On Monday 1st December, just before 5pm, Dion, Layton and Duceppe presented their agreement for a Liberal-NDP coalition government backed by the Bloc Quebecois.
1) Troops remain in Afghanistan.
2) The $50-billion corporate tax cuts stand.
3) No NDP member to have any influence over Finance.
4) Prime Minister Dion selects which 6 NDP MPs will enter cabinet.
It is hard to imagine a more craven sell-out.
The leaders of the three parties walked awkwardly into the room, signed the agreement and uncomfortably shook hands. Only Duceppe smiled, maybe because he doesn’t have to worry about being in a cabinet with the other two.
The NDP and the Liberals signed an accord that commits the parties to a coalition for 30 months. Reading the accord is like reading the Liberal campaign platform minus Dion’s carbon tax. There was not a single substantive concession on behalf of the Liberals to adopt any of the NDP’s campaign measures. All the NDP leadership got was the honour of six of their number being chosen to enjoy the perks of ministerial life – the limo, the $30,000+ pay hike and expense account, the title of “right-honourable…” etc. The NDP does not even get to choose which of its members will be in cabinet!
Throughout the election campaign Jack Layton assured workers and youth that there was a fundamental dividing line between the Liberals and the NDP. Layton attacked the Liberals for sending troops to Afghanistan and for supporting $50-billion in corporate tax cuts. These are the same Liberals who cut social services by a greater amount than any Conservative government. These are the same Liberals who voted down anti-scab legislation. And now Jack Layton is putting these people back into power.
One of the main reasons for low NDP support is the tactic of vote-splitting. Many people who would support NDP policies vote Liberal to keep the Conservatives out and because the NDP and Liberals “are pretty much the same anyway.” In the last election, to its credit, the NDP was able to partially lessen this tendency. However, with the coalition, all this is ripped up. A vote for the NDP now gets you a Liberal government. A vote for the NDP is a vote for people comfortable implementing Liberal policies. If this coalition goes through, why should anybody bother voting NDP ever again?
The fact is that it was Liberal and Conservative policies of support for the capitalist free market that caused the economic crisis. The only way capitalist governments have ever dealt with crises is to put the burden on the backs of the working class. The coalition is supposedly planning $30-billion of “stimulus” to kick start the economy. But is any of this going to the workers themselves? If we look at the record of the Liberals, and the George Bush/New Labour model of other bailouts, the money is likely to be just big handouts to the auto and forestry corporations without any job guarantees. More likely the opposite, as there is a clause that corporations receiving subsidies must submit a restructuring plan – read, “Massive layoffs.” At current share prices, $30-billion is enough to completely buy out Ford, Chrysler and GM (the entire companies, not just the Canadian arm!) However, it looks like the bosses will receive corporate welfare from the public purse for their mismanagement of the economy, while the rest of us face unemployment. It appears that this will be a socialist coalition after all – but that socialism will be reserved for the millionaire bankers and corporatists.
The tragedy is that, instead of allowing the Liberals and Conservatives to rightly take the blame for the crisis of their system, the NDP leadership is throwing them a life-line in their hour of need. Class-collaboration is a dead-end. Never has there been a better time to propose a socialist alternative. To those who say that will never happen we would ask, “one week ago, did you ever even think for a minute that the Conservatives would be fighting for survival against a Liberal-NDP coalition?” If the events of the last 6 days prove anything, it is that, in the present epoch of capitalist crisis, things can change both massively and with astonishing quickness.
Now every move by the Liberals will be blamed on the NDP. Under cabinet solidarity the NDP MPs will be forced to defend every counter-reform. The opposition to every attack will be demobilized by a labour bureaucracy shouting, “don’t rock the boat – you’ll bring down the coalition!” If people think the NDP became unpopular after the Rae Days in Ontario, they ain’t seen nothing yet. But all is not lost.
Already there appears to be little enthusiasm for this coalition. Somehow, workers seem to know they are being sold something fishy. Imagine how this opposition will magnify under the impact of the financial crisis and coalition government attacks. Class struggle is on the agenda, not because of the desires of this or that politician but because of the logic of the capitalist system. Those who are not prepared to break with the system and fight for socialism can end up supporting the most reactionary policy. This class struggle must inevitably have its reflection in the unions and in the NDP. The pressure to break the coalition will grow. It is quite likely that some of the present NDP “leaders” will follow the logic of their actions and join the Liberals, just as Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosanjh before them. On the other side will be left millions of workers and youth, who are sick of the status quo.
We ask everybody who opposes both the Conservatives and the Liberals to join with us in mobilizing against this coalition.