Nonsense about tariffs and trade and real wars: Is this any way to manage an economy?

Working people could do better than these constant crises and integration into the U.S. war economy | K.C. ADAMS

The Canadian steel and aluminum industries are in turmoil. They seem to be forever in chaos. Algoma Steel is almost always in Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) bankruptcy protection. The Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. (ABI) smelter in Quebec has locked out over one thousand workers for months, demanding concessions from both workers and Hydro-Quebec, and to reduce supply to force higher prices for aluminum on the international market. Stelco steel plants in Hamilton and Nanticoke have only recently emerged from CCAA bankruptcy protection for the second time since 2006.

Having greatly reduced Stelco’s production capacity and markets during the period of U.S. Steel control from 2007 to 2017, the new U.S. owners took control of the facilities last year after having the CCAA bankruptcy court allow them to ignore their social responsibility to Stelco retirees and the necessary environmental remediation of historical pollution. This new assault from foreign imperialists occurred after Stelco steelworkers and the steel community had suffered attack after attack under the control of U.S. Steel. In 2013, U.S. Steel sold off a Stelco mill in Hamilton to German global brigands calling themselves MANA, who seized control and almost immediately locked out all steelworkers, demanding monstrous concessions. The lockout continues to this day while members and supporters of USW Local 1005 pursue a battle for justice at MANA.

Nation-building and rights of the people under assault

Global monopolies dominate the steel and aluminum sectors, twisting and squeezing them to meet their narrow private interests. The steel sector in particular is plagued with fluctuating market prices widely disconnected both up and down from prices of production, causing continuous problems. The sectors do not serve an independent Canadian economy because that is not the aim; nor does such a conception even exist in the consciousness of the imperialists in control whose outlook is one of self-interest, as if society does not exist and the rights, claims and needs of the people are debilitating costs and a drain on their money profit.

No nation-building project for a Canadian economy not dominated by supranational cartels is currently being discussed in official circles of the ruling elite let alone struggling to emerge in practice. All the official politicians, economists and pundits say a Canadian economy under control by Canadians themselves is not possible in this world dominated by global empire-builders obsessed with expanding their own private interests as supranational cartels in opposition to nation-building and the right of the people to control those affairs that affect their lives. Yet here the people are faced with constant crises and a President down south who says, without any concern for humanity, that trade wars and real wars are winnable and good.

A disconnect appears between the real world Canadian working people face and some fanciful one that official politicians, experts and those in control concoct. The aluminum sector, entirely controlled by supranational empire-builders, has located in Canada because of cheap and plentiful electricity, which is by far the largest material input in the production process. So what is the problem with the market price of aluminum that moves President Trump to threaten a tariff? U.S. manufacturers, especially those in the war economy, want aluminum at the lowest price possible and Canadian aluminum suits that purpose because of cheap, plentiful and clean hydro-electricity and a skilled workforce and modern infrastructure.

If Trump wants aluminum at a higher price and U.S. manufacturers that use aluminum are on board with his proposal, which is highly doubtful, why not just say so and have the global owners arrange a higher market price than the fluctuating market price. The higher price could then go back to Hydro-Québec as full exchange for the electricity its workers produce. Some view it as ironic that the global rich who control Canada’s aluminum sector are already trying to force higher prices by reducing supply with the lockout at ABI, so they obviously would be overjoyed with Trump’s demand for higher prices as long as it flows back to them and not the U.S. state. Why does it have to descend into a global trade war? The entire mess appears inexplicable and irrational.

The problem with these and other basic economic sectors is that sensible working people in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., who want to live in peace and hold high a spirit of international trade for mutual benefit and development and oppose the war economy, are not in control of their workplaces, the broader economy or political affairs.

The threat of steel tariffs that Trump made and now has temporarily withdrawn is also bizarre in the sense that around $5 billion worth of steel produced in Canada is shipped to the U.S. while Canada imports about $7 billion worth of U.S.-made steel in recent years. With some adjustments in quality and types of steel this means almost all trade in steel between the U.S. and Canada at this point could be eliminated with each country producing for their own needs without any loss of production. Some opportunities for development could even arise as Canada and the U.S. are so broad east to west that production could be rationally developed in all the main regions of each country to make them self-reliant in steel and even broaden out into manufacturing of steel-based goods. The other most positive feature would be to begin to extricate Canada from the U.S. war economy where both steel and aluminum are key.

