The NDP are cowards, what should true progressives do?

It goes without saying that by far most serious progressives with any degree of integrity and fortitude oppose our current, antiquated, 18th Century Burkean electoral system.  Now, of course, this precludes the cowards over at the Ontario NDP who have never met a progressive principle they couldn’t betray in some creative fashion either actively or through omission.

Maybe they’re taking pointers on how best to screw over progressive causes from Tony Blair since he seems to have more free time since leaving 10 Downing Street?

Now, it’s no secret that I support the Single Transferable Vote system over the MMP system that the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly ultimately endorsed and which Ontario will be voting for this October.

But, I’ll save you the trouble of reading through my position on that topic.  There’s an even simpler way that we progressives can use to decide which electoral system we ought to support.

The easiest way of deciding which electoral system we progressives should support, is to take a look at which system economic and governmental élites hate the most, and then simply chose that one.  You can bet your bottom dollar that, if élites love it, you most likely shouldn’t.

But how can we tell which electoral system élites most favour and which one they most despise?

Fortunately, while it’s obviously true that élites may B.S. the masses from time to time; it’s also true that they almost never, ever, B.S. each other.  Thus the importance of primary documents.

When I was working as an intern on Parliament Hill, I spent a lot of time going over documents prepared by the Library of Parliament to brief MPs on topics ranging from organic farming to electoral systems.

What I came across was this briefing paper which was prepared during the Mulroney years and which nevertheless remains THE briefing paper used by governmental élites and MPs wanting more information on the subject.

Thus, this is quite possibly the closest thing you can come to a manifesto of the ruling classes on electoral systems.

A simple word counter reveals wonders about which systems élites love and which ones they hate.

The paper discusses 6 different systems:  Single Member Plurality Systems (AKA what we have now), Multi-Member Plurality Systems, Single Member Majoritarian Systems, Party List Systems (AKA what the Citizens’ Assembly indorsed), Party List System Variants, and Single Transferable Vote.

To make it easier, I’ve drawn up pretty diagrams for all to enjoy.

Below, I’ve created tables and graphs used in the briefing paper to document the percentage of words used in support of a given electoral system and opposed to it.

The trend speaks for itself.government-of-canada-electoral-systems.png

Single Member Plurality Systems

Words:

Total words supportive/neutral:

65

100.0%

Total words opposed:

0

0.0%

.

 

  Multi-Member Plurality Systems

Words:

Total words supportive/neutral:

47

67.1%

Total words opposed:

23

32.9%

.

Single Member Majority Systems

Words:

Total words supportive/neutral:

36

57.1%

Total words opposed:

27

42.9%

.

Party List Systems

Words:

Total words supportive/neutral:

52

55.3%

Total words opposed:

42

44.7%

.

Party List Systems: Variants

Words:

Total words supportive/neutral:

55

55.0%

Total words opposed:

45

45.0%

.

Single Transferable Vote

Words:

Total words supportive/neutral:

69

44.2%

Total words opposed:

87

55.8%

.

Out of all of the six systems, the briefing paper spends a majority of its time bashing only one of them — Single Transferable Vote.  And this, despite the fact that some of the systems in the briefing paper are pretty stupid systems (like Multi-Member Plurality, AKA Single NON-Transferable Vote).

So, what should we progressives support? 

Well, élites hate STV, so you should love it.  But it’s also clear that élites prefer our current system to MMP, so, I for one will be supporting the MMP referendum in Ontario this October…. grudgingly.

For more on STV and electoral change, see also:

On changing our electoral system

Steve Paikin repeats popular myth on TV

U.S. Presidential Candidates compared to Canadian political parties

37 Responses to “The NDP are cowards, what should true progressives do?”


  1. 1 Cam Holmstrom 31 August, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    You are being quite inconsistent on this yourself there. You say “Now, it’s no secret that I support the Single Transferable Vote system over the MMP system that the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly ultimately endorsed”, but say that Ontario New Democrats should support something that you don’t even prefer???

    I myself am a New Democrat, and I am not support this MMP proposal because of it’s ramifications for regional representation in this huge province that has a very unevenly distributed population. Now, I am all for some form of electoral reform, but am not in favour of this and am not willing to vote some thing that I believe is going to make regional representation for the whole province worse rather than better??? Does that make me a coward??? I believe not.

    As for the Ontario NDP, they are going the right thing by not campaigning on this because thanks to Ontario election law, it is illegal for them to do so. That’s right, ILLEGAL. That’s the exact same reason why the Liberals and Tories are not doing it either. The Greens are doing it because they have nothing to loose from breaking election laws on this one. So, if you think that the NDP should abandon the principal of following election law, and think they are cowards for following those laws, well then, call me a coward because what the NDP is doing this above board.

  2. 2 aradhanad 31 August, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    Paul, I think your blog is totally awesome. But like Cameron here, I have to say I think that you are mistaken – the NDP can not publicly endorse the MMP reform because it is ILLEGAL. I know individual NDPers who go about talking about it – but they can’t say so publicly cause of ramifications of it.

    I also feel (and unlike your graphs and accurate statements mine is just a face-value analysis), in a culture of HIGH celebrity worship and the liberals ‘buying’ votes at every damn event left, right and centre (handing out millions of bucks to themselves and potential voters), the Single transferable vote would not in my opinion work at all.

    We’re in a stage of extremely HIGH free market values, which means everyone is highly conscious of themselves as ‘individuals’. Each of us is saturated in this idea of what it means to be an individual – this has led to the extreme cult-of-personality worshipping that happens. That’s why someone like Iggy – the quintessential “Harvard Man” can come waltzing into Canada and win an elected position. If we had Single Transferable Vote – in our current state, we’d all go for the candidate that had a status quo personality. This is the kind of shit that the media loves too, and they’d be happy to catapult anyone who is wishy-washy on the issues – you know the typical swing left – aim right shit. That’s why Arnold and Bloomberg are heralded by the American media as being such great examples of governors – because they have ‘fiscal conservatism + supposed Green policies + ‘ambiguous social conservatism’. Did you read the way TIME magazine covered them a few months ago?

