Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Imagine If the NDP Were Running in this Election?

When NDP Meant Something More than "Opportunism"

For me, the "old days" of the New Democratic Party were slightly post-Douglas, back when the party was led by firebrands such as David Lewis and Ed Broadbent.  I didn't support the NDP back then.  I was firmly in the camp of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  However I respected that NDP with something nearing reverence for their enlightened, uncompromising principle.  They were indeed the "Conscience of Parliament."

I had some eye-opening (for me) conversations with Lewis while we endured the endless droning of the party's Convair 440 criss-crossing the country.  The PCs and the Libs had 600 mph jets.  We had an old ex-Scandinavian Airlines - hand-me-down to Great Shakes Airways of Sarnia, Ontario, prop job that guaranteed the flock of journos aboard less than half the local appearances to cover and twice as much time to drink. For that sort of assignment, it was as good as it gets.

At one point Lewis turned to me and said, "I think you're slightly left... slightly left of Attila the Hun."  He said it yet I knew that he knew that I had actually absorbed some of his views. I wasn't remotely as leery of him when I stepped off that twin-engine beater as I had been when I first boarded weeks earlier.

It was a time when, just to survive in politics, the NDP had to be tightly anchored to some powerful social message; what they stood for and all the "red lines" they would never cross for compromise.  The rest would shift along the political spectrum, elbow wrestling for advantage, but you always knew the NDP were rock solid.  If something was wrong, it was wrong.  Damn near Calvinist. For Red Liberals you knew you couldn't quite support them but you knew, deep inside, that you might not shun them always.  You knew there might be that day, when the Right grew so powerful and ominous that you might need the NDP defending a bastion on the Left.

All that starch, that "sand," is now gone.  Everything the true believers once condemned in the Liberals is now their own.  There's no fierceness any more, save perhaps in Mulcair's dead, serial killer eyes or his angry beard.  And that's not the fierceness we saw in Douglas, Lewis or Broadbent, the almost monastic dedication that left none, no matter their political alignment, in the slightest doubt of their sincerity and determination.

It's a bitch for me.  Just when we need the NDP of Douglas, Lewis and Broadbent on the ramparts to repel the assault from the Right, their spirit which crossed generations has been ditched for blatant opportunism.  The party no longer defends principle, it answers market interests not significantly distinguishable from the Libs and the Tories.

As a Green a lot of commenters rail on me for some Beau Geste romantic support of my party.  "Throw in with us," they write, "for we alone can defeat Harper."  What they should but won't say is, "Don't hold out lest our own people realize they're being hustled."

And you are being hustled.  The shameful part of it is that you refuse to open your eyes lest you see it. I can't fault the Libs or New Dems for taking their lawful prey.  It really is, ultimately, all on us.  We don't have much or any choice that will have the slightest effect on the Conservatives.  We do, however, have a powerful voice and real choice about change within our own parties and yet we've demanded next to nothing from them.

We know why droves of blue and white-collar Canadians become disaffected, leave politics and fail to vote for their interest at the polls.  The parties used to blame these no-show voters as parasites on democracy, free-loaders. They refuse, to this very day, to acknowledge that the disaffection surfaces from their own disinclination to respond to the intense concerns of those people, i.e. young parents suddenly fear-stricken by how little this regime and that parties that would succeed it, will do to safeguard their kids and their grandkids, some of whom might not be conceived until around 2080.

There's a reason why Harper, despite all his abuses of power and his affronts to Canadian democracy, remains competitive and, according to some, likely to prevail in the upcoming election.  In fact there are two reasons.  I call them Mulcair and Trudeau.


Ron Waller said...

Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair were right to broaden the NDP to include centrist Keynesian liberals the Liberal party jettisoned 20 years ago -- along with its Red Book promises -- to become the Brian Mulroney party.

But moving to the center does not make one a neoliberal. Moving to the right-of-center makes one a neoliberal.

The NDP is the only party that embraces the centrist Keynesian mixed-market system. This was the economic system adopted by both Liberals and NDP during the post-war era (1945-1984 in Canada.)

Unfortunately for Canadians, the platforms of the other 3 federal parties are founded on the same neoliberal/neoclassical ideology that caused all our present economic problems: skyrocketing debt and inequality; falling GDP growth and real incomes; a return to boom-to-bust business cycles; etc.

