Archive for the 'Progressive' Category

The return of the right-wing liberals

Charlie Smith of Straight.com has an absolutely fantastic piece on Michael Ignatieff.  This piece is definitely worth the read for any progressive who still foolishly thinks that the Liberals under Ignatieff have more in common with the NDP, Bloc and Greens than they do with the radical right wing Tories of Stephen Harper.

From Straight.com:

Triumph of business Liberals: Michael Ignatieff will lead the party

“I believe I have the judgement, the character, the values and the experience to lead at a very difficult time in the life of our country.”

This is what Bob Rae says on the front page of his Web site for his now-defunct Liberal leadership campaign.

I’m left wondering if Michael Ignatieff, the Liberals’ chosen successor to Stephane Dion, has the judgement, character, values, and experience to lead Canada at a particularly difficult time in its history.

Let’s look at the record.

When it comes to judgement, Ignatieff supported the Bush administration’s attack on Iraq even though there was no United Nations approval.

As far as his character goes, some Canadians were no doubt very troubled by a lengthy profile of Ignatieff written in 2006 by the Globe and Mail’s Michael Valpy. There were shocking revelations about how Ignatieff treated his younger brother while both attented the elite Upper Canada College as teenagers.

Ignatieff’s ruthlessness, which was on display in the Valpy profile, suggests that Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally has some competition in this department.

As for Ignatieff’s values, I’ve been bothered by his rather one-sided view of the war in the Balkans in 1999. It’s a viewpoint he seems to share with the CBC’s Carole Off but which has been challenged by retired Canadian Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, former B.C. NDP candidate Rollie Keith, University of Pennsylvania professor emeritus Edward Herman, and Osgoode Hall law professor Michael Mandel.

Honest commentators who can look back with the benefit of hindsight know that the Serbs slaughtered Bosnian Muslims at Srebernica in 1995.

But they also know that the creation of Kosovo was based on fraudulent claims of genocide perpetrated by the Kosovo Liberation Army four years later. Ignatieff helped build his reputation as a human-rights advocate in part on the basis of these now-discredited claims.

Unfortunately, the Canadian media are too ignorant about this issue to call him on this point.

As for experience, Ignatieff was out of the country for 29 years, which leaves me wondering if he’s ready to serve on the average city council in this country, let alone occupy 24 Sussex Drive as the prime minister.

This week’s coronation of Ignatieff is a triumph of business Liberals like John Manley who always wanted Canada to be on friendlier terms with the United States.

I’m guessing that those in Vancouver who will applaud Ignatieff’s rise to federal Liberal leader are likely some of same people who apologized to former U.S. ambassador Paul Celucci in writing for Canada’s refusal to join the coalition of the willing in Iraq.

Don’t be surprised if some on the left wing of the Liberal party decide that now is the time to rip up their membership cards and join the NDP.

Arthur Miller on the folly of taking literature as ‘just a story’

In 1966, The Paris Review Interviewed my favourite 20th Century Playwright Arthur Miller.

Arthur Miller had the following to say about the myth of apolitical literature and the foolishness of the modern attempts to gloss over the literary subject as divorced from the polis or his/her political existence.

Q:  Yet so much of the theater these last few years has had nothing to do with public life.

Miller:  “Yes, it’s got so we’ve lost the technique of grappling with the world that Homer had, that Aeschylus had, that Euripides had.  And Shakespeare.  How amazing it is that people who adore the Greek drama fail to see that these great works are works of a man confronting his society, the illusions of the society, the faiths of the society.  They’re social documents, not little piddling private conversations.  We just got educated into thinking this is all ‘a story,’ a myth for its own sake.”
-The Paris Review, pg. 25

To borrow the magnificent words of Neo-Gramscian writer Robert Cox, it is necessarily “always for someone and for some purpose’.

To me, Miller’s struggle against apolitical literature dovetails almost perfectly with what I wrote the other week in the context of apolitical non-news stories in the post entitled “How ‘non-news’ news stories reinforce the status quo”.

3 statistics about the 2008 election you’ll never see in the media

With the 2008 federal election behind us, many pundits (myself included) are being faced with reality that the election did not turn out as we projected.  Having under-estimated the projected level of support for the Conservatives and over-estimated the projected level of support for the NDP and Greens; and with the NDP only gaining about 1% in the popular vote and the Green vote utterly collapsing by more than 1/3 between the last polls and election day, it seems that many progressives have been made to feel sorry for themselves.

