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Author Topic: Why do they think they can interest us in the NDP?
Chris Borst
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posted 17 June 2002 07:08 PM      Profile for Chris Borst     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
So, here was Blaikie announcing his candidacy, and what does he come out with? That the NDP has to attract all us "young" anti-globalization activists. As if Blaikie hasn't been one of the leaders of those opposing the one attempt to actually do so (i.e., the NPI). But, bigger than that, how is it that the NDP still thinks it COULD interest us?

The NDP may have a Socialist Caucus, but it is not a socialist party. Hell, even the world's Socialist Parties (e.g., the French) aren't socialist parties any more (presuming they ever were). The Left has shown itself, generally, to be very good managers of capitalism - meaning by "good managers" that they have kept social unrest to a minimum. But they don't seem interested in challenging capitalism at all.

Besides, let's say that the NDP decided to really go for the gusto. They select a dynamic, charismatic leader (which certainly leaves out Nystrom or Blaikie!) with unamibiguous socialist views, and run on a platform of not just defending the welfare state, but of getting rid of major chunks of capitalism - let's say, that all workplaces of greater than one must be turned into worker-owned co-operatives and all housing was made the sole property of its inhabitants (i.e., no more rent, no more mortgage payments). And let's say, just for fun, that they actually won. What would happen?

The stock, bond and currency markets would crash (i.e., the dollar would fall through the floor and interest rates would sky-rocket), the banks would have to refuse to allow withdrawals (indeed, they'd probably collapse), corporations would close their plants and try to strip out as much machinery as they could (especially the most valuable pieces), there would be mass looting (since how else could you get groceries?) and demonstrations - unemployed workers, bankrupt pensioners, former petty landlords - while the corporate elite would try to flee to the US. The US might even intervene militarily in order to "restore order" and "protect US property" - or the Canadian armed forces and police would.

Hell, even if such a transition succeeded (no military intervention, fear declines, production resumes), to whom would we sell the 40% of our production geared for export? From whom would we buy the 40% of our consumption that we import (how long could you go without a coffee)? Cuba just isn't that big ...

So, OK that's a bit of an extreme scenario . But consider that capital flight is already a problem for countries like Brazil, just on the prospect that the PT *might* win - and despite the fact that the PT is rapidly moving Right. Or the capital strike that hit Ontario during the Rae years (or BC more recently), despite the fact that Rae was no socialist?

What can ANY political party, whatever its platform, standing for election in one State in our global economy offer to those of us who want to end capitalism?


From: Taken off to the Great White North | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Sine Ziegler
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posted 17 June 2002 07:23 PM      Profile for Sine Ziegler     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Oh boy. Here we go again!
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vickyinottawa
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posted 18 June 2002 10:33 AM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
damn. I better go find a quiet patch of sand so I can stick my head in it.
From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Victor Von Mediaboy
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posted 18 June 2002 10:49 AM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
It's a little chilly today to hang out at Mooney's Bay, but whatever floats your boat!
From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 18 June 2002 11:59 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
This horror-story crap is always trotted out as the bugaboo for why we should just give up now and forget about the whole show.

Let us assume that right now, all the businesses in Canada closed their doors, and the owners took their moneys to Mexico.

Would there be short-term harm? Yes.

But all the plant and equipment would still be there, and all the stores and distribution outlets and suchlike would be waiting to be re-opened.

All it would take is for some enterprising people among the vast majority left behind to take over these businesses and simply... start them back up!

There is not an iota of concern whether the government holds a gigantic lottery to determine who owns what, or if it just nationalizes the whole shebang and starts appointing people to run the businesses, or whatever.

The wealth of this nation is not in the paper assets held by shareholders. It is in the physical machinery, equipment, infrastructure and stores of this nation.

The hypothetical situation here, of course, is directly analogous to that of the Great Depression.

All the idle plant and equipment was there, just waiting to be started back up. All that lacked was the demand for the production of those plants.

And of course we have John Maynard Keynes and those who came after to thank for an explanation of how to achieve the restoration of demand.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 18 June 2002 12:54 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chris, you raise a valid problem, but I don't see that it's any different for extraparliamentary activists -- the problem of transition is the same. Unless you're saying insurrection is also out as a strategy, which would be consistent.

The problems with the left, in general, as I see it, whether it is electoral or not:

(1) No clear definition of the long-term objective, and therefore, necessarily

(2) No strategy for how to achieve it, and

(3) Mindless application of the same tactics to every situation


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Chris Borst
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posted 18 June 2002 03:09 PM      Profile for Chris Borst     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Why is an honest question having such difficulty finding an honest answer here?

Come on now: why should activists be interested in the NDP? Let's keep in mind that it's not the activists who are flocking to the NDP and being turned away. It's the NDP who is soliciting activists and being steadfastly ignored. I'd like to see a good case made for why an anti-capitalist activist should consider joining the NDP as a sensible strategy at the present time. I presented two of the major objections: (1) that the NDP doesn't seem to be anti-capitalist, and (2) that, even if they were, their means do not seem adequate to their ends. So, give me a rebuttal.

(And, no, DrConway, the alternative to the NDP is not "doing nothing", there *are* alternatives. That's not an adequate response.)

(I composed the above before reading rasmus_raven's post. Thanks r_r. I am broadly in agreement with you, which is why I am posing a question about strategy. Transition is, clearly, a problem, though, I think, one for which there are solutions. But, that's ultimately the force of the first objection: the NDP doesn't seem to want to "transit"! So, for now, rather than a huge discussion of various strategies, I'd just like to see a good case for why joining the NDP would be a sensible strategy right now.)


From: Taken off to the Great White North | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
MJ
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posted 18 June 2002 03:23 PM      Profile for MJ     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't think there is any good rationale for a committed anti-capitalist activist to join the NDP.

The NDP culture isn't well-suited for someone with that kind of a background. Their involvement would likely just bring frustration and disillusionment on both sides - the activist would see the NDP as hidebound and conservative, and the NDP would look at the new member as demanding, disruptive and unrealistic, if they noticed him/her at all. People in the NDP is talking about it now simply because they think they should, for vague and fuzzy reasons, and because the NDP is always looking for others to buy-in to what they do. There is no strategy for bringing those kind of people in, or any idea what to do with them if they did join.

And just to be an equal opportunity critic, I don't think there are many anti-capitalist activists who have a lot to offer the NDP in it's current incarnation, either. A bit more convergent evolution has to happen before there is enough common ground.


From: Around. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Trinitty
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posted 18 June 2002 03:28 PM      Profile for Trinitty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
why should activists be interested in the NDP?

Because they are the only federal party with even a snowballs chance of influencing anything in Federal Parliament, and the only ones that would listen to your views.

March all you want, chant all you want, it won't amount to a hill of beans as long as you are on the other side of the fence.

If you get really frustrated and start throwing rocks, then the cops will be given more guns and the fences at the next meeting will be taller.

Getting involved in the political system may not be as flashy or exciting as dodging tear gas canisters and trashing anything establishment, but it's the only place where you can effect change.

If you really want to fix this country, read all of the platforms of the parties in Parliament, pick the one that you disagree with the least, and run for candidacy in your riding. If you're well spoken, don't have a criminal record and informed on national issues, then you usually have a good chance of winning the nomination. If you don't win, stay on as a member and volunteer to work in the riding office, and your chances are better the next time around. If you do win, then you're on the ballot for the next election.