This includes the Canadian Green party. They let neoclassical ideologues write their platform which is based on the Stephen Harper idea that the solution to every problem is a tax cut. (Their platform even quotes Mark Milke of the Fraser Institute who wrote the book "Tax Me I'm Canadian.")

Neoliberal ideology is destroying the global economy as well as the planet. The NDP is the only party that offers Canadians a real change of direction.

Kirby Evans said...

I agree on your general analysis of the way that the NDP has lost its way (or intentionally given it up). Though I am not sure about the real reasons that Harper remains competitive despite being so unbelievably anti-democratic etc. But I don't think it is because Trudeau and Mulcair are not particularly inspiring or interesting leaders in opposition per se. Logic dictates if that were true then Harper would never have gotten elected at all. We seem to live in an age of uninspiring leaders who are more like media puppets than leaders. The problem for Canada is, I think, a combination of the depth to which the Neo-Liberal paradigm has set in so that there is almost no actual political discourse, only talking points; a media that has been profoundly complicit in the Harper agenda, and a party system that has simply stopped attracting smart people who know how to address issues. Instead the vast majority of politicians are like robots who only say what PR people tell them to say. But the PR people that they depend on are not very smart either so the results are predictable. However, a smart non-robotic politician COULD make it big. Look how well Duceppe did for years, and he did it without simply repeating platitudes and talking points. In other words, I agree and disagree with you at the same time. You are right that Trudeau and Mulcair aren't doing that well but I think it is because the predominance of talking points politics and the decline of discourse that allows people to just assume too much of the neo-liberal agenda and the media continually reinforces it. And until the discourse shifts quite a bit, then only a dramatically intelligent and forceful leader could overcome this handicap. Until a discourse shift takes place then the right has a systemic advantage and so do incumbents.

Kirby Evans said...

@ Ron, You keep telling us this same message, but which policies, specifically, are the ones adopted by the NDP do you think are so meaningful concerning real change?? I would love to hear them because when I look through their policy proposals I don't really see much. Universal daycare and more money for public transportation doesn't mean much. They appear to have no actual policies that seek to address the growing economic inequalities that have now become structurally fixed. I agree that the Green policies are not very impressive in this regard either. But actually changing the growing economic means a great deal more than advocating Keynes. It means a very dramatic shift away from corporatism, reunionization of the workers, a dramatic investment in new technologies and alternative energies, much higher taxes for corporations for the rich and the corporations, etc. The NDP doesn't represent these dramatic changes, pure and simple.

Ron Waller said...

The reason there is a "neoliberal agenda" is because the Liberals and Cons moved the political football consistently rightwards over the past 30 years. (Same with Republicans and Democrats in the US.)

What was unthinkable 30 years ago -- cutting corporate taxes in half -- is now the opposite: leaders like Justin Trudeau say reversing Harper's corporate tax cuts will kill the economy.

But this neoliberal/neoclassical ideology -- mistaken for evidence-based policy by the Liberals and Greens -- is starting to wear thin among the people. This means they are open to a change of direction.

But this doesn't mean a revolution is required. A revolution cannot be accomplished in a 4-year term. The only solution is to move the political football back towards the center in increments.

And this has to be done very carefully, at least at first. The corporate media will be looking to pounce on any perceived mistake -- even though they looked the other way as 30 years of neoclassical economic reforms consistently failed at all their policy objectives.

Of course, Trudeau is a neoclassical true-believer (the opposite of his father who was a Keynesian.) So his "growth plan" is to use the same failed ideology to move the football further right.

Trudeau is right when he says his Liberal party is "fundamentally different" than the NDP when it comes to the economy. But he's wrong in believing that is a good thing.

The Mound of Sound said...

Kirby I don't know that anyone who missed out on watching Lewis or Broadbent, Diefenbaker, Stanfield or Pierre Trudeau going at each other in the Commons can ever have the true measure of the mediocrity of today's opposition leaders.

Truth be told the most effective opposition during Harper's tenure has not been Layton or Mulcair nor Igantieff or Trudeau. It's been Pierre Trudeau for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms he gave Canada has done more to restrain Harper than any of these opposition shills. Time and again it's been the Charter that has wrecked Harper's plans to mutate Canada into something of his liking.

