle the country's war budget and end Ottawa's participation in US/NATO aggression. Sadly, this is reflected in Layton's decision to back the western intervention into Libya (see article below).
Given the failed state of globalized capitalism, the need for an alternative is evident. Instead of 'strained family budgets', the NDP should decry the one-sided class war being waged from the top down. It should stress the need to fight back with bold socialist measures, instead of paltry reforms. Workers who vote NDP in their millions have the power to shake up their party, toss away its Liberal-look-alike policies, and make the NDP fight for society's vast majority, the working class and the poor. Direct involvement in the NDP campaign now is critically important to that end.
Participation in a coalition government would be a dead end for labour and the left. Nonetheless, coalition is perfectly legal in Canada and common around the world. Harper's attempt to demonize the notion of coalition government is a crude attempt at self-preservation by exploiting political ignorance and anti-Quebec chauvinism (although the BQ has never actually been proposed as a coalition partner by any party). The fuss he's made over a possible Liberal-NDP coalition is doubly hypocritical because Harper proposed an alliance of Conservatives, New Democrats and the Bloc as an alternative to the faltering Paul Martin Liberal minority government in 2004.
Socialists oppose coalition for a radically different reason. Coalition with the Liberals, or with any capitalist party, would seriously undermine the tenuous organizational independence of the NDP as a party of the labour movement and working people. As a partner in a Liberal government, the NDP would have to carry the can for austerity and corporate bail-outs at home, and for imperial wars of occupation abroad.
The central issue today is neither the morality nor the behaviour of the Tories (repugnant as they are). It is the continuing capitalist crisis and the assault on working people. The answer is to make Capital pay for the crisis it created. If the goal is a just and sustainable society, it only makes sense to institute a steep tax on wealth, to reverse the corporate bail-outs, and to democratize the economy.
Instead of trying in vain to tame an irrational system, it is time to break the logic of the capitalist business cycle, to get off the tread mill of endemic waste and oppression. It is time to put an end to profit from war and environmental destruction. It is time to dump the whole G20 agenda overboard.
To that end, socialists advocate a number of concrete measures, policies in the interest of working people and the vast majority of NDP voters, which the NDP should be pushed to advance:
Put people, and the preservation of nature, before profits. Nationalize the banks, mining companies, Big Oil and Big Auto. Create jobs through public investment, public ownership, democratic planning and workers' control. Convert industry, transportation, and homes to green energy efficiency. Rapidly phase-out nuclear power and tar sands development. Repair our disintegrating roads, bridges, railways and port facilities. Make Employment Insurance more generous and accessible. Raise the minimum wage to $17/hour. Shorten the work week to 30 hours without loss of pay or benefits. Double the benefits in the Canada Pension Plan and Guaranteed Income Supplement. Abolish student debt. Make all education free. Fund health care and the arts. No corporate bail-out. Open the company books. Steeply tax corporations, speculators, and the rich. Abolish the HST. Uphold aboriginal land claims and local self-governance. Self-determination for Quebec. Rescind the undemocratic Clarity Act. Abolish the Senate and institute direct Proportional Representation in Parliament. Stop the deportations, full rights for migrant workers. Impose boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid. End the occupation of Afghanistan and Haiti. Hands off Libya. Reduce the Canadian military to a disaster-relief and rescue force. Get Canada out of NATO now!
Capitalists complain about low productivity. It's a lie, and a diversion. It is also a delusion to think that economic expansion will fix everything, that there is a market solution to the recurring crises of capitalism. There is no market solution. The capitalist market created the problem. Only a social revolution can solve it. Only by taking control of the major means of production, only by instituting broadly participatory, democratic planning, only by effecting a rapid green conversion to meet human needs, fully in tune with nature, does humanity have a hope of survival.
That means challenging the pro-capitalist direction of the labour and NDP leadership. It means fighting for an NDP government committed to socialist policies. It means opposing an NDP coalition with the Liberal Party or with any capitalist party. It means fighting for a Workers' Agenda and a Workers' Government, and organizing to win that programme inside the unions and the NDP. It means fighting for freedom for oppressed nations, for eco-socialism, feminism and LGBT liberation.
None of that is possible without a leadership committed to doing it. Central to that is the forging of a new leadership of the working class and oppressed nations that can win. It cannot be done without you.
So, please don't wait for the next economic crash, or for the next environmental catastrophe. Isn't the situation dire enough? Rebellion is in the air, from Egypt to Wisconsin, from Venezuela to Palestine. Socialists, labour and social protest movement activists can take on that task and win. Together we can make the world a place fit for humanity.
