Saturday, 5 April 2008

Stephen Harper: True Grit; No Tory

Given that the whining crybabies of the "Conservative" Party routinely fret themselves into a puerperal fever over "media bias", I thought it wise to devote some of my blog space to the promotion of the party and its agenda. Bear with me while I make a brief CPC-friendly announcement.

Stephen Harper or one of his ankle-biting cyphers is possibly at some location making some nebulous announcement concerning something of limited significance. He or she may also be cutting a ribbon, signing a huge novelty cheque, or turning sod with a silver-plated shovel.

There. That wasn't so hard, actually (though I do feel a bit cheap). Now, getting back to things that actually matter...

As incredible as it may sound, many CPC droids (and not just those adept in the art of auto-suggestion) seem convinced that their party is a credible vehicle for Canada's Tory heritage. One of the few not-entirely-insane Blogging Tories recently made the mistake of invoking John George Diefenbaker as a prime exemplar of Tory "achievement". In response, I gave the poor lad an indication of how thoroughly he had just kicked his own ass. More importantly, though, it occurred to me that Diefenbaker's values and career might serve as a quick and accurate litmus test of Stephen Harper's Tory bona fides.

I offer for your review, therefore, the results of Harper's performance in the "Diefenbaker Trials". These trials bring scrutiny to bear on Harper's approach to four critical issues--the rights of Parliament, justice, fiscal policy and trade, and relations with the United States. Let's begin.

1) Rights of Parliament:

In 1957, Diefenbaker attacked Louis St. Laurent's Liberal government in these terms:

"I have seen [the House] treated with shocking contempt, sorely wounded, robbed of its rights, its independence gone, usurped by a few Ministers who treat the rest of their Cabinet as juniors, and members of all Parties as though they were not entitled to be there...I have seen the hands of the Cabinet directing members and disciplining them into an abject servility."

Diefenbaker is describing St. Laurent's decrepit and doomed regime, but he might as well be speaking of Stephen Harper and his autocratic demotion of CPC MP's to the rank of trained monkeys, his attempts to suborn the civil service and turn it into an arm of the CPC and his total contempt for the rights and dignity of the Loyal Opposition.

2) Justice:

* Davie Fulton, Diefenbaker's Minister of Justice, re-oriented Canada's penitentiary system towards an ethic of rehabilitation. He also ordered an immediate review of all pending death sentences, resulting in the commutation of virtually all of them to life sentences--a process which Lester Pearson's government later adopted as a matter of policy. Fulton's act represented the de facto end of capital punishment in Canada.

Ask yourself how the CPC's crypto-American "hang-'em-high" attitude towards criminal justice issues can be compared to Diefenbaker's. Ask yourself how many CPC MP's would love the chance to vote in favour of re-introducing the death penalty, and ask yourself why Stephen Harper's government refused to support a U.N. motion imposing a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty (aside from one obvious reason--that such a motion would be awkward for the White House).

* As a junior MP during the war, Diefenbaker protested the decision of the Liberal government to intern British Columbia's Japanese-Canadians as a "cautionary measure" against the threat of subversion. Diefenbaker later denounced a Tory proposal to ban the Canadian Communist Party, decrying it as a symptom of U.S.-style McCarthyism.

Ask yourself how far Diefenbaker's championing of civil liberties--even those of unpopular and despised communities--equates with the CPC's apeing of Republican-style Islamophobia (under the pretext of fighting the "War on Terror"). What's the CPC position on Omar Khadr's Guantanamo detainment, for example?

3) Fiscal Policy and Trade:

* When the St. Laurent Liberals announced that they would allow an American corporation to build, own and operate the Trans-Canada Pipeline, Diefenbaker's Tories desperately tried to block the enabling legislation and later waged an overtly nationalist campaign during the election triggered by the bitter pipeline debate.

