Using the Bank for the Public Good

The Harper government is about to attack the most vulnerable Canadians, the elderly, with a draconian series of government spending cuts. At the same time, they’re only too happy to subsidize the oil and gas sector, and to pour money into wasteful, murderous wars.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and not a single law needs to change. The Federal Government has the authority, under the Bank of Canada Act to fund government operations by creating interest-free bank money (credit or debt) through the Bank of Canada. See Article 18, Section C.

The Bank of Canada is held in trust for the people of Canada by the Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, who will not use the Bank as intended by the Prime Minister who nationalized it, MacKenzie King. No finance minster since Jean Chretien has used the bank as intended – to create public credit at zero interest – and our massive national debt, more than 90% of which is compounded interest, is the result.

Likewise, here in Toronto, the public is being told “there’s no money.” What’s true is that the private banks refuse to create it without costly interest. The private banks are only interested in their own profits, which they make by virtue of having an immoral monopoly on the creation of bank credit, and through speculative investments. These generate massive windfall profits and bonuses for top management, but they only add costs to the real, productive economy, which  banks around the world are throwing under the bus, along with democracy itself. One only has to examine conditions in Greece and Italy, where two democratic governments have been replaced by unelected “technocrats” or those in many US cities, which are under the rule of  unelected”Emergency Managers” empowered to cut spending, even if people lose their homes, starve and die. This could soon be the City of Toronto’s situation, if we do not act together.

We don’t need the private banks to create our money. We must bring finance under democratic, public control. That means reclaiming the power to issue currency, to manage the size of the money supply, and to direct newly created credit towards public purposes, and away from speculation on the prices of financial and other assets. Until we take back this power, any other victories we win will be hollow.

Fight Back the Crisis!

Welcome to 2012. The last year ended with a fight, and this year will begin with one.

Please check out the new video I shot, produced and edited for Ayesha Adhami and MC Mohammad Ali. It’s called Fight Back the Crisis, and it calls us out to the demonstration against the social services cuts being held at Toronto City Hall tomorrow on Tuesday January 17th at 5:30 PM, and also more broadly to fight back against our ruling class enemies more broadly.

The class war is heating up, and our side scored some nice punches in 2011. Let’s make it our 2012 resolution to deliver a knockout.

Occupy the state

From X-Ray Magazine # 36...

In the two months since Occupy Wall Street began its experiment in direct, democratic dissent, “democracy” of the liberal kind has revealed its bankruptcy to the whole world.

In the last sixty days the neo-liberal, let’s call it the “post-democratic” state, its various organs cooperating across jurisdictions and across national borders, launched a coordinated attack upon our rights to freely assemble, associate and speak.

In Oakland as at UC Davis, the radical violence of the cops was inflicted upon hundreds of the innocent and unarmed, and in Toronto and New York the radical violence of the law proved that under post-democracy, flimsy legal reasoning can be a powerful tool of oppression only so long as we continue to respect liberal, post-democratic legalisms.

We have seen two elected national governments, Greek and Italian, close up shop, transferring business to a new proprietor—the so-called “Troika” of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank.

The abortive decision, quickly reversed, to hold a Greek referendum on the savage austerity measures being imposed upon Greek workers and Greek democracy was a disaster—for the markets.

A military coup was being prepared to prevent it if necessary. But it was not. Greek liberals and social democrats combined to carry out a coup against themselves. No sooner had Papandreou fired the commanding officers of the Greek Army, Navy and Air Force, he himself ran away.

The new Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, named an entire Cabinet with not a single elected representative in it. Bankers, business owners and technocrats were simply parachuted into the government of a “democracy.”

No elections were held to make these two transfers of state power legitimate. In a very real sense, the Italian and Greek states are now under the direct control of central bankers, the people be damned.

But these “technocratic governments” are not a novelty. They merely formalize and bring out into the light of day the longstanding relationships of power. Now we can really see who calls the shots.

In the United States the powers of the US Congress have been devolved to a “Super-Congress” of twelve people with deep connections to the US corporate establishment.