If your party wins, bingo, you have a seat in the Commons. From there you will have a voice. You don't have MUCH power, but you do have some and have a chance of effecting change.

That's why.


From: Europa | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 18 June 2002 03:55 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
why should activists be interested in the NDP?

Because they are the only federal party with even a snowballs chance of influencing anything in Federal Parliament, and the only ones that would listen to your views.


Way to go!

The rest of you make it sound like the NDP didn't start talking anti-globalization until AFTER Quebec City. When did Bill Blaikie, for example, start talking about NAFTA and globalization anyway?

A few months back I was trying to show a couple people who were behaving like the hatfeilds and McCoys how they were behaving like politicians and all I could find was the NDP arguing against the implimentation of Bill 11 in Alberta. The comments I got were "Why were they arguing about something that hasn't happened yet?" Whether we hear about it or not, the NDP does manage to get in on issues sometimes even when they are still in the speculation stages. They are often dismissed as talking about things that haven't happened, yet.

The guy that started this thread made a good point in reference to the NPI - if we scrap the party and start over we don't know what we will end up with - it could be better or it could be worse. No one said that the NDP is in a finished immutible form - but change it from within - add a few structures tear down a few structures but please change it from within.


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Mimichekele
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posted 18 June 2002 04:04 PM      Profile for Mimichekele   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
Perhaps the terms of the debate don't mean the same thing to all people. I get the impression some people equate "activist" with "anti-capitalist". That's a bit narrow. I often get that feeling as if a particular group has decided to appropriate the copyright on the term. It feels a lot like the PQ in Quebec - one can often feel as if they think only they can be considered "Quebecers".

There are education activists, literacy activists, human rights activists, anti-pollution activists etc... Not all activists are anti-capitalist.

And no, the NDP does not seem to be anti-capitalist. That doesn't look unreasonable in the Canadian political context.

Another way of looking at the discussion would be more in terms of pro-market and anti-market, as opposed to capitalist and anti-capitalist. I believe Broadbent and people like Lionel Jospin have expressed the idea this way: they accept that we live in a "market economy", but they refuse to live in a "market society".

In other words, they accept that market mechanisms are predominant in the current economy. Public spaces, public sector interventions can counteract (perhaps even overcome) some tendencies inherent in the market. You can fight for labour and rights standards in international trade. In other cases, market mechanisms can be mobilized to achieve public policy objectives - for example, true life cycle market pricing on energy sources would make coal and other fossil fuels uncompetitive and pave the way for alternative energy models.

So a qualified acceptance of market mechanisms but no to the vision of a "market society" put forward by the fans of market globalization, where only the market and profits rule.


From: Toronto - but I'd prefer being back in Montreal spotting Nazis | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 18 June 2002 04:30 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
So a qualified acceptance of market mechanisms but no to the vision of a "market society" put forward by the fans of market globalization, where only the market and profits rule.

Without a coherent plan, a strategy for implementing it, and an analysis of the political and economic conditions that presently militate against any dilution of the neoliberal order, this is no more a practical solution than a socialist paradise. It only appears more practical because it is less ambitious.


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mimichekele
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posted 18 June 2002 04:43 PM      Profile for Mimichekele   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
I am sure there are coherent plans out there that address this question.

As one example, Gary Doer has some ideas in the Globe and Mail this morning: Globe comment page - I am not familiar enough with internal NDP factional differences to say where he fits in but I only mention him to illustrate the point

Groups like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have prepared ideas for real federal budgets that can respect a zero deficit objective while still expanding programs and expanding social capital.

Greens in places like Belgium have articulated plans that recognize we are going to be in a market economy for a long time but that still advance ideas to challenge the logic of the market taking over everything.

[ June 18, 2002: Message edited by: Mimichekele ]


From: Toronto - but I'd prefer being back in Montreal spotting Nazis | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 18 June 2002 04:51 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I am sure there are coherent plans out there that address this question.

I have looked for these plans, including in the places you mention, and I haven't found anything that seriously grapples with the difficulties. That's why I am not so sure there are plans "out there" that are worthy of such implicit faith, let alone our political energy. The first sign of a mature and credible left will be its willingness to acknowledge this and get to work on it.


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mimichekele
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posted 18 June 2002 04:54 PM      Profile for Mimichekele   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
OK. Point granted.

My problem is I have never been active in party politics so I have only ever looked at specific issues, never at a "coherent whole". (In fact, I am even a bit suspicious of coherent platforms).


From: Toronto - but I'd prefer being back in Montreal spotting Nazis | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 18 June 2002 05:05 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
If you'll notice, I didn't mention a coherent whole. I am just as suspicious of total plans. However, any plan must cohere with reality.
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 18 June 2002 05:22 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
The NDP has always stood up for working people, their families, their kids, their communities and their future. However, we can't achieve anything -- we can't eliminate the clawback of children's benefits, ensure families have safe, affordable housing, or address issues of aboriginal inclusion -- unless we are in government.
I can see how they may not appeal to children who have ran away from home or people who feel marginalized and not part of society. There are some people that everytime they hear words like "family" or "community" they feel like an outsider.
quote:
Are we as a national party really connecting with Canadians, or can we do better?
Are we letting people who see themselves as outsiders continue to see themselves that way.
quote:
Why aren't we bringing into our federal tent the numbers of Canadians who vote NDP provincially?
Why is it that more people in Ontario vote NDP provincially than federally?
quote:
I suggest we target 10 tangible commitments for Canadians as a core platform for the national NDP.

1. Focus on education:

2. Stand up for fiscal balance:

3. Reform election finances:

4. Advocate for children:

5. Stress safety from crime:

6. Act for the environment:

7. Work with Aboriginal Canadians:

8. Emphasize tolerance:

9. Renovate Medicare:

10. Promote preventative health:


Doer used this plan in the last provincial election that he was making 10 promises that he meant to keep rather than a book full he planned to ignore. Note that it is easier to keep 7 when "aborignal canadians" are among your elected MLA's - including your minister of Indian affairs.

1. Which of these 10 do you find offense? Why?
2 What should have been on this list that wasn't?

[ June 18, 2002: Message edited by: vaudree ]


From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 18 June 2002 05:30 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Coherency usually implies well-orderedness and a thought as to how different parts will work in a whole.

A program that is designed so all elements reinforce each other is thus esthetically pleasing.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Chris Borst
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posted 19 June 2002 03:12 AM      Profile for Chris Borst     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Thanks to all for your comments.

MJ, you say

quote:
I don't think there is any good rationale for a committed anti-capitalist activist to join the NDP.

well, obviously I suspect you're right. But, I figure that I should ask for their best case, first.

Trinitty makes the case that

quote:
Because they are the only federal party with even a snowballs chance of influencing anything in Federal Parliament, and the only ones that would listen to your views. ... Getting involved in the political system may not be as flashy or exciting ... but it's the only place where you can effect change.

Well, Trinitty, it seems to me that Microsoft and McKinley & Co. (just as examples) have effected a great deal of change without being "involved in the political system" - though, of course, all bad change. It seems to me that the labour movement and the women's movement (again, just as examples) have effected a great deal of change, without being "involved in the political system". (Indeed, in the case of the labour movement, its ability to effect change seems to have declined as it has gotten increasingly "involved in the political system".) So, your premiss doesn't seem very strong.