    As a socialist, I strongly believe we need to support groups – and collectives of people and that parties, like the NDP need to have stronger binding commitments to ‘progressive’ politics. I guess we can hold them accountable on those things or of course collectivize and take action ourselves.

  3. 3 Dan 31 August, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    If no one can campaign on MMP can members at least have their positions on record? Michael Bryant, George Smitherman, and a handful of other Liberals are on record in favour, Dwight Duncan is on record against it. Surely Hampton (or whoever) could go on record with an opinion. Have they at least done that yet?

    Let pro-electoral reform bloggers (even just the ones with no party affiliation) at least have your positions. We can do the rest and make some more noise for MMP. Remember, we have to attain that ridiculous super-majority.

  4. 4 paulitics 31 August, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    Cam – If you read over my previous posts on this subject, specifically the one entitled “On changing our electoral system”, you’ll note that the post ended with:

    “But the point of this post isn’t to sell you on STV (although I wouldn’t be upset if that was a consequence of this post). The fact of the matter is that STV lost and MMP won in the Citizen’s Assembly. What are STV supporters to do now?

    While it may not be perfect, I for one will nonetheless support this fundamentally flawed, inconsistent, ugly and inelegant system I’ve just spent over an hour bashing and I call on all other STV supporters to do the same.

    Why?

    Because it’s still a hell of a lot better than the god-awful system we’ve got now.”

    So, to answer your first criticism, no I don’t have any great love for MMP. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still better than what we’ve got now.

    Second, you state that you oppose MMP and then rhetorically ask: “Does that make me a coward??? I believe not.”

    Cam, I don’t know where you got the impression that I was saying that people can’t oppose MMP based on their personal convictions. Because I never said that. Nor did I say that any particular New Democrat is a coward. I said that the Ontario NDP (Read: Party organizaiton, leadership and MPPs) were cowards and I stand by that position.

    Lastly, you write that it’s illegal for parties to campaign either against or in favour of MMP, despite the fact that both the Greens, the Family Coalition Party and the Freedom Party have all declared a position on MMP and are campaigning on it.

    Are you suggesting that these parties are intentionally braking the law and/or that the law is being selectively applied to harm only the larger parties while the smaller parties are given a pass?

    Now I hadn’t heard about any law prohibiting parties from campaigning on the issue, but the Ontairo Referendum website states that anybody is allowed to campaign and purchase advertising on the issue so long as the person or group or party behind the ad(s) are clearly identified. Source:

    http://www.yourbigdecision.ca/en_ca/finance/faq.aspx#activitiesfaq5

    If you have any further information on the specific statute or section in Ontario code which you believe prohibits this, please bring it to my attention as I know of at least three official and registered political parties who would be in direct violation of this ordinance, if it indeed exists.

  5. 5 paulitics 31 August, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    aradhanad – I couldn’t agree more with your concern for the cult of personality that has become of American politics and the cult of personality that is becoming our our politics.

    However, there is no reason why STV must reduce ideological coherence and cohesion and there are any number of simple mechanisms to accomplish this task. For instance, in Australia, in Senate elections, a voter may vote “above the line” for a whole party and rank order the parties or they may vote “below the line” and rank order individuals within the parties. However, regardless of whether they vote “above” or “below” the line, a voter must rank order ALL of the candidates/parties in which ever section they chose. Since there are usually less than 7 or 8 parties but can be up to 50 or more individuals on a single ballot, almost 95% of Australians vote “above the line” thus maintaining party cohesion as well as ideological coherence.

    Thus there is no reason to take an alarmist position and conclude that STV would be a) conducive to a cult of personality, or b) would be any worse than either our current First Past the Post or MMP.

  6. 6 Mark 31 August, 2007 at 11:42 pm

    Paul,
    That’s some top notch analysis of that research paper. I’m not surprised, but shocked and a little disgusted.

  7. 7 aradhanad 1 September, 2007 at 12:11 am

    Paul, I think the three parties that you name who have officially come out in support of MMP are parties who really do not have anything to ‘lose’ by coming out in terms of legalize. Am I right in assuming that? However, I think for the NDP it is more problematic a situation. You have mentioned individual MPPs like Smitherman etc… who have come out saying they support it – but I do know of most NDPers who come out to vocally support it too (no, I am not aware of any MPPs who are doing that).

    you may be right about my take on STV, I do not know enough about it – and the wiki entry wasn’t terribly helpful either. However, I have to say I think with most voters – and I mean by most people who do not consider themselves to be ‘left’ or ‘right’ or ‘progressive’ – do vote with the ‘individual candidate in mind’ vs. party politics. And that to me personally is a huge problem. I am sure you can see why. I don’t know how much that has to do with STV, as I mentioned I don’t know enough about it.

    In fact, I was reading somewhere (one of those poli research reports) that the bulk of people who vote, actually look for the ‘look of sincerity’ when it comes to candidates.

  8. 8 Lord Kitchener's Own 1 September, 2007 at 3:27 am

    Paul,

    First, Thank God! For a moment there I thought you were going to go the route of so many I’ve read in making the perfect the enemy of the good. I was sure you were going down the “no reform is better than imperfect reform” road otherwise known as “if it’s not a panacea, I don’t want it” boulevard. Good for you for not falling into that trap despite your preference for STV.

    On the campaigning/advertising thing though, you might be being a bit hard on the NDP calling them “cowards” as the other posters are partially right that it COULD be construed as being illegal for them to advertise/campaign, depending upon what one means by “campaign” exactly. You can see more on the webpage you linked to at 11:05 actually, under the link to “Referendum Advertising Guidelines” at the top (which goes to here.