We are witnessing something unprecedented.

Both the 1% and the 99% are realizing that liberal “democracy” holds nothing more for them. They are reaching the same conclusion, albeit based upon two entirely opposite political perspectives, and conflicting sets of interests.

For the 1%, even the largely pantomime rituals of our “democratic” elections, with all their stage-management and scripting are too risky to their continued accumulation of super-profits to be allowed to continue.

They have come to rely on a guaranteed and ever-increasing flow of wealth into their own pockets, from us, to them. Since neoliberal, structural adjustment “reforms” were imposed upon the world in the 1970s, at the insistence of the corporations, the wages and benefits accruing to the 99% have stopped growing, and the 1% have monopolized the financial wealth and income generated by a growing economy.

The crisis for both the 1% and the rest of us arises in part, from the fact that the economy can no longer continue to grow in absolute size on a finite planet featuring a shrinking common stock of natural capital.

Growth cannot continue on a planet where there is no place left unexploited and nowhere that is not already full of our waste, or full of us. The ongoing orgy of financial speculation—of trillions of dollars of bets on essentially phony “assets” – was the last-ditch attempt of the 1% to both delay the onset of the final crisis, and to transform “crisis into opportunity.”

To accommodate an ever more predatory capitalism, liberal “democracy” first had to be structurally adjusted, along with the economy. Then it had to be abandoned altogether. Elections had to be rigged, political parties hijacked. False flag terror attacks had to be staged, the predetermined victims blamed.

Nations had to be invaded on false pretexts, the bodies buried. Inalienable civil rights had to be made alienable. Millions had to die. A vomitous river of lies had to be told, and sold. All to keep the capitalist balls in the air, all to keep the system limping along.

The capitalism system should have collapsed in 2008. Its life was extended by means of a central bank trick: the creation of an immense amount of new fictitious “wealth” in the form of bank created credit.

But this only made the inevitable reckoning that much more catastrophic. Instead of being used to facilitate production, which would have made the credit economically useful, this credit was used to backstop the insolvent speculators and their derivative bets.

As of 2011 and 2012 the mask is falling away.

If the 1% are abandoning liberal democracy because it no longer provides iron-clad guarantees of free profits from their debt slaves, the 99% are looking for new, more participatory democracy because the old, “liberal” kind can no longer protect them from the rapacious greed of the 1%.

It is a very difficult conclusion for many people in liberal “democracies.” It is often a conclusion reached only with extreme reluctance. Rarely is it embraced. But it is no less true for that.

We, especially those of us in the English-speaking world, have been educated our whole lives to equate the existing constitutional set-up with democracy.

We have been taught – wrongly – that a system of preference elections, political parties (with a combined membership of less than 2% of the population) and professional politicians is tantamount to democracy.

We are taught – wrongly – that our constitution, our courts of law guarantee our freedoms. In fact, only our disobedience of the law, of what Erich Fromm called “irrational authority”, guarantees our freedom.

As the former US President once put it, a constitution is nothing but “a goddamned piece of paper” – at least when those entrusted with enforcing it no longer hold its fundamental principles dear.

We are living in that time, when our own governments have created the apparatus of a police state to maintain their political control. Liberal “democracy” is a sham.

It’s not just me.

That’s what Ronald Regan’s former Assistant Treasury Secretary calls it. Paul Craig Roberts writes:

“Every day that passes adds to the fraudulent image of Western Democracy…  it turns out that ‘we have freedom and democracy’ is not supposed to be taken literally. It is merely a propagandistic slogan behind which people are ruled through back-room deals decided by powerful private interests.” He’s right.

The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont declares: “democracy itself is failing.” He’s right.

Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks declares liberal democracy kaput when lobbyists can openly buy American laws they want drafted. He’s right too.

Linda McQuaig notes: “democracy has become a hollow shell.” She’s right.