As such, the triumph of the Harper Conservatives over the ‘progressive’ forces in this country has been a common theme  explored ad nausium by the mainstream media.

This notion is both interesting and straightforward.  Indeed the only problem with this post-election theme is that it’s completely unsupported by the facts.

If anything, this election should be noted as being exemplary of exactly the opposite.

This election, if nothing else, was a stentorian vindication of the long-term trend witnessed in Canada since the 1974 general election AWAY from liberalism and conservatism and toward progressivism.

A while back, I pointed out the long-term trend in Canadian popular support away from the neo-liberal/neo-conservative, ultra-capitalist parties (of which, I took to include Liberals, the Conservatives, PCs, Alliance, Reform Party, Social Credit, Ralliement créditiste, Confederation of Regions, and other small third parties) and toward the more moderate and/or progressive capitalist parties (which I took to include the NDP, Bloc, Greens, Communist Party, CAP, CPC-ML and other small third parties).  I am pleased to say that not only has this trend continued, but that it has also continued in every region of the country without exception.

In 2008, in every region of Canada without exception — West, Ontario, Québec, Atlantic & North — the combined ultra-capitalist parties (Liberal and Conservative) decreased in popular support.  Meanwhile, in every region of Canada, the combined more moderate or progressive parties increased their popular level of support.

The public’s appetite for laissez faire capitalism and vicious cuts to social spending as instituted by the Conservatives of today and the Liberals of yesteryear is clearly declining.  The only question is, how much longer can these two warring factions of the capitalist class continue to operate as separate parties before they are forced to ‘unite the right’ once again amidst the rising tide of public opinion against their policies.

And that is something that the mainstream capitalist media or their conservative apologists just won’t let you contemplate.

Just how big is Quebec’s shift away from the right wing? Pretty big

Given the recent provincial by-election results in the province of Quebec, bloggers and politicians everywhere have been talking about the results and their implications.

As with any event, it helps to actually review what happened and then, based on this, generate an analysis.  If we do it the other way around, we risk being like a Conservative cabinet minister who, during a Question Period session shortly after the by-elections, tried to ridicule Gilles Duccepe by saying that the by-elections were a huge victory federalists and a huge defeat for the PQ.  (I don’t remember which Tory cabinet minister it was who said it, but I remember being shocked when I heard it).

In fact, contrary to the Tories’ contention, both the by-election results and the recent provincial polling results show a rather different story.

First, the by-election results.

Simply put, the Tories’ closest provincial ally, the ADQ, witnessed a staggering collapse.  This is rather significant since the far-right ADQ is lead by Mario Dumont, a man who attracted the attention of the international press in 2007 and who was (appropriately, in my opinion) called “Canada’s Le Pen” by the U.K.-based newspaper The Independent (source).

In the three by-election ridings, the ADQ’s support collapsed to just over 1/3 of their formerly mighty self.  Now, even though none of these ridings were strong ADQ ridings, nothing I think could have prepared political observers for just how spectacular of a collapse the ADQ made.  For instance, in my riding (Hull), the ADQ dropped from being the 3rd place party to being dead last among the 5 main provincial parties with both the Greens and Québec solidaire (which is an amalgamation of left-wing provincial parties including the Quebec Communist Party) finishing above them.  In fact, only the tiny Parti indépendantiste did worse then the ADQ in my riding.

Turning to the province-wide provincial polling results since the last provincial election, we see an equally bleak picture for ‘Canada’s Le Pen’ and the far-right ADQ.

Following the last provincial election, the ADQ had actually improved over their provincial results and were polling as the #1 provincial party with seemingly prohibitive odds of forming the next provincial government, either minority or majority.

As you can see, Quebec’s repudiation of far right politics since that time, clearly extends beyond merely the three ridings which had by-elections earlier this month.

Now that it seems as though the Québecois are well on their way to throwing out their version of Le Pen and become once again a beacon to progressives throughout Canada, maybe Canadians can learn from this and get to work on throwing out their version of George W. Bush.

Marx on religion: Dispelling more myths about socialism

Never has there ever been a worldview, never has there ever been an idea, and never has there ever been a word so misrepresented and so misunderstood as ‘socialism’… except possibly for ‘Marxism’. Because of this, it has been an ongoing feature here at Paulitics, to dispel some of the myths surrounding socialism (see here and here).

