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George Grant’s Tory Nationalism
When George Grant lamented the “defeat of Canadian nationalism” in light of the inept failures of Diefenbaker’s government to withstand continentalism and the American imposition of its “Lockian” corporate consumer culture in the early 1960s, he was simultaneously lamenting the defeat of Tory conservatism in Canada. For Grant the only force capable of sustaining the independence of Canada was Tory conservatism. This conservatism was “grounded in the wisdom of Sir John A. MacDonald, who saw plainly more than a hundred years ago that the only threat to nationalism was from the south, not across the sea.”
To be a Canadian was to build, along with the French, a more ordered and stable society than the liberal experiment in the United States (Lament of a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism,  1970, pp. 3-4).
Liberals such as Frank Underhill had it backwards in thinking that Canada could only become a true nation by breaking off with its British heritage. It was Canada’s Tory heritage, Grant insisted, along with the communitarian nationalism of the French in Quebec, which lay at the foundation of Canada’s unique character and independence. This Tory conservatism recognized that the Canadian nation was predicated on both the rights of individuals and the “right of the community to restrain freedom in the name of the common good” (p. 64). By the time Diefenbaker came along, this Tory conservatism had been thoroughly diluted, the British stock minimized, the pull of the “American way of life” irresistible, English-speakers looked “dull” and “stodgy.”
Diefenbaker’s nationalism came from his small town life in the prairies. The old WASP elites of Montreal and Toronto were no longer interested in Canada’s heritage, “most of them made money by being the representatives of American capitalism and setting up the branch plants” (p. 47). Profit-making was their preoccupation, and the way to maximize profits was through continentalism. Diefenbaker was confused. In endorsing in the same vein the “free enterprise assumptions” that were now well ensconced within his party, along with the populist concerns of small town and rural Canadians, while never realizing that the survival of English Canadian nationalism required cooperation with French Canadians and acceptance of their rights as a people with communitarian rights, Diefenbaker’s nationalism came to amount to nothing more “than rhetoric and romance.”
Grant came to the pessimistic conclusion that the “Lockian” liberalism of the Americans, “the freedom of the individual to use his property as he wishes, and for a limited government which must keep out of the market place,” was unflappably tied with corporate capitalism, with the promotion of science and technology, testimony of a “dynamic society” in which “it is impossible to conserve anything for long,” and in which, therefore, conservatism is impossible, and Canadian nationalism. “The impossibility of conservatism in our era is the impossibility of Canada” (p. 68).
What Grant could not have envisioned was that the very years he was writing Lament for A Nation were the beginnings of the end of the two founding races of Canada, not just the consolidation of “Lockian” American capitalism, but the onset of Global Multicultural Capitalism against White Canadians. He could not have foreseen the immensely despairing reality that Canadian conservatism would not only sell out to corporate capitalism, abandon its Tory nationalism, but would endorse the Liberal’s celebration of the communitarian identities of non-Whites and immigrants in opposition to any form of cultural and ethnic expressions by Anglo and Quebecois Canadians. He could not have foreseen that the attack on Canadian Tory nationalism would amount to an attack on Canada’s European heritage and White working classes.
Mulroney’s Fake Conservatism
Brian Mulroney, Conservative Prime Minister of Canada from 1984 to 1993, was the most ardent promoter of multiculturalism, mass immigration, and a global identity for Canada. It was under his government that mass scale immigration from non-European sources (on a continuous basis irrespective of the economic needs of the Canadian White working class) was fully implemented. It was under his insistence that multiculturalism would be enforced into “all aspects of Canadian society” and that Canada would be sold to the world as a business place with a global, not a national, identity dedicated to the enhancement of racial diversity. The Conservatives had come to realize that cultural Marxism was conterminous with global capitalism and that selling Canada to the world for its humanitarian diversity was a great image to solidify the workings of global capitalism in Canada.
In June 1984, Mulroney told a cheering crowd, right upon his election, that his party now stood for multiculturalism and would not allow itself to be called “the Party of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.” Multicultural diversity, he said, was an absolutely obligatory part of Canada’s national identity and to reject it was to reject Canada. He then outlined future changes his party intended to implement in the hiring policies of the federal government, services in non-official languages, funds for the preservation and advancement of non-European cultures and greater efforts to “stamp out racism wherever it rears its ugly head” (Freda Hawkins, Critical Years in Immigration, Canada and Australia Compared, 1991, p. 240).
Post Fordist Regime of Accumulation
Mulroney was part expression of a worldwide realization among conservative politicians that New Left ideas, with their focus on cultural politics, destruction of patriarchal and nationalist working classes, were not incompatible with capitalist accumulation but could function instead as “humanitarian” superstructural cover-ups. During the late 1970s, and with ever more serious gravity in the 1980s, the international capitalist elites had come to the realization that the Keynesian regime of accumulation, which had brought effective demand and economic stability from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, and which involved a “class compromise” between the White working class and the business elites, together with husband-supporting wages, job protection, and rising incomes across the board, was no longer suitable for the more globalizing imperatives of capitalism.