The Tragedy of NDP support for the bombing of Libya
The NDP Socialist Caucus federal conference held on March 17at U of Toronto declared its opposition to the imperialist intervention into Libya (the bombing and rocket attacks to impose a 'no-fly zone', and impose 'regime change'). The SC will campaign across the country for the anti-intervention position reflected in the resolution below, leading up to and at the NDP federal convention, June 17-19 in Vancouver.
NATO Hands off Libya!
Whereas the mass uprising of the people of Libya that began on February 15, 2011 which seeks to
oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi and end his police state, is part of the wave of popular democratic
revolt sweeping the Arab world;
And whereas Gaddafi for the past decade has cooperated with Washington and NATO, been
compliant with the U.S.-led wars of occupation, while privately pocketing billions of dollars of oil revenue,
And whereas Washington and its NATO allies seek to control Libya's future, and can use the
claim to providing 'humanitarian aid', including a 'no fly zone' that would be accompanied by
extensive bombing and inevitably massive civilian casualties, to launch an armed invasion of the country,
Therefore Be It Resolved that the federal NDP actively campaign against any U.S. or NATO
intervention in Libya, against the proposed 'no fly zone', and demand the withdrawal of Canadian
war ships from Libyan waters, and demand an end to Canadian firms selling/exporting military
equipment, munitions and supplies to the region.
And Be It Further Resolved that the NDP actively encourage the opening of Libya's borders with
Tunisia and Egypt so that partisans of the Arab democratic revolt can come to the aid of the
Libyan insurgency, and that the NDP organize solidarity with the movement of the Libyan and
Arab peoples for democracy and self-determination.
Sadly, NDP MPs joined the business class parties in Parliament in support of the western military intervention in Libya, which now is conducted by NATO, under the command of Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard. The lessons of history seem to be lost on Leader Jack Layton and his NDP Caucus.
For generations, the Canadian state has been consistently on the side of Israel, and against Egypt and the Arab countries. That includes during the Israeli wars against Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Ottawa has condoned (sometimes with mild criticism) Israeli atrocities committed repeatedly in Gaza and the West Bank, the construction of the Apartheid wall, the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian homes and farms, and the threats to bomb Iran.
Whether Conservative or Liberal, the federal government has overseen, promoted and facilitated Canadian military exports to 16 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Those countries included Mubarak's Egypt, Gadaffi's Libya and Netanyahu's Israel. Between 1990 and 2006, the value of these exports of weapons, munitions, armoured vehicles, jets, helicopters, drones, surveillance equipment and more, was about $1.8 Billion. This has greatly profited Canadian manufacturers like Advantech, Airboss, Astra International, Canadian Airmotive, CEL Aerospace, DEW Engineering, Field Aviation Co. Ltd., (just to name a few from the first six letters of the alphabet), and the omnipresent SNC Lavalin (which is presently building a super-prison in Libya).
Of course that magnitude of trade is dwarfed by the U.S. military aid programme to Egypt. According to the New York Times on March 13, "the aid programme which has given the Egyptian military roughly $40 Billion since the program's inception as part of the 1979 Camp David accord signed by Israel and Egypt has supported a military bureaucracy prone to insider dealing and corruption." Professor Christopher Davidson, an expert on Egypt at Durham University in England, is quoted as saying, "the generals, the Supreme Military Council, is a de facto, separate government with an economy in its own right." Those are the generals who are drawing up a new constitution and planning elections for September.
Returning to the question of the role of the Canadian state: Is Ottawa's record in Egypt and the Middle East the exception, or the rule for the world as a whole?
Look at Canada's participation in so-called 'peacekeeping missions', such as in Congo in 1960 when U.N. forces isolated revolutionary nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba, facilitating his murder by a right wing, pro-colonialist, pro-mining, secessionist movement. It fits the pattern. As did Canada's 'peacekeeper' role on the Golan Heights, in Cyprus, in Somalia, in Yugoslavia, in Haiti, and for the past decade in Afghanistan. The latter was initially touted as a 'peacekeeping' alternative to participation in the U.S.-led second invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Meanwhile, Canadian warships ply the waters of the Persian Gulf in support of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and in support of the US embargo and its military threats against Iran. Now the HMCS Charlottetown is anchored in waters off the coast of Libya, in support of a bombing campaign involving Canadian CF18s, in the name of a 'no fly zone'. It is a prelude to an armed occupation by US/NATO forces (or their control of the rebel regime by other means), which is why socialists oppose it.
The truth is that 'Canadian peacekeeping' is a myth, from start to present. It is political camouflage for imperialist intervention. Increasingly, Canadian state officials speak openly in favour of military intervention. They couch it in terms of 'the duty to protect' innocent civilians.