    Hopefully you’ll forgive a truly giant comment as I’ll copy and paste the important bit FYI. (It’s on page 17):

    “Political parties and constituency associations registered under the Election Finances Act are not permitted to register as a referendum campaign organizer so as to organize a campaign or advertise to promote or entreat on behalf of a particular referendum result. They are not permitted to explicitly promote or entreat on behalf of a particular referendum result. Advertising that contains slogans, mottos, or wording
    such as “Vote for MMP (or FPTP)”, “On polling day make the choice to keep the system we have”, “On polling day make the choice to change the system”, or “Pick our party and MMP (or FPTP) on October 10th” is prohibited.
    However, political parties and constituency associations registered under the Election Finances Act are permitted to make fair public comment by discussing and advertising their policies and positions on the referendum and the referendum legislation.”

    It goes on to talk more about what CAN be done under the “fair comment exception”. Basically, you can say “We support MMP”, but NOT “Vote for MMP” (more detail in the PDF of course!). So, basically, I think it comes down to what the NDP meant when they said they wouldn’t “campaign” in favour of MMP. If they meant they wouldn’t do the latter I think they have little choice. If they also won’t do the former, well, maybe your characterization stands. Also, political parties are specifically excluded from registering for the purposes of tracking advertising/campaign funding (as is required if you spend over $500) so one could argue that a party spending over $500 might be breaking a law.

  9. 9 Michael Bednarski 1 September, 2007 at 7:27 am

    Like you, I originally supported STV for Ontario. The Citizens’ Assembly worked together and chose MMP instead which I will be supporting in the referendum.

    You make an excellent point about the élites supporting and opposing different voting systems. This is more important than the actual systems themselves. When we look at the supporters of NO MMP, we must ask ourselves why these people support First-Past-the-Post and oppose MMP.

    Imagine if Canada only had a Senate and no elected House of Commons, and all the provinces had appointed assemblymen. I wonder how many of the NO MMP supporters would be campaigning for First-Past-the-Post elections if we had no democracy in the first place. I imagine not many.

    We need not only to attack First-Past-the-Post; we must make Ontarians aware of the élites who support the existing system and why they do so.

  10. 10 Uncorrected Proofs 1 September, 2007 at 7:40 am

    It is not ILLEGAL for the NDP or any othe rparty to state a preference for MMP. There are many clever ways of doing it that conform with Ontario’s election laws. The major parties are censoring themselves. Read my post on the subject at http://uncorrectedproofs.blogspot.com/2007/08/more-thoughts-on-ndp-and-mmp.html

  11. 11 April Reign 1 September, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Here the NDP is supporting MMP by NOT coming out publicly for it. Here they do whatever their evil conservative overlords tell them and anything by the NDP is immediately suspect. In fact if they were drowning and the NDP handed them a life ring and the cons a cement block they would take the block.

    When I ran a public meeting for the Health Coalition I got a call from a woman telling me to mind my own fucking business that some people couldn’t wait for private health care.

    There’s a time to thrust and a time to parry.

  12. 12 aradhanad 1 September, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    I’ve been thinking – I think the NDP specifically is avoiding (and rightfully so) taking a stand on MMP for the following reason – and to me this makes complete sense from a strategic vantage point.

    The only parties that have come out in support of MMP (despite the legal consequences) are indeed fringe parties. The primary concern of most voters who are predominantly liberal and tory supporters is that “voting MMP means more looney lefties in office”. By supporting MMP vocally – the NDP therefore looks like it’s only supporting for it’s own benefit (as it is not one of the big two parties). This would strategically work to their disadvantage because they want to be the party that is for ‘every Ontarian’. I personally think that it would in fact work against them to advocate for MMP. Let’s say the tories come into power – at least by not advocating for MMP – they can allow people to choose for themselves whether they want MMP or not. So even if we elect the cons/libs as Ontarians, our chances of MMP are actually higher…..

    You know, personally I’m also tired of a fragmented left. We have one strong left party – it would be awesome to have more. seriously. I personally feel like we are so close to becoming a two-party US following crap-hole. The language of US politics is prevalent everywhere and honestly, it’s so damn important to have this voice. They aren’t perfect – and the freakin catholic school issue should have been voted on a long time ago, now this goddamn can of worms has been opened by the tories. There are things that NDPers can do – we should push for those things.

  13. 13 Jeremy 1 September, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    I understand that the NDP and it’s antics do not mirror your ideals or desires completely, but they are by FAR the best way to move the political paradigm from the 4-notches-right-of-center Harper-Bush ideology, to a center-left configuration. A center-left point might not be far enough for some, but if we bash & trash that option, we well UNAVOIDABLY FACILITATE and CONTINUALLY EMPOWER the Neo-Liberal/Neo-Conservative 2-party fraudulent monopoly which has disproportionately dominated North America.

    Layton was good when he was accusing Martin of being responsible for the Toronto homeless deaths. That was angry Jack. I want to see more of that. I believe that some of his advisors took a politically correct approach and told him to play nice. But in this Bushian era, now is not the time to soften rhetoric or overlook destructive Neo-Con/Neo-Lib policies. Contact your NDP rep and tell them to fight HARD, LOUD & PROUD 100% of the time.

    We’d all rather see Stephen Lewis, but we have Jack for the short term. Let’s support him & the NDP short-term, while seeing/envisioning a greater & more effective long-term goal.

    But let’s never enable & empower the Neo-Cons/Neo-Libs by defeatist default and impractical dismissivity.

  14. 14 paulitics 1 September, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    Jeremy – Here I have to disagree with you when you write that the NDP are “by FAR the best way to move the political paradigm from the 4-notches-right-of-center Harper-Bush ideology.”

