Monday, March 24, 2014

Whither The NDP?

Murray Dobbin writes that our political system is ill equipped to deal with crises:

Our political system's greatest flaw is not the first-past-the-post voting system. It is the fact that it is gravely ill-equipped to deal with crises with which it has no experience. We have muddled through for decades tinkering with the perversity of capitalism. But capitalism has long since entered the cancer stage, as Canadian philosopher John McMurtry so prophetically described in his 1999 book (now updated), The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. It is no longer capable of recognizing the crisis it faces and like a cancer attacks its own body.  

Crises must be met with big ideas. None of our political parties are generating them. The NDP used to do just that -- until it came close to power and dreamed of winning a majority:

The dramatic shift in strategy -- seriously going for a majority -- has been disastrous for the NDP. It led them to opportunistically defeat the Liberal government and give power to Stephen Harper. Inexorably, the NDP is becoming another liberal party in order to be competitive. Federally, they're badly trailing a Liberal Party with a pretty face and no policies. The tragic irony in this is, of course, that even if the NDP did win, it would have a mandate limited to liberal policies.

Social democracy in the developed world has already suffered the same fate -- as it has provincially in Canada. In Europe, New Zealand and Australia, it is virtually indistinguishable from neoliberal parties and is in decline. In Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and B.C., NDP caution has been rewarded by voter rejection.

Dobbin believes the NDP was a better -- and more effective party -- when it rejected the swan song of power. One wonders how many other Dippers agree with him.


Marie Snyder said...

I agree. I've always supported the NDP, but they don't seem to the left of centre anymore - particularly around taxation.

Owen Gray said...

There is always a price one pays for power, Marie. Sometimes the price is too high.

The Mound of Sound said...

It is ironic how many of the party faithful who once denounced liberalism and anything to do with the Liberals are now rabid defenders of the Layton/Mulcair, "Blairified" Latter Day Libs. They freely abandoned the Left and were content that it remain undefended and Canada is much the worse for it. Broadbent warned them and was reviled for his efforts.

Owen Gray said...

Just as Joe Clark warned his party about what would happen if it threw in its lot with Stephen Harper, Mound, Ed Broadbent warned his party against the advent of Tom Mulcair.

These must be bitter times for both men.

CK said...

I agree with this assessment. In 2006, I believe, James Laxer had an essay published in the Walrus, shortly after Harper first took office. The article is called "Fake Left, Go Right". I believe Laxer was one of Jack Layton's professors during his youth. I warn you, it's a long read.

A friend of mine was a devoted card carrying NDP member. Not anymore; not since they decided to go the route of power. It should be noted that the more seats they got over time, the less power and/or influence of any kind they have. Now that they're in official opposition, other than the odd filibuster, they are powerless to do anything.

BAck in the 60s days, if you remember, Owen, Liberal minority government introduced medicare nationally, but it was largely thanks to Tommy Douglas and the NDP that it happened.

Owen Gray said...

Exactly, CK. Douglas cared more about ideas than he did about power. In fact, it was he who said that the best way to protect the little guy was with a good idea.

And medicare was a good idea.

Lorne said...

Here in Ontario, Owen, the spectacle of prostitution in anticipation of power is especially apparent with Andrea Horwath's profoundly disappointing 'leadership' of the NDP. There is a pronounced wariness in both her demeanor and the vacuity of her ideas. It is as if she tests the political winds each time before she answers a question on where she stands.

As I recall, it took her a good month before she actually stated her opinion on Ontario's raising of the minimum wage, and when she did, she expressed her concerns about its impact on business.

She will not get my support in the next election.

Owen Gray said...

It's sad, isn't it Lorne?

J.S.Woodsworth did not have to think before proclaiming that he was a pacifist. David Lewis knew where he stood on corporate welfare. Tommy Douglas had no hesitation in defending the little guy.

Now the leader needs to check which way the wind is blowing before taking a stand.

Dana said...

I grew up in Regina with the examples of Tommy Douglas and Woodrow Lloyd. I was 14 the year the doctors struck.

Neither of those men would have remained quiet and passive during the gutting and abandoning of their core principles- neither ever did.

The NDP is dead and won't be recovered now.

I left the party the day after Layton sold the country down the river for a few pieces of silver.

He should have died much sooner.

Owen Gray said...

I can't help but think that Tommy would be appalled, Dana.

Scotian said...

My wife was hard core Dipper in beliefs and support when Layton first rose to the leadership. By the time he brought Martin down she was getting very distant in her support for the party itself. By the time of the last federal election she had become rabidly anti-NDP even more than I am (and I am well aware of just how bitter and angry I am towards the Layton/Mulcair NDP versus the party it used to be and I trusted). I have to say she is one of those that shares that feeling you described Owen Gray at the end of your post.

I've always said the NDP made a disastrous choice with Layton and allowing him to "Blairify" the NDP. I was making this argument back when it still would have been doable, back in 2005, that the best route for the NDP to government lay in supporting the Libs until Harper lost power within the CPC (and his hold was very shaky by the mid of 2005, if he hadn't of succeeded in bringing Martin down when he did it is very likely he would have faced internal revolt, something people have forgotten about because of how iron solid his grip became thanks to that 2005 take down), leaving the NDP as the only party with strong leadership and fresh ideas next to a tired, corrupt and exhausted Liberal party and a CPC in internal chaos from the collapse of the Harper/Reform wing and the likely resurgence of the PCPC wing to try and reclaim power within the party created by MacKay's treason.. Not to mention being the party that protected Canada from the horrors of a Harper/Reform government and placing that interest before its own short term interests.

The truly sad irony is that the decades of hard work the NDP had put in proving it really was the party of principles first and could be trusted that way was on the verge of paying off with political power when Layton and his supporters threw it all away for the mirage of replacing the Libs by helping the Harper CPC destroy them. I said election night 2011 that Layton's political epitaph was that he won the battle to lose the war, and that was why.

The House that Jack built has done more to destroy true progressive principles and values within Canada then every so called sellout the Liberals did according the Dippers for decades. What is also very important to note as well as quite disturbing to me is that there had to be others who saw this path when I did within that party and yet they stayed silent, while I blamed Jack for his decisions I blame the party for silently going along or worse getting behind the bandwagon and pushing. THAT is why I am so bitter, so angry, and so distrustful of them and their partisans, and it is why my wife feels profoundly betrayed by them.

The NDP these days are the Libs without the heritage, institutional legacies, principles, and values that defines Liberals (they do have them, the fact that they are not ideological does not make them automatically unprincipled, something I find far too many people who are into politics tend to miss or dismiss). They are led by the type of personality leader that is similar to Harper instead of the warmth of Layton (and it was Jack's movement in the 2011 election, not the NDP/Orange movement that got then Official Opposition status, something that also needs to not be forgotten) while the Libs have the closest thing to Jack's warmth going in Justin Trudeau. I think the NDP alas is what Dana described, DOA, the only question is how long their zombie walking lasts. Well that and where all the real principled NDPers in the country decide to go once they finally accept that their party has sold them out and is their home no more.

The NDP that defended Canadian values, progressive principles, and practised what it preached is clearly no more. The expediency first driven party of sanctimonious hypocrisy that now exists has become in truth the image the NDP used to portray the Libs as being. Irony truly abounds.

Owen Gray said...

Murray Dobbin would agree with you, Scotian. Like the ancient sirens who drove ships to their doom, power causes people to lose their bearings.

Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas and David Lewis clearly understood how power blinds and corrupts those who court it.