Prime Minister Harper (Assisted by Jim Flaherty and Peter Van Loan) Leads the Whole World Forward To the New “Enlightened Sovereignty” of the 21st Century

Don Currie - Chair, Canadians for Peace and Socialism

January 30, 2010

Prime Minister Harper’s address to the World Economic Forum (WEF)[1] in Davos Switzerland January 28, 2010 can’t be dismissed as just unctuous and vapid; it was worse than that.  Harper adopting his familiar and grating patronizing manner underwhelmed the elite audience of capitalist intellectual luminaries, by suggesting that minority Conservative Government economic policies under Harper’s leadership is the example the nations of the world must follow to emerge triumphant from the worst capitalist depression since the market crash of October 1929.

Basking in the glow of faint praise from the Obama Administration, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the WEF for the miraculous escape of Canada’s chartered banks’ from the catastrophic failures and collapses that occurred in the banking systems of the USA, Great Britain and Germany, Harper made the astounding claim that the Conservative minority government did not provide support for Canadian chartered banks[2],[3],[4] during the 2008 global capitalist economic crisis.

Building on that false assertion Harper went on to boldly set the agenda priorities for the upcoming back to back G8 and G20 meetings to be held under Canada’s chairmanship June 25 - 26, 2010[5].  In little less than a year Harper has made the transition along with all of the leaders of the capitalist world from enthusiastic unbridled free marketeers to contrite stern advocates of international financial regulation.

Stealing Harper’s thunder at the WEF and refreshingly candid, President Sarkozy of France delivered a blistering attack[6] on capitalist banking excesses for the lack of international banking regulation that permitted US banks in an orgy of speculation to lead the entire capitalist world to the brink of monetary and debt failure.  Sarkozy said;

“We cannot avoid the debate on a tax on speculation. Whether we wish to restrain the frenzy of the financial markets, finance development aid or bring the poor countries into the fight against climate change, it all comes back to taxing financial transactions.  Taxing the exorbitant profits of finance to combat poverty: who cannot see how such a decision – even if I am well aware of the complexity of implementing it – would contribute to putting us on the path of a moralisation of financial capitalism (italics DC). I support without reservation the commitment of Gordon Brown, who was one of the first to defend this idea.

“The other question we can no longer avoid is that of the role banks must play in the economy.  The banker's job is not to speculate, it is to analyse credit risk, assess the capacity of borrowers to repay their loans and finance growth of the economy.  If financial capitalism went so wrong, it was, first and foremost, because many banks were no longer doing their job.  Why take the risk of lending to Entrepreneurs when it is so easy to earn money by speculating on the markets?  Why lend only to those who can repay the loan when it is so easy to shift the risks off the balance sheet?

“President Obama is right when he says that banks must be dissuaded from engaging in proprietary speculation or financing speculative funds.  But this debate cannot be confined to a single country, whatever its weight in global finance.  This debate must be settled within the G20.”

We have quoted Sarkozy at length not because he is any friend of labour, quite the contrary, but to underline the sharp differences that are emerging among the leaders of the leading imperialist states under pressure to find a “moralization of financial capitalism” to fill the vacuum left by the total collapse of neo-liberalism that all capitalist governments supported when it was enriching their privileged and parasitical supporters.  

There is nothing like a capitalist depression to cause a mood of solemn repentance and redemption to sweep over the class of wealth and privilege and cause it to pause and figure out what is the next colossal scam that will permit them to enrich themselves without work.

The way forward is not at all clear for the high paid intellectuals of capitalism such as those who “toil” at WEF[7] and a host of other corporate sponsored think tanks tasked with providing their finance capitalist masters with plausible reasons to continue to exploit, plunder and wage war at the expense of the majority of humankind.  

The complication that has arisen for these brainy upholders of capitalism is that their global system is now multi-polar and rapidly becoming more so each day.  More and more states are transitioning from the orbit of direct US imperialist oversight causing a mortal crisis for extreme right-wing ideology, forcing it to don the mask of reform in a vain attempt to remain relevant.  That is what Stephen Harper and his ilk are attempting to master.

