Category Archives: Work

Jokers to the Right

https://images.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=http%3A%2F%2Frecycledsurfboards.com%2Farchie-bunker-quotes-on-race-119.jpg&f=1It’s time we learn more lessons from Archie Bunker. While the right wing continues to become increasingly clownish, we need to go back to Norman Lear’s classic 1970s sitcom, All in the Family, to get re-acquainted with Archie Bunker’s willful embrace of ignorance and bigotry to learn where he’s coming from and how to protect our world.

So let’s look at the threats lurking underneath the clownish behaviour of right wing politicians, and examine how a visionary, progressive, engaged labour movement can confront it. This trip takes us from the new Manitoba government to Brazil, to Donald Trump to Kevin O’Leary to Austria, and ends with Justin Trudeau.

Let’s start with a warning. These clowns and buffoons we are enduring, Trump and O’Leary jump to mind, are not to be underestimated. There is analysis suggesting that the ridiculous behaviour and ignorant policy statements are just an act to get free media coverage and attract votes. But we can’t let this possibility make us complacent.

The increasing prevalence of right wing clowns is designed to normalize these radical and offensive social, economic and political attitudes. We cannot let the evaporation and resignation of Stephen Harper make us content.

So let’s stroll around the world to see what we are up against.

The Manitoba NDP recently lost government, replaced with the Progressive Conservatives, who are not progressive. The new government caucus is 80% men. They appointed an Anglophone woman to be minister responsible for the francophone as well as sports, heritage, women and culture. Hers will be the ministry of “all the things the government doesn’t care about.”

Brazil has stepped back to the right wing privatization of the 1980s and maybe a touch of Chile in 1973. The right wing coup/impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff is class warfare. The new president immediately established a cabinet of only white men, and dissolved progressive ministries dealing with food, women, culture, science, racial equality, and human rights.

Then, the new president contacted the International Monetary Fund and Goldman Sachs to create a neoliberal structural adjustment program for the country, a tool that has decimated rich and poor nations around the world for two generations. This program is about destroying the progressive capacity of governments, in part by privatizing government services and corporations. So we need to monitor Canadian pension funds to make sure they don’t try to buy parts of Brazil’s public infrastructure at low, neoliberal prices.

Donald Trump is no clown. He’s a poster boy for white, male, corporate, 1% entitlement and backlash against recent generations of progressive change in society. He also resonates so well with people who have learned to keep their bigotry to themselves. Trump is popular because he is affirming their ideas and giving them license to revel in them, publicly.

Kevin O’Leary has long annoyed progressive Canadians because of his reactionary opposition to people who are not rich, white and entitled. His spirits have been buoyed recently with Stephen Harper’s resignation as party leader and Trump’s success in channeling anti-social views. Even if he never becomes leader of the Conservative/Reform Party of Canada, we need to be wary of whatever higher profile he may drift into in the near future.

A Green Party-supported independent candidate narrowly won Austria’s presidency in May in a run-off against and anti-immigration far right candidate with—take a deep breath—massive support from blue collar workers. Trump also has massive blue collar support.

Back in Canada, Trudeau has been in office for half a year and is already living up to the Liberal cliché of campaigning from the left and governing from the right. You can track how he is rapidly breaking election promises at Trudeaumetre.ca as he is framing himself as the new Harper with regressive trade, environmental and social policies.

So how do we confront these increasingly desperate right wing tactics and behaviours?

Archie Bunker taught us that providing a voice of ignorance and bigotry in a sitcom character keeps it from festering in back alleys. It also lets society see what debating controversial issues looks like.

And while it also seemed useful to mock Archie Bunker, that kind of mockery seems to have helped drive people with bigoted sentiments underground, until they began emerging recently, like with the “election” of George W. Bush.

So how should the labour movement contend with this new right?

1.       We need to start with our values: dignity, respect, equity, responsibility and accountability. These should frame how we engage with right wing issues. So let’s make sure we stop referring to Trump and O’Leary as clowns and buffoons.

2.       Since ignorance and bigotry are based in fear, we need to leverage our particular skills and insight as a labour movement to address what makes people afraid: insecure and precarious work, underemployment, vulnerable housing, social insecurity, inability to feel confident about being able to raise our families, equity, dignity, human rights.

3.       Since working people are resonating well with both Trump and Bernie Sanders, we can see they’re desperate for change, however it gets expressed. Our movement must more effectively engage with our members to help them see how progressive changes address their fears as well as improve society. Part of how we do this is to leave the political rhetoric and statistics aside and champion people in the labour movement to tell their stories about how progressive change has helped them.

 

Why I Joined Team Mulcair

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks at a campaign event in Toronto, Aug ...

