The pipeline debate and who sets the agenda

By PEGGY MORTON

A Resolution adopted at the recent national NDP Convention in Edmonton calls on constituency associations to discuss the Leap Manifesto over the next two years.[1] The Resolution passed despite strong opposition from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan and others, who repudiated the document.

The Leap Manifesto states, “There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard. That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian-owned mining projects the world over.”

The monopoly media have since declared a split in the NDP and are pleased as punch to keep on repeating their brilliant conclusion. The old fiction of tree huggers vs. loggers, of environmentalists vs. jobs suits the ruling circles who aim to embroil the people in choosing pro or con regarding an agenda they have had no role in setting.

Egging on everyone to line up for or against pipelines does nothing to open a way forward, and is actually a block to working out how to provide problems in the economy with a solution. The all-important question facing the working class and its allies is who decides the direction of the economy and sets the agenda. Is Canada going to become serious about nation-building or is it going to continue on the downhill direction as junior partner in U.S. empire-building under the control of global monopolies?

No one needs to tell workers in the oil patch and oil sands that the status quo is not an option. The current crisis and turmoil in their lives are evidence enough that a new direction is needed. The precarious rip and ship economy throughout the country, the wrecking of manufacturing, social programs and public services, and the frenzied condo building in Toronto and Vancouver add urgency for the working class to become an organized pro-social force for change in society. From the insecurity workers experience, they know this is no way to build a stable modern economy. The challenge facing the workers’ movement is how to turn the situation around, how to become the organized force that can set a pro-social agenda for nation-building and ensure that a new direction becomes a reality. The workers cannot afford to entrust their fate to others and must build a powerful political movement based on their own independent stands that advance a nation building project which favours them.

The pipeline debate

Private interests engaged in empire-building within the U.S.-led imperialist system of states have forced upon Canadian society an anti-social agenda and so-called debate over pipelines. The working class must first question the debate’s origin and premise. How can being pro or con an agenda that has come from private monopoly interests become a central debate over the direction of the economy?

The energy monopolies are now seeking approval for pipeline projects, which are either mainly or totally for export of crude bitumen. Energy and construction workers know that the proposed pipelines are not going to solve the problems of the economy in Alberta or the rest of Canada and bring stability to their lives and others. The organized workers’ movement in Alberta has long called for the refining and upgrading of oil in Alberta and Canada, for the development of the petrochemical industry and manufacturing, and for pipelines and other infrastructure to be built with Canadian steel and other manufactured products. The Alberta government is also well aware that an economy based on extracting and shipping unprocessed oil to export to uncertain markets under conditions where the world is awash with oil is not a solution. Also, central to any discussion on the economy, the Indigenous nations have affirmed their right to decide, and are determined to exercise their right to free and informed consent.

Why then is the working class subjected to this debate where the energy monopolies demand pipelines for export of crude oil and their opponents demand a “new iron law of energy development” that declares “we don’t want oil and gas pipelines in our backyard period.”

This debate takes the working class and its allies away from dealing with the challenges they face in nation-building. At this point in history, the private interests of the monopolies are engaged in unrestricted empire-building and war preparations. Their anti-social agenda based on monopoly right to crush public right throughout the world is wrecking any social fabric and governments of law the people have built since the Second World War.

A pro-social agenda for a new direction for the economy that comes from the people has yet to emerge in part because of the alien agendas of the monopolies and the deafening brouhaha over their particular desires such as pipelines. A pro or con response stifles discussion on a serious way forward and paralyzes the brain.

The working class has to step back and say, Wait a minute! We have our own independent views on nation-building that first need to be discussed so that we can find a new pro-social direction forward. In modern Canada the people must set the agenda for the economy and social life. Independent stands are required according to the public interest and not the narrow private interests of powerful autocrats. If the people and their public right do not discuss and set the agenda for the direction of the economy and their lives, then everything dissolves into chaos, crises, insecurity and unrestrained arbitrary power under the control of private interests acting as dictators.

A new direction for the economy demands first a new way of deciding on a direction that serves the public interest and restricts monopoly right. The working class through its organizing work must take up the challenge to find that new way of deciding and setting an agenda and rallying the people to take it up. No other social force is capable of doing so. No other social force but the organized working class has the numbers, skill, intuitive desire and growing social consciousness of its central role in modern society in determining how to elaborate and set an agenda for nation-building, and how to rally the people around a new direction so that it becomes a reality. That is a challenge the working class is taking up.

Note

1. The Leap Manifesto is a statement released on September 15, 2015 that calls for “a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another.” It can be found here.

Source: Renewal Update, April 20, 2016 • No. 13

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