Vancouver-based Council of Canadians organizer Harjap Grewal presenting during today’s webinar.
Sixteen Council of Canadians chapters, along with nineteen members of our staff and Board of Directors, gathered today for a webinar on ‘Trump, Trudeau and Neoliberalism’ presented by our Vancouver-based organizer Harjap Grewal.
Organizers Diane Connors and Robin Tress, who coordinated the webinar, had noted in their outreach, “A Trump presidency means a hard fight for social justice movements at home and around the world. Looking back in history, we could see it coming as a result of decades of neoliberal policy in Western democracies – looking into the future, we can try to shape our movements to defend and build against the ideology of neoliberalism that devalues and destroys people and planet.”
Grewal began by explaining that neoliberalism – which can be basically defined as an agenda of privatization, tax cuts, deregulation, austerity and spending cuts, free trade, and corporate power – has as its underpinning the notion that greed is good and regulations are bad. This is a view that benefited Trump in the recent American election.
He then explored two key elements of the state. He highlighted that there is the state apparatus that benefits corporations (by lowering corporate taxes, implementing free trade deals) and the state that funds public health care and schools, and that implements regulations in the public interest. He emphasized the latter good things that the state does were all won through social movement struggle and that they are not intrinsically part of how the state functions.
Grewal also noted the need to be cautious around nationalism, particularly given how Trump used nationalism in both his “Make American Great Again” slogan and in repeatedly blaming Mexicans for stealing US jobs as a way to divert attention from how corporate power has harmed workers. An example he used is as follows: A boss, a worker and a migrant go into a restaurant. The boss takes 95 per cent of a pie at their table. He then turns to the worker and says the migrant is going take their piece of the pie. This underlines why anti-racism and global solidarity are critical in the fight against neoliberalism.
He also noted how both Trudeau and Trump have outflanked the Left on the Keynesian idea of public infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy. Both Trudeau and Trump campaigned on infrastructure spending, but both have in mind major public-private partnerships (P3s) that mean more user fees and greater inequality, rather than public infrastructure that benefits the public good.
Grewal concluded by highlighting the importance of opposing neoliberalism (which we have historically done), to recognize what can happen when issues are framed in a nationalist context (given how Trump exploited that framing), and the importance of us putting forward ideas and building a broader systemic analysis as well as working on issue based campaigns.
A good discussion and questions followed.
Northwest Territories chapter activist Lois Little commented, “Excellent presentation Harjap. People in the Council of Canadians are smart folks and working from an ideological framework is what we need to do more of. This is what will engage Canadians.” And South Niagara chapter activist Fiona McMurran added, “Your presentation is so thoughtful and balanced.”
Both Connors and Tress are hoping to organize more webinars with chapters, Board members and staff in the coming months.
To read the Council of Canadians vision statement which challenges the basic tenets of neoliberalism, please click here.