This regime of accumulation, identified by French Marxist Regulation Theory as a “Fordist regime of accumulation” in reference to Henry Ford and the creation of a new form of capitalism in the 20th century based on mass production and mass consumption, was exhausted; it could no longer generate high profits in the 1970s as Western economies were experiencing slow growth, stagflation, or inflation combined with unemployment, with no Keynesian solutions in sight. The elections of Thatcher (1979), Reagan (1980), and Mulroney facilitated the ability of the capitalist elites to develop a new regime of accumulation, which has come to be known as “Post-Fordist.”
This Post-Fordist regime involves globalized financial markets and freer trade zones allowing businesses to move across national borders in search of lower wages and unregulated standards. It involves an emphasis on service industries rather than manufacturing, including pursuit of niche markets without national characteristics, new communication technologies for up to the minute financial information and investments decisions, in and out of nations, as well as intensification of a feminized workforce with stagnant wages and double-income families.
Conservative politicians were themselves pawns within the wider web of global capitalist forces. Their role was to create a political climate that would facilitate the introduction of this Post-Fordist regime. Playing up to usual conservative tropes of “limited government,” “self-reliance,” “private property,” “traditional values” worked well for right wing journalists seeking moral comfort. These values were all the more wondrous when combined with the new norms of racial equity, Third World dignity, human rights for all, gender equality, and a form of civic nationalism open to the world’s peoples.
For the secure jobs of the past, which allowed men to be the breadwinner of the family, the Post-Fordist regime provided temporary work with “flexible scheduling” in the service sector at low wages, with no benefits or security, and little opportunity for mobility, while maximizing the efficiency and productivity of businesses. Regulation Marxists analyzed these changes well but failed to appreciate how capitalists managed to incorporate the New Left’s cultural critique of Western patriarchy and racism. Under Mulroney’s “Progressive Conservatives” Canada was showcased to the world as a nation successfully integrating the norms of multiculturalism, mass immigration and human rights while playing up its “realistic” appreciation of economic matters.
Mulroney’s Radical Agenda
|Ideal corporate consumers: rootless politically correct mongrels with no national, racial, or sexual identity|
There were two key legislative changes and one major policy orientation pushed by Mulroney to bring about this new regime:
- Employment Equity Act of 1986
- Multiculturalism Act of 1988
- Commitment to at least 250,000 immigrants per year regardless of fluctuations in the unemployment rate.
1. The Employment Equity Act of 1986 had nothing to do with closing the gap between the rich and the working classes. The Act, targeted to federally regulated employees, mandated employers to eliminate “barriers” limiting employment opportunities to historically disadvantaged Aboriginals, women and visible minorities. Formal legal equality in hiring (treating everyone equally regardless of race and gender) was not enough; it was also “necessary to amend historic wrongs and ameliorate the economic differences among groups.” “Positive” policies for the hiring, training, retention, and promotion of members of “disadvantaged” groups would be encouraged. Since everyone was lumped together, visible minorities, Aboriginals, rich non-White immigrants, women from every class and colour, and people with disabilities, historic wrongs applied to any of these groups, except White males. Rich non-White immigrants just off the plane were to be given preference over poor White Males born in Canada.
2. In passing the Multiculturalism Act of 1988, Canada became the first country in the world to pass a law designating itself as a nation committed to “preserve and enhance multiculturalism” and allow immigrants and minorities to “keep their identities without the fear of official persecution.” The aim of the Act was to effectively “multiculturalize” every aspect of Canadian life, starting with the administrative practices of the executive branch, in the areas of hiring, promotion of non-discrimination, and, in the words of Joseph Eliot Magnet, “sensitization of the federal public workforce to the multicultural principle.”
The preamble to the Act established the connection between the 1982 Charter’s objective of “preserving and enhancing the multicultural heritage of Canada,” “while working to achieve the equality of all Canadians in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada.” This reference to equality meant that there would be no discrimination in terms of race, national origin and religion. It meant too that Canada was committed to the equality of members of all ethnic groups to preserve, enhance, and share their cultural heritage. It needs to be emphasize that the aim of the Act was not merely to ensure equal treatment and respect for all Canadians regardless of ethnicity; it was also, to use the words of Magnet, to ensure “freedom from discrimination and group survival” (“Multiculturalism in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” in Beaudoin and Mendes, eds. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1996: 18-21).
The Act specifies that the following objectives should be taken into account in the development of policies and programs: recognition of the historic contribution to Canadian society of different ethnic communities, the assurance that all individuals will be treated equally under the law at the same time that their diversity will be respected and valued equally, the promotion of interaction among different cultural communities as a way of enhancing understanding and creativity (Jack Jedwab, “To Preserve and Enhance: Canadian Multiculturalism Before and After the Charter,” in Magnet et al. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Reflections on the Charter After Twenty Years (Butterworths, 2003). In 1991, a Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship was created with a mandate to promote “appreciation, acceptance and implementation of the principles of racial equality and multiculturalism.” This Department was also entrusted with the promotion of non-Anglo-European “cultures, languages and ethnocultural group identities.” It was mandated that all government agencies, departments and Crown corporations would advance multiculturalism and racial equality.
