Wednesday, 28 October 2015


I'm getting to the end of the "Heavy Radicals" book, about f.b.i. spying and disruption of the Maoist movement in the 60s, and 70s . Over all, it's a very informative read, written by people who were involved in the whole thing. But ultimately, it reminds me of older people who were once part of the punk rock scene, but after they're done with it, claim that "punk is dead". No, it is not dead, only your involvement in it is. 
  This outlook is a bourgeois one, and something that many of us can't shake, no matter how hard we try. But the fact is, the world does not revolve around you, and the RCP is very much alive, and if anything, is experiencing a resurgence. Just because some people have had bad experiences, or are no longer involved in revolutionary organizing, does not mean it's over. It's only over for them. Things can and do exist independently of your belief system.
  Regardless of this, I do recommend the book. It's a valuable lesson on the f.b.i.'s willingness and ability to do anything to protect the imperialist state. Read it.

Monday, 26 October 2015


On Friday, there were a couple of news stories that were enough to make one go crazy. For me, the first one was about the lowlife fucking pig  who possessed child pornography, and was appealing his conviction. Yes, the pieces of shit who you expect to "protect" you are doing this shit, and more often than you think.
    The second one was about the deleted e-mails regarding the highway of tears . This entire story is indicative of the way the government ( yes, ANY fucking government) views Aboriginal women, and how this shit system set up has to be done away with, finally, and irrevocably. Read the stories.

Thursday, 22 October 2015


So now there will many delusional idiots breathing a sigh of relief because of the election of smarmy little fuck  justin trudeau . I imagine it'll be the same as when obama got voted in, with the same amount of elation in the beginning, and the same amount of disappointment as he continues the same old shit as his predecessor. 
  Here's a humorous article about the kkkanadian electoral farce.

The Definitive Explanation for Why You Voted in Justin Trudeau

October 20, 2015

Say hello to your new prime minister. Photo via Facebook/Justin Trudeau
Smoke 'em if you got 'em, b'ys, because Justin Trudeau is our new prime minister. Soon you'll be able to pick up a pack of joints on your way down to the local brothel/assisted suicide emporium.
God knows we're going to need it.
Mostly, though, thank the risen Christ it's finally over. It's over, it's over, it's over. After 11 weeks of wading through madness, bullshit, outright lies, and at least one surreptitiously captured video of a man pissing into a coffee mug, the 42nd general Canadian election can finally be put to rest.
A week is a long time in politics, and they're even longer in an election campaign. Multiply that by a social media-powered newscycle and an electorate with the attention span of a goldfish, and you can appreciate why July 2015 feels like it belongs to another lifetime. The next campaign should come with a warning: contact a doctor if your election lasts longer than six weeks.
Pat yourself on the back for surviving 80 days of partisan bloodletting. Meanwhile, if you need me, I'm going to be hurling my smartphone off the High Level Bridge.
I'm still trying to process it. No one would have called a Liberal victory—let alone a majority —even a month ago, but here we are. The day after what would have been his father's 96th birthday, Justin Trudeau is moving back into his childhood home. The NDP are humbled and Tom Mulcair is probably curled up in a ball somewhere listening to Morrissey. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have been beaten back to their Western and suburban strongholds and Stephen Harper is living out his worst-case scenario.
I'm not sure if it's safe to say our long national nightmare is finally over, or if it's only just getting warmed up. But either way, I think I know how we got here.


