On October 26th, distinguished MIT Professor and famed anarcho-syndicalist intellectual Noam Chomsky visited Concordia University. With the Political Bouillon in attendance, Chomsky delivered a scathing indictment of the neoliberal apparatus, and its creation of the RECD (Real Existing Capitalist Democracies, fittingly pronounced “wrecked”) state. Within this state, policy does not match public opinion, environmental and nuclear threats endanger our existence, and the people can only participate politically by choosing amongst an elite few for elected office. As Chomsky further elaborated on these characteristics, it became sadly clear that our Canadian capitalist democracy is increasingly sharing these same traits as the RECD neoliberal state.
Chomsky spoke primarily about U.S deficit reduction policies and their negative effects on income inequality. However, it can be seen that this critique applies to Canada as well. Income inequality in Canada has sharply risen since the early 1990s, and real minimum wage has not risen along with the wages of the very rich; an effect Chomsky stated was indicative of a RECD state. Exacerbating the issue is the corporate tax cuts initiated by Stephen Harper, creating an effect of income disparity that is the opposite of what Chomsky advocates, that being increased taxes for the super-rich. Similarly negative in Chomsky’s eyes, are the free trade agreements which are lobbied for by corporations and the very wealthy. The public, according to Chomsky, is kept in the dark about many of the actual results of this supposed free trade. This message is disturbingly prophetic when we consider the recent Canada/Europe “free trade” agreement; the details of which are scarce, and the degree of actual free trade it creates is said to be highly dubious.
On the education front, Chomsky lamented on the fact that neoliberal educational institutions are “transforming from first rate universities into third rate companies”. Reinforcing his case, Chomsky cites the decreased public funding for universities in neoliberal countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and even Canada; an alarming fact that could lead to a decrease in the accessibility of education. He had earlier stated that our “minds, intellect, and reasoning are some of our few weapons against the neoliberal assault”. Should this decrease in educational accessibility continue, many will lose the ability to harness these weapons, and protest against the often oppressive neoliberal state.
Chomsky believed that the neoliberal symptoms are so harmful that they could bring about our very destruction; either in the form of environmental catastrophe or nuclear disaster. On the environment, it has been proven countless times that the general public is deeply concerned, and wants to see legislative action on the matter. However, in the United States there is an implicit bilateral cooperation in politics to worsen the state of the environment in favour of short term profits. Sadly, this has also become the case in Canadian governance, as Stephen Harper is notorious for an abysmal environmental record due to tar sand, mining, and other natural resource industries being favoured and consequently creating an unprecedented level of carbon emissions. This indicates that The United States and Canada currently operate under a RECD state, reflected in the inaction of policy makers on issues which concern the general public.
On the subject of nuclear warfare bringing about our ultimate downfall, Chomsky revealed some worrying previously unknown facts which illuminate how close the United States, and by association Canada, has come to nuclear or military armageddon. For example, on the heels of the Osama Bin Laden assassination, in which the United States initiated military activities without the consent of the Pakistani government, full scale war was shockingly close to erupting. The Pakistani Chief of Staff had ordered the large and powerful Pakistani army to shoot down any unidentified aircrafts. However, the United States General Petraeus ordered the same command. As a result, had either party opted to strike down their opposing nations aircrafts, surely a large scale war between two powerful nations could have erupted, according to Chomsky.
Another example of neoliberal warfare causing potential disaster occured very recently. On the heels of the Boston bombing, a drone attack occurred in retaliation against a Yemeni-American extremist. This drone attack, while successful in killing the target, also unfortunately injured and killed many civilians in Yemen. This caused the victims of this attack to become radicalized and anti-American, when they had previously been well disposed to the West. Chomsky warned of this phenomenon; the neoliberal state can create fear, which causes the very extremism it hopes to eradicate. As a result of incidents such as these, the neoliberal military state can make a lot of enemies in the wake of its aggression, and potentially harm mankind’s existence in the process. Chomsky correctly identified the United States as the primary culprit in this issue; however, Canada’s geographical and political association with America coupled with its own increasing military initiatives place it on a similar path of neoliberal militaristic aggression.
The Noam Chomsky talk at Concordia was highly revealing, and demonstrated the full force of American neoliberalism. This leaves us to ask the question: is Canada heading down the same path? Unfortunately, from examining wide ranging issues from income disparity to the environment to military aggression, it can be seen that Canada shares an increasing amount of common ground with the United States on a breadth of policies. While a Chomsky supporter may hope for this status quo to change in 2015, Canadians have never failed to elect a Prime Minister who isn’t either Liberal or Conservative. Both of these parties have favoured business and corporations, staples of the neoliberal assault, in the past- reminiscent of another Noam Chomsky gem in which he claimed that “The United States is a one party system- the business party”. It remains to be seen how long it takes for the Canadian populace to realize that our system-while perhaps not as oppressive, reckless, or unfair as our neighbours to the South- continues to devolve into a similarly coercive “RECD” neoliberal system decried by Chomsky.
– Eli Vincent Zivot and Anissa Saudemont