Glen Greenwald, commenting on the brutal police attack on peaceful passively resisting student protestors at UC Davis, as well as the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning, describes American “democracy” as “a police state in pure form.” He’s right, and his insight is worthy of further scrutiny:

“The intent and effect of such abuse is that it renders those guaranteed freedoms meaningless. If a population becomes bullied or intimidated out of exercising rights offered on paper, those rights effectively cease to exist. Every time the citizenry watches peaceful protesters getting pepper-sprayed—or hears that an Occupy protester suffered brain damage and almost died after being shot in the skull with a rubber bullet—many become increasingly fearful of participating in this citizen movement, and also become fearful in general of exercising their rights in a way that is bothersome or threatening to those in power. That’s a natural response, and it’s exactly what the climate of fear imposed by all abusive police state actions is intended to achieve: to coerce citizens to “decide” on their own to be passive and compliant—to refrain from exercising their rights—out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.”

It reminds me of Fromm’s insight that freedom to think and speak only has meaning if one actually has original, self-generated thoughts of one’s own to speak. Freedom to merely repeat the received nostrums of authority, what Fromm calls “heteronomous obedience” is the freedom of a slave to love his chains. Real freedom means the capacity to disobey irrational, external authority.

But the debt slaves are beginning not to fear. Some of us are taking our freedom. The violent, illogical response of the authorities reveals their illegitimacy.

With the occupation camps mostly dismantled, the question arises as to what next. This is where it gets interesting, and where the limitations of the reformists and of liberal democracy to contain the hopes and dreams of Occupy become clear.

The Toronto Star recently ran an opinion piece by the seasoned journalist Olivia Ward with the title, “Will Occupy movement find a place in history?” She offers several potential routes toward such a place.

We can “educate, build a social network, co-opt authority (fat chance of that!), speak to power, agitate for proportional representation (too little too late) and spread the message.” But to what end?

Though her article begins with a story about the beginning of the revolution in Serbia, nowhere does she admit to the possibility that a revolution is what we require here in liberal “democracies.” Nor could she be reasonably expected to openly voice such sentiments in The Star.

But a complete revolution, a complete takeover and dismantling of the Canadian state, and of every other liberal “democracy”, is exactly what we require. We need to have a real democratic revolution.

The democratic revolution is not going to be confined to nation states. It’s going to be both global, and local. The revolution is global because it speaks to the universal need of humanity for freedom, autonomy and independence. It will be local as those universal values find their expression in each community, in its own way.

The democratic revolution has the potential to become the fulfillment of the promise of the Western Enlightenment; the creation of a rational, self-directed society of independent producer-citizens in free association, and a return, ad fontes, towards the ancient sources of participatory democracy. There are encouraging signs that this is happening.

In Greece and Italy and Egypt, in New York, Toronto, and in all of the Occupy protest camps, the direct democracy of the Assembly was put into practice to make decisions. Rule of a simple majority – or of minority parties claiming to represent a majority – was rejected as anti-democratic.

In essence, these assemblies are an open rejection of the fundamental premise of representative, liberal “democracy.”

It’s a dual premise: that assembly democracy is not practical, and that it is not desirable because the people are not fit to rule the state. The Enlightenment critique of classical democracy is where the ruling class mythology of “the mob” arises. The Occupy experience, and the experience of months of revolution in Egypt, have put paid to that lie.

The liberal state was designed in an age just emerging from domination by the landed gentry. Most people were still illiterate when our representative institutions were created. But today we enjoy universal literacy and widespread higher education.

As Jefferson put it, “we might as well require a man to wear the suit of clothes which fitted him as a boy, than society to remain under the regimen of its barbarous ancestors.”  We have grown up. Our system of government remains a spoiled child.

In Iceland, that other great democratic device, of selection of political offices not by election, but by lottery has produced a new constitution. In 2009, one thousand Icelanders were randomly selected from the voter’s list and met in an assembly called the Thjodfundur, the National Assembly.

The Assembly drafted an outline of the guiding principles of a new constitution. The following year a constitutional committee was elected from candidates nominated by the citizens to draft the new constitution. Citizen participation was encouraged through the Internet, where the constitution was essentially crowd sourced.