A long time ago (I'm sorry, but did you see the new Star Wars trailer?), in a country far, far away, it was early August. Stephen Harper had just called a monster of an election campaign against Thomas Mulcair and the NDP. Between kneecapping themselves among progressive voters by supporting Harper's Bill C-51 surveillance legislation and taking a beating from the "just not ready" ads playing every ten minutes on Canadian television, the Liberals were lurching toward another shitty finish as the third party in the House of Commons.
The New Democrats were still high from their shocking springtime provincial victory in Alberta, and the Canadian public was finally ready to imagine having an NDP prime minister. Mulcair was in striking distance of 24 Sussex, and there was no shortage of Conservative scandals to give the NDP machine grist for its mill. History was beckoning. Thomas Mulcair was going to lead finish Jack Layton's drive and finally bring the party of Tommy Douglas to power in Ottawa, ushering in a new golden age of subsidized daycare and a modest raise for federal employees making the minimum wage.
But Stephen Harper isn't an idiot. The Tories were fully aware they'd have to jump a few self-erected hurdles on the road ahead, but it was nothing the war machine couldn't handle. The long campaign was itself supposed to be the first and deadliest line of attack: bleed their opponents dry so that they'd hobble across the finish line in October, unable and unwilling to play the game of brinkmanship that comes along with a(n expected) hung parliament.
Outwit, outlast, outplay. An election campaign is basically Survivor.
Plus, they needed to start strong in order to head off coverage of the Mike Duffy trial. Remember Ol' Duff? His trial kicked back into high gear for a week in August and we discovered that Harper was apparently sitting in his office repeatedly screaming "I CAN'T HEAR YOU" while literally everyone else in the PMO was trying to work out how to sweep Duffy's expenses under the rug. (The PMO's lawyer at the time of the scandal, Benjamin Perrin, would later claim the Tories had "lost the moral authority to govern.")
Reminding Canadians of Harper's many personal connections to the unholy trinity of Senate corruption—Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau—only played into Mulcair's hands. No one has any idea how they'd actually do it (they can't), but the NDP have long campaigned on abolishing the awful piece of shit we call the Senate. And it's hard to resist that sentiment when you're watching PMO staffers parade through a courthouse on charges of conspiracy.
And then, after a slow few weeks of warming up on the hustings, all hell broke loose. Every newspaper in the country ran a photo of a dead toddler washed up on a Turkish beach and suddenly everyone in Canada gave a shit about the Syrian refugee crisis. Except, apparently, Stephen Harper.
The Tories had started opening spaces for more than 11,000 Syrian refugees back in 2013, but only 2,500 had actually arrived by early September (2015). Trudeau and the Liberals immediately vowed to take in 25,000 refugees by January 1, although no one has any idea how they would pull this off. The NDP pledged to bring in 46,000 refugees over four years if elected to office, although—in what would become a running theme throughout his campaign—Mulcair came under pressure activists within his party to go a lot further.
But the Conservatives weren't going to budge. Amid some totally sane concerns that refugees were coming over to the Canadian heartlands as ISIS sleeper agents and/or planning to live like kings by abusing our welfare system, Harper was adamant that he would not throw open the floodgates to the teeming unwashed masses, despite our continued commitment to bombing the bejeesus out of the region in our neverending War on Terror.
Then it came out that the PMO was tampering directly in the refugee claims process, auditing applications and fast-tracking Christians ahead of Sunni and Shia Muslims. Eventually, the wave of public outrage pushed the Tories to promise a further 10,000 refugees over four years if re-elected.
But the damage was done—for the first time in a long time, the Tories were knocked off their game. Stephen Harper had long built his public profile around an image of cool, measured rationality in the face of his "hysterical" opposition. But in the aftershock of young Alan Kurdi's graphic public death, the shrewd accountant-in-chief now looked like an unfeeling monster.
No one on the Conservative campaign was seriously worried, though, initially. It was still early days, and there was plenty of time to turn the ship around.
They planned to do this by doubling down on the xenophobia.

Turns out you can pet all the babies you want and still not get elected. Sad. Photo via Facebook/Stephen Harper