Furthermore, far from being "the only place where you can effect change", one of the major objections I raised in opening was can "the political system" bring about anti-capitalist change at all? And, (pace your comment about wanting "to fix this country") can any such change be made if it is in just one country? All this, of course, begging the question of whether the NDP is even interested in trying (which no one seems to suggest). Your case doesn't seem to address the objections raised at all.

Your argument actually sounds remarkably defeatist, given the context. The only people who "have a chance to effect change" are MPs, who don't really "have MUCH power", and that still requires them to get elected (and who knows when that might happen, if ever), and it all starts with the party you "disagree with the least". Sounds thoroughly disempowered and disempowering. It certainly doesn't sound democratic!

Is this the NDP's best case?

Mimichekele, the problem with Ed's nice little idea is that if you have a market economy, you've got a market society - they're one and the same thing.

vaudree, if I take your final two questions about Doer's platform as addressed to me, I would say simply: and how is this list different from what the Liberals would say? or the Tories? Heck, it's vague enough that I could see the Alliance endorsing it. How does this address the question posed?


From: Taken off to the Great White North | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 19 June 2002 03:54 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:

Mimichekele, the problem with Ed's nice little idea is that if you have a market economy, you've got a market society - they're one and the same thing.

Bingo. It's a cute marketing line Ed came up with, but it's hard to give it content.


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jacob Two-Two
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posted 19 June 2002 06:29 AM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
My long-term goals are anti-capitalist, but I consider them so long-term that even if a great deal of positive change beyond all rational hope were affected in my lifetime, I would still be passing this goal down to my children (and believe me, I plan to be around for quite some time).

So given that I don't expect to live to see the promised land, it is important to have short-term goals that are strategic. Goals that will lead to my long-term goals even though they may seem counter-intuitive.

The path I see is one that has already shown considerable effectiveness: spreading out the benefits of capitalism (and it does have its benefits) to all people in the interest of creating a prosperous, educated, and politicised citizenry.

The danger of this path to the economic elites was clearly recognised in the 60's, when it was in full swing. The new social order of the post-war western world was creating a "crisis of democracy". The very words of the elite. The new prosperous middle class (unheard of in all of history) was not placated by their wealth. In fact, it only made them upitty, and they began to clamour for democratic participation in society in a way that was just as unprecedented as their new-found economic status.

The elites, as we all know, fought back hard and managed to stem this rising tide of citizen involvement by making everyone poorer. Recession bred apathy and they have not forgotten this message. Apparently, however, we have! Why search for new ways when the ways we had seemed to be clearly working? The new capitalism of the post-war era was creating a new kind of democracy. If it had not been stopped, who can say where it would have led?

I think the path would have led inexorably to socialism. Democracy can do no less, unless I misjudge human nature to a great extent. But this level of democracy cannot happen until people have the time, freedom, and education to involve themselves politically. All of these things take money. To deny this is to deny the capitalist reality that we all endure, like denying that being in the ocean makes you wet.

It's essentially true that the NDP aren't anti-capitalist and I am, but they do represent a fairer, kinder capitalism and that road leads to socialism just like water runs downhill. That's why I keep voting for them and I intend to continue voting for them until an even better capitalist vision puts itself up for election, and one day, a credible anti-capitalist vision.

Give the people an inch and they'll take a mile. Don't focus on the mile and deny them the inch.


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
Trinitty
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posted 19 June 2002 10:32 AM      Profile for Trinitty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chris,

I'm not a defeatist, I'm a realist. How is telling a fellow Canadian to get involved in the political system defeatist? That's the silliest thing I've heard all week. Defeatist is throwing your hands in the air and saying "It's all stupid, politics suck, there's no point, what's on TV?".

You don't live in a "democracy".

Sure, you're allowed to vote every few years, but it ends there. The Prime Minister has the most sweeping powers of any other western leader. Not only does he have the power to whip every single vote in Parliament other than Private Members business, -and even then breaks the rules,- he appoints the head of the RCMP, the Supreme Court Justices, and the Senate. His personal friend owns the largest provider of news in the country, others are heads of banks, and he has changed the advertising rules for contending parties in an election. Starting a new party is now next to impossible, which is why I recommend picking a party with whom you "disagree with the least", meaning, you're never going to agree with every platform plank of every party in Canada, and if you want to get your voice heard it would be best to choose a party that already has representation in the House of Commons and name recognition.

Sure, Microsoft can effect some change in the States: M-O-N-E-Y talks. Social program and environmentalist groups don't have a whole lot of that comparitively and are reduced to nodding when Maude Barlowe complains about something, but nobody in POWER listens to her. Healthcare is not being fixed, they don't even have a policy on safe water in drafting, and they think a watered down Kyoto is going to fix the environment for eternity. And these are "Liberals".

I know politics is frustrating, but unless we -people who want to change things for the better- do our homework and get elected to parliament, or at least support those who you're comfortable representing you, and change things THERE, they aren't going to change.

The mechanisim of Parliament needs to be fixed. Democratic reform is the first thing that needs to be done. From there, once the machine is fixed, the rest of the issues can be addressed.


From: Europa | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Victor Von Mediaboy
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posted 19 June 2002 10:36 AM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
That's the silliest thing I've heard all week.

Have you not been reading my posts? I've been in a very silly mood this week.


You know what's really silly? FLOOD CONTROL!


From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Trinitty
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posted 19 June 2002 10:38 AM      Profile for Trinitty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I needed that M'boy.
From: Europa | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 19 June 2002 11:25 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Just reading Jacob Two-Two has the most wonderfully calming effect on me.
From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 19 June 2002 11:35 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Jacob Two-Two has a fan club!
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 19 June 2002 12:37 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Borst, my fault, forgot to include the URL so that you can read beyond the headings to discover the differences. Just scroll down to where he talks about the 10 commitments. http://www.mb.ndp.ca/ConventionSpeech.html

No one is saying that activism should end with voting, only that if activists don't vote they can be dismissed as a minority of extremists with views not supported by the general population - they lose their leverage. At the minimum voting is a petition, but with enough support it can be a mandate.

And, as Trinity stated earlier, if the right really didn't believe in government (and THEY are the ones convincing the activist that politics is a waste of time according to McQuaig), why would they donate so much money to financial campaigns? I know that "reform" is a dirty word and I gringe everytime my party uses it, but I would doubt if Cretien or Harper would call for the same " Reform(s of) election finances" that Doer has implimented already in Manitoba - innviting an angry tearful responce for Asper that I wished I had on tape.

According to McQuaig, pro-market forses promote a reductionist one-dimentional charactor motiviated only be self-interest, greed and gluttony and that this charactor is supposed to represent all of us. The NDP seems to be the only party out there who seems to represent more than that. Pro-market forses want us to either forget that the NDP got us medicare or to try to convince us that it was a fail experiment and that American healthcare is better for everybody - even to those who presently are reluctant to seek medical services unless necessary due to the cost of amoxicillan. We all know that crime is linked in the US to the fact that their medical system dictates that some are judged more worthy of life than others. Strangely this promotes the eat or be eaten attitude that makes up much of pro-market thought.

The NDP is not about winning an election and then forming a dictator ship so they are forsed to work within the system and to live under the threat of losing power - or maybe they prefer it that way. Maybe having the mandate of the people invigorates them, gives them purpose, makes their hearts strong. It is the mandate - no matter how large or how small - that gives them their soul and makes them more than a callous machine.

