GET WITH THE PROGRAM, JACK--Canadian social democrats are falling out of step
Is Jack Layton going to be the odd man out in the Socialist International? Is he going to be the last of the politically correct Mohicans who deny that mass immigration is detrimental to the environment and to the living standards of the native working class whose interests the centre-left claims to represent? Look at the trend.
Bob Carr, the former Labor Premier of New South Wales, had this to say about Australia, which suffers from the Canadian delusion, that it is an empty land whose treasures can only be unlocked by the importation of more people:
“We can depend on economic growth that comes in an easy fashion driven by population growth (or)... on the other hand,we can sustain jobs and economic security by using our brains, by being a smart economy, by adding value to the products we produce here—the food and the fibre and the mineral products we produce here...that’s a smart Australia. It is not a lazy Australia, that depends on job growth by driving up population numbers and depending on the growth you get by building houses and shopping malls.” Now Labor MP Kelvin Thomson has taken up Carr’s cudgels by arguing that mass immigration will push Australia beyond its carrying capacity without bringing a net economic benefit.
Labour MP Frank Field in the United Kingdom has taken a similar tack. He warned that “the present scale of immigration ... is bound to have a negative aspect on many aspects of life of Britain... If the Labour government does not adopt the policy of balanced migration, or something close to it, our population is set to rise to a level to which the vast majority of people are strongly opposed.” He went on to point out that “Britain will need to build one house every 6 minutes just to meet the current scale of immigration. “ A year ago cabinet minister Phil Woolas had voiced similar misgivings, speaking of the need to restrict immigration in the interests of capping the country’s population level, but met with much abuse within party ranks, and Field himself was dutifully accused by the New Statesman of pandering to the “far right” British National Party. But now, even the Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in his own words, is beginning to “get it”. He conceded that it is not inherently “racist” to talk about immigration, and his call to cut back employment advertising overseas is proof that reality can eventually breech even the most fortified walls of politically correct left –wing dogma.
If his deathbed conversion to sanity is authentic, Brown would be joining some astute company. Former Social Democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt admits, in retrospect, that immigration under his government was excessive and damaging to Germany. In a book published in 1982 he confessed that “with idealistic intentions, born out of our experience with the Third Reich, we brought in far too many foreigners.” Meanwhile one-time Dutch socialist leader Jan Marijnissen expressed his strong opposition to the practice of importing East European workers to undermine the position of Dutch workers. East Europeans were hired as “independent” contractors to circumvent labour law. Marijinssen wrote that “It is unacceptable that employers pay foreign workers 3 euros per hour and have them live in chicken coops as they were in competition in the nineteenth century of Dickens. The unfair competition and displacement of Dutch workers and small business is intolerable. Therefore we shouldn’t open the borders further, but set limits instead.” Now Walter Bos, the current leader of the Dutch Labor Party, affirming Milton Friedman’s observation, warned that “We must choose between a generous welfare state and restrictive immigration on the one hand and a restrictive welfare state and generous immigration on the other hand.”
Closer to home, the lone Democratic Socialist Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, wondered aloud, “If poverty is increasing and if wages are going down, I don’t know why we need millions of people coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down even lower than they are now.” He noted that thanks to outsourcing and lax immigration enforcement and policies, the Bush administration cost American workers 5 million jobs. In expressing these sentiments Sanders is following the traditional theme of American democratic socialism as established by such men as Socialist Party leader Victor Gerber and writer Jack London. The mandate of American socialists was to defend the living standards of American workers, not as is the policy of the AFL-CIO, to drop the American bird in the hand in order to chase two illegal Hispanic birds in the bush in a recruitment drive.
Canadian democratic socialism was rooted in a similar commitment. The much revered “saint” of Canadian politics and founder of the CCF—precursor to the NDP---J. S. Woodsworth, opposed immigration in the interwar period because there were not enough jobs. In his book “Strangers at the Gate”, he quoted Preston Hall in Hall’s exhaustive study of the labour market in the United States: “The general law seems to be that cheap labor tends to drive out higher-priced labor and lower the standards of living.” Woodsworth continued, “...the people with lower standards of living will drive out all competitors. The economic question becomes a social question. Can we afford, for the sake of immediate gain, to sacrifice those standards and ideals which we have most carefully cherished?” He even expressed concern that too many non-English speakers would threat social cohesion, evidence that once upon a time, Canadian socialists appreciated the need for some commonalities to glue a diverse social fabric together.
Where then does the NDP stand? That is best summarized by a statement made by Jack Layton’s wife and Immigration critic, Olivia Chow: “We need more immigrants because of our aging population. We need families and young people for productivity and economic growth.” Essentially a string of clichés that could have been lifted verbatim from any press release from the Conference Board of Canada or the local Home Builders Associaton. Cliches that have been consistently refuted by federally commissioned reports like those from the Economic Council of Canada and the C.D. Howe Institute. Some kind of “social democratic” party this. Chow apparently does not read this solid research or even the Statistics Canada material that has established a correlation between mass immigration and the decline of even professional wages (eg. Stats Can report of May 2007). The NDP leadership fails to evidence a grasp of the most elementary truths that socialist and labour leaders understood a century ago and are beginning to understand now. Namely, that there are limits. Limits to growth, limits to our carrying capacity, and limits to cultural diversity. J.S. Woodsworth knew that the best friend a worker has, more than any trade union or socialist party, is a tight labour market. Now more and more social democratic leaders are rediscovering the same axiom. So what is Layton’s excuse?
Get with the program, Jack.