* During the election, Diefenbaker promised to divert a significant percentage of export trade away from the U.S. in order to safeguard Canada's economic independence. He also promised to enact legislation requiring American corporations to incorporate Canadian branch-plants as Canadian companies and to make equity stock available to Canadians.

* Diefenbaker was opposed to any plan that would permit the sale of Canadian water to the U.S.

* Alvin Hamilton, Diefenbaker's Minister of Agriculture, conceived and executed the sale of Canadian wheat to China. These exports, which were massive, brought unprecedented prosperity to the Canadian Prairies, and stands as one of Diefenbaker's greatest achievements. Washington was enraged at this "pro-Communist" flouting of American anti-Chinese orthodoxy. Diefenbaker explained:

"So strong was the opposition to Canada's policy that the Kennedy administration endeavoured to prevent a Canadian corporation whose parent company was in the United States from supplying Canada with the necessary loaders that were needed to ship the wheat to Communist China".

Now compare Diefenbaker's commitment to Canadian fiscal sovereignty with Harper's attitude. Ask yourself whether you have ever seen Stephen Harper display one iota of concern for Canadian independence, fiscal or otherwise. What is his position on North American "integration"? How loud was his defence of Canada when the U.S. threatened to impede cross-border traffic and trade in retaliation for Jean Chretien's refusal to support the invasion of Iraq? Why is Harper willing to sit and watch the sale of MDA to an American weapons manufacturer?

4) Relations with the U.S.:

* Diefenbaker's Minister of External Affairs, Howard Green, was fanatically anti-nuclear and a passionate advocate of global disarmament. He and Diefenbaker refused to participate in America's policy of anti-Cuban isolation, refused to put the Royal Canadian Air Force on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis, refused an American "invitation" to join the Organization of American States (as a de facto U.S. water-carrier) and refused to allow the U.S. to deploy nuclear weapons on Canadian soil (a refusal that became one of the central issues of the 1962 election, when Diefenbaker waged yet another explicitly anti-American campaign).

Compare Diefenbaker's Canada-centric foreign-policy orientation to Stephen Harper's anti-Canadian, pro-American virulence. Recall that Harper insisted that Canada join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, called Jean Chretien a "coward" for not doing so, authored a motion in the House demanding an "apology" for Canada's perfectly reasonable position, and later sent a letter to the Wall Street Journal expressing disgust for Liberal "anti-American disloyalty". Recall Harper's unbridled enthusiasm for the U.S. Anti-Ballistic Defence Shield. Frankly, just recall that Harper has never missed an opportunity to get down on all fours and raise his backside in meek acceptance of an American buggering.

The facts are clear. Ultimately, the relationship of Stephen Harper's CPC to the Tory Party of old is precisely that of the Black Mass to the Catholic liturgy: the CPC is a grotesque parody, a degraded sham. Its corpus seems viable, but its viscera are diseased. It is an empty suit of armour. It is, in the compelling words of the New Testament, a whited sepulchre--all cleanliness without and all filth and defilement within. It has claimed for itself a special place of dishonour among those other odious political machines (meaning all of them) whose uselessness has for more than a decade inflicted such an oppressive mortmain on our people as to make a cultural re-birth (or "restoration", more accurately termed) as inconceivable as it is absolutely necessary to our national survival.


Trusty Tory, the main inspiration (or expiration, actually) of this post, has just concluded his thread by conceding the truth of my critique of the CPC. He now completely agrees with a commenter who says that "the CPC is the party of classical liberalism" and that the party has abandoned “traditional Canadian nationalist conservatism”.

In typically incoherent CPC-droid fashion, however, Trusty Tory has yet failed to amend his post or supply it with a codicil that acknowledges the post's utter senselessness: he is either unaware that his admission stands in total contradiction to the substance of his post or simply doesn't care.

Trusty, you are truly through the looking glass, my friend. Give my regards to Alice. And please abstain from voting, federally and provincially. You're a danger to yourself and others.


Aeneas the Younger said...