I did telephone surveys so I know - it is the right who is trying simultaneously to either dismiss the NNDP as being capable of making a difference and raising expectations so high (if the NDP is ahead in the polls) that they are set up to fail so that the PC or Liberals can return to power as soon as possible. It is more important that whatever changes the NDP make while in office are resistant to dismantling than that there will be a lot of them because in a democratic system the devil always has a turn.

And if activists don't vote, the devil will continue to have more than their fair share of turns!

The more who vote for the NDP, the more who have given up on the electorial process start thinking about voting again. The more who vote NDP, the more people think that the NDP has a chance and the more likely they will be to vote for the NDP and so on. And activists who feel that the NDP does not meet all their needs - should be reminded that the NDP meets more of their needs than CRCAP or the PC or the Liberals.

Not all NDP leaders have been gems. Glen Clark may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed nor cut in the mold of great NDP leaders from the past - but BCers certainly had it better then than they do now under Gordon Campbell. Despite this worst case example, I would like to think that the NDP, in general, is more than just better than the alternatives, but inspirational in their own right.

[ June 19, 2002: Message edited by: vaudree ]


From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 19 June 2002 01:16 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I forget who it was that said that the true power lay in limiting what people perceived as their choices and options in a given situation.

However, that is quite true in the political arena, and in peoples' understanding of the economic theories involved.

Until people can be made to understand that they have as many choices as their parents and grandparents did in the 40s, 50s and 60s, the "TINA" (There Is No Alternative) group will continue to hold sway.

This TINA line of thought, of course, has been attacked by both Linda McQuaig and John Maynard Keynes.

[ June 19, 2002: Message edited by: DrConway ]


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 19 June 2002 01:33 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Pussy cat.

Borst, can you imagine the Canadian Alliance saying any of this?

quote:
STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES

Our society must change from one based on competition to one based on cooperation.
We wish to create a society where individuals give according to their abitlities, and receive according to their needs.

We believe present human endeavours must become environmentally sound in order to ensure that future generations may have access to an abundant and diverse biosphere.

Our commitment to the electorate is to be forthright about our long-range goals as well as practical about our short-term political activities.

Our purpose as a movement is to foster social change toward a more cooperative society. Our purpose as a political party is to develop a public mandate for that social change through giving individuals greater control in the economy, their workplace, and their community.

Our actions and words must reflect our fundamental faith in the capacity of people to live cooperatively and to work for the betterment of all.



From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
hibachi
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posted 19 June 2002 01:44 PM      Profile for hibachi   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
If one goes to the NDP web site, and reads the history of the NDP, according to the NDP, one will see several references to its anti-Communist nature.

In the old days, we did not say 'anti-capitalist'. We said Communist or Anarchist. Stalinist or otherwise, this was not the kind of socialism that the NDP was interested in. The NDP way was to be more Fabian, changing the system from within. The NDP is an overt political party, by the same definition as all the others. It is neither an extraparliamentary revolutionary organization nor a protest group.

To that end, the NDP can only 'sieze power' if the voters decide on it. By the same token, they can be booted out.

Decades ago, a British Tory Prime Minister spoke of 'the unacceptable face of capitalism'. Government was there to safeguard against excesses, and provide human services that capitalism could not.

Not until the 1980s did Greed become Good. All faces of capitalism became not only acceptable but good, even though capitalism itself did not change. It simply expanded, as is its nature. Government abandoned its role as the necessary foil to capitalism. Margaret Thatcher brought in 'Enterprise Culture' and decreed that only money shall be the determinant of social status.

Thus the very problem we are faced with today is that the government has abandoned its traditional role, and we want to see that reversed. It is exactly through the government and the parliamentary system that any change will occur, as parliament is the only place where laws can be made to alleviate society from the harmful effects of unbridaled capitalism. Anarchists on the other hand have no respect for the Rule of Law, and don't want to engage in the political process to effect change. How can 'anti-capitalists' be compatible with the NDP?


From: Toronto, Ont. | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 19 June 2002 02:36 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
All this talk about greed versus community. I think that Thom is trying to be the American Linda McQuaig. The book, not out until September, is being ordered by the same people who ordered "Stupid White Men" so the anti-Bush people there are starting to find each other. There is an exerp of the intro on line so you can see how Americans and Canadians approach the same subject. Ignore the couple of paragraphs where he talks of his previous books. http://www.mythical.net/chapterintroduction.shtml
quote:
This book is about the difference between humans and the corporations we humans have created. The story goes back to the birth of the United States, even the birth of the Revolution. It continues through the writing of the Constitution and Bill of Rights in the 1780s, and reaches its first climactic moment 100 years later, after the Civil War. The changes that ensued from that moment continue into the 21st century, where the results continue to unfold. And very few citizens of the world are unaffected.

In another sense, this book is about values and beliefs: how our values are reflected in the society we create, and how a society itself can work, or not work, to reflect those values.


quote:
The real issue, rarely discussed but always present, is whether corporations truly are persons in a democracy. Should they stand shoulder to shoulder with you and me in the arena of rights, responsibility, and the unique powers and equal protections conferred upon humans by the founders and framers of the United States Constitution and other democracies around the world that have used the USA as a model? And is it possible to have a viable and thriving democracy if we keep the story of corporate personhood, or have we already lost much of our democracy as a result of it?

[ June 19, 2002: Message edited by: vaudree ]


From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Chris Borst
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posted 19 June 2002 04:04 PM      Profile for Chris Borst     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Jacob, you say

quote:
given that I don't expect to live to see the promised land, it is important to have short-term goals that are strategic

and argue that

quote:
The path I see is one that has already shown considerable effectiveness: spreading out the benefits of capitalism ... Give the people an inch and they'll take a mile. Don't focus on the mile and deny them the inch.

posing the question

quote:
Why search for new ways when the ways we had seemed to be clearly working?

Well, I can't say that I expect to see the "promised land". But I certainly intend to try! Which is why I'm concerned about strategy.

Now, the strategy you defend is trying to make the capitalists buy us off. There is certainly good precedent that this can have benefits - though I'm not at all convinced that it will lead "inexorably" to socialism. But, two points:

(1) How does doing electoral work for the NDP advance that? It was a strong and militant labour movement, and the threat of revolution, that convinced the capitalists to try to buy us off, not the work of a social democratic party. In fact, our social democratic party was a consequence of them starting to buy us off (indeed, part of the payoff), not a cause.

(2) (in answer to your question) The capitalists are no longer prepared to buy us off. That's what capital flight and capital strikes are all about. The payoffs are cheaper elsewhere. The people did try to take a mile (or, at least, a yard) when the capitalists offered them an inch. Well, the capitalists weren't prepared to go above maybe two inches, so they took the first inch off the table. So, now what?

Trinitty, you ask

quote:
How is telling a fellow Canadian to get involved in the political system defeatist?

Well, if you don't really think that the changes we desire can reasonably be achieved through the political system (which the parts of your message I quoted previously suggest you don't), but you still try to get us to focus on it rather than find other means, then that sounds like you are conceding defeat before you've even started.

If you can't answer the objections made, if your own argument (we don't live a democracy, the issues can only be addressed once "the machine is fixed") is that the system is designed to prevent the changes we want to make, then why would you continue to argue that we must

quote:
get elected to parliament ... and change things THERE, [or else things] aren't going to change[?]