The participatory nature of Iceland’s renewed democracy is a step in the right direction. The citizen body is taking on the role of legislator.

While not a revolution by itself, the Icelandic constitution is certainly a giant step away from the 18th century liberalism of the US Founders and of the conservatism of Edmund Burke, the two schools of thought to whom Anglo-Saxon “democratic” institutions owe their current forms.

Those forms have reached the end of their useful existence, for both rulers and ruled. A democratic revolution is coming. Participate! (X)

The moral economy of Canadian imperialism

From XRay # 35,

Noam Chomsky argues that, in western liberal “democracies”, a radical critique of the openly pro-capitalist, political right reveals little in comparison with an examination of the limits of acceptable, mainstream political discourse on the liberal left.

Liberal left scholarship and political discourse serve to protect the “left flank” of imperialism and ensure the uninterrupted accumulation of capital by the parasitic American investor class, the 1% as they have recently come to be known.

A few Canadian liberals, and many in the NDP especially, accept Chomsky’s assertions about the significance of these limits—when they are talking about the United States. But when the axiom is applied to Canadian politics, the majority shrinks from looking into the mirror, and those who attempt to hold it up are shunned.

But this mirror gives a true reflection of the monstrous moral economy of Canadian imperialism. Consider our role in the war against Libya.

The NDP, along with that dearly departed saint and my former MP Jack Layton, and all those fresh faced NDP MPs voted unanimously to support Canadian military participation in the NATO bombing of a sovereign, UN member state.

They did so under the cover of UN Resolution 1973, that gave NATO a very limited mandate to protect civilians from attack by the government of Libya by imposing a “no fly zone” for the rather meager Libyan air force over its own territory.

Even the Pentagon admitted that they “had no confirmation whatsoever” that the previous Libyan government was bombing their own people:

“Q: Do you see any evidence that he actually has fired on his own people from the air?  There were reports of it, but do you have independent confirmation?  If so, to what extent?

SEC. GATES:  We’ve seen the press reports, but we have no confirmation of that.

ADM. MULLEN:  That’s correct.  We’ve seen no confirmation whatsoever.”

The UN resolution ignored the fact that what was going on in Libya was really a civil war fought along the old colonial and ethnic divisions between Tripolitania in the west, and Cyrenaica in the east.

The west used the resolution to take the side of the western Libyans who sold future oil concessions in exchange for arms, something completely forbidden under the resolution. Never mind that. What mattered was that the resolution gave legal cover to our radical act of violent penetration—the rape of Libya.

The western media amplified claims of “genocide” in the spring, claims it rapidly forgot once it became clear that they were supported by no facts whatsoever.  In fact, the Libyan government was defending itself from the armed insurrection waged against it by the National Transition Council, with weapons supplied by western states.

The same goes for claims that Libyan armed forces were committing mass rape as a method of warfare.  It was reported with almost zero investigation in the Guardian, that bastion of liberalism and human rights.

Actual UN investigators on the ground described the claims as “massive hysteria”, and Amnesty International found no evidence of mass rape.

If such claims were real, then we would be seeing the evidence for them in big type on the front pages of our newspapers and on TV. Western governments love to rub our faces in propaganda or any facts that support their aims.

Real, bona fide evidence of mass rape committed by the previous Libyan government would constitute a massive propaganda coup for “our side.” But we’re not seeing the evidence, because it doesn’t exist.

The false claims of genocide and mass rape loudly voiced in the spring and early summer of 2011, served their intended purpose.

A “war pretext incident” was created, and western liberal outrage mobilized against the target de jour of the western far-right, (nice trick that) and a mandate given to “protect civilians” by means of the power of western air forces, one of the most effective means of killing them.

Never mind that there was a very real type of ethnic cleansing going on, of black African migrant workers, viciously attacked and massacred en masse for the colour of their skin. This was done by the western-backed mercenaries of the National Transition Council, which now rules the country.