Of course, you know that I challenged him to either retract his post, or amend it. Being devoid of honour, he instead told me to shove-off and stick-it.

And then he prattled-on about how perhaps the CPC is - in light of our criticisms - NOT right wing ENOUGH. This I took to imply that he really despises the Tory Tradition in Canada and would like to see it eradicated.

On top of all this, he continues to maintain that he is a devotee of Brock.

I really feel that he is either:

* Unbelievably Stupid; or

* Insane.

You make your own call on the matter.

Ryan said...

Excellent post. Just the fact that the Conservatives have no sense of history makes them classical liberals.

Next they'll probably be appealing to R.B. Bennett to dismantle the welfare state and John A. Macdonald for "provincial rights."

The current CPC's roots can only be traced as far back as Ernest Manning.

Aeneas the Younger said...


And THAT was Preston's dream - to realise his Father's dream.

Are WE the only ones who realised the implications of EC Manning's "Political Realignment, a Challenge to Thoughtful Canadians."

I own a copy and read it as a primer on what the Reform Party was all about.

Ryan said...

This book sums it up pretty well:

My favourite part is the contempt that EC and Preston had for the likes of Diefenbaker & Robert Stanfield. They simply weren't ideological enough, apparently.

Red Tory said...

Ryan — I haven't read the book, but was just skimming through some of the extracts on that link you provided. Very interesting.

It's amazing what you can persuade them to do once you convince them that it's the leader who is telling them.

— Stephen Harper (when Policy Chief, Reform Party of Canada)

The section on "Managing the Membership" was especially amusing in hindsight given the events of last week.

Ryan said...

Am I the only one that is amused/astonished at the irony of a party that preaches personal and individual freedom while single-mindedly revering the idea of a demagogue/strong leader steering towards a political nirvana?

Sir Francis said...

Am I the only one that is amused/astonished...

Not at all. Neo-conservatism is highly authoritarian, and its devotees absolutely require a "strong man" figure. Robert Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba has written extensively about this. John Dean (of Watergate fame) applied Altemeyer's theory in an analysis of the Bush administration.

Aeneas the Younger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aeneas the Younger said...

Altemeyer's work/analysis dovetails quite well with some of the work done on neo-fascism, which is really a movement that promises to re-integrate those who feel alienated from contemporary society but don't know why.

People become alienated for a variety of reasons, but the New Right does a fairly good job at tribalising the alienated by the uses of slogans and symbols and easy-to-understand concepts.

Because people can relate to micro-economic analogies (we all grocery shop ...) for example, the New Right uses the application of Laffer Curve-driven Tax-Cuts in the US in the 1980 to trot-out the "big lie" that a reduction in taxes ALWAYS leads to economic stimulation and increased tax revenues. Well, not always and not for the reasons Laffer contends.

But because, it is generally believed to be true, and is an economic concept that is attractive (more money in my pocket, a growing economy, AND increased revenue for the gov't: sign me up!), and BECAUSE it is repeated enough to be though to be a general rule, well then, the right-wing horde believe it as much as they believe that Men walked along the Dinosaur.

The alienation of man from society comes not because society has become immoral, or because man is alienated from his labour, but because man has become a commodity - a means to an end.

I think the answer can be found in Plato, the New Testament, Augustine, Kant & Ellul. However, as a devotee of George Grant I believe that Grant, in fact, unlocked the door to this mystery - and he did so 40-50 years ago.

The liberal order is a very attractive order to individuals; it promises freedom, wealth, and technology. What no one wants to face-up to is that all these things come at a price.

The followers of the New Right are what I typically call-out as the bourgeoisie and lumpenproletariat; I do not do that to deride them, but to point-out that they are the financially co-opted and anti-intellectual mass that looks to simple solutions to complex problems.