Would not the conclusion of your own argument be that we should look for other options? If "M-O-N-E-Y talks" then shouldn't we be talking with "Money", and gathering together some of our own?

(BTW, VVMB, these last couple weeks up here in Howard Hampton country, flood control has been anything BUT silly ... )

vaudree, first of all, please call me Chris . I'll have to take a look at the Doer speech later on - composing this is already taking long enough! - though I'm not sure that will change my response at all. As for your points,

(1) I haven't said anything about voting. I'm talking about joining the NDP and focusing one's activism on electoral politics. Voting may be only symbolic, at best, but I'm in favour of symbolic gestures!

(2) The Right does believe in government - they're the ruling class, remember? - they just believe in a government that benefits the rich rather than workers and the poor.

(3) If it's only the Right that's trying to turn activists off electoral politics, then how do you answer the objections that have been posed? As with Trinitty, your argument takes for granted what I'm asking you to prove - you treat electoral politics as the only way to make change, when I'm asking whether it can make change at all. Have we no other possible courses of action than trying to get elected?

hibachi, you argue that

quote:
Decades ago, a British Tory Prime Minister spoke of 'the unacceptable face of capitalism'. Government was there to safeguard against excesses, and provide human services that capitalism could not. ... It is exactly through the government and the parliamentary system that any change will occur, as parliament is the only place where laws can be made to alleviate society from the harmful effects of unbridaled capitalism.

OK, that's (Red) Toryism. What does that have to do with us? It is not capitalism's "excesses" (say, Enron) that concern us so much - it's capitalism's normal, everyday operations. Tories think that capitalism just needs to be "bridled" and supplemented with some "human services" for it to be just fine. We (anti-capitalist activists) think that capitalism does not have any "acceptable" faces. And "the Rule of Law"! Repression is about preventing democratic change, not helping it along ...

DrConway's point is a good one:

quote:
the true power [lies] in limiting what people perceived as their choices and options in a given situation

Far from being stuck with the liberal remedies of Keynes, we have at least as many options as were available 1890-1920 - for that matter, in the 1790s. The NDP is by no means our only choice.

So, I'm still looking for a case for choosing the NDP option, that actually answers the objections that were posed - though thanks for everyone's contributions so far!


From: Taken off to the Great White North | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
agent007
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posted 19 June 2002 04:13 PM      Profile for agent007     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
The NDP is by no means our only choice.

And those choices are ... what?! (Chris, please explain.)

From: Niagara Falls ON | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
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posted 19 June 2002 04:26 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chris, I would like to ask you a question now -- why should anyone put their energy into the antiglobalization movement? Does it have clear objectives or a clear strategy for achieving these? is there any chance that it can actually accomplish something positive? Seattle was a victory, yes. But are we just trying to recreate Seattle, when this is now impossible, or is there an actual objective to work for, a positive result to achieve. (No boilerplate, please!) If you like, you can answer in a new thread.
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
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posted 19 June 2002 04:28 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
BTW, Jacob, Chris is not my alter ego, although he certainly feels that way! Who the hell are you, anyway, Chris? Check your private messages!!!
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 19 June 2002 06:12 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I am not asking you to run for office or hand out pamplets Chris, I'm just asking you to vote. John Northcott runs foodbanks, but he still gets invited to small NDP riding functions as a speaker to state his cause. Linda McQuaig's gift is as a writer and that's how she helps the cause of human betterment. But both these people believe in voting.

The NDP is not perfect, but few things created by humans are. The only thing that really stood out about the last federal convention is the way the lady treated Ceril Keeper when I tried to put forth a motion (gave me new respect for Audra's fairness). Alexa was right that not every one voted the same way with each motion, but her belief in democracy means that she has to abide by all the decisions made. If you look at the people who didn't get their way on a specific issue at that convention and each one decided to form their own party then there would be 30 parties in the place of the old NDP. The alternative to these 30 parties would be accepting that you are not going to get everything you want from the NDP on every issue, but that it is still the party that promotes your belief system and your world view on most issues.

Why did the NDP attend the Quebec Summit and why did Svend Robinson get shot (you knew it had to be him before they even said his name)? It was to show that the demonstrators were not just teenagers and 50 year old hippies but also the people's representatives. It was Svend, Alexa and the rest of them representing their constuants. When Svend was shot, it was not just him who was shot but every one who voted for him and every one who would have voted for him if they were in that riding.

Chris, your gift in all this may not be to be an MP, but you can still vote. In what ever venture you enter, you are stronger and harder to dismiss if you have support.

JUDES, I know you are following this one. I hope that you didn't just tear up your membership because of the motions you lost and that you will remember the motions that did go the way you felt they should. I hope also that you will continue to be a card carrying member even if you do not like who the new leader is. I have not decided with only one candidate declared who would be best for the party yet, but I am prepared to stay with the party and pay my $6.00 membership no matter who gets in as leader.

Chris, When I vote for the NDP I vote for the ideals of cooperation, community, compassion and fairness - but the people representing my riding are human beings and not angels - but I vote for them anyway and forgive their short comings.


From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
NDB
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posted 19 June 2002 06:39 PM      Profile for NDB     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chris, perhaps you need to look at Dr. Conway's line there a little differently, it seems to me that you've limited the selections in this instance, to a dichotomy between being an anti-capitalist activist or a member of the NDP. If you are only willing to consider yourself one or the other than an anti-capitalist activist probably wouldn't choose to be a member of the NDP, or vice versa. At the very least you couldn't be an activist in both sense if you have to choose as you've supposed one does. Shouldn't the party and 'the movement of movements' be bigger than that? Aren't they, in fact. Perhaps it's a function of time and energy, I suppose, but it seems rather ineffective IMHO because a lot of both gets wasted fighting about who is or is not true to the cause(s).
From: Ottawa | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jacob Two-Two
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posted 20 June 2002 04:58 AM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I second that emotion. If we can't identify our real enemies, we'll be forever tripping over our own feet. The NDP aren't my ideal agent of social change but they are definitely allies in this whole struggle.

quote:
Now, the strategy you defend is trying to make the capitalists buy us off.

Well, no, actually. You've got me all wrong and you've got history all wrong as well.

The capitalists at no time supported the expanding middle class in an effort to buy them off. They opposed the "new deal" vigorously (even murderously) before, during, and after its conception. The Great Depression dragged on for years unnecessarily because the capital class refused to compromise, advocating more of the same policies that caused the crisis as a way of solving it (sound familiar?).

Even at the end, when the countries were teetering on collapse and the tide of unrest could no longer be ignored by the political elites, they were still outraged to be defied by their representatives in such a way. It was only the resulting economic boom that calmed them down. As soon as the boom ebbed, however, they were back on their old horse in short order, demanding a return to economic policies that favoured the rich and no one else, which they eventually got.

Without going into too much detail, the point is that the capitalists never bought off the people or have ever supported such tactics, now or then. Everything the masses have gotten, they have taken by political force and they have been opposed every step of the way.

The advent of "globalisation" adds a slightly new dimension to these dynamics, but not as new as you think. The Great Depression shows us that the capital class was willing to let the economy grind to a halt rather than give up their control over it. They would rather collapse the system than relinquish it. If it had been solely up to them they would have never given in. To say that they will not "buy us off" this time is assuming that they ever did it, but this is incorrect.

