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Mulcair, Trudeau and the fight against Harper


April 25, 2013

Like the US Republicans and Democrats, the Tories and the Liberals are the twin parties of corporate Canada. The NDP has the potential of using its position in Parliament to magnify resistance movements, but is squandering this opportunity in its quest for power.  
 
Corporate coalition and the Orange Wave
Harper’s austerity is an extension of the Liberals, who under Chretien and then Martin made deep cuts to social programs and massive cuts to corporate taxes. It was the Liberals who first imposed “anti-terror” legislation, and they have continued to support Harper’s attacks on civil liberties. The Liberals started the war in Afghanistan and supported Harper during every extension of the “mission”, overthrew democracy in Haiti and were only stopped from joining the Iraq War by a massive anti-war movement . The Liberals ignored the Kyoto protocol before Harper killed it, and have supported the tar sands and pipelines. According to Justin Trudeau, tar sands “are an important driver of the economy and we have to respect it.”
 
Anger at Harper and austerity, disillusionment with the Liberals for failing to provide an alternative, and inspiration from the Arab Spring caused the Orange Wave of support for the NDP—hoping for a real alternative, which could be realized if the Official Opposition inside Parliament supported the resistance movements outside Parliament. We caught of glimpse of this when Jack Layton called on people to join the anti-war protests in 2003, or when the NDP filibustered Harper’s attack on postal workers in 2011.
 
Mulcair: the NDP’s Blair
But NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has focused on following Layton’s call to “make Parliament work” by “working together” with the corporate parties. In practice this has meant subordinating the movements to the NDP’s quest for power: ignoring the Quebec student strike and supporting the Clarity act that denies Quebec’s right to self-determination, refusing to meet with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and calling on her to end her hunger strike, ignoring Canada’s military budget and supporting Harper’s imperial intervention in Mali, repeating the myth that migrant workers are “depriving Canadians of their livelihood”, supporting the tar sands and eastward shipment of oil, removing socialism from the party’s constitution preamble, the list goes on. 
 
Mulcair calls this strategy “bringing the centre to us”, but instead it brings the NDP to the right—driving a wedge between opposition inside and outside Parliament. This is great news for the Liberals, the natural party of the centre, who are eager to rebuild themselves on illusions that they offer an alternative to Harper. The corporate Democrats under Obama tacked to the left, absorbed the energy of the movements to win the election, and then tried to smother them. This is what the Liberals want to do under Trudeau, who visited Chief Spence and during his acceptance speech claimed to support to Idle No More—though his respect for tar sands trumps his respect for the indigenous communities whose land is destroyed to produce it.
 
As a consequence of Mulcair tacking right and Trudeau tacking left, there’s the renewal of the argument of “Anyone But the Conservatives”, or a “coalition” of parties against Harper. This ignores the fundamental difference between the corporate base of the Liberals and the labour base of the NDP, ignores decades of experience under Liberal rule, and paves the way for undermining the NDP and its connection to social movements.
 
Social democracy and capitalist crisis
Mulcair’s policies also give an indication of how he might rule if he does win the next election. Around the world—from Britain, to Greece, to South Africa—people have elected social democratic governments with high hopes, only to see them implement the same policies of neoliberalism and war. When the NDP proposed a coalition with the Liberals a few years ago, they dropped their opposition to corporate tax cuts and the war in Afghanistan. There’s also a history of provincial NDP government’s raising tuition in Nova Scotia, closing hospitals in Saskatchewan, imposing wage cuts in Ontario, and attacking indigenous communities in BC.
 
With the deepening capitalist crisis we need to use every opportunity to build resistance, including working with NDP activists to push the party leadership to be a megaphone for the movements. But the same capitalist crisis that is producing austerity is also undermining the ability of social democratic governments to offer an alternative, posing the need for a real alternative to capitalism.

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