As for Ron, he's a bit of a broken record at this point.

Richard said...

As you know Mound I don't like Muclair at all, in fact I strongly believe he is co-opted by the very same banking establishment that has co-opted the Liberals/NDP and much of the news being released about Muclair fits this theory (like his desire to join the CPC/Liberal ranks).

However, that said, and while I certainly do not fault you for being a Green (I greatly appreciate it), my take on this election is that largely it needs to be a protest vote against bill C51 and it is for this reason alone that I currently believe the NDP is the best chance to unseat Harper (which as you know I have myself stated many times shouldn't be a goal unto itself) but more so I believe the NDP represents the best odds of repealling C51 and TBH I'm not very convinced they will honor that pledge even if they make it into government, and in the case of a minority possibly couldn't at all regardless of intention.

This election, for me, is pretty depressing and frankly if it weren't for my desire to see C51 repealed I wouldn't be voting at all (or voting Green if I have a candidate in my riding).

@Ron: While I appreciate your view (we've had this argument before) I believe Mound's take on the need for steady-state economics and not growth oriented debt servicing is much more accurate.

Ron Waller said...

If the NDP ran on revolutionary change, they would be branded radicals and drop to below 20% of the vote. Then Canadians would back a Liberal majority as an alternative to Harper and the country would be taken further down the neoliberal rabbit hole.

I was originally a Trudeau supporter. I thought he was left-leaning. I thought after the 2008 meltdown -- which should've killed neoclassical economics for good -- the Liberals would've abandoned the ideology and become leaders on the economy instead of followers.

If Trudeau had rejected Friedman for Keynes, he could've sold Canadians on major changes. The NDP, however, has to walk on eggshells on economic issues, or else the Cons, Liberals and corporate media will say they are extremists who will destroy the economy. (Take, for instance, the BC election where a strong NDP lead turned to a Liberal majority.)

So 30 years of change in the wrong direction cannot be undone all at once. The NDP was the party of radical change for 80 years and got nowhere. Now it appears they realize that if they had been less radical they could've governed during some of that time and got real things accomplished.

The NDP platform does contain serious changes in the right direction: national day care; national transit plan; carbon pricing; reversing corporate tax cuts. Even with this moderate platform Trudeau is saying Mulcair will destroy the economy.

Ron Waller said...

"@Ron: While I appreciate your view (we've had this argument before) I believe Mound's take on the need for steady-state economics and not growth oriented debt servicing is much more accurate."

Actually if one is familiar with economics, GDP growth (wealth creation) is not the problem. Externalities are the problem. An externality means profiting by passing costs onto others. So when we use fossil fuels we are passing costs onto others: i.e. stealing from our children.

Therefore to have a true economy, regardless of what the rules are (what kind of system is adopted: Keynesian, "steady-state" economics, neoclassical, Marxist, etc.), it has to be founded on 100% renewable energy and recyclable materials. That means making all forms of externalities (stealing) illegal. (Which can't be done overnight. But that has to be the goal of every economic system.)

As for GDP growth, this is a commonly misinterpreted by people who don't do their homework (the same way government/corporate finances are commonly mistaken for home finances.)

As long as we have currency, where goods and services are measured in prices (whether privately purchased or publicly in government benefits), development will be measured in GDP growth.

The only way to stop this is to put an end to currency and have the government distribute goods and services. Or stop developing.

But obviously development is not the problem. It is the solution. Government investment in green energy infrastructure, like mass transit and solar/wind farms, will create GDP growth. It is not irresponsible growth/development. It is very necessary growth/development.

So we need GDP growth to pay for green infrastructure and more public benefits. We need GDP growth to pay down government debt burden (measured in debt/GDP -- higher GDP means lower debt burden.) We need GDP growth to raise living standards at home and around the globe. (Unless we want to keep people of color in undeveloped countries permanently stuck in the 19th century.)

In short, people who attack GDP growth are barking up the wrong tree.

As for steady-state economics, this is all just hypothetical at this point in time. A zero-growth economy means a permanent recession. It means our debt burden will be permanent unless we pay it off in cash. It is not only not necessary, it has no chance of working.