Without the security of reproduction that a larger share of the pie will give them, the people have little chance to politicise themselves to the necessary extent. This larger share must be taken, just as it was sixty years ago. There is no need to appeal to the capitalists, and it would do no good to do so, then or now.

Supporting the NDP is a step in this direction. They are a widely supported party funded by the very labour movements that you refer to. Their economic policies are designed to give the people more of the nation's wealth, and history teaches us that this will lead to a stronger democracy, which I can't see going anywhere but socialism, given enough time.

As to your assertion that there are better places to put your energy than the NDP, this is probably true. A person with radical views such as yourself or myself would be better off finding effective initiatives that more closely reflect our values than organising for the NDP. The NDP won't collapse without us and the work we'll be doing will be important too (assuming we can show a little unity and good sense which has been lacking in activist circles).

This doesn't address the issue of who you are going to vote for, however. If you know of a better electoral option than the NDP, I'd like to hear about it. Frankly, (and correct me if I'm wrong) but you strike me as a person that doesn't vote at all, which I find a particularly indefensible position. As progressives, we have precious few avenues of influence open to us as it is. If we refuse to use every weapon in our arsenal we are licked before we start.

Anyhow, I'm really rambling off here so I'll just answer your question. Yes, we have many other options besides just getting elected and we should be exploring them all, but not at the expense of electoral action. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, man.


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
Chris Borst
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posted 21 June 2002 10:37 AM      Profile for Chris Borst     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Let me reiterate the question that was posed here:
Why do they think they can interest us in the NDP?

Various NDP leaders, most recently Bill Blaikie, have spoken of the necessity of drawing anti-globalization activists into the NDP - into active membership, not just voting. Obviously, such people think the NDP can attract activists. Activists, by and large, seem to think otherwise. If NDP supporters ever hope to succeed in attracting anti-globalization activists, they are going to have to convince activists that the NDP is the best, or at least an essential part of the, way to achieve the activists' goals at the present time. Clearly, most activists do not see matters that way - or are, at least, very skeptical!

Appeals to the necessity to vote (and the absence of better voting alternatives), to the ineffectiveness of fighting over who is "true to the cause", to the desirability of the "ideals of cooperation, community, compassion and fairness", to the NDP's "belief" in such ideals, and to the imperfection of human beings and projects, even if true, will not change anyone's mind. Why? Because they don't answer the question. No one is looking for "angels" or "perfection". We are looking for ways to actually realize our "ideals" - not just to symbolize that we have them!

Trinitty and vaudree, most notably, have suggested that electoral action is the only way to effect change. That is a real argument. If it's true, then working for the party most likely to get elected and make desirable changes is clearly the most sensible option. And, clearly, even though the NDP are advocating only the most minimal changes, they are that party. However, that argument isn't going to work with activists. For it is precisely that premiss that activists deny. Indeed, as I have pointed out previously, the general attitude - based on an entirely defensible reading of history and our contemporary situation - is that electoral action can't effect any of the changes we are looking for. An effective response to that objection would have to show (1) that it can, and (2) that it can do so more effectively than other alternatives. No such response has yet been forthcoming.

Jacob has tried another tact, defending reformism (spreading the benefits of capitalism as a short-term "indirect" goal that leads "inexorably" to socialism). As the NDP is clearly reformist, this is also a real argument. In particular, it attempts to answer the objection that the NDP isn't anti-capitalist. Now, it does leave the problem why the NDP - one could say (I know numerous people who make precisely this argument) that working inside the Liberal party is the better way to do this, or one could say that increasing the aggregate Left vote (NDP, Green, CAP, CPC, CPC-ML) will require the "Centre" to shift left again - and it doesn't really answer the challenge to electoral action - trade unionism has certainly been the more effective reformist strategy. But, Jacob has offered at least plausible answers to these: the NDP is labour's party, and "progressives" have "to use every weapon in our arsenal".

The bigger difficulty for Jacob's argument is that it doesn't answer the objection that electoral action can't effect useful change, at least not right now. He ends up stuck on much the same point Trinitty and vaudree are, if less immediately. Reformism, especially reformism via electoral action, depends on the willingness of the capitalists to allow the benefits of capitalism to be spread around. Obviously, they are going to oppose and resist doing so. Obviously, we have to struggle to force them to do so. But that's all just negotiating. When the capitalists prefer to pack up their marbles and leave rather than share any, then reformist struggle - certainly reformist struggle at the national level - stops working. To say that capital was "willing" to pay off the workers is not to say that they wanted to, or were happy to. It is to say that they were prepared to do so, when absolutely necessary and, even then, only to the minimum extent necessary, rather than leave. That is - or, at least, appears to be - no longer true.

There's an extension of that historical lesson that is germane to the question at hand. Activists, by and large, are suspicious - if not hostile - to the reformist argument. Many hold that socialism is a reasonable short-term goal - that history is more discontinuous than the reformist allows. But, more importantly and whether we agree with that or not, we are not at all convinced that reformism leads "inexorably" to socialism. You could call this the "Lesson of the 20th Century". The capitalists are prepared to pay us off, but only as a delaying tactic. As soon as possible, they will switch strategies, leaving us to twist in confusion and watch our payoffs "inexorably" evaporate. You can't fight with someone who keeps running away.

And that, rasmus_raven, is a key attraction of the anti-globalization movement, to the extent that it even is a movement: to try to take away from them places to run to. That's not really a proper answer to your question, but I will have to return to it at a later time.

To end, let me remind readers that I am not making idiosyncratic arguments. These are widespread - if not always articulated - views, certainly amongst anti-capitalist activists. You, the NDP supporters, are the ones who want us to join your party. If you hope to succeed, then you need to find answers to objections like these.


From: Taken off to the Great White North | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
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posted 21 June 2002 11:38 AM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Let us say someone wishes to be politically active beyond what is entailed in supporting good daycare and the like, and that one wishes to limit
the excesses of capitalism.

Obviously, the institutions of capitalism can make it nearly impossible to succeed; Salvador Allende RIP.

On the other hand, no other strategy works either.
The initiator of this thread reminds me very much of good friends of mine who were in the upper echelons of the Sandinista movement. They thought parties like the NDP suck; only a radical movement with control of the national army, coupled with a militant socialist party numbering in the hundreds of thousands, could succeed.

But, that didn't work either. The American financed war eventually caused the population to prefer peace with capitalism to war with socialism. Capitalism makes it too difficult for ordinary people to continue to support the revolution; they would rather have an egg once in a while, and not send their sons and daughters into an endless war.

Some say that the Sandinistas ought not to have held elections, because the war skewed the result.
But if the war goes on forever, does one put off elections forever?

Beyond the Sandinistas lies Castro. Because there have been no elections, he remains in power. But life in Cuba is terribly hard; after forty years of rationing and no opportunity for meaningful work, the place is a downer. It is filled with Ph.D.'s in engineering working as tourist guides.
Castro's achievements do exist; good schools and adequate medical care are significant accomplishments. But they are not enough to justify all that has happened there.

Of course this is all because capitalism, or the United States, or the market, makes it so difficult to achieve significant change. They have power.

But a fairer question than the one posed above is:
"Does any party other than the NDP have real prospects of making a positive change in this country?"

To that, I answer "no". No strategy gives more than a glimmer of hope of success over the next thirty or so years, and many promise terrible hardships.

The NDP begins to look better and better....