For some time now, I have been wanting to do a short featurette on Marx’s views on religion to dispel them once and for all, and today, having read the same blatantly mis-quoted phrase claiming to be written by Marx for the hundredth time, I finally decided that it was time to dispel this myth once and for all.

The first myth to dispel is that of the famous quote supposedly from Marx which is his opponents use to paint him as a dangerous elitist who scorned the masses. The quote which everybody seems to think Marx wrote is:

Religion is the opiate/opium of the masses”

The only problem with this is that nowhere in any of Marx’s writings, did he ever write these words.

Even the very few instances where this ‘quotation’ is given a citation, the citation is often not entirely correct thus making verification of this quotation even more difficult. The most common citation for this quotation is that it was written in 1843 and occurs in Marx’s essay “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. In actuality, this quotation occurs in the Introduction to Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and was actually written right at the cusp between 1843 and 1844, many months after the main portion of the Critique was written. Indeed, because of this, many ‘collected works’ editions of Marx’s writings do not even feature the Critique as a part of the same text as the Introduction because Marx had written and published other material, most notably On the Jewish Question between his completion of the two parts.

Nevertheless, the full quotation of Marx’s ideas on religion expressed in this essay are actually, when read in context, rather anti-elitist. In fact, Marx’s ideas in his Critique are rather sympathetic to the religious masses whilst simultaneously being highly critical of the institution of religion itself.

The full quotation reads as follows:

“The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly a struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their conditions is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, the embryonic criticism of this vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

-Karl Marx.
Quoted in “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction.”
Robert C. Tucker, ed. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978. p. 54.

When reading the full quotation, the necessity of the ruling class never quoting the entire passage in its entirety becomes clear. Reading the incomplete non-quotation supposedly from Marx, one has the impression of a Christopher Hitchens or H.L. Mencken-like figure who looks down upon and scorns the masses for their religiosity.

Another important, oft-forgotten aspect related to this famous quotation is that Marx was not even the only person to say something along these lines. Four years after Marx wrote this quotation, Charles Kingsley, a Canon of the Church of England — a man who more likely than not had never read the then obscure and unknown Karl Marx — wrote that the Bible was used as an “opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded.” (Howard Selsam & Harry Martel. Reader in Marxist Philosophy. New York: International Publishers, 1963. p. 224). Keep in mind this is a man of the church saying this independently of Marx.

So, it is really little wonder that the vast majority of the population takes Marxism and socialism to be synonymous with all that is evil.

The goal of this post and the series on dispelling the myths about socialism is not designed so much to convince people that Marxism and socialism are not evil (although I obviously think they’re the opposite of evil).  The goal of this series is to provide irrefutable proof that much of the popular conceptions about Marxism and socialism are either caricatures, half-truths or downright fictions.

The public can do with this knowledge what they like.  But it is clear to me that if a truly fair hearing of Marxism or socialism ever were to become possible, the ruling classes would not know what hit them.

Progress for same-sex rights in Cuba

Today marked a great victory and the promise for substantial future progress for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters living in Cuba.

https://paulitics.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/cuba-same-sex-marriage.pngAP reports that:

“Cuba‘s gay community celebrated unprecedented openness — and high-ranking political alliances — with a government-backed campaign against homophobia on Saturday.

[…]

“Cuban state television gave prime-time play Friday to the U.S. film “Brokeback Mountain,” which tells the story of two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

“Prejudice against homosexuals remains deeply rooted in Cuban society, but the government has steadily moved away from the Puritanism of the 1960s and 1970s, when homosexuals hid their sexuality for fear of being ridiculed, fired from work or even imprisoned.

“Now Cuba’s parliament is studying proposals to legalize same-sex unions and give gay couples the benefits that people in traditional marriages enjoy.

“Parliament head Ricardo Alarcon said the government needs to do more to promote gay rights, but said many Cubans still need to be convinced.”

The significance of this move from a political perspective should not be overlooked. There is not a single Latin American country that recognizes same-sex marriages due to the high religiosity of the Latin American culture.

Thus, when we look at the recent good moves on this file in Cuba in concert with the multiple attempts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to make Venezuela the first country on the face of the planet to explicitly recognize same-sex marriages in the text of the constitution, it is clear that socialism, when done right, is a way forward for everyone.