It's really too bad this kind of misinformation is being spread at a critical juncture in human history and getting in the way of the kind of changes that are needed founded on a reliable economic system (the Keynesian mixed-market system that created modern living standards which were unprecedented in history.)

Ron Waller said...

"As for Ron, he's a bit of a broken record at this point."

Perhaps. But if I am making any assertions that are irrational or anti-factual please feel free and chime in.

Gyor said...

Okay for starters the NDP plans on instituting MMPR without referendum, they plan to abolish that Den of Corruption the Senate, they plan instituting a cap and trade system they will like generate billions of dollars and restructure the economy, billions of dollars for affordable housing, an increase of corporate taxes, billions more in healthcare, and education, billions for infostructure, billions for a childcare plan, a $15 federal minium wage, redirect billions of dollars from a stock option loop hole that favours the 1% and redirect it to poor families in order to reduce child poverty, he opposes bill C-51, he opposed bill C-36, he opposes the wars in Iraq, Afiganistan, Syria, he opposes purchasing the F-35s, he opposed the Nexen Deal, he wants to cut subsidies to oil and big banks, and its still over a month before the actual election even starts so they're likely to be alot more.

And yes he's also proposed a few targeted tax cuts for small businesses amoung a few others, a smart way to get NDP-Tory swing voters to pick the NDP, so that the rest of the NDPs promises happen.

This would be the most radical tranformation of the economy, society, and the government in decades, since the Liberal Party butchered the social contract.

We're talking about a huge investments in all kinds of sectors of the economy. It would be a massive shift left for Canada.

So explain to me how the NDP sold out?

Gyor said...

Your not Ron, Mound as not pointed out a single policy based fact to back up his claim.

Ron Waller said...

Gyor: Thanks for the details on the NDP platform.

That's another thing that has me worried about Trudeau: healthcare spending.

Harper cut healthcare by $36-billion. This neo-con economist, Kevin Milligan, is an economic adviser to Trudeau. He wrote in a recent Maclean's article that Harper's healthcare cuts are not really cuts. So does Trudeau promise to restore healthcare funding? Or is he Ok with Harper's cuts (like he is with most of Harper's tax cuts?)

Considering Trudeau has ruled out reversing any of Harper's pre-2015 tax cuts, which amount to $50-billion a year according to Harper's 2009 budget, how would he even pay for the funding if he wanted to? Or fix the fiscal imbalance between the federal government and the provinces (which Milligan also tries to claim does not exist; but in reality the federal share of all social spending is at historic lows, which I found out from a Milligan chart tweet about 6 months ago; this guy is really duplicitous.)

No doubt Trudeau will follow Kathleen Wynne's example and start privatizing Crown corporations to raise money for things like infrastructure. (And like her, say nothing about it during the election campaign.) This is as neoliberal as it gets: burning the furniture to heat the house.

The Mound of Sound said...

Here's a couple of points Gyor overlooks. Your boy, Mulcair, waited until (in Chomsky's parlance) Israel had "mowed the lawn" in Gaza before he finally gave up his absolute support of Israel and started walking back, mealy-mouthing some regrets about the civilian slaughter while still never denouncing the massacre.

Hmm, let's see. There was one party leader who was unequivocal in denouncing this outrage, also known as "Dahiyeh." If you're too ignorant, look it up. That leader would be Elizabeth May. Captain Vacillator tried to play both sides of the street whereupon I realized just how bent he, his party and his supporters really were.

Bill C-51? I know that's one of your favourites. Yet, from the outset, your electoral jackal again vacillated. Elizabeth May gave a thorough, cogent and powerful denunciation of it, again from the outset while your guy played with himself.

You support that kind of leadership? Then your judgment is pure partisan horsecrap. That's the sort of leadership and judgment you wish for Canada?

I knew with the Gaza massacre that your guy was just another opportunistic lump of shit, just like the guy before him. It wouldn't matter that much except that, now, Canada - like every other nation on Earth - faces a historic, truly existential threat. Your guy hasn't got the sand to deal with it. He's a lot like you two.

Kirby Evans said...

You're still not offering anything that demonstrates the NDP's supposed radical agenda. National Child care simply isn't much considering that in economically better times Martin also offered this. There Carbon Pricing policy is no more radical than the Liberal policy. Their tax policies offer tax breaks to small business, no increase in the tax rate for the rich, and a modest return to earlier levels of corporate taxes. This policy is no more radical than the Liberal policy. In other words the simple fact is that the NDP is not offering ANY radical policies to address economic inequalities in the economy. Period.

And, frankly, I don't think it is any sort of argument to simply say that "they can't offer radical policies" because they would be "labeled" crazy socialist by the Rightwing. That's like saying "I know that macho guy isn't very nice to women, but if he were then they would label him as a wimp." Either the NDP believes in left wing policies that will do something to address economic inequality or they don't - period. And their policies say very straightforwardly that they don't. I am not old, but I have been involved in politics for 30 years, I understand socialism, studied Keynes, made an extensive study of Marxism etc. But one need not be a political or economic theorist to understand that NDP policies are offering nothing significant to redress corporatism or economic inequality. They are still left of the Liberal party in some ways and if I were in a riding where they could win I might even vote for them. But please let's stop pretending that they are leftwing just because of some partizan loyalty

Kirby Evans said...

Also Ron, I am getting very weary of this Western-centric claim that you keep making that the Keynesian 'mixed-market' economy brought us unprecedented modern living standards. It is a typical Western claim that has no basis in reality. What brought us these modern living standards were colonialism and neo-colonialism that both built Western wealth almost entirely off the backs of third-world workers, mostly in the resource extraction business and later in the cheap commodity production business. The entire paradigm of the Keynesian Model is pure illusion build on Western control of third-world economies. Modern economists and development theorists may have gone to great lengths to ignore Emmanuel Wallerstein and his followers, but they have never done anything in my mind to demonstrate that he is in large part correct.

Anonymous said...

Liberals and Cons have been pillaging, cheating and lying to Canadians for 148 years and which ever has gotten in to power have moved, without missing a step, into implementing what the last bunch had started. As in Chretien, who lied his face off about the free trade deal and the GST started by the Lying Brian Cons.
It would take up too much room to describe what Harper has done to diminish Canada nationally and internationally but its suffice to say the last 10 years have been the darkest in Canadian history.
Albertans, of all people have figured it out, the rest of Canada will too come the election in October.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

You're right Mound, it is very hard to explain how dynamic it was and how politically engaged Canadians were with leaders like David Lewis, Ed Broadbent and Pierre Trudeau. These were people who talked about principles and ideas. The politicians of this era including Diefenbaker and Pearson, but particularly Trudeau. built a country based on progressive ideas.Apparently before Trudeau became Minister of Justice, he and Pearson would continually get together and discuss for hours the kind of Canada they wanted to see. Today, the political landscape is a cultural, moral and intellectual wasteland. I agree with you though about why Harper is so competitive and I am one of those people who thinks he could get re-elected.The only thing Harper cares about is power. He will do anything to get it and he is almost orgasmic when he can exercise it over Canadians. I think what makes him so competitive is his pursuit of power. He sees that having been elected for 4 more years as getting complete power as the autocratic ruler of Canada. Mulcair and Trudeau have never addressed this and by never addressing this, they have given Harper full reign with no accountability over his authoritarian agenda. It actually takes a great deal of discipline to follow Canadian politics today, because the "grinding mediocrity" that defines it is mind numbing.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Just curious Mound. You've mentioned a few time talking to a political leader or high profile politician. Were you a journalist at one time and if yes then do you have any archived articles that can be read?

The Mound of Sound said...

It wasn't economics, Keynesian or otherwise, that brought us our era of prosperity. It was WWII and the reduction of the industrial capacity of Europe and Asia. We had the shiny new factories constructed for wartime production. What remained of theirs was antiquated and inefficient. We also had the military muscle to back up our economic domination globally, filling power vacuums around the world.

The world ran on Dodge trucks and the demand for labour, coupled with the progressivism that had been nurtured since the turn of the 20th century, led to a powerful union movement that formed the engine of social mobility and the evolution of an incredibly broad-based middle class that covered the gamut from union workers, to skilled trades and artisans, to the professions. You got in, your kid was in with a familial leg up to go every higher.

