Shipbuilding: Militarization of Canadian 
industrial production and workplaces

THE federal government has now officially announced that for the next 20 to 30 years the Halifax Shipyards, owned by the Irving billionaire clan from New Brunswick, will be building $25 billion worth of warships for the Canadian navy.

The deafening propaganda carried out for months in anticipation of this decision immediately went into high gear. From the CBC to the Halifax Chronicle Herald to the Postmedia chain of newspapers, the emphasis is to hype the self-serving logic of the monopolies about how the long-suffering industrial workforce and working families of Nova Scotia have now been “ensured stability of employment” for the next 20 to 30 years. This will then be used to dictate their working conditions and deprive them of the right to resist this dictate.

Nova Scotians experienced how this disinformation operates in the 1980s when the coal miners of Cape Breton were laid off en masse as the last of the large mines operated by the federal-government-owned Devco monopoly were closed forever. For 13 years provincial and federal government departments and their apologists told them that the “nationalization” of the mine by Ottawa was going to ensure their future for decades to come. They could rely on this plan and did not need to organize themselves to make sure they could control their future themselves.

In the 1990s, Liberal and Conservative provincial governments summarily shuttered and cratered the steel mill in Sydney (Cape Breton) after decades of echoing lying propaganda about how the supply of Cape Breton coal from its own mines would ensure the mill’s future.

Five years ago, the mill workers of the Stora Kopparberg paper mill at Port Hawkesbury, NS were assured that their employment future was being secured by the Swedish-Finnish monopoly’s acquisition of the most modern supercalendar press in the North American printing trades at that time. Weeks later, Stora pulled out, dumping the whole operation into the lap of the Cerberus Capital Corp., vulture capitalists in Ohio, so they could maximize profits from this technological advance by chopping more than one-third of the mill’s workforce, only to recently announce it is being closed permanently.

After each of these traumatic events, the aim of disinformation about a secure and bright future has been precisely to keep the workers from drawing the warranted conclusion that they must organize themselves to take up the affairs which affect their lives. They are to keep themselves tied to the coat-tails of others to make the decisions which affect their lives while their role is to complain or comment from the sidelines. The overall theme of the disinformation has always been that a bright future is just around the corner if only the workers agree to go along with what makes maximum amounts of money and sense for the rich and powerful.

In this vein, Nova Scotians were in recent years offered a bright future in the Alberta tar sands. The media happily recounted stories about the endless quantities of regular work and overtime at “fabulous” wages for skilled industrial workers.

The telling feature of today’s disinformation surrounding the naval contracts is the absence of any mention or discussion of the war preparations the government is dragging Canada into. No discussion takes place of what militarizing the economy entails. The government claims that it is cutting costs, but this does not include military spending which is wasteful and unproductive. There is also the militarization of the workplace which will take place as armed thugs are brought in to guarantee production and the company’s dictate. How many thug “foremen” will the federal government and the Irving capitalists be arming to police how the contract work is completed inside the shipyard? How many minutes will the workers be permitted to down tools for breaks before the Irvings and the armed forces at their disposal impose their dictate? What restrictions will they impose on the unions?

Already, every effort is being made to establish a new national labour relations regime which declares that any aspect of the economy deemed a matter of national security is under direct government dictate. The essence of the precedents the government is setting with how the Air Canada and Canada Post workers are dealt with is precisely to outlaw the right to resist oppression and exploitation. The fight for the rights of all is being made illegal while all-sided concerted action is being taken to make the imposition of the dictate of the monopolies the new “rule of law.”

TML Weekly calls on the shipyard workers to go into the new situation with their eyes open and take the conscious decision not to fall prey to the disinformation whose aim is to convert them into an enslaved labour force whose right to uphold the rights which belong to them by virtue of being workers and human beings is criminalized.

Slightly edited  by the editor for this publication. TML Weekly Information Project, No. 14, October 22, 2011

Related Reading

When is a lobbyist not a lobbyist? When he’s premier!, June 3, 2011

Shipbuilding yes, but not the militarization of shipbuilding, May 16, 2011

Harper’s Armada and Layton’s support for Irving’s Halifax shipyards vs. the MIL-Davie shipyard in Lévis, Quebec, May 6, 2011

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Filed under Media, Journalism & Disinformation, No Harbour for War (Halifax), Nova Scotia Government, Working Class

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