There’s still a lot of work to be done throughout Latin America for the GLBT community, and we should especially make sure not to let the governments — even allied socialist governments — guide the agenda. But, I think, there is very good reason for optimism given these developments.

Happy May Day?

Today is May Day, the original Labour Day throughout the world (including Canada and the U.S.).  And, despite the conscious policy decision to divorce Labour Day in Canada and the U.S. from May 1st, the day should still hold meaning for us to reflect on the democratic victories that our struggles have won but also on the work that needs to be done.

So, in the spirit of the importance of recognizing how much work we have yet to do, how’s this for a ‘happy May Day’?

From The Guardian:

“Italy’s new parliament met for the first time yesterday with applause for Rome’s mayor-elect, Gianni Alemanno, a day after followers celebrated his triumph with straight-arm salutes and fascist-era chants.

Alemanno, a former neo-fascist youth leader, took 54% of the vote in a run-off on Sunday and Monday, crushing his rival, Francesco Rutelli, a deputy prime minister in the last, centre-left government.

[…]

On Monday night, the area around Rome’s city hall rang to chants of “Duce! Duce!”, the term adopted by Italy’s dictator, Benito Mussolini, equivalent to the German “Führer”. Supporters of the new mayor gave the fascist Roman straight-arm salutes.”

But, despite this little tidbit of news that I came across today, May Day wasn’t all bad news this year.  Earlier today on the internets, in my travels amongst its many tubes, I found a fantastic list of Marxist webcasts by university professor named Ron Strickland.

So, if any of you comrades need to wash the unpleasant taste caused by seeing modern-day Italians give fascist salutes, I recommend one of two things:  Booze; or Marxist webcasts.

I for one have decided to partake in both.

You can access Strickland’s Marxist webcasts here.

Happy May Day comrades!

A *Really* Inconvenient Truth: ‘Green capitalism’ is an oxymoron

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oxymoron-eco-capitalism-2.pngI recently came across an interview with Joel Kovel, the man behind A Really Inconvenient Truth and Enemy of Nature.

Joel Kovel is an eco-socialist who critiques Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth not from an environmental skeptic position, but rather on the contrary, he critiques it from the left.

The interview is well worth the listen to if you get the chance. However, I do suggest that if you’re going to listen to it, do it soon because I’m not sure how long the radio program will be hosting the file.

You can access it here:

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or you can access it here.

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Government to Canadians: Struggling only makes it harder for you

This past Wednesday, I was hosting my cousin who was up visiting Ottawa from Toronto.  As a part of the sites he wanted to see, I took him to Parliament to watch Question Period since he’d never been.

Usually, the press only covers the first few questions that Dion, Duceppe, Layton and also usually Ignatieff ask, and then uncerimoniously catch up on the fine art of sleeping with one’s eyes open.  Thus, had I not actually been in the gallery, I’d likely have missed this gem of a question from Conservative MP Patrick Brown (Barrie) directed to the Minister of Labour since it was the last question of the day. 

From Hansard:

Question:

Patrick Brown (Barrie, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, some members of this House may be aware that a recent study found that in 2005, Canada lost more days of work due to labour disruptions, both lockouts and strikes, than any other G-7 country. The big picture is that these numbers represent $700 million in lost annual gross domestic product.

    Could the Minister of Labour inform this House how he is addressing this very serious issue?

Answer:
Hon. Jean-Pierre Blackburn (Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC):  

    Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about those numbers. Work stoppages hurt workers, their families and their communities and they are also bad for businesses.

    As Minister of Labour it is my responsibility to look for new ideas to keep the talk going on between unions and employers. I have launched a study on the causes and impacts of work stoppages. The study will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on ways to improve labour relations in our country.

    An expert, Mr. Peter Annis, will consult with unions and employers and will submit a report to me with recommendations.

unions.pngSo, memo to unions:  The Minister of Labour doesn’t understand what causes strikes nor does he understand the impacts of work stoppages.  I’ll give the minister a hint:  in 1905, before any massive strikes began and struggles against capitalism began, the average worker’s wage was pennies per hour and there was no minimum wage, no safety standards and no government assistance for the poor.
But, as for the other point about “struggling only makes it harder for you”, that sent a shiver down my spine.  Is this going to be the Conservatives’ new campaign slogan?
conservative-election-platform.png

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