Tag Archives: Project Ploughshares

Elizabeth May accepts right-wing billionaire’s debate

images-1It is great that Elizabeth May wants to debate foreign policy issues, but why would the Green Party leader want to participate in an event designed and controlled by an organization funded by right-wing capitalists who profit from the super exploitation of poor people and countries across the planet?

In recent days Munk Debates has repeatedly run a Facebook ad calling on individuals to pressure other party leaders to agree to their debate. It notes, “thank you Elizabeth May and Andrew Scheer for accepting our invitation to participate in the Munk federal election debate on foreign policy. Help us convince Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau to take part in the debate by visiting our website. Email Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau. More debates = more democracy.”

Generally, political debates do reflect vibrant democracy but that is not necessarily the case when the forum was set up and financed by one of Canada’s richest and most right-wing capitalists. Through his Aurea Foundation, Peter Munk, the founder of rapacious global mining firm Barrick Gold, established Munk Debates a decade ago. Peter’s son Anthony Munk is on the committee overseeing the debate series.

Set up to promote Peter Munk’s vision of the world, the Aurea Foundation has doled out millions of dollars to right-wing think tanks such as the Fraser Institute, Canadian Constitution Foundation and Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Now deceased, Peter Munk espoused far-right political views. In 1997 he publicly praised dictator Augusto Pinochet for “transforming Chile from a wealth-destroying socialist state to a capital-friendly model that is being copied around the world” while two years later the Canadian Jewish News reported on a donation Munk made to an Israeli University and speech in which he “suggested that Israel’s survival is dependent on maintaining its technological superiority over the Arabs.” In 2006 he attacked leftist Bolivian president Evo Morales and the next year wrote a letter to the Financial Times comparing Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to Hitler. In a March 2011 Globe and Mail interview Munk dismissed criticism of Barrick’s security force in Papua New Guinea by claiming “gang rape is a cultural habit” in that country and he responded to a 2014 Economist question about whether “Indigenous groups appear to have a lot more say and power in resource development these days” by saying “globally it’s a real problem. It’s a major, major problem.”

In the lead-up to the 2015 election 50,000 individuals and 175 group signed a petition calling for a debate on women’s issues. It never happened, but in a sign of how “money talks” in politics, a Munk foreign policy debate did. And the questions asked were in line with the debate sponsor’s worldview.

This election tens of thousands have called on CBC to hold a climate change debate, but it has yet to be scheduled. Instead, the Conservatives, who would rather not discuss the environment, and the Greens have agreed to another debate organized by a billionaire’s foundation.

There are two ways to look at May’s participation in the Munk Debate.

  • Having been excluded from previous election debates, she is simply keen to partake in these forums and is sincerely committed to an exchange of ideas.
  • And/or, May’s decision to participate in this right wing circus means she is comfortable participating in the Munk Debate because she shares much of their foreign policy outlook. (I detailed this in “Green leader May supports same old pro-imperialist foreign policies.”)

To avoid reinforcing this impression, May could have conditioned her participation in the debate on the Rideau Institute or Project Ploughshares playing a role in determining the questions or co-sponsoring the debate.

While it is good May is willing to debate international issues, the devil is in the details. And if one of those details is committing to the interests of billionaire capitalists, banks and mining companies, instead of ordinary people around the globe, then the Green Party leader is just another establishment politician.

Comments Off on Elizabeth May accepts right-wing billionaire’s debate

Filed under Green Party

Let’s build the kind of Left that demands Canada withdraw from NATO

Even the father of Medicare, Tommy Douglas, fell victim to NATO propaganda.

Final in a four-part series on the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The first two installments discussed how NATO was set up to blunt the European  left and to enable global  dominance while the third focused on NATO’s role in spurring conflict  and military spending. This article details the Left’s relationship with NATO.

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the NDP’s predecessor, backed NATO. In early 1949 the National Council of the party announced, “the CCF  believes that Canada should support and join a North Atlantic security pact.” At its 1950 convention the party passed a resolution supporting NATO and, in coded reference to his aggressive response to its opponents, long time party secretary David Lewis writes, “the NATO  issue did not disappear. It had to be dealt with at every subsequent convention, and always produced one of the most heated debates.” Army Captain and party advisor Desmond Morton describes the battle over a compromise resolution on military alliances at the NDP’s founding convention in 1961. The motion to abandon NORAD, but stay in NATO, was “subjected  to a bitter, emotional attack from the floor. As they had done in so many CCF conventions, [MJ] Coldwell, [Tommy] Douglas and Lewis came to the microphones to hammer back the unilateralists.”