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
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posted 21 June 2002 11:50 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I wish to echo Jeff House's sentiments. From a purely critical point of view, I agree with you, Chris. From a constructive point of view, I don't think the anti-globalization movement offers more than rhetorical posturing. The necessary work of building an alternative is not taken seriously by "the movement" at all, in my opinion, and people are supposed to commit their faith to bromides and boilerplate, instead of real political proposals. Political critique by itself is not persuasive in the absence of a compelling alternative.
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
J. Hurtado
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posted 21 June 2002 12:20 PM      Profile for J. Hurtado   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Hello all,

I've been following this thread closley.

Question for Chris on your premise that participation in the electoral system cannot affect real change.
Do you think that the self-managed cooperatives that sprung up in Catalonia in the 1930's during the Civil War would still have occurred without the Leftists in the Republican gov't first. Sure the syndicalist movement was gathering momentum before 1933 but my take on the Spainish cooperatives of the 30's is that they probably would not have flourished to the extent that they did if not for, to some degree at least, some working class representation in the capitalist parliament.

Anyway, I bring this up not to go off topic on a discussion on Spain but rather to express my own personal diliberations on the efficacy of electoral participation today.

I don't see socialism arising out of the ballot box.....(trust me I'm a former Chilean exile)...but I don't discount it as a valuable tool in fighting capitalism here in the 'belly of the beast'. The question for me is How we organize and utilize all weapons to maximize advancement.

See, for me contemplating the question "how does the NDP think it attract activists" flows out of first asking the question What can the anti-capitalist use to further the struggle.

-Jorge Hurtado


From: Ottawa | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 21 June 2002 02:46 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The view of an incremental movement towards socialism, as Jacob puts forth, is one that I lean towards as well - seeing as it has been tried and worked for about 25 years.

The problem of dealing with people who want to pick up their marbles and go home is to ask the question: What is true wealth?

Is it paper? No.

Is it stocks and bonds? No.

Is it the gossamer will-o-the-wisp of momentary currency fluctuations? No.

Wealth is that which can be produced, tangibly. Wealth is that which can be used to produce tangible objects.

In that respect, all the "wealth" of a nation does not leave it when the rich people bugger off for parts unknown after the marginal tax rates go up and the Tobin Tax is implemented and the exchange controls come down.

This analysis is similar to the one Keynes used to point out that nothing had changed in the world after the Great Depression began. All the machinery and all the plants and all the workers were there. They just weren't being used to make things and do things for people anymore.

The same situation would occur if a government actually committed to moving us towards a socialist society were to take power. Let the rich people, as William Jennings Bryan said, leave if their hearts are so mean that they cannot spare the extra fraction of their earnings. Let them be gone if they feel so little of an attachment to our nation that they cannot roll up their sleeves and get to work with the rest of us to make a new society that benefits all instead of a few!

The plants will go idle. People will be out of work. This may happen. Let it.

The government need only repossess all physical assets that have stayed in the country, and hold lotteries to redistribute ownership to individuals with acumen and aptitude, and soon tbe factories will hum again. Soon people will go back to purchasing the goods and services that are produced. And they will pay their taxes, and the government can then expand its intervention in the economy as it did once before, post-1945.

And this time there will be no eternal conflict, for those who stay behind to make this country work the way it should work will have a commitment to the goal of an equitable distribution of income for all.

The wealth of this nation is the physical capacity to output all manner of things and services people want and need, and the people who make them.

Not the gossammer airy paper assets of gamblers and speculators.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Chris Borst
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posted 22 June 2002 03:21 AM      Profile for Chris Borst     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I suggested that

quote:
An effective response to that objection [that electoral action can't bring change] would have to show (1) that it can, and (2) that it can do so more effectively than other alternatives.

Jeff House (hi Jeff, pls say "hi" to Ruth for me!) responds

quote:
the institutions of capitalism can make it nearly impossible to succeed ... On the other hand, no other strategy works either.

Now, this again sounds to me rather defeatist, in so far as it sounds like he's saying, (1) the NDP won't work, but (2) neither will anything else. If that's the case, if we really are doomed, then the reasonable conclusion would be that we should just give up, save for a few of us nuts who enjoy playing Don Quixote .

But his further comments, about the Sandinistas and Castro, suggest that the "other strategies" he is thinking about are still party-directed attempts to seize State power and then use that power to effect change within that State. I would agree that State-directed action in general, proceeding State-by-State, seems unlikely to succeed, as capital will simply seek out other States (with the rewards for compliant States going up as more States defect). However, I am not convinced that movements to seize State power are the only strategies we have.

Hence, to Jeff's question

quote:
"Does any party other than the NDP have real prospects of making a positive change in this country?"

I would respond, "So, would not that suggest that parties and countries are not the places to look to effect positive change?"

Which leads nicely into Jorge Hurtado's response

quote:
Do you think that the self-managed cooperatives that sprung up in Catalonia in the 1930's during the Civil War would still have occurred without the Leftists in the Republican gov't first[?]

In other words, do strong social democratic parties not at least contribute to the conditions for success for non-State-oriented actions? Well, I'm not sufficiently familiar with the Spanish case to really say there, but suffice it to say that I am skeptical. While I wouldn't say that control over/influence on State power necessarily hurts, I'd be more inclined to say that successful non-State actors are a condition for the success of social democratic parties than the reverse. And that such parties have often been used to drain off and water down the militancy of the movements.

Nonetheless, his question is well put:

quote:
What can the anti-capitalist use to further the struggle[?]

Can the anti-capitalist use the NDP? Probably. I suspect that, to use an analogy, it's a good "entry drug". Like cigarettes, it's a good way to introduce children to the product line, before up-selling them on more serious drugs. I have certainly tried strenuously to convince left-leaning Liberals and red Tories that, rather than despairing about their party's current direction, they should support the NDP. But that in no way suggests that anti-capitalists need actually join the NDP. Nor does it rule out the use of other good "entry drugs" which, like MDMA, have a better rate of success. And, of course, I would presume that most NDP supporters would object to this entire characterization !

Jorge, how would you suggest that the NDP can best be used by anti-capitalist activists? And do you think that joining it is the most effective way to so use it?

DrConway tries to get around the objection to reformism by saying "Let the rich people ... leave" since they can't take our "true wealth" with them. Now, this response seems plausible enough: a strong form of the nationalist take on reformism. If the people will accept capital flight and its consequences, then they can do whatever they like, including elect socialist governments. However, this response seems to treat the people's acquiesence far too casually. First of all, there does not appear to be any evidence that the people will accept the consequences of capital flight - rather the contrary. Second, the NDP does not appear to be trying to convince them that they should. If anyone is, it's the extraparliamentary movements (voluntary simplicity, environmentalism, etc.). But this casual treatment seems to turn on his presumption that, not being "true wealth", capital flight won't have any consequences, beyond some very-short-term dislocation while the government redistributes assets. This seems simply uninformed.

