The first boycott I took part in was against fruit growers in California. I was about 14. Cesar Chavez was trying to unionize the migrant labour force to fight against appallingly low wages and horrendous working conditions. The farmers — mostly corporations — were having none of it and were doing everything to break the union. Chavez called for a boycott — risking his own workers jobs. It was so effective that not only did they get a first contract and dramatically improved conditions; he had to organize a counter boycott to get people buying California produce again.
Later, I was a vocal supporter of the boycott of South African products — notably wine — to fight apartheid. I give kudos to Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney, as former and sitting Conservative Prime Ministers, for leading the international fight, taking on Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the process. The former proved right and the latter wrong in that struggle. Apartheid came to an end, in no small part due to the economic pressure put on the de Klerk government.
In the 1990s, I ran my own personal boycott of all products made in China to protest their actions in Tiananmen Square and the use of slave labour in prisons to make some of their goods. I doubt it had much of an affect but it is interesting to note that in his early days as a political leader, Stephen Harper opposed trade deals with China until they improved their human rights abuses. I know why I finally ended my ten year boycott — exhaustion from trying to find everyday products like running shoes and Christmas lights. The only alternatives to China proved to have even worse records. I’ll leave it to Mr. Harper to explain why he changed his mind and has now cosies up to a still repressive government in China.
So, boycotts have long been a way I’ve expressed disapproval for the actions of people who are trying to sell me things. I’ve always thought it was my money; I should be able to spend it the way I want. In that way, I seem like a truly conservative person, right? Conservatives believe in private property, don’t they? And the workings of the market which is based on consumer decisions to buy or not?
But apparently, in their endless search for votes, Conservatives no longer think so. They are proposing making an organized boycott of Israel over concerns about the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory a hate crime. It is doubtful that this would stand up in court — but Harper and friends have shown they don’t care about the law. So what if it is struck down in a year — we only care about getting votes now.
Funny. I always thought respect for the law (and order) was a hallmark of being a Conservative.
So at the risk of being accused of a hate crime, I have a boycott suggestion of my own. I’m suggesting a boycott of Stephen Harper in the October election. It won’t be hard for progressives — we have lots of choices — but for conservatives? Well, while I generally encourage voting, in this case, maybe true conservatives should simply stay home.
And that’s ten minutes.