None of these contradictions bothered a single NDP MP enough to stand up in the House and declare her or his principled opposition to a war waged by their own government.

None of the great hopes of the NDP left, not Libby Davies, not Peggy Nash, none stood up and said no to these lies. Instead, the NDP chose to condemn atrocities that were not really happening, and which if they had happened in Palestine or Kashmir or Colombia or Sri Lanka or Bahrain or Yemen, would not have elicited a NATO call to arms.

Davies did not ask the Prime Minister whether or not the war was wrong, only if his government had the best “exit strategy.”

The NDP played the role assigned to them by the Canadian state system, providing a useful left cover for Canadian imperialism, for a radical violence that bloodies the truth as much is it shoots the faces off of little girls. (Warning! This video is very difficult to watch.)

The NDP, as I detailed in X-Ray #28, has accepted the “responsibility to protect” doctrine. On the face of it, the doctrine would be a tremendous moral and ethical achievement, were it to be applied universally. The doctrine would have it that it is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak.

In practice, it’s the greatest bullshit story going. It is only ever applied when western business interests want to overthrow the leader of a developing nation that resists western penetration—rape.

It is never applied to western allied states, those who cooperate with our corporate financial interests, with those who allow us to penetrate and dominate their markets. The verbs used to describe our “foreign policy” smack of rape because our foreign policy is one of generalized rape.

Libya is a very rich country. At least it was until we got there. Libya possesses the largest oil resources in Africa, larger even than Nigeria. We wouldn’t care what the old Libyan government did if Libya was not rich, or if the riches of Libya were flowing into our hands.

The real problem in Libya was that the riches were staying in Libya. Capital is actually flowing out of Africa into the west, despite western misconceptions that we subsidize Africa with development aid. Libya was an exception to this general rule.

Structural adjustment programs imposed upon African states by the IMF and World Bank saddle African governments with unpayable debts, in the same manner being introduced to the people of Greece today, with predictable results. The wealthy of Africa, just like the wealthy few in Greece export their capital to western investment banks, instead of investing it in local production.

The previous Libyan government had attempted to reverse those relationships, though with a very spotty record. It used oil revenues to create a system of universal healthcare and education. Most Libyans were decently housed.

The country had the highest Human Development Index in Africa. In comparison Nigeria, with the second largest oil reserves, and with a pliant government dependent upon western support, ranked at number 25 out of 50. Tanzania, a country where Canadian mining companies are heavily invested, ranks 30th.

The previous Libyan government was also attempting to establish an African Development Bank to provided funds to African countries. This was an obvious threat to the IMF and World Bank, which are geared not towards development but rather opening up developing markets to penetration. That’s what I call rape.

And the rapists? Western corporations, including Canadians, whose investments in Libya I have described previously here.

That penetration this time around included the total destruction of Sirte, and the very real anal rape committed against Muammar Gaddafi, the head of a UN member state, committed with a knife and caught on camera.

He was then murdered, and his body displayed like a trophy in a meat locker. With Gaddafi dead, western firms are lining up to get at the oil. And that’s your tax dollar at work.

Despite its dovish, “humanitarian” stand, the NDP isn’t overly concerned with the very real rape of an entire nation, and its legal head of state, committed by the Canadian government and its allies. They rather aspire to take command of that government.

They have cast themselves as the “government in waiting” and so their first priority is to convince its current managers—those on Bay Street and within the murky, permanent quasi-government which is constituted by the highest ranks of the state bureaucracy, that the NDP constitutes a “safe pair of hands,” a “responsible” organization that can manage the Canadian sate in the interests of its owners – that’s not you, gentle reader.

And so, rising in the House of Commons on September 26th, NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan chose not to condemn the very real and then ongoing rape of a whole nation by the government she is sworn to hold to account (this was of course before the rape and murder of Gaddafi).

Instead, she endorsed the stated policy of her party to support that act of rape, while condemning the concocted rapes that formed the war pretext incidents, thus validating the war. It’s worth quoting her at length.