    I don’t see the NDP as moving the ‘paradigm’ as you put it, very much at all. The fact is that they are a profoundly pro-capitalist party and have been so since the late 70s. They are not in favour of withdrawing from the primary instititutions of neo-liberal globalization, namely the WTO and the IMF (although they do occasionally talk about pulling out of NAFTA). They are not in favour of radical reform of the capitalist system.

    The NDP, in short, are not opposed in any serious fashion or extent to capitalism. They merely seek to have the capitalist system managed and organized slightly differently. I used to be an intern with the NDP and I can tell you that they are highly hostile to any sort of anti-capitalist proposals or leanings.

    I also don’t share your idolization of Stephen Lewis. Stephen Lewis was the one who began the great ‘purges’ of the NDP, purging them from progressive comrades like myself because he couldn’t tolerate having even the few of my anti-capitalist comrades in his profoundly capitalist party.

    So, in short, no we wouldn’t ALL rather see Stephen Lewis at the helm. I’d rather see any anti-capitalist over any of the current capitalist lackeys who currently fill the NDPs benches.

    As I’ve mentioned many times before in this blog, the NDP has not earned my support and they will never earn it by putting forward the weak argument that they’re merely not as bad as some other group of capitalists.

    No thanks.

    When I say “socialist” in my blog’s title, I actually mean it.

  15. 15 Simon A. Dougherty 2 September, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Hi Paul,

    I came to this site after viewing a discussion for the Wikipedia entry on “Ontario general election, 2007” in which a link to the stats in this post has been removed because they’re not “as comprehensive as say, Democraticspace.”

    I find this to be strange reasoning for two reasons:

    Firstly, your stats are objective, even if your analysis of them isn’t (although that’s the nature of analysis — some people just foreground their ideology while others don’t).

    Secondly, democraticSPACE, while very comprehensive, is far from objective or even democratic for that matter. Since aradhanad (comment #12) brought up the debate around funding religious schools in Ontario, I’ll cite this as an example. There have been four recent threads about this issue on democraticSPACE with over 70 comments between them. The position of democraticSPACE has been to support the Liberal status quo on the issue while dismissing the U.N. Commissions that have found Ontario’s education system in violation of human rights. democraticSPACE is favouring statistics from The Fraser Institute (one of the most neo-conservative think-tanks out there) instead. I have no problem with democraticSPACE taking this position, but since the majority of responses have been critical (and rightly so), the website has been censoring and pulling down some of the most critical comments (some of mine are among them, but by no means the only ones). As of the time of this posting, two of these threads have been shut off to further comments.

    I write this as a cautionary note to those who dismiss stats such as yours in the name of “objectivity” or “democracy.” Censorship in the name of whatever bogus reason — whether on Wikipedia, democraticSPACE, or elsewhere — needs to be exposed and challenged. I’m not in the blogosphere myself, and so I’d encourage truly progressive bloggers to remain vigilant of other websites that claim to be “progressive.” It’s the same vigilance I think all of us should have when we hear the Liberals, NDP, or Greens touting themselves as “progressive.”

    Keep up the critical analysis.

  16. 16 paulitics 2 September, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Simon – Hear, hear! I couldn’t agree more. I try very hard to keep my analysis of polls separate from the polling resource or the new Ontario Provincial Election resource. So I don’t know where that Wikipedia user gets off saying that my Ontario resource is somehow partisan and biassed(when it’s not) and Greg’s is somehow non-partisan.

    Greg’s site has political commentary just like mine does, the only difference is though that Greg didn’t recently insult the NDP and that Wikipedia user is a New Democrat.

    I’d be really grateful if you could go on the discussion page at Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Ontario_general_election%2C_2007 ) and make basically the argument you just made here (even copy and paste it).

    Every argument that has been given for keeping Paulitics off Wikipedia has been so transparently animated by ideology, that they can’t possibly be taken seriously. But Paulitics is going to remain blacklisted for no good reason unless more people recognize this and point it out on the Wikipedia page.

  17. 17 Simon A. Dougherty 2 September, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve made the comment appropriate for the Wikipedia discussion and posted it there.

    Hopefully more people will keep a critical eye on bloggers like Greg and that NDPer on Wikipedia who wished to censor the statistics. And I say this as someone who appreciates Greg’s work and sympathizes with many NDP causes. But people still have to remain critical. I look forward to seeing that truly progressive blog-network/web-ring take mature shape. So many of the “progressive” bloggers out there aren’t progressive at all, or they’re terribly inconsistent at best.

    As for this electoral reform debate, I’ve looked at all the systems and none are perfect. I agree MMP is better than FPTP, thus I will support it in the referendum. But like any other system, it is just a mild reform, perhaps a means to more democratic ends down the road. The struggle will be far from over. It would be nice to see a day where local participatory councils are making democratic policy decisions that directly affect their own lives. Even that won’t be perfect, but at least it’ll be a more democratic system in which people can have meaningful and influential say in the institutions that affect them.

  18. 18 Michael 2 September, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    Paul, while I agree that the NDP has consciously (and continuously, since the 1950s CCF days) moved away from a more consisently socialist position (as have the Labour parties in several countries like Australia, NZ, and the UK, as well as parties like the German SDP), you also seemed to accept the analysis of the “political compass” site that places the NDP further “west” and “south” than nearly all these other parties in other countries.

    By the same reasoning that makes you support MMP even though it is not ideal, you should at least credit the NDP for trying, even if you prefer to vote in some other way.

    The NDP is so obviously going to be a beneficiary of MMP that I think it cannot afford to campaign (officially or unofficially) too vociferously in its favour because of a very real conflict of interest.

  19. 19 Renegade Eye 3 September, 2007 at 12:32 am

    In the USA we don’t have anything resembling a labor party here. The Democratic Party is bourgeoise, sharing goals with the GOP, not tactics. Atleast you have a party where you can caucus.