As far as the NDP was concerned, everything was coming up Milhouse. Between a still-floundering Liberal party and a Conservative government struggling to tread water, it was time to make their long game pay off.
Even before Jack Layton's untimely death after the 2011 Orange Wave swept the NDP into official opposition, the party had long been engaged in a clandestine civil war over whether to shed its socialist skin in a bid for "electability" or try to hold its place as the lodestar for progressives in Parliament. Layton's greatest virtue is that he could do the former while appearing to do the latter. And after he died with the keys to the kingdom within reach, the party establishment decided to bet the house on Blairism.
Fortunately, the NDP had a guy who was up to the job. A veteran cabinet minister of Quebec's National Assembly (and the federalist trenches of the 1995 referendum), Thomas Mulcair was tailor-made for the gig. He gave the NDP the cool, pragmatic, emphatically "non-ideological" image they felt would sell them to the "mainstream" Canadian electorate. He would be the man to bring them "out of the 1950s"—part of his leadership pitch in 2012 was to get Canada's social democrats away from talking about the working class.
So when the campaign conversation finally turned to the economy (and whether Canada was in a recession, technical or otherwise), the NDP figured they had their chance to show how Serious and Pragmatic and Adult they were by joining the Conservatives in promising a balanced budget (and small business tax cuts) come hell, high water, or all the funding they'd promised for a laundry list of social programs. Meanwhile, the Liberals said they'd be OK with running a deficit for a few years in order to fund new infrastructure and grow the economy "from the heart out."
Suddenly, we were in a bizarre situation in which the Liberals could (credibly, in the eyes of the electorate) accuse the NDP of being sellouts—the cardinal sin of any self-respecting lefty.
The Liberals were making the NDP's identity crisis a campaign issue. They dug up old videos of Liberal Tom Mulcair praising the sublime beauty of Margaret Thatcher and enthusing about the bulk export of Quebec's fresh water. Somehow, the Liberals started to look more progressive than the liberalized NDP.
All of this culminated in the middle of September when a cadre of left-wing artists, activists, and assorted intelligentsia issued the LEAP Manifesto, which—despite being reported inthe National Post as the spiritual successor to Lenin's State & Revolution—was a rather bloodless plea to shift the Canadian economy from fossil fuels, raise taxes on the rich, and seriously reconsider the political veneration of "free trade." The aim was to build a powerful grassroots network that would force politicians seeking office to confront LEAP and its demands, but all it's really accomplished so far was pushing Mulcair further into the partisan crossfire.
Despite the NDP establishment's official distance from it, the LEAP Manifesto cut two ways. Because it was supported by a number of prominent Dippers, Harper used it as proof that the NDP campaign was unspeakably radical and that Mulcair was a secret communist. Meanwhile, for basically the same reasons, Trudeau's team flipped the script and claimed it was proof that Mulcair and his entourage were secret Thatcherites bent on destroying social democracy.
Whatever he may or may not be behind closed doors, Mulcair was not-so-secretly fucked.
In the middle of all this of all this, the biggest subplot of #elxn42 was that, thanks to old social media posts, we discovered a fair chunk of the candidates seeking office were—refreshingly!—fucking lunatics. I know every election since 2007 has been billed as "the social media election" but this actually was the social media election: the election in which all of the bullshit posts we've made on the internet since we were part of a House, M.D. fan community on Livejournal finally started coming back to haunt us.
God, there were so many scandals. There was the Liberal who tweeted (as a teenager) that some guy should blow his brains out during a disagreement on the internet. There was the NDP candidate who defended the really weird dick joke she made on a photo of Auschwitz by claiming that she didn't know what Auschwitz was. There was the other Liberal candidate who got drunk in 2009 and tweeted about how women were bitches and whores. There was a Conservative who had a YouTube channel filled with videos of himcrank calling and/or sexually harassing people. There was another Liberal (from BC, natch) who was a cancer truther and claimed marijuana could cure domestic violence. And, of course, there was the Conservative candidate who was busted by CBC'sMarketplace in 2012 for pissing into a coffee mug at a customer's kitchen—easily the crown jewel of the federal election.
It was a hell of a ride. And bittersweet, too. This is probably the last campaign in which we'll see such a rich tapestry of flawed, human weirdos on our ballots. Between the PR-ification of everything and Parliament's self-selection of poli sci/business nerds, it's likely that in the future only the blandest, beige-est knobs ever assembled will bother standing for election.
There's a small chance that as younger people age and more of the electorate has grown up online, we'll collectively get cooler with people posting dumb shit on the internet when they were legally children. God knows that if Twitter existed when I was 15 I would be writing this from an undisclosed bunker out on the Uruguayan pampas. But then again, this is Canada, and we invented boredom, so don't hold your breath.

Photo via Flickr user David Dennis
While Canada's left-ish parties tore themselves to pieces, the Tories were working on a new strategy. At the Globe & Mail leaders' debate on the economy in mid-September, when pressed about his handling of refugee claimants in Canada, Stephen Harper asserted that everything his government did was in the best interest of "new and existing and old-stock Canadians." For the first few days afterwards, there was still some debate about whether this was an unfortunate Freudian slip or a deliberate dogwhistle aimed at galvanizing (white) Canadians against the conniving (brown) Others.
A week later at the French-language debate, it became obvious that it had been the latter. Harper pulled out a proposed ban on the niqab at citizenship ceremonies in order to bludgeon the NDP to death in Quebec. Nevermind that less than a handful of women have ever worn a niqab at a citizenship ceremony or that these women identified themselves to officials beforehand or that this was totally irrelevant to any real issue of substance that around which a federal election should revolve.
No. The Conservative campaign decided that this election was going to be a referendum on Muslim women. And, God help us, for a good while it seemed like it was going to work.


As the election neared the home stretch, the Tories traded their Islamophobic dogwhistle for a giant vuvuzela strapped to a megaphone that also shot bees at people. They announced the creation of a "Barbaric Cultural Practices" tipline to encourage you to snitch on your neighbours if you suspect they are praying at weird hours or eating too much shawarma (literally impossible). The prime minister even mused about bringing in a blanket ban on niqabs in the public service, even though this situation had arisen literally zero times in the the last 148 years.
Basically, Harper went all-in on a strong plurality of Canadians being overwhelmingly, irrationally distrustful of Muslims. The election had suddenly gone from paying lip service to real issues—the economy, healthcare, education, the environment—to one totally oriented around a question of values and image. The Conservatives were forcing voters to ask: what kind of country do you want Canada to be? And what kind of people do you want Canadians to look like?
Ironically for the Tories, turning the election into a contest over values played right into Justin Trudeau's hands.
There are a lot of things to say about Trudeau the Younger and the party he leads. Not all of them are good—especially on the substantive policy front. But one thing you can't deny is that the guy talks a damn good game about values and ideas. Whatever else he may or may not have inherited from his father, he certainly got his gift for Grand Vision. (It also didn't hurt that the bar had been set so low by the Conservative attack machine that he couldn't help but come off as a bit of a colossus just for, as PMO communications director Kory Teneycke put it, "showing up with his pants on.")
But charisma and low expectations alone don't explain why, in the dying days of the campaign, change-minded voters started flocking to Trudeau—especially since, despite their "Real Change" slogan, there isn't a lot about the Liberals that speaks to change of any depth. They're one of the longest-governing parties in the history of liberal democracy, headed by the son of one of its longest-serving leaders, stacked to the brim with technocrats and wannabe corporate cronies like Dan Gagnier.
Part of it was definitely some strange feeling of nostalgia for the first round of Trudeaumania, sure. And part of it was a creeping sense that, with the NDP floundering in Quebec, it was better to back the (perceived) country-wide winner. But a big part was the question of values, and on this point Justin Trudeau is the most earnest of the bunch.
Time was, a contest over Canadian values—at a historical moment when the progressive cause is on the upswing in the English-speaking world—would have been the NDP's strong suit. Time was, no one could match the NDP's ability to give a rich rhetorical expression to the full depth and promise of the Canadian dream. But this time, the party establishment opted to forego its idealism and try to beat Stephen Harper at his own game.
It turns out that this was a mistake on the level of a Greek tragedy. In a contest over what it means to be Canadian, neither Tom Mulcair nor Stephen Harper could hold a candle to the crown prince of Canada's philosopher kings.
As the NDP continued tanking and the "change" vote coalesced around a single alternative, Stephen Harper was suddenly faced with his worst nightmare: losing to a resurgent Liberal party, led by a Trudeau family scion.
Suddenly Harper was turning up at campaign rallies with a box of props that looked like they'd been poached from the set of The Price Is Right to underscore that no, really, Justin Trudeau is going to break into your house and steal your money and/or children. Then he showed up in a television commercial, awkwardly leaning against a desk and frantically assuring us that this election is not a popularity contest but please guys just vote for me. Then Toronto's Ford brothers started coming around and everything degenerated to the level of self-parody.
The Conservative campaign started coming apart at the seams. Even though almost every national newspaper in the country endorsed the Conservatives (the Toronto Star endorsed Trudeau), it sparked a media mutiny. The Globe and Mail endorsed the Conservatives but called on Stephen Harper to resign. Lord Felon Conrad Black appeared in the National Post to beat the fuck out of the prime minister and endorse the Trudeau Liberals. Laurentian WASP icon Andrew Coyne quit his editorial job at the Post in protest of its endorsement and voted NDP. Even card-carrying Tories were jumping ship, and the prime minister was finally left alone.
Well, not quite alone. On the second-last day of the campaign, Harper—tough-on-crime, hard-nosed, "pot is infinitely worse than tobacco" Harper—was photographed in an awkward hug with Robert fucking Ford and family in what might be the darkest photo of the entire campaign.
Being alone might have been better.