“The New Democrats supported the Canadian military mission and its extension in June in order to ensure that civilians were protected from the Gaddafi regime.

 Members have heard a bit of my story before. I fled a war-torn country myself. I wanted to see international support go into my homeland but we did not see any of that. When we in the House were able to provide Canadian support with other international forces, I was happy to know that the Libyan people would get some support.

 I and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party sincerely thank our military personnel and diplomats for their hard work in accomplishing the job that they did so well in Libya.

 The regime was using rape as a weapon of war. Through our support for the extension of the mission in June this year, the New Democrats were successful in adding a number of amendments to address the atrocities that were being committed, including rape.

 The acknowledgment that rape was being used as a weapon of war in that amended motion was quite groundbreaking. I really commend every member in the House for acknowledging that and for finally recognizing that rape was being used as a weapon of war.”

Except that it wasn’t in Libya. Sitsabaiesan’s speech pandered to common ignorance about the facts in Libya, and to the commonplace that “rape is bad.” If you’re against rape—who isn’t, except rapists—then you are on the side the angels. That’s the best the NDP Parliamentary Caucus has to offer.

The truth that dare not speak its name is that the “angels” in our government are the real rapists. The other, more interesting, more challenging truth is that their political enablers are some of the most outspoken and “progressive” members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Greece says No!

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is either very stupid, very smart, or perhaps very frightened. My bet is some combination of the first two, and definitely frightened.

His decision today to submit the European bailout package – a euphemism for suicide to ordinary Greeks who would be crushed by its immense weight – to a referendum of the Greek people is likely a gambit designed to give the embattled PM a viable exit strategy from the death grip of Berlin, while diffusing power of the Greek street. No doubt Papandreou is thinking seriously about the fate of previous rulers of Greece, who were unseated by smaller demonstrations than the ones which marched through Athens last week. Such mass action brought his father to power, and could as well usher him into a prison cell. He must also be thinking about the fate of his eponymous grandfather, deposed by Greece’s last king, and imprisoned by a military dictatorship. The European right wing is musing about a new military Junta for Greece that could “push through reforms.” The choice is clear: democracy, or the bankers.

The question is already being framed, or rather befogged, by the Greek government, with the help of the Guardian, which writes,

“The Greek finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said the popular vote – the second to be held since democracy was restored to the country after the collapse of military rule in 1974 – would ultimately boil down to two choices. “Do Greeks want to remain in Europe, with the euro, in a country that belongs to the developed world, or do they want to return to the 60s? Do they think it is good to owe €100bn to the banks or do they not think it is good to live with such debt?””

Perhaps because the Greek people didn’t rack up the debt, they think they should not have to pay for it! Their charlatan government offers them a false choice.

Iceland told the bondholders where to put their busy hands. Are Icelanders starving? Not at all. Even Bloomberg’s wire service admits that Iceland did the right thing!

With that affirmation, with that democratic act of disobedience akin to the one which began human history in the Greek myth of Prometheus, a new democracy is now being born. Iceland is re-writing a brand new constitution, crafted by the people themselves, a marvel of democracy. Iceland had a choice, become the “Cuba of the north” by defaulting, or the “Haiti of the north” by agreeing to pay odious debts. Anyone who doubts the rightness of the choice should look up the Charles X Ransom.

The horror with which the European governments and the EU bureaucracy regard the democratic rights of the Greeks – who gave democracy to the world – is revealing. Their palpable fear and loathing is transmitted through the framing of the story.

From the Guardian:

“Sony Kapoor, managing director of Re-Define, an economic thinktank, said: “With the scale of adjustment being asked of Greek citizens, a referendum would be good for democracy and legitimacy, but it’s very hard to see how it can possibly be won.””

That’s right. “Democracy and legitimacy” are hesitantly endorsed, but only insofar as they confer “legitimacy” to decisions already taken, and which are actually opposed by at least 60% of Greeks. The tone suggests that democracy is in the way.

Greece is called once again to show the world that democracy is the way.

is this what democracy looks like?