    In the USA, to have a labor party, would come from a revolutionary situation.

  20. 20 Jeremy 3 September, 2007 at 12:47 am

    Oh gosh Paul. How can I convince thee ? Let me attempt it metaphorically/numerically.

    0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10

    Left C Right

    Let’s say (North American) society is being burned by Neo-Con (9) domination, The NDP is advocating 5 (or 6), I am advocating 2.5 (or 4), and you are advocating 0, 1 or 2.

    Let’s realize that in North America, it’s been a dual Neo-Liberal (7) & Neo-Conservative (9) monopoly for what is, effectively, virtually forever.

    Let’s realize the nuances of the precise contemporary reality in North America. There has been no significant shift TOWARDS the left side of the spectrum. EVER. No significant, effective, leftist empowerment, politically, EVER.

    To get the political configuration you desire (and rationally prefer), is not akin to turning the dial on your stove (on top of which is a burning pan of oil) from 9 to 0 instantaneously.

    Certainly you realize this.

    7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5 are all points which must eventually (GRADUALLY) be reached before you get it to 0 or 1, so if you bash & trash the center-left option, you are throwing away, in blind ideological dismissivity, the *only currently available* practical means by which we get to escape the current Neo-Conservative domination. The only available route out of the catastrophe.

    I greatly recommend that you and others pragmatically & conditionally support and vote for the NDP or Greens (as the best available short-term practical option) while simultaneously and ultimately trying to construct the “CSP”, or Canadian Socialist Party. While doing that, you can *also* try to move the NDP pillars further to the left by practical means ; joining their party and/or using (non-mainstream) media to expose where they deviate too far to the right, and/or other influential tactics.

    There are many many options, let’s not throw away any of them. Let’s also be able to rationally & scientifically measure & identify the incremental middle between ultra-right Neo-Conservatism and your own preferred leftist ideal. To do this, you must first start with the premise that not everyone to the right of yourself is a Neo-Liberal or Neo-Conservative.

  21. 21 Jeremy 3 September, 2007 at 1:05 am

    …..Comment by Renegade Eye — 3 September, 2007 @ 12:32 am…..

    “In the USA we don’t have anything resembling a labor party here. The Democratic Party is bourgeoise, sharing goals with the GOP, not tactics. Atleast you have a party where you can caucus.

    In the USA, to have a labor party, would come from a revolutionary situation.”

    I have many relatives in the States, and if we Canadians think we have been victimized and duped by a fraudulent Neo-Conservative/Neo-Liberal monopoly, it is even much worse for you Americans.

    You have some potential heroes down there though. I remember seeing Bill Maher on Larry King a few days ago, suggesting that Kucinich is indicative of the fact that there really is a left in America, and if people were to rationally consider it, they might actually warm up to it and like it.

    Michael Moore does some good stuff for the US. So does socialist senator of Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Ralph Nader too.

    Now these names are frequently shut out by the MSM, but I’ve noticed a slightly greater frequency of them making impactful appearances and statements, reaching millions. They are willing to boldly criticize the military-industrial-prison-pharmaceutical complex, and are pointing out the victims of Neo-Conservative / Neo-Liberal policy, in economics, social policy and foreign policy.

    Ultimately, Americans and Canadians are going to have to demand that proportional representation be implemented, along with a highly progressive taxation system. Finland fines it’s millionaire highway speeders with a $200,000 ticket, and they accept it as fair, because it takes away the same relative percentage of their wealth. The Finns also have proportional representation and many parties to choose from (unlike us in Non-Democratic North America). We can certainly do much better than we are on this continent.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finland

    “Parliament

    Prime Minister of Finland Matti Vanhanen eight days prior the Finnish parliamentary election, 2007.Main article: Parliament of Finland
    See also: List of political parties in Finland
    The Finnish Parliament consists of one chamber with two hundred members. The members are elected for a four-year term by direct popular vote under a system of proportional representation. According to the Constitution of Finland, the Parliament elects the Prime Minister, who is appointed to office by the President. Other Ministers are appointed by the President on the Prime Minister’s proposal. The current Prime Minister of Finland, as well as Chairman of the Centre Party is Matti Vanhanen (who in the second half of 2006 was President of the European Council).

    After the parliamentary elections on March 18, 2007, the seats were divided among eight parties as follows:

    Party Seats Net Gain/Loss % of seats % of votes
    The Centre Party 51 –4 25.5 23.1
    The National Coalition Party 50 +10 25.0 22.3
    The Social Democratic Party 45 –8 22.5 21.4
    The Left Wing Alliance 17 –2 8.5 8.8
    The Green League 15 +1 7.5 8.5
    The Swedish People’s Party 9 +1 4.5 4.5
    The Christian Democrats 7 0 3.5 4.9
    The True Finns 5 +2 2.5 4.1
    Others 1* 0 0.5 2.4 “

  22. 22 paulitics 3 September, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Michael, you reasonably write that “By the same reasoning that makes you support MMP even though it is not ideal, you should at least credit the NDP for trying, even if you prefer to vote in some other way.”

    I agree with you on this front. Yes, I do believe in giving the NDP credit where credit is due and I have done so in the past. For instance, see:

    https://paulitics.wordpress.com/2007/01/12/the-difference-between-dion-and-layton/

    However, I’m sure we all agree, the NDP only deserves this credit insofar as it is earned. As such, I don’t believe they’ve earned anything especially praiseworthy on the issue of electoral reform.

  23. 23 paulitics 3 September, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Renegade Eye,

    I couldn’t agree more with your comment that America is badly in need of a labour-based party and that such a move would come as a “revolutionary” event.

    This, I believe is the sine qua non of any serious change in America. But I don’t think any of us believe that the creation of a viable Labour party would be the ‘silver bullet’ cure-all since many once revolutionary labour parties are now reactionary such as the German SDP which once counted Marx himself amongst its membership.