After years of concern about what a second Harper majority government would do to eradicate the rest of what I love about Canada, I’ve been able to reject fear and embrace change. But it was a long process that required coming to terms with Tom Mulcair. And I did.

And so should you, which is why you should also be able to let go of any urge to vote for the Liberal Party.

As trade unionists we should be voting not only in our interests, but in the interests of the country. The great thing about being in the working class is that those interests are largely aligned.

We should not be fooled into thinking that terrorists are on the verge of blowing up our hallowed hockey arenas and legislatures. That’s Harper’s fear we need to continue rejecting.

We also should not be fooled into thinking that the Occupy Movement was irrelevant. As a political economist, one of my hobbies is to monitor right wing, neoliberal institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

But what I’ve tracked very closely is that all three right wing organizations, and many others, have started insisting that economic inequality is a huge threat to global stability: the core idea in the Occupy Movement.

But how do all these ideas lead to our fall election?

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are bad for Canada and Canadians.

And the trick has been in how to actually get rid of him, considering how much his party has cheated in and between the last few elections.

A luring notion has been percolating since the 2011 election: some sort of electoral co-operation, if necessary. And why not? Our current first-past-the-post electoral system continues to reward majority governments with absolute power to parties that get less than 50% of the popular vote.

And the big idea was to look to the Liberals and NDP to oust Harper’s Conservatives. The NDP’s Orange Crush brought the party to official opposition status. Jack Layton had just died. Ignatieff drifted back to Harvard and a younger Trudeau emerged as a contender to lead the Liberals into a new era.

And many people examined Mulcair, and found his personality, leadership charisma and appeal lacking. After all, Jack Layton was a beacon of optimism.

The NDP leadership race came down to Cullen, Topp and Mulcair.

Nathan Cullen touted co-operation with the Liberals to save Canada from Harper. Leadnow.ca, the powerful citizen mobilizer group, embraced that goal as well.

Brian Topp had never been elected and was running to become leader of the opposition, which was a stretch despite his history as a campaigner.

Tom Mulcair was successful in helping deliver Quebec, which had already warmed to Jack Layton, and was an experienced.,effective parliamentarian.

I supported Cullen and a co-operative approach, with the hope of achieving electoral reform as well.

But I joined Team Mulcair this past spring. And I had a number of compelling realizations as I changed my mind about how to save Canada, which I present here, chronologically:

  1. The political economist in me was impressed with Mulcair’s ability to litigate and coherently attack Stephen Harper’s anti-Canada agenda during question period in the House of Commons. Justin Trudeau has been largely ineffective in parliament.
  2. Starting in mid-2014, the NDP started releasing its election platform, well over a year before the fixed election date of October 19, 2015. After hearing little from the party about what policies the Mulcair-led policy would champion, I was impressed. There was action on climate change, an inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, economic equality policies, treating veterans with dignity, and many more. Meanwhile the Liberals had little to offer that was inspiring at all.
  3. Then, last Spring, Trudeau criticized the NDP for providing parliamentary office space for its staff union, but this nasty turn should not have surprised unions so much. Last decade, the Liberal Party promised to vote for federal anti-scab legislation. Then, they voted against it. The Liberal Party is not the party of unions or working people.
  4. Also last spring, as Mulcair continued to expand his personality and charisma, and win over NDP activist friends of mine who found him more engaging and inspiring than I ever had, the NDP stood strong and voted against the fascist bill C-51. Trudeau voted for it, despite claiming it was bad, but that he’d fix it once in power. In wanting to avoid alienating the right wing of his party, he alienated the many of the rest. This fence-straddling is typical for this party historically. But no more free pass for the party that campaigns from the left and governs from the right. I’m done with that kind of lying.

And by the summer, the Liberals were dropping in most demographics, the NDP was ahead of the Conservatives almost everywhere and voting Liberal anywhere in the country became impotent.

Looking back, the NDP won 103 seats and came second in over 100 ridings in 2011. Trudeau is missing. Mulcair has come into his own. Alberta inspired the whole country by embracing the NDP for change provincially. And Harper has driven our economy, rights and freedoms into the ground.

The NDP are fully capable of ridding us of Harper’s Conservatives for good.

That’s why I joined Team Mulcair. And so should you.

A version of this piece shows up in the Labour Day 2015 issue of Our Times magazine.

11 Weeks of Daily Harper Protests

The Harper Re-election Disaster Bus Totalitarianism: daily, for 11 weeks!

Get used to this.

People hate Harper and his Conservatives. We will see through his weak attempt to wedge oppositions parties by running a long election campaign because he has more money to spend.

Saturation will come fast.

We will remember how much contempt he holds for people and democracy.

We will listen to his 5 non-answers to 5 media questions each day and we will be constantly reminded of how much we can’t stand what he has done to Canada.

And we will see this. Every day: