Monday, October 12, 2015

The Real Threat of Harper . . .

As we inch toward Election day and the NDP looks to be out of the running and much the anti-Harper vote edges toward the Liberals, many people are, I believe, soul-searching. Despite its turn to the Right in recent years, it seems clear that the NDP is definitely left of the position from which the Liberals are campaigning (to say nothing of the position from which the Liberals would govern). Despite Trudeau being clearly left of Ignatieff, from an economic point of view the Liberal Party is still squarely a neo-Liberal party and we can expect very little from them to address the economic inequality that has creeped into our system after decades of post-war incremental adjustments to those inequalities.

As the election nears and the Liberals look to be the only party that can take Harper's place, many leftists and progressives are now wondering if this effort to oust Harper at all costs was worth the effort. Seeing a return to the Party of Paul Martin's austerity seems a pale and disappointing replacement. And I share that sentiment. However, it seems to me that as progressives we need to be careful to remember what is at stake. When it looks like a chance that he could be gone, is easy to forget just how poison Stephen Harper as been for this country. As much as the Liberals have stood for economic inequality in the past, they have also represented important progressive efforts as well (and I say that as someone who is quite a bit left of the NDP). Much of what Harper has destroyed, the disappearance of which we sorely lament,  have been things that the Liberal Party of Canada began and supported for a long time. Though Trudeau made a big mistake supporting Bill C-51, let's remember that they are the Party that brought us the Charter and they have defended it many times while Harper has done everything possible to undermine it. Let's not forget that though Mulroney created the Court Challenges program, he later tried to kill it and the Liberals under Chretien saved it, only to see Harper kill it again. The Liberals funded a number of important women's programs that Harper has killed, as well as adult literacy programs which are now almost gone in this country. Though the Liberals sometime played a little fast and loose with the traditions of the House of Commons, they basically respected the process. Harper on the other hand has nearly destroyed it altogether and what we have now is a pale shadow of the Westminster system of government which, for all its faults, was something that could have been expanded into a much more active process of democracy and citizenship.

Some on the left might argue that the Liberal Party is just a 'kinder gentler' group that is going to screw the weak and the vulnerable. And there is a sense in which that is true. But here's the thing - when you eliminate the rule of law (as Harper is doing), when you eliminate the ability for people to protect themselves against the arbitrary power of government (as Harper is doing), when you make the House of Commons entirely unaccountable (as Harper has done), when you gut Elections Canada and make Election Fraud de facto legal (which Harper is doing), when you destroy the freedom of information system (as Harper has done), when muzzle scientists and eliminate fact-based policy efforts, when you do all these things then it really doesn't matter what you believe because you really can't change anything. And this is the trap that Harper represents. Sure the Liberals are not that progressive, they represent Bay Street far too much, they represent little change on climate issues, they won't bring much justice for the poor or even Indigenous people. But at the very least they represented a system in which we could legitimately fight for positive change with some degree of hope. And that really means something. Revolutionary defeatism can be an attractive ideology for the cynical and the angry, but in the face of genuine fascism, the struggle for real justice disappears and the progressive are forced to just fight for survival.

The Liberals may not become the progressive government many of us were hoping for, but HarperCons are a threat to the very system itself, to a system in which we can meaningfully fight for justice and equality. Harper represents a dark, American-like (Pottersville) sort of future where the justice system is a pawn of the government, where the police and the Army are an extension of a political party, where racism is institutionalized, where guns are everywhere, where the Charter of Rights is distant memory, and eduction and healthcare is reserved for the rich. Justin Trudeau may not be a progressive wonder-boy, but I will take a man and a party that represents the possibility of change than one who represents a dark, goose-stepping future any day of the week.

I leave you with a timely quote from the English Sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock

"If we continue to make any sort of social progress, I suspect that the political battle line of the twenty-first century will not be between socialism and capitalism but democracy and paternalism. The answer to paternalistic socialism…is not laissez-faire capitalism, or centralized corporatism or monetarism, with all their attendant ills and intrinsic injustices, but real equality under the law - where all of us have equal voice, equal access to our democratic institutions and equal responsibility. Sadly, some of the democratic infrastructure in our society seems seriously under threat at present - is often attacked in the name of "freedom" (by which is usually meant freedom of choice of washing powder or telephone company or porn video) - and it is up to us, I think, to examine those institutions, remember why they were developed in the first place and perhaps protect them."


Unknown said...

Harper is a threat to our sovereignty. If he gets 4 more years, he will make Canada a full scale Neoliberal Country run by fascists.I agree with you about Trudeau and the Liberals,but it is our freedom that is at stake and Trudeau without any illusions about the liberals Neoliberalism will not turn Canada into a fascist police state. He's starting, to look good to alot of people. I think it is because of the liberals history on progressive issues that you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

This is the only way we don't get four more years:

Scotian said...

Very well written Kirby, and dead on accurate. One of my problems with Dippers generally is this tendency to ignore that while yes, the Libs are not "progressives" they are pragmatist centrists, and in actuality they are also not inherently hostile to progressive ideas, policies, and programs. Indeed, as you clearly noted they have done much to advance those in this nation prior to the Harper decade of destruction. The Libs did not try to slash and burn the system progressives were using to advance their agendas, ideas, and policies, unlike the Harper CPC. The Libs even in the last go-round while being much more fiscally restrictive than prior governments was doing so to prevent an even worse entity from coming in to do it for us (IMF) and being even more destructive, and had in the last few years of the Lib government been restoring significant funding levels to those areas slashed to balance the books (by balance I do not just mean remove the deficit, I also mean making significant debt repayments that brought the debt to GDP ratio down significantly, an important element for why the 2008 crash did not hurt us as badly along with the Lib refusal to allow our banking sector to join the US/European banks in their mortgage derivitives bingeing which we all know Harper and the CA/Reform were DENOUNCING the Libs for refusing to allow, now they take credit for the benefits it gave Canada in that horrific crash, go figure).

The Libs of course have the right handed governing side that they play to, and tend to play to a bit more, and that is because, despite all wishing it were otherwise, when it comes to economic policy most voters in this nation are center to center right, NOT progressives. On social policy grounds, there I agree that the progressives hold the clear majority, but on economic, nope, and I would also suspect not on foreign policy grounds either, although that one is less clear IMHO these days. This is why the Libs have governed as they have, it is why their governments have been generally seen as the most successful for the nation in balancing between left and right, and it is why both the Conservatives and the hard core Dippers HATE the Libs so much too.

It isn't that the Libs stand for nothing but their own power, they stood for peace, order and good government and were pragmatists in how they managed it. They did though also believe in the importance of the rule of law, of core democratic values, and the idea that Canada is an inclusive nation with progressive social values with room for multiple voices, not the single voice that we have seen from Harper. Under the Libs progressives were able to effect significant influence and change over the decades, what again did they ever get out of Conservative governments by comparison? Little to none, depending on which government one refers to. Yet this is either ignored, forgotten, or worse, lied about by progressives who claim that only they know the truth, live in the reality based world etc. This is part of their overweening sanctimonious hypocrisy which so alienates so many outside the core NDP base, and is in my view one of their biggest obstacles to getting enough support to form government for the party as a whole.

You made many good points in this post of yours Kirby, it will be interesting to see what or even if the defenders of the NDP have to say to it.

CuJoYYC said...

Scotian fir the win.