Waving goodbye to his dreams. Photo via Facebook/Tom Mulcair


And now, suddenly, we're faced with a Liberal majority government. I'm not sure anyone would have predicted this a few days ago, except the most delirious partisans.
It's hard to say at the outset what the fallout will be. The complete collapse of the New Democratic vote is nothing short of a shocker. The general consensus was that they'd come in third, but even the stingiest estimates put them above 60 seats in the House of Commons.
What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, but lose his soul? I'm not sure, but lord knows the cost is heavier still if he should end up losing both. I expect Thomas Mulcair is taking a long, scathing look in the mirror right now. It's hard to feel sympathy for the party establishment after such a disappointing campaign, but my heart goes out to all the party activists who have to spend the next four years picking up the pieces of Jack Layton's broken dream.
I won't pretend I'm sorry to see the piece of shit go, but all things considered, Stephen Harper had a pretty good run. He played the parliamentary game better than most and will leave a lasting mark on every fabric of the Canadian tapestry, for good and for ill. I have no idea how long beyond his tenure the CPC's marriage of Reformers and Progressive Conservatives will last, but if it does survive, the union is a testament to the man's many gifts. He's leaving some big shoes to fill and after a decade under his iron fist, the talent pool is shallow.
So now we're stuck with the Liberals for the next four years. They've made a lot of promises over the course of this campaign and it's not clear how many they'll actually be able to keep—I'm not getting my hopes up that a prime minister who just won a surprise majority is going to be in any rush to overhaul the electoral system. We're getting a human face slapped on Bill C-51, the shadowy Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and yet another government eager to sidestep the bitumen-belching elephant in the room in the interests of strip-mining the oil patch. Just how many of us have buyer's remorse after enthusiastically voting Liberal as our "anyone but Harper" option will come out in the wash, but there's nothing we can do about it now.
Prime Minister Trudeau II spent a lot of time campaigning on cleaning up the government and reforming the way Parliament works after a decade of being brutalized by Harper. It's easy to talk a big game from the comfort of the Commons' back corner, but it's another to actually hold the reins of power. Justin Trudeau will need an inner strength to throw all the bullish trappings of the modern PMO back into the fires where his father forged them almost 50 years ago. Time will tell if he's the man for the job.
Ready or not, here he comes.
Follow Drew Brown on Twitter.

Monday, 19 October 2015


Tell the people of Attawapiskat what a difference their vote will make.


Democracy my ass.


Thomas Mulcair is Cracking Down on Pro-Palestinian Sentiment in the NDP

August 13, 2015

"Did you just say 'occupation'? Oh, no, buddy, you're outta here." Photo via Flickr user Laurel L. Russwurm
If there's one thing the ostensibly progressive federal NDP just won't put up with from its candidates, it's the slightest criticism of Israel.
At least, that's what the past few days of electioneering has indicated. On Sunday, Morgan Wheeldon—candidate for Kings-Hants in Nova Scotia—was forced to resign after the Conservatives published old comments he made on Facebook: "One could argue that Israel's intention was always to ethnically cleanse the region—there are direct quotations proving this to be the case," he wrote. "Guess we just sweep that under the rug." A day later, Jerry Natanine—who was vying for the riding of Nunavut—told CBC he was cut from the contest due to his historic support for Palestine.
Such moves are a "major step back" and force many in the Palestinian-Canadian community to re-evaluate their support of the NDP, says Hammam Farah, member ofStudents Against Israeli Apartheid at York University: "I do want Harper out of office, but it puts me in a very difficult and disappointing and disconcerting position. I feel awful that if I want Harper out of office I may have to vote for a party that isn't really interested in my history and human rights of Palestinians."
The NDP have a lengthy history of supporting Israel: while J.S. Woodsworth (founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the NDP's precursor) opposed its formation, subsequent leaders including M.J. Coldwell and Tommy Douglas backed it. Thomas Mulcair has historically taken a much firmer stance on the issue: in 2010, he led the crusade to punish deputy leader Libby Davies for expressing support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. She's not running for re-election this year.
"To say that you're personally in favour of boycott, divestment and sanctions for the only democracy in the Middle East is, as far as I'm concerned, grossly unacceptable," Mulcairsaid at the time. That followed on the heels of a 2008 statement saying, "I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances."
In 2014, Paul Manly—son of former NDP MP James Manly—was disqualified as candidate in Nanaimo-Ladysmith; he asserted it because his views on the issue and for petitioning the Conservatives and NDP in 2012 to work harder for the release of his father, who was confined by Israeli officials for participating in efforts to breach a blockade in the Gaza. Manly is now running for the Green Party in the same riding.
Since becoming NDP leader, Mulcair has "all but silenced the pro-Palestinian hysterics within his party," according to the Globe & Mail's Konrad Yakabuski, who tied the efforts to a push for more mainstream appeal.
Farah—whose group is now working on pressuring the York board of governors to divest from companies that are selling weapons to countries like Israel—concluded: "The NDP needs to get in line with this. It's contradictory and very disappointing the NDP would come out supporting some form of social justice, but then when it comes to Palestine it gets scared. Canadians can see the NDP gets scared. Completely removing candidates from running in the election is a cowardly move.
The Conservatives have also publicly identified NDP candidates Scott Andrews(Vancouver Quadra), Hans Marotte (Saint-Jean) and Matthew Rowlinson (London West) as critics of Israel. Many of the entries on "Meet the NDP"—a Conservative-funded website featuring quotes from candidates—relate to Palestine, suggesting the party may be attempting to demonize candidates with the wedge issue. The sole response from NDP party brass on the issue was from Brad Lavigne, senior campaign advisor, who told theToronto Star that "Mr. Wheeldon's comments are not in line with that policy and he is no longer our candidate."
Two Facebook pages have since been created to petition for Wheeldon's reinstatement as candidate for Kings-Hants, with the larger garnering more than 300 "likes" so far.