From this week’s X-Ray Magazine

When I was fifteen, I stopped going to church, and told my mother I was an atheist. Needless to say she didn’t understand right away.

In an effort to explain myself, I played her one of my favourite songs, Panic, by The Smiths. Readers of my vintage, those who were teens in the 80s, may remember the refrain: “Hang, the blessed DJ, because the music they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life…hang the DJ hang the DJ hang the DJ…” I felt that way about the church in 1986. Today millions feel that way, and then some, about all of society’s official institutions.

When it comes to our collective loss of faith in official politics and the occupation of Toronto’s St. James Park, that great affirmation of faith in ourselves, the Toronto Star’s Chantal Hebert and Thomas Walkom remind me of well-intentioned but bewildered parents wondering aloud why their charges won’t come to heel, and why they stay out all night.

Writing in the Tuesday, October 18, 2011 edition, Hebert has some advice for protestors occupying public spaces in major cities across the country: go home, wait four years, and then vote.

“Hit the ballot box instead of the streets” is her formula for making “real change.”

We’ve done that. It doesn’t work. No political party or politician is offering meaningful change. And certainly none will do so unless they feel an immense amount of organized pressure from below.

Hebert’s suggestion, if implemented, would prevent real change. It would demobilize a movement with the potential to become a real threat to the powers that be in this country. There can be no real change without a real threat to those powers, as Chris Hedges puts it.

Hebert’s suggested option for “change”—voting in our shambolic elections—is based upon a faulty assumption: that a mere change in government from one of the three mainstream electoral parties to another will deliver a change in the way this country works, and for whom it works.

Recent US and Canadian political experience proves that something new needs to be created.

As Emma Goldman once put it, “if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” While the liberal media remains focused on the political Kabuki theatre that is official Ottawa, a large section of the public, notably some of our most idealistic young people, have moved on.

During the first week of the occupation, Thomas Walkom spent a day looking for policy wonks in St James Park, didn’t find any, and came away with the impression that Canadians had no domestic reason to be on the streets, and the Occupation had no clear message.

It’s an understandable misunderstanding, as he consigns history, recent and not, to the memory hole. He claims Canada didn’t bail out its banks. Not so. Ottawa provided $125 billion to Canadian banks between 2008 and 2009 through the CMHC, as Murray Dobbin points out.

Is Walkom paying attention to the stories printed in his own paper? Canadian Chartered banks also took advantage of $111 billion in relief from the US Federal Reserve, as they now operate in the United States. TD Bank is now one of the largest banks on the US East Coast, with a branch at #2 Wall Street, which can be seen in many OWS protest videos.

Nobody’s bailing us out. Our social programs are being cut, our best jobs contracted out.

Walkom’s latest accusation against the movement is “simplistic thinking” and “scapegoating” the 1 percent, the super-rich. Not so. It’s Walkom’s own simplistic and anti-historical over-generalization, walking tall as an “analysis” which is at fault. It’s incredibly superficial.

Here’s what he’s missing. For the past 30 years, Canadian society has grown more unequal, and less just. Wages have stagnated, while corporate profits and the income of the super-rich have grown like cancerous tumours on society’s vital organs.

While GDP has gone up, the actual wellbeing of Canadians has declined. The reasons are well known, if seldom ever publicly discussed. Beginning in the mid 1970s the entire political establishment began to dismantle the progressive social and economic reforms of the post-war era.

The phenomenon occurred simultaneously in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. The formerly radical economic notions of Milton Freidman and Friedrich von Hayek became normalized through the influence wielded by a multitude of corporate funded think tanks such as the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the National Citizens Coalition, and others.

As the infamous Powell Memo details, it was all rather intentionally and consciously done, because the corporate CEOs of the day were threatened by new demands for an economic, social democracy thrown up by that last great movement of the 60’s. Our Prime Minister owes his current job to this new Thirty Years War to enthrone corporations, and defeat democracy.

The Occupation is democracy fighting back, because our elected representatives have fled the battlefield, or else run off with the arms merchants. Young people don’t vote, precisely because they are, as Hebert admits, “strikingly more progressive” than their elders.