    I would see it rather as possibly the single most important first step for the American left.

    If you’re interested, I did write about this here:

    https://paulitics.wordpress.com/2007/08/27/us-presidential-candidates-compared-to-canadian-political-parties/

    I’ll quote the most relevant party here (although I think you’d probably enjoy the post as a whole). I wrote:

    So, should Canadians be rooting for a Democratic victory in ‘08 as we always do? Obama? Clinton? Edwards?

    I’d say no. I’d say that more than anything, Canadians — and our American comrades too for that matter — should, in my opinion, be hoping that the Americans’ perverse political and electoral system collapses under its own weight. Only once Americans have a complete ‘reboot’ of their political system, will they be able to enjoy even a modicum degree of control…. or at least a modicum of control over what brand of capitalist overlords they want to have.

    A Democrat in the White House simply won’t cut it.

  24. 24 paulitics 3 September, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Jeremy, just a couple of points.

    First, you write “Let’s realize the nuances of the precise contemporary reality in North America. There has been no significant shift TOWARDS the left side of the spectrum. EVER. No significant, effective, leftist empowerment, politically, EVER.”

    I don’t know what this point has to do anything we’re discussing here as, if it were true, it wouldn’t make an argument for voting NDP. But, that said, it’s nevertheless patently and demonstrably untrue. Marx advocated women’s suffrage, the universal expansion of the franchise to all races, workplace safety, labour laws, the introduction of progressive taxation and free education at the primary and secondary levels. All of these came to pass in the 20th Century alone and all of which were in and of themselves significant shifts towards ‘leftist empowerment’ and none of which were accomplished merely by voting NDP (although both the Communist Party of Canada and the Communist Party USA played key rolls in these battles, especially women’s suffrage in Canada, the Civil Rights movement in the States and the introduction of labour laws in both countries.)

    Second, you talk about me “bash(ing) and trash(ing)” the centre-left option and being blinded by ideology. I don’t quite know what you’re getting at here. Are you suggesting that I ought not criticize the NDP for the causes they’ve betrayed and the un-progressive things that they’ve done? If your solution requires that I cease “bash(ing) and trash(ing)” the NDP even when they deserve it – and I think I’ve presented the case that they do deserve it in this instance – then I don’t care much for your solution.

    Also, while we’re on this point of “ pragmatically & conditionally support[ing]… the NDP or Greens,” there is something else worth mentioning. Your argument that those of us on the left are ideologically “blind” and ignoring the “*only currently available* practical means by which we get to escape the current Neo-Conservative domination” is used every day by Liberals to argue that New Democrats shouldn’t vote NDP since it’s not a practical way of ousting the Conservatives and escaping “the current Neo-Conservative domination”. I don’t imagine that you take very kindly to that kind of dismissive attitude from Liberals when they tell you that it’s foolish to vote NDP ;and when you understand why you (rightly) don’t take kindly to these suggestions from them, you’ll understand why I don’t take kindly to your suggestion which holds that my perspicacity is not as attuned as yours is since you, unlike me, are not ‘blinded’ by ideology.

    Lastly, you write that “While doing that, you can *also* try to move the NDP pillars further to the left by practical means ; joining their party.” Have you not heard what the NDP had done historically to my comrades and I? Have you not worked with the NDP (as I have, on Parliament Hill) and talked with them about what they think of The Waffle and the Socialist Caucus? The NDP has made it clear that they do NOT want nor do they believe they have a need for my kind in their party.

    Now, that said, unlike the NDP, I believe in building an understanding and co-operation that spans political orientation and thus I commit myself regularly to engage with New Democrats and to work with them when their interests collide with progressive ideals I support. This is why my feed is carried on the bloggingdippers.com blog aggrigator and I have written about why this co-operation is necessary here:

    https://paulitics.wordpress.com/2007/02/19/a-word-on-my-partisan-affiliation/

    P.S. you also write that I must first “start with the premise that not everyone to the right of yourself is a Neo-Liberal or Neo-Conservative.” Where, may I ask, did you get this impression from? I never said that everybody to the right of me was a neo-liberal or neo-con, and the reason I know I never said this is because I don’t believe it to be true. But don’t you find it interesting that in these discussions of ideological co-operation, the problem is always with the other guy who just never sees things as clearly as you do? Like, for instance, in your formulation, the problem is with me and my comrades who naïvely believe everybody else to be a neo-liberal. The problem never lies with one’s own side such as, for instance, the NDP who long ago decided that co-operation with my kind is not necessary and thus purged their membership.

  25. 25 Jeremy 3 September, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Paul, While *some* principled implementations have occured (mainly because the Liberals & Conservatives didn’t want to appear 100% cold-hearted & lacking empathy 100% of the time), my basic point is that the left has never officially, FEDERALLY, formally been *empowered*. There has never been an *actual* shift *politically* towards the left. Simply evaluate the parliamentary configuration, and you’ll see that now and before there has never been an NDP federal gov’t. In the US, it’s been even MORE of a total anti-left shutout. Let’s measure true political empowerment as manifested by the federal gov’t and parliamentary configuration. Quite a reliable barometer imo.

    So *why* has there never been an NDP gov’t in Canada ? It’s because of 2 main factors.

    1) Alberta is disproportionately Conservative, and they get disproportionate representation. What helps to enable this, is the typical apathetic Albertan saying, “Here Mr. Harper, here’s the car keys for your drunken friends, I’m not driving (voting) this year. The NDP (or Liberals, or Greens) are measurably *closer* to my political philosophy, but since they don’t reflect it 100%, I reject them, and now hand the car (nation) keys over to you”. People in other provinces do that as well. I call it blind ideological purity, void of accurate measurement and practical considerations.