I still get shocked and disapproving looks when I tell morons that I'm not voting because they all fucking suck. Most of these idiots are n.d.p. supporters, who either don't know or try to ignore the shit this party has done, and continues to do. In 2011, the n.d.p. backed the bombing of Libya, and mulcair says that he is an " ardent supporter of israel at all times, and in all situations". Indeed, he has a history of blocking all criticism of israel, and all talk of the human rights of Palestinians. He's a stupid shitmuncher.

Canada’s “Left” New Democratic Party (NDP) Endorses Corporate, US-NATO War Agenda

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mulcair ndp
Is the NDP the solution or part of the problem for those us who promote a Canadian foreign policy that favours ordinary people around the world?
While pushing arms control measures and oversight of Canadian mining companies, this ‘Left’ party generally backs the military and a Western pro-capitalist outlook to global affairs.
In 2011 the party supported two House of Commons votes endorsing the bombing of Libya. The party’s most recent election platform called for maintaining the highest level of military spending since World War II. In a more recent display of militarism NDP veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer joined some veterans in criticizing an agreement between retailer Target and the Royal Canadian Legion allowing red poppies to be sold outside the company’s stores. “We agreed that outside the front doors would be ideal and obviously if the weather is inclement or they prefer they are welcome to stand inside the double doors as well,” said Target spokesperson Lisa Gibson at the end of last month.
But this wasn’t good enough for many red poppy sellers who want to set up inside. So Stoffer demanded that Target “let these veterans into their stores, set up their tables and sell the poppies” and called on the company “to allow them [red poppy sellers] to come into the store at all times.”
Remembrance Day Poppies commemorate Canadians who have died at war. Not being commemorated are the Afghans or Libyans killed by Canadians in recent years or the Iraqis killed two decades ago or the Koreans killed in the early 1950s or the Russians, South Africans, Sudanese and others killed before that. By focusing exclusively on ‘our’ side Remembrance Day poppies reinforce a sense that Canada’s cause is righteous, a sentiment often used to promote wars.
One wonders if the NDP is willing to call on Target to allow peace organizations to set up tables and sell anti-war white poppies?
The same day Stoffer criticized Target, Michael Byers, a former NDP candidate and Thomas Mulcair leadership campaigner, co-authored a National Post opinion piece titled “Putting Politics Before Soldiers”. Based on a report Byers co-authored for the Rideau Institute and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the article argued that Harper’s Conservatives are spending $2 billion to buy tanks that are no longer necessary since the US military has shifted its counterinsurgency tactics. The article glowingly cited the Petraeus Doctrine, which is named after General David Petraeus who was in charge of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The doctrine calls for soldiers to engage with and support local people so as to erode any incentive they might have to side with insurgents.”
The article said nothing about the thousands of Iraqis and Afghans killed by the US-led forces implementing the Petraeus Doctrine. Nor does Byers’ report call for a reduction in Canada’s high-level of military spending.
While promoting US counterinsurgency tactics and red poppy sellers, the NDP was quiet on the recent visit to Toronto by Africa’s most blood-stained leader, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. Nor have they said much about Ottawa’s support for the Egyptian military’s ongoing repression or foreign minister John Baird’s anti-Iran efforts with the Gulf Cooperation Council monarchies.
It wasn’t always this bad.
A new biography about one of the NDP’s more courageous MPs touches on the party’s tendency to support the foreign policy establishment. In a published excerpt of Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics, Vancouver NDP MP Libby Davies told the book’s author: “Some people are concerned that we’ll slide, especially on foreign affairs. He [Robinson] was an outstanding voice on foreign affairs when he was critic for so many years. He never shied away from things… People wanted it. They wanted a party that actually had a real, critical position on foreign affairs — that wasn’t the Time magazine version … and that’s, I fear, what we’ve come around more to now.”