The intellectual and capitalist elites of the once pre-eminent inner-circle of the USA, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada are searching for a new reactionary doctrine of world dominance, they can promote as a “new capitalist morality” to confront the rising power of socialist China, and a host of states transitioning out of the orbit of US imperialist dominance and control.  That is the purpose of the WEF and its peripheral groups.  Cue reformism…more on this later.

Prime Minister Harper has dubbed his pet theory of a reformed capitalism, “enlightened sovereignty” in which all of the nation states of the world will be required to conform to new forms of economic regulations, imposed presumably, by a “consensus based” G20, as Harper sees it, on the overriding need to prevent a fractious break-up of the pre-depression global system dominated by the USA.  Harper hailed in his speech the end of ideological differences, but with the representative of Socialist Vietnam sharing the podium, in his usual “sensitive” style couldn’t resist an anti-communist slur.[8] 

Big power consensus will be the main point promoted by Finance Minister Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney at the G7 meeting of bank governors and finance ministers in Iqaluit Nunavut on February 5, 6, 2009.[9]

The G7 meeting will be secret with no communiqué issued.  Bank governors and finance ministers from the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada will attempt to iron out their deep acrimonious differences arising from the relative decline of US imperialist dominance over the global system of capitalism and present a united front.  The aim will be to impose terms on Russia (the G8 is the G7 plus Russia).  There will be pressure on Russia in June to line up with the G7 consensus and participate, against its own interests, to impose a big power plan on the G20 to save the capitalist system in the interests of the largest capitalist economies.  That may not be so easy.

In a speech to the Russian Duma on November 12th 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, under critical pressure from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), outlined an ambitious program of reforms that included plans to accelerate Russian economic development with a renewed emphasis on technology, science, education and rebuilding the Russian military.  Some of the domestic and foreign policy initiatives proposed do not mesh with those of the G7.  While greeting some of the improved foreign policy issues proposed by Medvedev the CPRF rejects entirely the capitalist model as the way forward for Russia.[10]  The point is that it is unlikely that President Medvedev will be amenable to lining up uncritically with the USA dominated G7 group.  And why should he.  There is a new world in the making and Russia hopes to be part of it.

The rise of the BRIC states (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the revolutionary trends in South America that have given rise to the emergence of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) states[11] and the bloc of trading partners of the MERCOSUR states[12] is causing consternation and dissension among the leading imperialist states incensed at losing direct control over the global economy.

At the same time, pragmatism and greed is dictating that capitalist states including Canada are now compelled to consider the new opportunities for trade and investment in newly emerging economies.  More perturbing for US imperialism and its ardent right-wing Canadian supporters such as Harper, is the rise of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)[13] that after 8 years of negotiations headed by China, signed a Free Trade Agreement on New Year’s Day 2010 that will form a trading bloc, the third largest in the world after the EU and NAFTA.  Like it or not, that capitalist global system is reconfiguring and there isn’t a single dominant force in the world that can prevent its development.

What does all of this mean for Canada?  These events are taking place as the GDP’s of the leading imperialist states are in decline and all have racked up sizeable to gargantuan structural debt in all of its forms as well as serious balance of payments crises due to the weakening of the US dollar as the reserve currency of the world.  On top of a classical capitalist depression of overproduction there is layered a burgeoning currency crisis.

These crisis phenomena occur at a moment when US-NATO wars in Iraq and Afghanistan complicate a revival of the non-military sectors of capitalist economies.  Not all capitalists are direct beneficiaries of war profiteering.  War budgets have become a major cause of structural deficits, the dirty secret that not a single opposition party in Parliament, including the NDP wants to seriously discuss.  

The first and most dangerous response of US imperialism to its precipitous decline and the centrifugal forces spinning more countries out of its direct control is the compulsion of the most reactionary US imperialist circles dependent on militarism, USA and its closest allies, Canada and Britain to resort to interventionist policies of direct and proxy wars to maintain economic dominance.

