The NDP Leadership Convention

The NDP Leadership Convention! – Expectations and Reality!

Don Currie, Chair CPS

March 24, 2012

The new Canada that many Canadians hoped might emerge at the NDP leadership convention requires more than a new leader and an image change for the NDP caucus. A new people’s vision of Canada is required. The global capitalist depression has caused millions to question the viability of capitalism itself.

Thomas Mulcair, the new leader of the NDP won the NDP leadership without enunciating what that new NDP vision should be. Failure to do that in the midst of a global crisis was a mistake. Mulcair did not challenge Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s vision of the future of Canada proclaimed at Davos Switzerland last year. [1] That was an opportunity lost.

Propelled by a mass movement among Canadian urban and rural voters who reject Prime Minister Harper’s support for NATO wars and finance capitalist dominance over the state and Parliament, the NDP may be poised to win power in the next federal election.

Such is the growing dissatisfaction among Canadian workers and farmers the NDP is positioned to win the next election even if it retains its current reformist policies.

If that happens the federal government will change from Conservative to NDP but the fundamental conditions of life of the unemployed, working class and farm families will remain the same because the profit system will not have changed.

The solid support for the NDP of a majority of Canadians voters of urban and rural Canada is not assured just because the NDP opposition speaks up in the House of Commons on behalf of “hard working Canadian families”. That is not a program to change the country. That is an elementary duty.  That role is necessary and minimal. But it is not enough!

Appealing for labour and farm votes as a kinder gentler variant of the Liberals or Conservatives is a commitment to change the guard at Ottawa, not to change the capitalist system in Canada or even its worst features.

The NDP leadership candidates evaded discussing the capitalist system and its current state of crisis and predation on Canada and its people.

Canada is a G7 NATO monopoly capitalist state. By definition that means 21st Century imperialism. Prime Minister Harper seeks to cynically detach his government from the crimes of the system he upholds and promotes. The Harper Conservatives promote an imperialist foreign policy of support for US-NATO-Israeli wars which may breakout in the Middle East at any moment.

The Harper Government is the advocate and promoter of a single energy resource based economy dominated by big private domestic and foreign investors and profiteers. The Harper Government promotes free trade deals with despotic regimes. The Conservative Government has no plans to overcome unemployment, poverty and racism in Canada.

The Conservatives have abandoned the vision of Canada as an integrated, all-sided industrialized technologically advanced manufacturing and industrialized 21st century country. Prime Minister Harper is opposed to such an economic plan because the only way it can be realized in practice is under a new socialist government. The NDP long ago abandoned socialism.

The Harper Conservatives subordinate the great potential for Canada to one purpose, the sale of energy and other natural resource commodities, combined with billions spent on the militarization of the economy to participate in US sponsored NATO wars. That is what the NDP candidates evaded speaking about.

Not one of the candidates articulated a vision of Canada as a peaceful, independent state, renouncing war and utilizing its own resources and the immense creative abilities of its people to build an entirely new kind of Canada, a socialist Canada.

That could not realistically be expected. However something short of that, that would openly challenge the dominance of monopoly capital over all of Canadian domestic and foreign policy could have and should have been discussed.

The NDP Caucus goes back to Parliament on Monday March 26th without a declared policy on the vital issues peace and war, and independent planned economic development.  The NDP will limit its role to advocating a reform program to alleviate the worst economic hardships faced by millions of Canadians. In the absence of a great independent labour party of socialism of their own, the workers and farmers will understandably support such efforts.  

Thomas Mulcair has mused about leading the NDP to a right-of-centre position in Parliamentary electoral politics which in capitalist Canada means in practice away from the influence of organized labour and the working class and working farmers.

Mulcair seeks be to a kinder gentler manager of Canada rather than the architect of changing it.

Within the narrow boundaries of social reformist class collaborationist politics the just concluded NDP Convention upheld the view that image trumps substance.  Using that measure to determine the outcome of the leadership convention, the NDP has moved further to the right.

To be popular, the NDP establishment wanted that outcome. That makes the task of labour, peace and democratic activists more difficult.

Playing the media game that personalities trump substance, the leadership candidates and their managers squandered the opportunity to speak over the heads of the media pundits directly to the Canadian people pledging to fight for a foreign policy of peace and a domestic policy of planned economic development.

All of the leadership candidates, with a national audience watching, muted their open support of the extra-parliamentary and militant mass opposition arising on picket lines, in student demonstrations, among farmers, First Nations and the 20% living below the poverty line.  

The NDP cannot confine the mass movements of the people to Parliamentary politics and simply capitalize on it in the next election. 

There is a discernible movement among voters for a change in capitalist Parliamentary politics that will not be denied and may not go to the NDP if it continues to move right.  

The progressive, aware and responsible left must give voice to that militant movement and the opportunity it presents to clearly articulate a working class-socialist program that openly challenges state monopoly capital.