Robinson was willing to aggressively and creatively challenge the foreign-policy establishment. He was a founder of the Canadian wing of Parliamentarians for East Timor and questioned Canada’s role in the 2004 overthrow of Haiti’s elected government. In a particularly principled action, Robinson responded to Israel’s effort to seal off Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah by trying to travel there in October 2002. This act of solidarity unleashed a media storm, prompting NDP leader Alexa McDonough to strip Robinson of his role as foreign affairs critic.
Robinson’s time as foreign critic represents a shining moment for the party’s international policy (It should be noted, however, that Robinson backed the 1999 bombing of the former Yugoslavia, only turning critical over a month after it began.). His term also highlights the tension within the party between those who support a critical approach and those basically willing to go a long with the Canadian foreign policy establishment. Unfortunately, the latter group has generally determined the NDP’s international policy.
At its 1949 convention the CCF, the NDP’s predecessor, passed a resolution supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Even worse, the party also expelled two elected legislators who were critical of NATO.
While officially the West’s response to an aggressive Soviet Union, in fact NATO was established to blunt the European Left and extend North American/European power in light of the de-colonization taking place in Asia and the Middle East. NATO planners feared a weakening of self-confidence among Western Europe’s elite and the widely held belief that communism was the wave of the future. External Minister Lester Pearson was fairly open about NATO’s purpose telling the House of Commons in March 1949: “The power of the communists, wherever that power flourishes, depends upon their ability to suppress and destroy the free institutions that stand against them. They pick them off one by one: the political parties, the trade unions, the churches, the schools, the universities, the trade associations, even the sporting clubs and the kindergartens. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is meant to be a declaration to the world that this kind of conquest from within will not in the future take place amongst us.” Tens of thousands of North American troops were stationed in Western Europe to deter any “conquest from within”.
The other major motivating factor for the North American elite was a desire to rule the world. For Canadian officials the north Atlantic pact justified European/North American dominance across the globe. As part of the parliamentary debate over NATO Pearson said: “There is no better way of ensuring the security of the Pacific Ocean at this particular moment than by working out, between the great democratic powers, a security arrangement the effects of which will be felt all over the world, including the Pacific area.”
In the eyes of Pearson and the US leadership NATO’s first major test took place far from the north Atlantic in Korea. After the Communists took control of China in 1949 the US tried to encircle the country. They supported Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, built military bases in Japan, backed a right-wing dictator in Thailand and tried to establish a pro-Western state in Vietnam. The success of China’s nationalist revolution also spurred the 1950-1953 Korean War in which eight Canadian warships and 27,000 Canadian troops participated. The war left as many as four million dead.
The 1950 CCF convention endorsed Canada’s decision to join the US-led (though UN sanctioned) war in Korea. It wasn’t until huge numbers had died and China entered the war that the CCF started questioning Ottawa’s military posture.
In the early 1950s Iranians pushed to gain greater benefit from their huge oil reserves. But the British had different plans. As one of the earliest sources of Middle Eastern oil, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (British Petroleum’s predecessor) had generated immense wealth for British investors since 1915.
With Anglo-Iranian refusing to concede any of their immense profits, Iran moved to nationalize the country’s oil industry. It was a historic move that made Iran the first former colony to reclaim its oil.
Despite calling for the nationalization of numerous sectors of the Canadian economy, the leader of the CCF criticized Iran’s move. On October 22 1951 M.J. Coldwell told the House of Commons: “What happened recently in Iran [the nationalization of oil] and is now taking place in Egypt [abrogation of a treaty that allowed British forces to occupy the Suez Canal region] is an attempt on the part of these reactionary interests to use the understandable desire of the great masses of the people for improvements in their condition as an excuse to obtain control of the resources of these countries and to continue to exploit the common people in these regions.” The CCF leader then called on the federal government to “give every possible aid to the United Kingdom in the present crisis.”