The performance of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the British Parliamentary inquiry into the legality of British participation in the US war in Iraq is a case in point.  The right wing social democrat, who is an active player in the World Economic Forum and is a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum[14], arrogantly defended his government’s decision to participate in the illegal war even as bereaved parents of fallen British soldiers stood outside the hearings hoping for a note of contrition.  Instead Blair shocked the inquiry when he alluded to the next illegal war that would require British support, this time against Iran.[15]

What does all of this chatter in the inner chambers of capitalist policy making indicate?  It indicates that the leaders of the imperialist world have learned nothing from past or present historical events.  It means that imperialism is seeking a new face for its global predation and there is a small army of highly paid intellectual and corrupt political servants willing to help them do it.

What cannot be ignored is that organized labour has been co-opted into this unseemly enterprise.  The International Labour Organization (ILO) and its affiliates including the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) are active participants in the World Economic Forum and its work[16].  That can be problematic for the CLC.

For example the CLC has admirable resolutions condemning the Harper Government’s refusal to condemn the murder of labour activists in Columbia, a US client state.  The CLC has sharply condemned the Canadian Free Trade agreement with Columbia.  It likewise has statements of solidarity with many Latin American workers struggles.[17]  The glaring absence in this generally good lexicon of solidarity is the absence of any declarations of solidarity with embattled Cuba.

What should be done about ILO participation in the WEF sponsored meeting in Cartegena Columbia[18] in April 2010?  The meeting has the enthusiastic support of President Alvaro Uribe Velez who does nothing to stop the assassination of Columbian trade unionists.[19]

Ken Georgetti President of the CLC would be well advised to get on the phone and inquire with Guy Ryder[20] General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, an active participant in the World Economic Forum, what the WEF labour agenda will be next April in Columbia.  Will WEF labour participants stand up and express solidarity as the CLC has done with the workers of Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, Chile Mexico.  Will ILO participants demand that WEF condemn the US embargo of Cuba and call for the release of the Cuban Five from US prisons?

The CLC has a problem.  It is an ideological one.  The same problem it had during the cold war.  Its social reformist ideology carries with it tolerance for the type of smarmy discredited anti-communism expressed by Prime Minister Harper at Davos on January 28th.

Anti-communism is the ideology of capitalist imperialism.  It was when Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, it was in 1917 when imperialism intervened in the Russian Revolution, it was in 1946 when Churchill unleashed the cold war and it remains so today.

[1] Verbatim, “Stephen Harper's remarks in Davos”, Globe and Mail, January 28, 2010,

[2] Government of Canada, Department of Finance, “Government of Canada Announces Additional Support for Canadian Credit Markets”, February 26, 2009,

[3] Press Release, Dominion Bond Rating Service (DBRS), “DBRS Comments on Government of Canada Support for Canadian Banks”, October 29, 2008,

[4] Michel Chossudovsky, “Canada's 75 Billion Dollar Bank Bailout”, Global Research, January 25, 2009,

[5] Government of Canada, 2010 Muskoka G8,  

[6] SPEECH BY M. NICOLAS SARKOZY, PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, 40th World Economic Forum, Davos, January 27, 2010,

[8] Verbatim, “Stephen Harper's remarks in Davos”, Globe and Mail, January 28, 2010,

[9] The Canadian Press, “Canada to press G7 finance ministers to fix their banks, reform financial system”, January 18, 2010,

[10] G.ZYUGANOV, “Political Report of the CPRF Central Committee to the 13th Party Congress”, Moscow, November 29, 2008,

[13] John Roberts, “China and ASEAN create free trade bloc”, World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), January 12, 2010,

[15] Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor, “To gasps from the gallery, Blair said we should be proud of the war” January 30, 2010, The Independent,

[16] World Economic Forum, “Creating Jobs and Strengthening Social Welfare”,

[17] Canadian Labour Congress, “Labour International Development Program (LIDP)”,

[18] World Economic Forum on Latin America, “New Partnerships for a Sustainable Recovery”, Cartagena, Colombia 6-8 April 2010,

[19] Press Release, WEF, “World Economic Forum on Latin America opens in Rio de Janeiro”, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 15 April 2009,