Deputy PM and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland made headlines recently, with a speech at the Brookings Institute in which she proposed a sweeping policy shift that would see trade and investment exclude “autocracies” and focus only on “democratic allies.”
The proposal is described as a sharp break with the type of globalization policies that have defined the past several decades of capitalist development. Using the sickly-sweet name of “friend-shoring” Freeland and her supporters are presenting it as a simple and common-sense solution for everything from pandemic-related supply chain meltdowns to industrial stagnation.
But in reality, the Freeland Doctrine (as her supporters call it) is a dangerous approach to global policy that sows the seeds of division, crisis and war.
First, it requires a list of “autocracies” and “democrats” – which, in other words, means drawing a thick dividing line between “us” and “them.” That line has to be substantiated with a whole lot of anti-them rhetoric – even more than we are currently fed. What other way, exactly, can Freeland justify shifting trade and investment away from China without seriously ramping up the anti-China, anti-communist Cold War bombast? Or anti-Russian or anti-Cuban or anti-Syrian…?
And what impact will that level of near-hate speech have on people in Canada who are of Asian descent? (Or Russian or Latin American or Arab…?) Taking all of the xenophobic discourse that the state has already used to justify recent wars, ratcheting it up and then attaching it to every person’s economic livelihood is a recipe for disaster.
“Friend-shorers” in the corporate media have drawn comparisons with COMECON, the cooperative economic block among socialist states from 1949 to 1991. But does anyone actually believe that this “NATO economic zone” will be characterized by COMECON’s commitments to equality of states, mutual benefit, democratic development, shared technology or economic cooperation?
Hardly. A more apt comparison is with the Galactic Empire in Star Wars – oppressive, autocratic, violent and committed to colonization, militarism, resource theft and power for the very few.
The Freeland Doctrine is not a solution to capitalist crisis – it’s a reflection of it. Instead of imperialist gimmicks like “friend-shoring,” we need to advance working-class internationalism, solidarity, peace and disarmament, and socialism.
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