Mohammad Mossadegh’s move to nationalize Iran’s oil would lead the US and UK to orchestrate his overthrow in 1953. The CCF failed (or at least it’s not recorded in the Hansard parliamentary debate) to criticize Ottawa for backing the overthrow of Iran’s first popularly elected Prime Minister.
No issue better reflects international policy tensions within the party than Israel/Zionism. Initially the CCF opposed the nationalism and imperialism associated with Zionism. In 1938 CCF leader J.S. Woodsworth, stated: “It was easy for Canadians, Americans and the British to agree to a Jewish colony, as long as it was somewhere else. Why ‘pick on the Arabs’ other than for ‘strategic’ and ‘imperialistic’ consideration.” At its 1942 convention the CCF condemned Nazi anti-Semitism but refused to endorse Zionism. “The Jewish problem can be solved only in a socialist and democratic society, which recognized no racial or class differences,” explained a party resolution.
But before Israel’s creation the CCF officially endorsed the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. In September 1945 new CCF leader M. J. Coldwell said the Zionist record in Palestine “in terms of both social and economic justice” spoke for itself. Three decades later, in 1975, NDP MP and former leader Tommy Douglas told Israel’s racist Histadrut labour federation, “The main enmity against Israel is that she has been an affront to those nations who do not treat their people and their workers as well as Israel has treated hers.” This speech was made eight years into Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip and a quarter century after 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed during the 1948 war.
While better today, this extreme deference to Israel has yet to be expunged from the party. In May 2008 the soon-to-be NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, was quoted in the Canadian Jewish News saying, “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.”
The NDP ought to shake off its history of supporting the Canadian foreign policy establishment. Beyond the moral imperative, sticking to mild and safe criticisms may be a losing electoral strategy.
Forceful and creative criticism of the Conservatives’ foreign policy could be a way to pushback against Jason Kenney’s successful outreach with immigrant communities (more than 20% of Canadians are born outside the country). The Conservatives have played off the fact that immigrant communities are generally more socially conservative. While this may be true, individuals with a strong connection to another country would also tend to be less supportive of Western domination, which the Conservatives have strongly pushed.
Additionally, Harper’s foreign policy has been designed to please the most reactionary sectors of the party’s base — evangelical Christians, right-wing Jews, Islamophobes, the military-industrial-complex as well as mining and oil executives. To a certain extent the Conservatives view international policy as a relatively low political cost way to please the party’s right wing base (the clearest example of them taking a more extreme position on foreign policy is the Conservatives’ refusal to give Canadian aid to projects abroad that include abortions — even for rape victims — but Harper strongly opposes efforts to challenge abortion domestically).
Could this same thinking not work for the NDP? Is there not a counter block of individuals and organizations focused on issues ranging from international climate negotiations to Palestine, global peace to mining justice? Wouldn’t a forceful and principled NDP position on these issues help galvanize party activists?
With average Canadians more knowledgeable and interested in international affairs than ever before, it is likely. But party strategists fear that the dominant media will lambaste the NDP for expressing forthright criticism on many international issues. The media would. But the growth of online news and global television stations makes it easier than ever — if the party cared to try — to defend critical positions on issues such as the recent coup in Egypt or Canada’s indifference to Paul Kagame’s murderous escapades in the East of the Congo.
Ultimately, the options for the NDP is reasonably straightforward: work to create an electoral strategy that significantly improves Canadian foreign policy or continue to make opportunistic appeals to veterans, the military and those who believe a “Time Magazine version” of international affairs. The latter option is tantamount to being complicit with current policies and — if elected — becoming the agent of a pro-corporate/pro-empire Canadian foreign policy.