Canada: Defend socialism in the NDP

The 2011 federal NDP convention is debating a motion to remove all references to socialism in the party's constitution. At a time of the greatest crisis of capitalism since the Great Depression, the mass uprising in the Arab world, and the complete rejection of Liberalism in the federal election, there could not be a more mistimed proposal. At this time of austerity and crisis, we do not need more capitalism — we need more socialism.

The federal NDP won a historic breakthrough of 103 seats in the 2011 federal election. However, only the hard right-wing of the party bureaucracy believes that this was because of the so-called “centrism” of the party's election platform. The NDP's breakthrough was a result of a rejection of “middle-of-the-road” Liberalism, and a desire for a break from the old politics in Quebec. Class polarization to the left and the right is the development we are seeing in Canada and internationally. To fail to understand this is to isolate Canada's labour party from the mass movements that are to come.

The Harper majority Conservative government is preparing a massive wave of austerity and attacks upon workers, youth, women, immigrants, and the environment — $4-billion of cuts every year and that is just the start. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that 80,000 jobs, amounting to a third of the federal public service, is facing the chopping block. We are already seeing the beginning of these attacks in the lockout and back-to-work legislation against postal workers and Air Canada employees. These attacks are not just due to the hard-hearted ideology of the Conservatives. They are a direct result of the capitalist economic crisis where billions upon billions of dollars were doled out to the banks and corporations to bail out their system. The capitalists created the crisis but now they are forcing the workers to pay for it. Indeed, to maintain the system of production for profit, there is no other alternative but to attack the workers. A future NDP government, if it does not break with capitalism and adopt socialism, will be forced to make the same attacks. Passing this resolution against socialism is part of a process that will end up isolating the NDP from workers and youth, and therefore it must be defeated by the rank-and-file.

Historically, where has this rightward move to the so-called “centre” led us? In Britain, Tony Blair removed Clause 4, the Labour Party's commitment to nationalization, from the constitution. This was just the first step in turning the party into a pro-war, pro-cut party that completely alienated its base and was massively defeated in the last British election. In Europe, some of the harshest cuts and austerity are coming from the Greek and Portuguese governments — social democratic governments — and this is resulting in mass movements and a rejection of the status-quo. We don't even have to look overseas for a very clear example of what happens when the NDP moves rightward. In Ontario, Bob Rae's government abandoned socialism and would not break with capitalism. When faced with an economic downturn, Rae chose to attack workers rather than adopt a socialist approach that puts the needs of the people first. Do we need to be reminded about what Rae's liberal politics did to the Ontario NDP? The Ontario party is only just recovering from the disaster 15 years later!

Some say that the preamble to the NDP's constitution is only symbolic and makes no fundamental difference either way. There is an element of truth to this, but what is important is the direction the party is moving. Removal of socialism is a slippery slope to turning the NDP into the Liberal Party 2.0; maintenance of this commitment should be a launching pad to enacting genuine policies that aid workers and youth. What is socialism? In language that is concrete to working class Canadians: socialism is full employment and union rights; socialism is free education and universal childcare; socialism is an end to war and an end to corporate bailouts. Capitalism means austerity; socialism means decent conditions for your family.

A recent study by Abacus Data found that most identify the NDP with the word socialism. Did this stop the massive electoral breakthrough? There is an old saying in union struggles that weakness invites aggression. This step to the right will not be sufficient for the corporate media and the right wing who will only redouble their assault. However, it can demoralize the base and the millions of people that are looking towards the NDP to provide a genuine alternative to the old politics of the Liberals and Conservatives. The new language mentions the Canadian Labour Congress — this is supposed to be a sop to the base of the party but it may just turn into the next target for the right. They will say, “Removing socialism means nothing without also breaking the union link.” This will be the next onslaught we will have to face if the anti-socialist resolution passes. Historically, Bob Rae flubbed the question, “Are you a Socialist?” and this was used as a stick to beat the party from then on. Conversely, Andrea Horwath won the ONDP leadership by proudly stating, “We New Democrats won't check our socialism at the door when it comes to building a better future.” Stand up for what you believe, and you gain respect; act in a manner that is ashamed of your past, and you are seen to be untrustworthy.

Across the world millions are rising up against the status quo. This has reached a boiling point in the Arab world where people are fighting, and dying, for a new society free from imperialism and dictatorship. Even in the United States, there have been mass movements of workers in Wisconsin and other areas. All those who say that you need liberal “middle-of-the-road” politics to win over the remaining support of the Liberal Party have no conception of social change. These are the same people that said that revolution in the Arab world was impossible and that the NDP has a “ceiling” of support at 20%. Rather than moving away from these movements that are fundamentally anti-capitalist, we need to embrace them thoroughly. The rightward turn is a dead end. The future belongs to socialism.

Source: Fightback (Canada)