Jagmeet Singh: David taking on the neoliberal Goliath?
Slaying neoliberalism , a pernicious ideology past its time
Canada’s NDP has elected an obviously politically talented, intelligent and authentic leader of considerable potential.
His beard and head dress are evocative of a biblical figure, as are his piercing eyes. Of course, his headdress is Sikh in origin but head wraps were common in biblical days and for all we know the real David wore one. He is most often depicted as clean shaven, but again, for all we know, he might have been bearded.
As for Goliath, he might have been a neoliberal prototype with a disposition not unlike the neoliberals of today. One thing we know for sure is the original Goliath was not an empty suit which is the hallmark of today’s neoliberals.
Neoliberalism is a global ideology that has been around for about forty years. It is unique in that it is omnipresent and yet few know about it. It has been written about. It has profoundly affected the lives of peoples and nation states the world over. It has seen public coffers plundered of their assets by the pagan greed of modern day Huns.
Two of the best adages to describe it are: socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor, and, business takes the profits, the public takes the risk. As of this final edit and the release of the Paradise papers we can add- tax compliance for the middle class and tax evasion for the rich.
One of the best essays on neoliberalism you will ever read is Robert McChesney’s introduction to Naom Chomky’s, Profit Over People. He defines with great insight what is neoliberalism, but also its ruinous effects on societies the world over. This book was written almost twenty years ago, along with many others, before and since. Neoliberalism has still not become part of our political dialogue or addressed by our bastardized media. It is the very corpulent, blushing elephant in the room our treacherous elites refuse to acknowledge.
George Monbiot makes a very pertinent point about the continued existence of neoliberalism:
The most remarkable aspect of neoliberalism is that it is still here. Its evident and devastating failures have not dislodged it. When the system it built came crashing down , the ideology survived . If anything , it has become more extreme. Governments have used neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to cut taxes , privatise remaining public services , rip holes in the social safety net , deregulate corporations and re – regulate citizens . The self – hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector.
Canada’s Liberal and Conservative parties have gone through a stealth transformation undetected by most Canadians.
In the days of Pierre Eliot Trudeau the Liberal party was actually liberal. Then along came the death of liberalism as documented in the essay Bush’s Useful Idiots(2006) by American historian Tony Judt. It was also documented by Chris Hedges in his book, The Death of the Liberal Class(2010). Here in Canada Peter C. Newman documented it in his book, When the Gods Changed(2012).
Hedges eloquently summarizes what happened on both sides of the Canada/US border :
Liberals conceded too much to the power elite. The tragedy of the liberal class and the institutions it controls is that it succumbed to opportunism and finally to fear. It abrogated its moral role. It did not defy corporate abuse when it had a chance. It exiled those within its ranks who did. And the defanging of the liberal class not only removed all barriers to neofeudalism and corporate abuse but also assured that the liberal class will, in its turn, be swept aside.
Hedges uses the term “neofeudalism” but he could have just as easily used neoliberalism. As liberalism suffered its untimley death it was supplanted by neoliberalism on both sides of the border. Liberals relegated themselves to being the catering class to the corporate class. Where the corporate class prevails the seeds of fascism are sewn.
Until the end of the Mulroney era in 1993 Canada had its own brand of conservatism as embodied in the Progressive Conservative Party. In October of that year the PCP was destroyed at the polls and the right was split between the Reform party and remnants of the PCP-2 seats. It was not until 2006 the Alliance(formerly the Reform) and the PCP merged to form the Conservative Party of Canada(CPC). The merger was a takeover as Harper’s Alliance dominated. Where the defunct PCP was a big tent party including conservatives of every persuasion, the CPC under Harper, had a very real kinship to America’s GOP Republicans.
A greatly diminished Canada
Since the time of P E Trudeau Canada has been ravaged by our quisling elites. We have seen the death of liberalism, the emergence of neoliberalism. Both Liberals and the CPC are practitioners of it. They are the ConLib Clique. Both parties have become affiliates of their American counter parts and their loyalty to Canada abandoned. They are caterer’s to the corporatists and the empire next door.
With the election of the present government many more Canadians came to realize there is little difference between the two parties. We really do have a clique that offers voters no real choice. Catering to the empires every wish, along with adhering to the dictates of neoliberalism hollows out political parties, their agendas and their identities. These are the parties of the empty suits presiding over our demise, imbued with timidity, indulging themselves in their comfy sinecure and becoming semi-employed on the public dole.
As McChesney points out, Canada now qualifies as a “neoliberal democracy”: trivial debate over minor issues by parties that basically pursue the same pro-business policies of formal differences and campaign debate. Democracy is permissable as long as the control of business is off-limits to deliberation or change; i.e. so long as it isn’t a democracy… The neoliberal system therefore has an important and necessary by-product a depoliticized citizenry marked by apathy and cynicism.
McChesney also nails its paramount treachery: Neoliberalism’s loudest message is that there is no alternative to the status quo, and that humanity has reached its highest point. In other words if we accept the present appalling status quo, all change is forestalled, the present becomes a degenerative future.
We have then, as Thomas Merton pointed out, suffered the ultimate “deadening of conscience” as the primal urge for progressive change is what lifted us out of the cave man era. To abandon this primal urge is to abandon an essential pillar of our humanity.
The many masks of neoliberalism
As Monbiot points out neoliberalism is still with us in spite of its many failures. It has many masks it hides behind. Most political parties at home and abroad operate under various names. To be openly neoliberal invites long overdue scrutiny.
In the time of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan it was very chic to be neoliberal. Now, of necessity, it operates by stealth; courtesy of politicos who won’t let the word cross their deceitful lips and under the indifferent noses of populations exploited by it.
It can be tagged as anything from the free market economy, to predatory capitalism, to globalization. Free trade agreements, deregulation, privatization and the denegration of government are its weapons of choice. So too is NATO; where economic coercion and sanctions don’t get the job done the military option is deployed.
The NDP Challenge
The challenge for the NDP lies in its willingnesss to actually put forward a progressive agenda for change and follow through with it. Where the present government has failed it must succeed.
The challenge for the Canadian electorate is: Are we willing to support a progressive agenda for change? We are a cynical and indifferent electorate, which is exactly what neoliberals want us to be. We have been effectively lulled and propagandized into our neoliberal victimhood.
The NDP and its newly minted leader are the inheritors of a country ravaged by neoliberalism. They are so far immune to the neoliberal label only because they have never formed government federally. Where as the ConLib Clique is totally debauched the NDP remains our only hope for real change.
Our economic, democratic and societal values are being frittered away by quisling elites. Are we prepared to be more vigilant, more political and less apathetic? Change will only come about if we make it happen.
Will the NDP stand up to the neoliberal Goliath; or just become a listless addition to the ConLib Clique?