    2) MEANWHILE, the Neo-Cons set up a tent, and other (right-wing) voters measure the degree of ideological proximity , and join them in a “big tent is better than no tent at all” strategic & practical approach. Harper (Bush)wins.

    If the unpragmatic approach of the Canadian left continues, it could very easily be a Harper *majority* next time.

    * * * * *

    Here’s a numerical argument (not solely for you Paul).

    In Scandinavia, they do not have pure socialism. They have a semi-socialist social-economic infrastructure. But let us realistically measure and observe the concrete, scientific manifestations of what even a *semi* socialist state can accomplish, when contrasted with the US.

    1) Free Universal Health Care (resulting in much lower infant mortality rates)
    2) Free Universal Education (resulting in the most educated workforce on earth)
    3) 3-5% poverty rates (compared with 20-35% in the US)
    4) 85% unionization (compared with 15% in the US)
    5) Much smaller gap between CEO pay and worker pay.

    (subsequently…)

    6) Much lower violent and non-violent crime rates
    7) Much lower incarceration rates
    8) Much more respect and demand for pacifism
    9) Much greater gov’t & media transparency
    10) Much less national debt
    11) Greater per capita foreign aid
    12) Excellent economic competitiveness ratings & excellent rating for market versatility & industry innovation
    13) Greater average life expectancy
    14) More environmental consciousness
    15) More consumer protection
    16) More worker protection
    17) Far less working poor
    18) Far less personal bankrupticies

    There are many more manifestations as well. In terms of social & economic statistics, quality of life, and standard of living, and general humanitarianism, the semi-socialist Nordic-Scandinavian model absolutely obliterates the US in a head to head evaluation based on humanitarian evaluational standards.

    We have to avoid the (unscientific) conclusion that semi-socialism is equivalent to the current American system, or even the current Canadian system, because it is not pure, rigid, untainted and 100% uncompromised. That erroneous, ideologically extreme & inaccurate view must be avoided at all costs for the left to ever have a chance at formal federal political empowerment.

  26. 26 spurs 6 September, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Paul,
    Let me say that I think you have an excellent blog and I commend your commitment to socialism, something which I also harbour although perhaps less rigidly. And I understand that this position may also brand me a coward, or a sell out, or any number of things, but I believe revolution begins wherever you find yourself and change happens one person at a time, one moment at a time. This is why for now I support the NDP, while acknowledging some of its drawbacks. It has moved towards the centre and it has been caught at times playing the game of politics rather than following principle. Yet I think this is the result of complicated dynamics (including a substantial change in the way campaigns are run and elections decided in the recent past) and not simply the abandonment of principle or the self-serving desire to gain power.

    I still believe that in party politics the NDP is the only party pursuing the betterment of society for all (particularly the least advantaged), that adheres to communitarian and environmentalist values, and is socially progressive. And more importantly, the NDP right now is well positioned to have influence in the coming provincial government. The Greens for me are a complete unknown. Some Greens I’ve met seem like progressive, old hippe, leftie, anarchist types with an environmental agenda, yet some seem like right wing, socially conservative, capitalism at full throttle, anti-state libertarian Greens. I have to say I was somewhat taken aback when during a walking tour of the western waterfront last summer, I heard Frank DeJong, leader of Green Party of Ontario and whom I find very likable, argue for the elimination of unions and organized labour. All to say, I don’t know where else the “progressive” left vote might turn to other than the NDP. After all, I don’t find it at all surprising that Elizabeth May tethered herself to Dion.

    A couple of other observations. You seem to equate progressive with reactionary politics when you argue that it is enough to identify the position of the elites and then simply to act oppositely. The distinction is important for me because reactionary and radical politics may actually at times play into perpetuating the existing hegemonic structures. I call it “licensed dissension” in the sense that we think hardcore music, punk rock, anarchic politics are damaging the system but often they are both actively promoted by the system and cementing the system. Lastly, while I would never argue against your right to critique the NDP, in fact I would always uphold it, I would nonetheless submit that critique should be done in a self-critical and respectful manner, especially if you have any respect at all for what you are critiquing. To me the language of your first paragraph takes this beyond critique into the realm of attack and for me undermines a legitimate frustration that you’re expressing. If you want to attack the NDP, that’s fine- I just don’t see critique and attack as necessarily the same. Secondly, the timing of the attack might not be the best for the reason stated above that the NDP is the best choice for the progressive left vote in the coming election. And that’s the self-reflective part of critique. But that’s for you to decide.

  27. 27 Michael 6 September, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Jeremy,

    I would argue that goverments in Canada , the UK and elsewhere have in fact been further left than the current NDP is. As Paul points out, progressive taxation, health care, unemployment ensurance,
    free education, – all of which would have been anathema to 1920s/30s tories (or Libs for that matter) all came to pass in places like Canada and the UK in the 50s and 60s. An analysis on the political compass web site Paul mentioned in another post put the current Labour party in the UK well to the right of the
    pre-Thatcher Tories for example. I would say the Minority liberal Govt of the 1970s was probably to the left (on average) of mainstream NDP policy, but of course I can’t back that up scientifically.

    Secondly, as a left-wing Alberta (and there are a lot more of us than people in central Canada seem to think), I have to take issue with your statements that
    A) Alberta is disproportionately conservative:
    I think it is closer to the truth to say that the province is still very anti-federal Liberal party.
    Although the general population is greedy and nouveau riche (this would be true in any society
    with so much undeserved wealth thrown at it by an accident of geography/geology), and there are certainly many examples of stereotypical rednecks out here, overall, at a municipal and provincial level, the political sentiment is not as right wing as you might think. Calgary’s last two mayors have been Liberal leaning -Bronconnier even ran federally for the Libs. Some Calgary aldermen are NDP members (Bob Hawksworth for one). The Lougheed government, while nominally Tory, believed in public spending and did spend a lot (not always wisely). The tory vote federally runs at about 60 %, and a fair chunk of that is people who are moderate but can’t bear to vote for the NDP or Liberals; the fact that our green vote
    was the highest in the country is probably partly explained by that.