This was the same cohort that Hitler manipulated so easily during the early 1930's. Now I do not mean to imply that the CPC is the new Nazi Party; but what I do mean is that the CPC uses many of the same methods on the same kind of people as neo-fascist parties do across the West. I also contend that these things are done somewhat unconsciously. To the same end, however ... which is, or COULD be:

*a reduction in Liberty via the promise of more Liberty;

*a reduction of wealth via the promise of more wealth;

*a reduction of tolerance via the promise of more tolerance;

*a reduction of war and terror via the promise of more war and terror.

Ultimately, a portion of the masses have been awakened, and for reasons they don't understand, they are pissed-off. In their eyes it is time for payback. In the eyes of their masters, it is time for power and money.

What they REALLY don't understand is that it is the "Puppet Masters" who are the cause of their original grief. Instead, the dance about like the marionettes they are ...

Ryan said...

Just finished reading Grant's "In Defense of North America." Just before that I read Frye's "Modern Century." I think when those two works are read in light of eachother, you get the sense of what Harper is doing. Though I doubt Harper would go anywhere near a Canadian author--he prefers Mises and Friedman, I think.

The "closed mythology" of neo-Conservativism combined with the promise of a society free of the drudges of collective responsibility, a society of unlimited individual freedoms is what Harper and the CPC's rhetoric promises. As you said "more money in your pocket" without any collective consequences. And somehow, unlike history has taught, the unbridled free market, applied to every aspect of existence, will bring Canada as close to a utopia as ever imagined.

Aeneas the Younger said...

Yes, but as long as there is no free-market of ideas and mores ... another paradox they do not wish to face-up to.

Aeneas the Younger said...

Of course, a real conservative eschews the very idea of utopia.

Aeneas the Younger said...

... liberals believe in freedom, but only their concept of freedom.

It is not a very expansive or inclusive ideology. Like socialism it assumes that it is a universalist truth.

Tories distrust universalists. We recognise the truth that is particularism.

Ryan said...

Oh but there is a "free market" of ideas and mores for the neo-cons. Problem is that only the ideas with enough financial and political backing are allowed to reach the public en masse. Marginalized voices are allowed, but drowned by the monopoly that corporate voices have on the public media. That's their idea of free market--might is right and it takes money to validate ideas.

Aeneas the Younger said...

I agree, which is why we need things like the CBC.

You know what the CPC will do to the CBC if they ever procure a Majority in Parliament.

liberal supporter said...

I will fill in for the incognito Rusty Tory:

Diefenbaker? Two words: Avro Arrow!

liberal supporter said...

oops I forgot:

You guys are all crypto liberals! Assholes!

The Trusty Tory said...

The fact you are mentioning Diefenbaker is a positive step, that's for sure. Let's remember how nasty he got at the end when the PC Party united to get rid of him for no good reason. Everyone involved in that paid the price as long as The Chief was still around.

That being said, it is unfair that you compare a completely different political climate of those times to the current. You know it's intellectually dishonest and most people who don't understand the difference will buy your slant, hook, line and sinker.

liberal supporter said...

That being said, it is unfair that you compare a completely different political climate of those times to the current. You know it's intellectually dishonest and most people who don't understand the difference will buy your slant, hook, line and sinker.


That is why people don't like the CPC calling itself "conservative".

Sir Francis said...

The fact you are mentioning Diefenbaker is a positive step, that's for sure...

Hilarious. I've mentioned him twice within a few weeks of blogging. Within a few years of blogging, you've mentioned him, what...once?

It would be "positive" if, before you die, you actually learn something about the political tradition to which you think you belong. I cannot say I'm hopeful. is unfair that you compare a completely different political climate of those times to the current.

"Unfair"? Ludicrous. You're the one who initially adduced Diefenbaker as one example of real conservatism.

What a child you are--unwilling to take personal responsibility for your words and unable to accept the consequences when challenged (and beaten) on a field that you, yourself, have chosen.

And please do elaborate as to why Diefenbaker's vision of a strong, proud, and autonomous Canada is somehow irrelevant to the current "climate".