3. The third major change brought by Mulroney was a commitment to bring at least 250,000 immigrants every year in opposition to the long standing link between annual immigration intakes and existing economic conditions in Canada. To quote Kelley and Trebilcock:
For the first time in Canadian history, the government — supported by most of the major political parties [actually by all] — committed itself to a longer term view of immigration less influenced by current stages in the business cycle, and to a significant increase in immigration at a time of serious economic recession. This policy represented a sharp departure from the Department of Labour’s view in the 1950s and 1960s that immigration levels should reflect the current state of the economy” (The Making of the Mosaic, p. 385).
Those who argue that the moment a nation has a capitalist economy, the pressures for globalization and for open mobility of labor across borders will be unstoppable, forget that throughout Canada’s history the economic argument for immigration was embedded to the idea that Canada was and must remain a “White man’s country.” It is true that during the early 1900s, business leaders were able to recruit cheap immigrant labourers from Asia for mining, logging, and railway construction, but the Vancouver Riot of 2007 led to the stringent Immigration Act of 1910, with the end result that only continental Europeans were allowed as wage labourers. After WWII as well, businesses made arguments in favour of bringing immigrants from non-European nations using the rationale that Europeans were no longer as interested in coming to Canada by the late 1950s, at a time when Canada’s economy was booming and short manpower. But the goal then was to bring a few thousand in response to the economic needs of Canadians, while also making sure that the cultural character of Canada was not changed, and, as Kelley and Trebilcock have noted, up until Mulroney’s time, there was a tap on tap off immigration policy, which Trudeau used during the recession years of the 1970s.
It was really from Mulroney’s time indeed that Canada’s historical ethnic identity would start to undergo a dramatic alteration. From 1981 to 2001, the number of visible minorities (excluding Aboriginals) increased more than threefold from 1.1 million people, or nearly 5% of the population, to 4.0 million people, or 13% of the population. This growth was primarily a result of immigration intakes in the 1990s. By 2011 the foreign-born population would increase to 6.8 million people, representing 20.6 percent of the total population.
Result: Real Wages Down, Corporate Profits Up
How did Eurocanadian fare within this Post-Fordist Regime promised to them by Mulroney as the harbinger of prosperity never seen before? I will answer by referring to an excellent study by Ellen Russell and Mathieu Dufour on the very complicated question of Canadian living standards since the 1970s, with the title Rising Profit Shares, Falling Wage Shares, published in 2007 by The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:
Despite a prolonged period of economic expansion, income inequality is growing in Canada…Canadians’ average real wages — which are wages adjusted for inflation — have not increased in more than 30 years…Canada’s economy grew by 72% between 1975 and 2005, in real per capita terms. Over the same time period, labour productivity (measured as GDP/hour) grew by 51%. A growing economy with rising labour productivity seems like it would translate into rising real wages. But this has not been the case…Real wages have been stagnant for 30 years running. This 30-year stagnation of Canadian workers’ real wages is dramatically at odds with previous historical experience…From 1961 until the late-1970s, it was the norm for workers’ real wages to rise continuously…The stagnation of workers’ real average wages is remarkable, given that Canadian workers are increasingly productive…[M]ost economic models would predict that real wages rise as productivity rises. But it is evident that rising productivity is not generating a commensurate rise in real wages. A stagnation of workers’ real average wages despite their rising productivity is a powerful indictment of the promise that a growing economy — and increased productivity — will produce benefits widely shared by the majority of Canadian workers. It simply isn’t happening…Canadian workers’ wage share increased between 1961 and the late-1970s, then it started a steady decline that continues today…In 1961 workers’ wage share was 64.61% of the remaining economic pie, while by 2005 their wage share had fallen to just over 60% — the lowest level we’ve seen in workers’ wage share since 1961.
So, who benefited from this new regime of accumulation via mass immigration and multiculturalism?
…Corporate profit shares follow the opposite path…Corporate profit shares dropped in the 1960s, through the late-1970s and early-1980s. After that the profit share rose steadily — dramatically so in the last several years. (In terms of yearly data, the small dips in the early-1980s and early- 1990s were associated with recessions.) Corporate profit shares went from 28.91% of the remaining economic pie in 1961 to 33.68% by 2005 — the highest level we’ve seen in profit share since 1961…[C]orporations’ profit share has been persistently increasing while workers’ wage share has been persistently decreasing since the late-1970s.
Nothing could have been more endearing to global capitalists than an ideology promoted by leftists calling for mass immigration against racism to increase their coffers with a good conscience!
Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI