On Canada Day, What Does Humanity Have To Look Forward To? Not What Canada Represents
July 1, 2016
By Stephen Gowans
Today is Canada Day, an annual fete in Canada to honour the birth of the country. In Ottawa, the capital, Canadians dress in the red and white of their country’s flag, set baseball caps with CANADA emblazoned across the front atop their heads, clutch mini Canadian flags in their hands, and make their way to the annual Parliament Hill spectacle, which features massive flags, marching soldiers, and Canadian war planes roaring overhead—the same ones that engaged in foreign bombing missions, including in Libya, where Canadian pilots quipped facetiously but accurately that they were al-Qaeda’s air force.
Canadians have been led to believe by the people who foster mindless patriotism that their country stands for peace, democracy, human rights and freedom. This is eye wash.Consider a recent departure from the country’s self-declared but infrequently adhered to values. The Trudeau government, the latest in a long line of governments committed to facilitating the profit-making of the country’s substantial citizens, is forging ahead with a $15 billion arms deal secured by the previous Harper government to sell light armoured vehicles to an oil rich medieval monarchy in the Middle East. Named after its ruling Saud family, this Arab tyranny abhors peace, democracy and fundamental human rights, leads an illegal unprovoked war on Yemen, and is one of the main arms supplier to al-Qaeda and its allies in Syria—the backward sectarian militants who carry out terrorists attacks which, on the occasions they spill over into Europe, provoke great outcries of indignation, but which occur on an almost daily basis in Syria, typically without comment in Canada.
Add to this the deplorable realities that the tyranny’s retrograde and hate-filled version of Islam is the ideological inspiration for al-Qaeda and Islamic State, and that, difficult as it is to credit, the kingdom’s male despots refuse to allow women to drive automobiles or to exercise much autonomy at all, and you would think that a country that prides itself as standing for peace, democracy, human rights and all that is virtuous, would regard its client as so noxious as to steer a wide berth around any business transactions with it.
So one would think.
Diderot once remarked that humanity would never be free until the last monarch was strangled with the entrails of the last cleric, which may sound anachronistic, considering that Europe was delivered from the oppressions of aristocracy at the end of World War I, or soon after. But the vile institution persists in the Arab world, and Diderot’s words hardly seem anachronistic or harsh to anyone who still has to bear monarchy’s oppressive weight.
Ottawa has “recently hammered out” a deal with six Arab Gulf monarchies, including the aforesaid Saudi tyranny, “that spells out how Canada might deepen its relationship with these countries in coming years,” reports the Globe and Mail’s Steve Chase. To repeat: Ottawa plans to deepen its relationship with these vampires, not eschew them as affronts against humanity, as one might expect a country would which professes to be deeply devoted to progressive humanitarian values.
“The Joint Action Plan,” writes Chase “sets out areas of co-operation between Canada and Arab Gulf states on everything from politics and security dialogue to trade and investment, energy, education and health.”
And to ensure that Canadians continue to be deceived by twaddle about how their country is a paladin of so many virtues, Ottawa won’t let them see what’s in the agreement.
The key to Ottawa’s commitment to deepening its relationship with the Arab Gulf royal dictatorships is the promise of a cornucopia of profits for Canadian investors, banks and corporations. And in Canada, as in all countries where wealthy investors, banks and corporations use their wealth to dominate politics and the state, the decisive organizing principle of the society is not peace-keeping, or democracy, or human rights, but what matters to banks, wealthy investors and major corporations, namely, profit-making.
In the pursuit of private, profit-making, interests, Canada has generally been on the wrong side of history since its founding 147 years ago. And when it has been on the right side, it has been on the right side, for the wrong reasons.
My first rebellion against the cult of Canadian patriotism occurred more than 30 years ago when on a visit to the country’s war museum I came upon a celebratory reference to Canada’s 1918-1919 military intervention in Russia. My siblings’ came earlier, when they refused to stand for the national anthem at school, and were suspended for their insurrection against the forced obeisance to the flag which Canadian schoolchildren are subjected to—a way of creating mindless automatons, programmed for fealty to a State that represents the interests of the country’s upper stratum, and not their own. Patriotism is an instrument of the ruling class to seduce the ordinary people of the country to fight its battles. This was an idea that agitated Hitler. He railed furiously against it in Mein Kampf.
The glorified Canadian military intervention in Russia which aroused my indignation and flight from the patriotic cult was directed against a social revolution engendered by centuries of a Tsarist tyranny and the chaos, destruction and disorganization wrought by World War I. How was this worthy of celebration? And what business was it of Canada’s to intervene militarily in the affairs of another people who posed not the slightest threat to Canada, unless you believed the febrile rhetoric of the time that Bolsheviks were about to launch a revolution in Canada, which (a) would have been an indigenous Canadian affair, if it did happen and (b) what would have been wrong with that? Perhaps, then, Canada could stand for something that means something to ordinary people, like: jobs for all; free university education; universal public health care; public day care; inexpensive public transportation; an end to the exploitation of man by man; self-determination for previously colonized and oppressed people; surcease from exclusion based on race, ethnicity, religion and sex; in other words, all the virtues the Bolsheviks brought to the former Tsarist empire, and for which they are almost never recognized and which Canada tried to put a stop to. To paraphrase Victor Hugo’s remarks about the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution may have been a great blow to the Russian aristocracy and the substantial citizens of Canada, but it was a warm caress for humanity.
Canada’s participation in the imperialist charnel house of World War I—a kind of holocaust against the working people of Europe and the colonial slaves whom the European elites threw into the conflagration—is in no way defensible, and was a reflexive, unthinking commitment to a mother country whose reason for entering the war had nothing whatever to do with the rights of small countries, as it was mendaciously professed to be, and everything to do with preserving the access of the British land-owning, industrial and financial elites to markets, investment opportunities and raw materials in competition with their German rivals.
In 1950, my maternal grandfather, who had enlisted in the Canadian Army during the Great Depression through a kind of economic conscription, joined other Canadians in the UN-denominated US-led “police action” in Korea—an indefensible meddling in someone’s else civil war, on the side of maintaining a US puppet state on the Korean peninsula, to provide Washington with a geostrategic perch from which to dominate East Asia on behalf of Wall Street financiers. The Americans, who arrived on the peninsula in 1945, and immediately swept away the People’s Committees, the first independent Korean government in decades, are still there.
Ever since, Canada has been willing to help the United States fight most of its subsequent neo-colonial wars of domination—in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and now in Syria.
As for World War II, Canada was on the right side of that conflict, but for the wrong reason. The country entered the war, because Britain did, and not to fight fascism or the Nazi persecution of the Jews, Sinti, Slavs, homosexuals, communists, socialists and trade union leaders, or to defend the Soviet Union, or to give teeth to the Atlantic Charter, which promised sovereign rights and self-government, but which, as Churchill made clear, would only apply in practice to people under the Nazi yoke, not the British yoke, which included the hundreds of millions of Indians subjugated by Britain. Indeed, Britain’s great colony of India, along with the conquered space of the American West, were models Hitler sought to emulate for Germany. He would build Germany’s West, or its East Indies, in Eastern Europe.Canada’s prime minister at the time, Mackenzie King, who had worked as head of industrial relations research for the Rockefeller Foundation to develop methods for big business to co-opt organized labor, was sympathetic to Hitler’s virulent antipathy to Jews (and communists.) King, who met Hitler, and expressed admiration for the Fuhrer in his diary, wrote that “I would have loathed living in Berlin with the Jews, and the way in which they had increased their numbers in the City, and were taking possession of it in the most important way…It was necessary to get them out, to have the German people really control their own City and affairs.”
Neither did Ottawa have trouble with fascists, so long as they confined their attention to fighting communists and organized labour and focussed their wrath on the citadel of communism, the Soviet Union. So-called premature anti-fascists, like Canada’s Norman Bethune, who travelled to Spain to fight Franco’s reaction to the country’s democratically elected Popular Front government, were looked upon with suspicion, and Ottawa erected legal impediments to Canadians traveling abroad to join the fight. Following World War II, Canada found that it could get along quite well with fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal, to say nothing of the police state dictatorship it helped to defend on the Korean peninsula, or apartheid South Africa.
Behind Parliament, on a small island in the Ottawa River, sits a mock village of the indigenous people on whose land the capital—and country—has been built, an unintentional reminder (lost on most Canadians) that Canada was founded on the dispossession and genocide of the land’s aboriginal people. Canada is, after all, an expression of British colonialism, one of the most vile, destructive, brutal, sanguinary forces, in human history. The sun, it has been said, never set on the British Empire. But nor did the blood ever dry on it either. As Richard Gott has written,
“Wherever the British sought to plant their flag, they were met with opposition. In almost every colony, they had to fight their way ashore. While they could sometimes count on a handful of friends and allies, they never arrived as welcomed guests, for the expansion of empire was invariably conducted as a military operation.”
The British hacked, cut, pushed and slaughtered their way into other people’s lands to plant their flag, and to steal the natural resources of the natives, exploit their labour, and dominate their markets. Canada, a country founded by these colonizers, was no exception.
It’s consistent, then, that Ottawa should maintain an unwavering commitment to the Jewish colonization of Palestine, made possible by Britain’s conspiring with France and Tsarist Russia during the Great War to carve up the dying Ottoman Empire, and turn over Palestine to a British League of Nations mandate, in which was ensconced a commitment to create a Jewish homeland on territory the British had no right to give away. Canada, not surprisingly, allies itself with the Jewish colonizers of Palestine, and therefore against its indigenous people, the Palestinians, and was opposed to the efforts of the autochthonous peoples of Zimbabwe to take back their land from the descendants of the British settlers who hacked, cut, pushed, and slaughtered their way into land they dubbed Rhodesia, after the great paladin of British imperialism, Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes once said “I would annex the planets if I could.”
The Bolsheviks, who were reviled in Ottawa, established suffrage for all, including for national minorities, long before Canada did. Canada didn’t offer universal suffrage, even Herrenvolk (master race) universal suffrage until after WWI, and true universal suffrage had to wait until 1960, when aboriginal Canadians, the dispossessed original inhabitants of the land, were belatedly allowed to vote.
The United States, another Herrenvolk democracy, didn’t effectively achieve universal suffrage until as late as 1965, when the civil and political liberties of black Americans were finally formally secured throughout the country. This late and grudging surrender of white supremacy was partly due to Washington’s need to compete ideologically with the Soviet Union, where racial discrimination—and the idea of a master race—were unthinkable.
What many of us in the United States, Canada and Western Europe hold to be the great social achievements of our countries—the mitigation of discrimination on the basis of sex and religion and racial and national origin, and the development of the welfare state—owe much to the pressures Western elites felt to compete ideologically with the Soviet Union, where discrimination on these grounds was inconceivable and where a robust social welfare state prevailed. With the USSR now defunct, a suicide carried out by the country’s last president, Mikhail Gorbachev—who, for obvious reasons is celebrated in the West, but is widely reviled in Russia—the ideological competition has ceased, and with it, large parts of the welfare state have been dismantled and continue to be demolished.
The French novelist Henri Barbusse, once wrote that the burning question of all time is what is the future of the human race, so martyred by history. To what, he asked, have human beings to look forward to?
Not $15 billion arms deals with monarchs whom Diderot, where he alive, might say ought to be strangled by the entrails of the last Wahhabi cleric; not the dispossession of peoples of their land by usurping settlers from abroad; not denial of self-determination; not wars of neo-colonial re-conquest; not acting as al-Qaeda’s air force to re-colonize the world on behalf of the planet’s dominant imperialist power.
If Canada offered something for the human race, so martyred by history, to look forward to, I would celebrate its founding, or at least, the moment it changed course, and set itself to the service of humanity. But alas, Canada offers nothing but more of the same that has martyred the human race throughout history; not the liberation that Diderot foresaw, but the tyranny he opposed.