Again the problem here is lack of control by working people. Canadian and neighbouring fellow workers down south face the dilemma that they are not in control of the steel or aluminum sectors, the broader economy and politics. The lack of control means they cannot bring to the fore in practice their social consciousness of the necessity to first have a diverse and self-reliant internal economy, and from a sovereign base under their control search and find peoples abroad who are willing to trade following modern principles of mutual benefit and development and are not bent on destructive trade wars and real wars requiring a war economy.

Canadians and friends in the U.S. face the task of bringing into being a new direction for the economy because the situation of gearing up for bigger and more devastating wars and crises is not good to say the least. Working people can do better because they begin neither from an aim of expropriating social wealth from the value their fellow workers produce nor do they speculate as those in power now do of waging “winnable” destructive trade and real wars to steal from others and destroy what they cannot control. The official anti-social talk saying trade and real wars targeting fellow working people are good and winnable and require a war economy puts everyone constantly on edge with their minds overwhelmed anticipating the next crisis and war.

The official politicians and other leaders in Canada are shameful in their response to Trump’s bluster of first proposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum and then backing off if NAFTA talks go his way. Canadian officials all stressed the necessity to develop the joint North American war economy as essential in strengthening the war capacity of NATO and NORAD for which steel and aluminum are crucial.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s Office on March 8 released a statement of Trudeau’s phone conversation with Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, which said in part:

“The United States is Canada’s closest ally. Canada is a safe and secure supplier of steel and aluminum to the U.S., recognized under U.S. law as part of the U.S. defence industrial complex.”

In a release about Trudeau’s conversation with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the PMO said in part:

As a close ally of the United States, Canada is a safe and secure supplier of steel and aluminum to the United States and is part of the United States National Technology and Industrial Base related to National Defence.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on March 1, “As a key NORAD and NATO ally, and as the number one customer of American steel, Canada would view any trade restrictions on Canadian steel and aluminum as absolutely unacceptable…. Canada is a safe and secure supplier of steel and aluminum for U.S. defence and security. Canada is recognized in U.S. law as a part of the U.S. National Technology and Industrial Base related to national defence.”

Later on March 8 following Canada’s exemption from the global U.S. tariff on steel and aluminum she said:

We are America’s best friend and closest ally. Canada and the United States have the greatest economic partnership of any two countries in the world. We’re staunch allies in NORAD, in NATO, and all along our 8,891 km peaceful and secure border.

The crisis is such that no official Canadian leader or mass media has objected to this warmongering talk and integration of the Canadian economy into the U.S. war economy. Canadian, Mexican and U.S. working people reject the official warmongering, anti-social view and outlook and are organizing to gain the power to deprive those currently in control of their power to destroy through crises and wars what humans have built.

In organizing and fighting for the new, working people and their political and defence organizations are developing the human factor and social consciousness that a modern economy must have a new aim that strives to develop the socialized economy in an all-sided manner without crises and war. A modern economy cannot be built on brutal competition and war but on cooperation where modern social relations ensure the interrelated sectors of the socialized productive forces perform in conformity with each other and their socialized nature for extended reproduction of the economy without war and crises so that it can meet the needs and claims of the actual producers and general interests of society.

A modern economy opposes trade wars, real wars and preparations for war. It strives to guarantee the well-being of all members of society and its general interests. A pro-social economy with such a sound internal foundation trades globally based on the principles of mutual benefit and development, consciously opposing all trade and real wars and preparations for war. This is not the case now where the Canadian economy is integrated into the U.S. war economy supplying both raw and semi-finished material while the U.S. economy produces most of the finished weapons of individual and mass destruction.

Working people with their modern social consciousness can take the economy in a new pro-social direction but to do so they must organize to bring themselves into power politically with new social relations in harmony with the socialized productive forces of modern industrial mass production. Only with political empowerment can working people make the leap to directing the economy without crises and war according to their modern social consciousness, aim, outlook, principles and social relations, working together for the good of all humanity and the social and natural environment.

Working People Can Do Better!
Unite and Organize to Build the New!

(TML Weekly March 10, 2018)

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Filed under Canada, Working Class

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