Yes, Keynesian policy played a role in that but it wasn't as grand as Ron Waller endlessly fantasizes.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Pamela. Yes I was a journalist in Ottawa for several years in the 70s first for the largest radio station in town, then for their chain's parliamentary bureau, before moving on to CBC television. The only archived material I'm aware of are a few reels of quarter-inch tape and a couple of tins of film and soundtracks somewhere in my crawl space. That's how long ago it was Pamela - the age of manual typewriters, teletype machines, 16 mm.film and cassette recorders. I wish I'd stayed at that but I got sidetracked into law school and the world of litigation. Yet I was around long enough to get immersed in the cut and thrust of Question Period and to have some interesting conversations with people like John Diefenbaker, David Lewis, Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand, Marc Lalonde, Judy LaMarche, Bora Laskin and so many others. I knew Sheila Copps when she was just Vic's kid and working as a visiting scribe for the Hamilton Spectator. For a while I worked with Mike Duffy. Those were some good years just not enough of them.

Anonymous said...

Anyong said.....I've re-read the Keynesian system and MOS is correct. What really drew the economy out of its doldrums was WWII and the huge amount of industry of all kinds that took place.

Ron Waller said...

"You support that kind of leadership? Then your judgment is pure partisan horsecrap. That's the sort of leadership and judgment you wish for Canada?"

I think all three opposition leaders are competent. The problem is that Trudeau and May have been roped into supporting failed neoclassical/neoliberal ideology.

I don't have any irrational hatred of any particular leader. That kind of judgment would be pure partisan horse crap.

Ron Waller said...

"And, frankly, I don't think it is any sort of argument to simply say that 'they can't offer radical policies' because they would be 'labeled' crazy socialist by the Rightwing."

Interesting how partisan Liberals complain the NDP is not radical left-wing enough. Yet they have no complaints when their party betrays voters and implements a right-wing neoliberal agenda the opposite of what they campaigned for.

It seems to me the only thing partisan Liberals care about is winning elections.

Ron Waller said...

"What brought us these modern living standards were colonialism and neo-colonialism that both built Western wealth almost entirely off the backs of third-world workers, mostly in the resource extraction business and later in the cheap commodity production business. The entire paradigm of the Keynesian Model is pure illusion build on Western control of third-world economies."

The Keynesian model is a demand-side economic system that ensures all segments of society get their fair share of the economic pie. Exploiting workers in undeveloped countries is the antithesis of the Keynesian system.

The Keynesian solution to international trade is called "fair trade." This means leveraging jobs and common regulations (labor and environmental protection) in exchange for market access. Or, in other words, to ensure workers in poorer nations get their fair share and develop first-world living standards.

Neo-colonialism, where multinational corporations rape and pillage the globe (instead of empire-building nations,) is founded on right-wing neoclassical free-trade ideology (free-trade globalization.)

The alternatives to the Keynesian mixed-market system are various forms of far-right-wing neoclassical economics or far-left-wing communism. All economic systems can be placed along a left/right spectrum (100% left: full government control of the economy; 100% right: no government interference.)

So take your pick.

Ron Waller said...

"It wasn't economics, Keynesian or otherwise, that brought us our era of prosperity."

Neo-cons make the same argument. It wasn't economic policy that created unprecedented economic prosperity during the Keynesian post-war era. Neo-con free-market reforms over the past 35 years didn't cause the collapse of the Western economy. It's this mysterious phenomenon of "secular stagnation." It's all bullshit.

BTW, the reasons unions flourished during the Keynesian era: labor protection regulations, full-employment monetary policy and managed trade. The reason they collapsed: neoclassical reforms: monetary ideology, free-trade ideology and deregulation ideology.

Ron Waller said...

"Anyong said.....I've re-read the Keynesian system and MOS is correct. What really drew the economy out of its doldrums was WWII and the huge amount of industry of all kinds that took place."

Yes, the industrial revolution started in 1945! Just ask a neo-con or the right arbitrary person ignorant of macroeconomics and economic history.

BTW, who holds the idea that WW2 government spending was a demand-side stimulus policy that ended the "doldrums" of the Great Depression? That would be Keynesian economists!

Of course, a government can spend a lot of money on constructive, useful things to turn a slump into a boom as well. That would include massive and necessary investments in green-energy infrastructure like mass transit and solar and wind farms (that reduce electricity bills making green energy cheaper than dirty energy.)