The Occupation Movement speaks directly to them, and to older activists such as the author, who have been waiting a decade or more for this moment. Check out this short documentary about Occupy Wall Street.

It speaks to the highest ideals of humanity, making even the late Jack Layton’s appeal for hope and optimism look like the prelude to a great symphonic movement, not its denouement. If it doesn’t make you weep for joy, where is your soul? Who wants to talk to policy wonks when we can talk together about transforming everything?

Young people want to participate, and they want to make sacrifices for their ideals. No political party is able to mobilize them, precisely because the liberal political representative system was designed to limit participation and control mobilizations from below by forcing them into electioneering.

What is there for political party members at large to do outside election season? Walkom and Hebert are like parents telling their children “You’ll never amount to anything!” when those children tell their parents that they are going to strike out on their own, independent path.

And what a path! What we are witnessing is nothing less than the birth of a new, participatory stage of democracy where passive, electoral parties are obsolete. It’s a return to democracy’s 2500-year-old roots.

I’ve been attending the Occupation on weekends and have stood through two General Assemblies. It’s inspiring that young people are willing to spend hours standing in the cold and rain and in mud with freezing feet, democratically discussing not only the tremendous logistical problems of maintaining their society in miniature, but also higher, political questions.

Their completely open process forces people to listen to each other, and yes, it’s very slow, and the group has the combined flaws of its participants. Yes, occasionally a psychiatric survivor hogs the mike.

The people tolerate it for a minute then urge the speaker to wrap it up, not by shouting him or her down, but with a silent hand signal. Everyone is patient and respectful. Some rather half-baked, pet theories are trotted out, to the same general reaction.

Spoken word poetry of a rather middling sort is occasionally imposed upon the Assembly. Some speakers have great difficulty getting to the point, and others don’t have one at all. But these are the exceptions.

The use of the “people’s mike” forces speakers to be concise, and a two minute time limit forces them to be brief. But there are also passionate, articulate and tremendously intelligent voices in the Assembly, and these have mostly carried the day, but often only after hours of seemingly endless discussion. This is not the politics of sound bites, but its antidote.

I also talked to randomly selected people at the Occupy Toronto demonstration on October 15th. What I found was that people think that we need governments that actually listen to the people, and to do what we tell them to do. It’s an idea definitely at odds with the liberal “democratic” notion that the representative is elected to do what the party whip tells them to do.

The people I spoke with thought the job of an MP is to be our servant, our cipher, not to play the kind of backroom, brokerage politics that is the bankrupt bequest of liberal “democracy” to the present generation. Brokerage politics is considered the only fit subject for official journalism. But it’s missing the biggest story going.

If the desired role for an MP is essentially that of a delegate with very conditional authority directly transmitted from the people, what does their party affiliation matter? Do Liberals or Tories or NDPers have a monopoly on active listening? The people who were kind enough to speak to me also want an economic, material democracy. Are they going to get that by voting NDP?

To be clear, Occupy Toronto is definitely NOT a murder of revolutionary crows. There are certainly a few revolutionary activists dotting the landscape, but they mostly disagree about means and ends.

The point is that if this movement grows, that growth will force all of these questions into the world of practical politics, where it will suddenly become clear that for “everything” to change, something’s gotta give. And that something is the entirety of the existing political and economic system, perhaps even the very shape of the state itself.

The demand change everything cannot be met within a system that can’t change a single thing.

So expecting salvation from Ottawa is simply risible. When capital wants to move across borders, the borders come down.

When revolutionary ideas threaten to leap across borders, Canada becomes a “different country.” But no border can stop Canadians from questioning the fundamentals of our “democracy.”

Postscript: A quarter century later my mother no longer goes to church. (X)

Toronto should start a bank

Today the National Post has published a very important story on its website. I urge you to read it and share it. Now of course I would say that, because City Councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam and I co-wrote it.

Please read the story, share it, and send Councilor Wong-Tam some encouragement.