Party leaders did not only employ the power of persuasion. In addition to benefiting from the dominant ideological winds, the leadership employed the levers of power within the party. On one occasion, Coldwell threatened to resign as party leader if members did not support the North Atlantic treaty. When a group of Manitoba CCF members, including individuals elected to the provincial legislature, organized an anti-NATO group the provincial secretary blocked their access to the party’s mailing list. Federal MP and future party leader, Stanley Knowles also intervened to pressure the Manitoba CCF to punish prominent opponents of NATO and the provincial party expelled two former members of the Manitoba legislature for campaigning against the North Atlantic accord.

Two decades after its creation the NDP finally called on Ottawa to withdraw from NATO. But, its 1969 position was partially reversed in the mid-1980s, culminating in a 1987 “security” policy paper that equivocated on the subject. When members have submitted  resolutions critical of NATO at recent NDP conventions they have been buried. In a 2015 federal election debate party leader Tom Mulcair called the NDP “proud  members of NATO” and said his government would make the alliance a “cornerstone” of its foreign policy. There’s little indication that new leader Jagmeet Singh has changed  the party’s position.

On the eve of the 1980 referendum the Parti Québecois’ 1979 White Paper (Québec-Canada: A New Deal. The Québec Government Proposal for a New Partnership Between Equals: Sovereignty-Association) said an independent Québec would continue its membership in NATO. More recently, the PQ’s 2012 election platform pledged to remain in NATO. In its platform Québec’s other main sovereigntist party, Québec Solidaire, calls for “Canada’s  immediate withdrawal from NATO and NORAD.”

The Green Party has questioned “maintaining  membership in NATO” and called for “shifting our focus away from NATO war missions towards UN Peacekeeping contributions”, but they don’t appear to have explicitly asked to withdraw from the alliance. The Communist Party  and other smaller Left parties have called for withdrawing from NATO.

For decades the ‘house of labour’ backed NATO. The Canadian Labour Congress’ predecessors – the Canadian Congress of Labour and Trades and Labour Congress – supported the formation of NATO and the CLC’s inaugural convention called on the “Canadian  government not to falter or fail in its support of NATO”, which it described as a measure for “self-protection against aggression.” In 1957 the CLC “reiterated its support of NATO in the memorandum submitted to the government of Canada.” As part of an effort to promote the military alliance, the newly formed labour federation distributed 11,000 copies of a booklet titled “The Trade Unions and NATO”. The pamphlet explained, “unfortunately we still do have to spend large sums on defence, and the responsibility for the fact rests with international communism. Canadian labour firmly supports NATO.”

Through the 1960s the CLC continued to back NATO. It wasn’t until 1976 that the CLC “urged  the federal government to … deemphasize the military role of the North Atlantic organization.” In recent years the CLC and its affiliates have said little about NATO.

A number of peace organizations – Pugwash  Canada, Project Ploughshares, etc. – have taken ambiguous positions  towards NATO. The president of the antiwar Rideau Institute Peggy Mason attended  all NATO Council meetings when she was a lead adviser to Progressive Conservative MP and foreign minister Joe Clark from 1984 to 1989. During a 2012 National Defence Committee parliamentary meeting Mason noted, “I’m  talking as someone who has spent the better part of the last 10 years working with NATO.” The Rideau Institute president trained NATO commanders for peace and crisis stabilization operations and, according to Mason’s LinkedIn profile, continued in this role after taking over RI.

For their parts, the Canadian Peace Congress, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, Canadian Peace Alliance and others openly call for Canada to withdraw from NATO, which shouldn’t be a controversial position for progressive organizations.

Though it would elicit howls of outrage from the militarists, withdrawing from NATO would not be particularly radical. European countries such as Sweden and Finland aren’t part of the alliance, nor are former British dominions Australia and New Zealand, not to mention Canada’s NAFTA and G7 partners Mexico and Japan. Still, withdrawing from NATO would dampen pressure to spend on the military and to commit acts of aggression in service of the US-led world order. It’s long past time to do so.

 

Comments Off on Let’s build the kind of Left that demands Canada withdraw from NATO

Filed under NATO, Uncategorized