    B) Alberta is diproportionately represented. This is simply not true. We have fewer seats in parliament than our population warrants. Even then, the numbers of seats here are not high enough to have a huge influence on governement. With our ridiculous first past the post system, you can form a majority
    government with 40 % of the Quebec vote , 45 % of the Ontario vote, and 40 % of the Atlantic Canada vote, even if you got very little support elswhere. (40 % in Quebec shoud get you 35-40 seats, 45 % in Ontario
    at least 80, 40 % in Atlantic another 20-25.)

    There is no doubt in my mind that electoral reform is the key to pushing the agenda back on to a more progressive course. No more strategic voting for one thing.

  28. 28 Terry 8 September, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Paul! Comrade! We need your support in the following debate if you can spare the time:

    http://advant.blogspot.com/2007/09/blanket-boycott-of-israel.html#comments

    There are some serious right-wing scum bags preaching all kinds of race hate regarding the Israeli occupation. They are (apparently) educated for once as well.

    We need you!!!

    T.

  29. 29 Terry 8 September, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Michael –

    ‘I would argue that governments in Canada , the UK and elsewhere have in fact been further left than the current NDP is.’

    I’d just like to respond to this. As a working class Brit who’s been at the blunt end of New Labours policy I would argue that the only left wing element is in the name and nothing more.

    New Labour created anti-union laws and now have little dealing with the trade unions. Ironic considering it is a party founded and supported by the trade unions. They recently used a high court injunction to threaten prison officers who dared to go strike.

    New Labour has done very little for the working classes. In fact, social deprivation is at an all time high and social mobility amongst the working classes it an all time low.

    New Labour have also privatized numerous state facilities, the largest example being the privatization of the Bank of England carried out when our current PM, Gordon Brown, was Chancellor, or the further privatization of our natural resources, such as the gradual reduction of our ownership in the North Sea. Brown has recently also said how he admires Thatcher, the ultra conservative right wing nightmare.

    They also introduced top-fees and student loans; promoted private health care (BUPA); created Academy schools (skills based) in working class areas, more or less denying them an academic education; and almost destroyed the NHS and the police force by implementing target schemes and making everything stats based.

    Britain is in a mess. I have seen it happen right before my eyes. The bourgeoisie have done exceptionally well, but the working people of Britain have slipped further down the rabbit. The crime and violence on the streets here today is absolutely ridiculous. Believe me, I live in it. It’s too dangerous to go to the shop after dark and that was not the case a decade ago!

    New Labour has adopted the American model. The rich get richer and the poor die.

    This is without even mentioning the ‘special relationship’ with the United States, including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (for which our troops received little funding), the installation of US missile sites on UK soil and the creation of SOCA to work in tandem with the US federal government under the guise of fighting ‘serious crime’ and ‘terrorism’.

    New Labour is a populist party that plays the media to control public opinion. They are conservative in outlook and whole heartedly new capitalist. They sold our country. They sold us.

  30. 30 paulitics 9 September, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Terry – I read through the comments you linked to over at http://advant.blogspot.com. You definitely deserve a medal for taking the time to engage with these right-wingers, but I just don’t have the energy right now to engage with people like that. They never listen and they can only resort to ad hominem attacks to make their points. And I’ve been called a fascist enough in the past few weeks by ‘the-antisocialist’ to last me a while.

    I will however express my profound solidarity with you and your efforts. Keep up the good work, comrade!

    Paul

  31. 31 Terry 10 September, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Thanks Paul! I understand what you mean. It descended into a ‘monkey-shit-fight’ as you say. You are right, they never, ever listen! Cloth for brains! I’ve learned my lesson though and at least shut them all up for a change.

    I read the ‘the-antisocialists’ remarks. You trounced him. A medal for you as well.

    Take care, Comrade.

    Terry

  32. 32 The People's Poet 10 September, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    I like your site, and your spunk mah man. You got guts, I’ll give ya that.

  33. 33 Michael 11 September, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Terry ,

    I don’t disagree at all with what you say – New Labour is not in any sense a socialist or even Labour party.
    I think you may have misunderstood my first sentence – I meant that, HISTORICALLY, there have been UK Governments and Canadian governments that were actually further left than the NPD is right now in Canada. The Atlee and Wilson governments had their flaws, but they did advance the cause of economic equality to some extent. People like my parents (from the slums of Glasgow) would never have had the educational opportunities (both went to University) they did had it not been for “old” Labour policy.

    I even said later in my post “An analysis on the political compass web site Paul mentioned in another post put the current Labour party in the UK well to the right of the
    pre-Thatcher Tories for example” – i.e. Heath was less capitalist than Blair !

  34. 34 Terry 13 September, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Sorry Michael, my mistake entirely. I took your comment out of context. You’re entirely correct!

    New Labour are a disgrace. A report came out today that labeled my region (North West) as one of the most deprived areas in Europe!!! Social mobility is an at an all time low, like we’re back in the 19th century. We need help but nobody speaks for us. To think this was once the backbone of British industry as well! Things are as deprived as when Engels last visited.

  35. 35 aradhanad 23 September, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    hey, i’m trying to email you – do you have an email addy? mine is in my profile. Please email – thanks.

  36. 36 John Wright 27 June, 2009 at 1:31 am

    So, what’s your e-mail? What’s your phone number? What’s your address??

    What, you aren’t a coward are you???? Show us where you are…you have to have more than that “Paul Bernardo” lookalike picture, don’t you???

    C’mon, fess up…


  1. 1 Propaganda in Action: Ontario’s election “priorities”? « Paulitics: Paul’s Socialist Investigations Trackback on 2 October, 2007 at 11:25 pm

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