In opposing imperialist intervention, and the diplomatic charade that usually accompanies it, socialists do not argue for an isolationist policy. Indeed, our policy can be summarized in this way: Injustice knows no boundaries. Solidarity knows no borders. But solidarity starts with opposition to our own capitalist rulers, including their interventions for power, plunder and profit abroad.
This brings us to the NDP, the only mass labour-based political party in North America.
Has the NDP leadership consistently opposed imperialist intervention, the arms industry, and militarism? Certainly, that approach would correspond to the interests of its 100,000 members, its 300,000 labour union affiliated members, and its 2.4 million mainly working class voters.
Sadly, the opposite is the case. It took years for the Canadian movement against the war in Vietnam to win the federal NDP to an 'Out Now' position, to get the party to adopt a policy expressed in the slogan 'NATO, NORAD, ICC, End Canadian Complicity'. It took years to convince the party at convention to adopt 'Canada Out of Afghanistan Now'. The NDP Socialist Caucus and allies finally succeeded in achieving this at the federal NDP convention in Quebec City, September 2006.
We have yet to win 'Canada Out of Haiti', mainly for lack of a democratic opportunity to debate the issue at convention. Of course, we are not about to give up trying.
In terms of Afghanistan, there are still occasional political relapses at the top. NDP MPs will sometimes say 'Canadian forces can play a role as trainers or infrastructure builders in Afghanistan - even though that would mean supporting the corrupt, U.S.-imposed Karzai regime. Canadian Forces would still be engaged in combat 'outside the wire', since insurgents do not, as a rule, recognize military 'training' or 'building' by an occupying power as friendly activity. Sometimes NDP MPs, including the Leader, speak wistfully about 'redeployment' of Canadian Forces to Darfur, or to elsewhere in Africa where oil or gold or other valuable commodities cannot be harvested due to obstruction by pesky nationalists who want to control their own resources.
That brings us to the current wave of uprisings across the Arab world, including Egypt. In early January, when the Tunisian masses launched their revolt, after a young man protested the spike in food prices by burning himself to death, the federal NDP issued a statement. It supports the Tunisian people. It says Canada is well positioned to use diplomacy (Really? Remember the election for U.N. Security Council? Ottawa was punished for its pro-Zionist policies, views shared by most NDP leaders). It says 'stop attacks on civilians'. BUT what about demanding that then-dictator Ben Ali step down?
On January 28, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar released a statement on Egypt. It expresses hope that democratic aspirations will be peacefully realized. It urges Canada to use its diplomatic influence with Egyptian authorities (then including Hosni Mubarak) to lift the emergency law; to release detainees. It says it is time for political reforms; to review election laws, ...with the input of civil society; and calls for a "fair economy, an end to corruption, for transparent representative government." BUT what about demanding what millions of Egyptians demanded: Mubarak out! (The NDP was practically the last party to publicly support that demand.)
On February 11, Jack Layton issued a statement: New Democrats admire peaceful protesters' courage and discipline; Mubarak's resignation has opened the door to meaningful change; and urges the government of Canada to use diplomatic means to ensure the process is legitimate and acceptable to the Egyptian people. BUT what about pledging support for the demands of Egyptian workers? Their unions ask that all the companies and resources Mubarak privatized be now returned to public ownership under democratic control. Democracy is about the economy too, not just about parliament.
On February 22, an NDP statement on Libya expresses concern for protesters and condemns the regime's use of deadly force against civilians. BUT instead of urging support for the insurgents, including that they be armed to defend themselves against Gadaffi's hired guns, the NDP urged the UN Security Council to establish a no-fly zone in Libya's airspace. That requires, as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates openly stated, extensive bombing of Libya by U.S. and allied forces. In our view, that leads, as in Iraq, to an eventual armed invasion to protect ... the people (?), the oil wells (!), all no doubt to be placed under the protective shield of protective entities, like Xe (former Blackwater) Corp.
So, the more things change, the more they remain the same. NDP leaders are caught in a life-long contradiction. Their interests as capitalist politicians (the pursuit of fame, fortune, good media bytes) conflict with the interests of the millions of workers who look to the party for social justice, equality, human rights, peace, environmental sustainability ... in other words, for socialism.
The Socialist Caucus is dedicated to shining a light on that contradiction, to winning the fight for socialist policies, and to challenging the cancerous global system known as capitalism. In short, the SC strives to replace capitalism with a global cooperative commonwealth. That starts with opposing the war makers at home.
The uprisings in Egypt, and across the Arab world, show that the days of imperial rule, of capitalist rule are numbered. A new day is dawning. NDP members want to be part of that awakening.