Consider. According to StatsCan (see here), Canada has some $11 trillion in assets, $3.7 trillion in what DrConway calls "true wealth", $7.3 trillion in "gossammer airy paper assets" that he seems unconcerned about. Of that, $1.1 trillion (including $321 billion of the "real assets") are foreign owned - foreigners who might object (violently) to having their property seized. Those assets produce a GDP of some $1.1 trillion, of which the largest single component, about 20%, is from "Finance and insurance, real estate and renting and leasing and management of companies and enterprises", employing some 1.4 million Canadians. Then there's the $473 billion in goods and services that we export, and the $416 billion we import, that - given that we'd be trying to sell to folks whose property we just seized, and import in currency no longer worth much, if anything – we may just have to learn to do without. Finally, given that he seems to have in mind re-establishing a capitalist economy after going through all this ("hold lotteries to redistribute ownership to individuals with acumen and aptitude" - why?), he seems wholly ignorant of the role of working capital in an ongoing capitalist enterprise. In short, if we zeroed all financial assets, save perhaps the $1.1 trillion in deposits and consumer credit, and seized and redistributed all non-residential property, we would be looking at (just counting production for export and all finance) a fall in our GDP of at least 50%. 50%. Gone. And that's not allowing for multiplier effects. Or the fact that you can take physical capital with you - or just burn/wreck it.

Serious, whole hog, capital flight can have consequences. Have I made my point?

Finally, rasmus_raven, the difficulty with answering your question about "why join the antiglobalization movement?", about its "objectives" and "strategy", is that - unlike the NDP, for example – it isn't an organization. It is a giant coalition of groups and individuals with wildly varying objectives and strategies. It is a fragile coalition united only by opposition to the current way of going about capitalism (one can't even say honestly that, as a whole, it is opposed to capitalism as such). The objections I have been raising are not ones that would be endorsed by all its participants. On the contrary. However, they are objections that are widespread amongst some of its most characteristic components, and which suffuse its ethos.

I would agree with you that a constructive alternative, a distinctive strategy, has not really emerged from it yet. Certainly, holding one monster demo after another has distinct limits as a strategy. Yet, there are obvious moves to build such a strategy (most notably, the World Social Forum) and the movement's ethos suggests certain strategies - most obviously about coalition building and not fetishizing any one strategy. The fact that the women's movement, the environmental movement, the peace movement and the civil rights/black power movement are its standard exemplars - rather than any of the Marxist parties (2nd, 3rd or 4th Int'l) - tells us something.

That said, I am - like you - very much of the opinion that clarifying contemporary Left strategy is a necessary task. That's why I'm here.

As a final point in response to your question: the thing about the anti-globalization movement is that I don't have to convince anybody here to join it. You're already part of it. So are most of the respondents here, from what I can tell. Even if we were to disagree about everything else. That's its strength, but it makes it hard to give you a clear answer ...


From: Taken off to the Great White North | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 22 June 2002 03:30 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Transactions in stocks and bonds aren't calculated in GDP.

For a guy who seems so interested in trying to develop a way to deal with the issue of capital flight you seem to be real interested in shooting down every proposal. Sounds like you're just as defeatist as the rest of us, eh?

Entrepreneurial spirit doesn't necessarily depend on ownership. The lottery could just as easily be constructed around government ownership of all commercial land in the country, and appointing said people to be managers of enterprises.

The point, however, is that capitalism as we know it today is more like socialism for big corporations and capitalism for the rest of us, which produces some nasty side effects like poor income distribution and an inflationary bias into cost structures.

Capitalism in the form of small entities competing with each other produces a more equal distribution of wealth and income, since barriers to entry are lower, etc.

But I digress.

quote:
Or the fact that you can take physical capital with you - or just burn/wreck it.

It's a little harder to grab for everything that isn't nailed down than it is to shoot a few billion out of the country like the Bronfmans did.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
hibachi
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posted 22 June 2002 03:07 PM      Profile for hibachi   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
How do you have competition and an entrepreneurial spirit without ownership? In my experience, people do not get out of bed unless there is something in it for them, no matter what their politics.

Still, one could argue certain activists are entrepreneurial in their efforts, and there is a certain amount of self-interest in promoting actions that would be good for all of us.

Nonetheless, even progressive social activists need to eat and pay their rent.


From: Toronto, Ont. | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
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posted 22 June 2002 06:55 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I appreciate effort to respond to everyone! I would respond to your characterization of me as "defeatist" by suggesting that it ought properly be called "realistic." The NDP suffers when compared to an ideal stategy guaranteed to bring about socialism, but in the absence of that
strategy, but since no one has that strategy, it doesn't look so bad, as it promises something concrete and winnable.

I don't think the NDP should be fetishized though, and I support mobilizations and other activities to put pressure on the state. Clearly, mere electoralism without pressure promises very little.

You suggest the outlines of an alternate strategy,
but, with respect, it is still pretty vague, which for me means not yet real. Also, you do not fully distinguish it from other strategies which have failed. A mass movement, etc. is not exactly a new idea, and was part of many revolutions which failed.

And, who is Ruth?

[ June 22, 2002: Message edited by: jeff house ]


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
glaxton
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posted 23 June 2002 01:52 AM      Profile for glaxton     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chris,

I'm going to try to make a case for voting for a progressive party that ISN'T anti-capitalist, or at least, not anti-capitalist in the short-term. I'm stating a case for the Green Party of Ontario (as I'm a councillor for the GPO), but this explanation COULD apply to the NDP also, and I stress COULD, because, obviously, I cannot speak on their behalf.

The perspective of the Green Party of Ontario (and most Green Parties) is that capitalism, as Marx says, will inevitably give way to a communist utopia. On that point, the Greens and most socialist/communist parties throughout the world do not diverge. The point of departure for 'Greens' and 'Reds' tends to be on HOW that utopia will come about. In a nutshell, the Green Parties believe that the key word is 'inevitably'. Inevitably implies that a confluence of factors will be involved in the demise of capitalism. Unlike most communist parties, the Greens do not believe that it can or should be brought about by force. HOWEVER, and this is the BIG however, the role of the state MUST be reasserted, and power of capital must be reined-in (through legislation and restrictions where necessary as well as incentives) such that the market is re-embedded as only one part (and not a major part) in the lives of civil society. The Greens are against the current structure of globalization, and it bears mentioning (since it is seldom mentioned) that the Green Party of the United States and Ralph Nader helped organize the initial protests in Seattle, and that it was 3 Green Party Ministers of the Environment, in addition to 2 non-Green Party Ministers of the Environment that put paid to the EU Agriculture Commissioner's plans to agree to a Canada-proposed (U.S. endorsed) treaty to treat agriculture as a commodity under the WTO, and not as a special category under the U.N. Conventions, thus torpedoing the WTO summit. In other words, had those 3 Green Party Ministers not had the odacity to stand up to the United States, Canada, and their own neo-liberal European Agriculture Commissioner, the fight over agriculture would have been lost to the neoliberals right then and there. As you know, any victory against the forces of globalization is a good thing. This proves that, at least in a PR country, there CAN be a good reason for voting for a progressive party. Unfortunately, in Canada, only the Green Party is sounding the alarm at full volume for the need to change our plutocratic electoral system masquerading as democracy. On the issue of electoral reform, that is one specific reason for voting for the Green Party. No matter what issues you care about, be they social justice, feminism (which is one of the 10 key principles of the Green Party I might add, since it is ignored so consistently, and I am specifically referring to Kimberly Fry who should learn to get her facts straight) issues of public housing, health care, environment, whatever, NOTHING meaningful can be done as long as we have the majoritarian First-Past-The-Post electoral systems and corporate and union donations to political parties. On this point, it also bears mentioning that neither corporations, nor unions are citizens, and as such, should not be able to contribute money to political campaigns and distort the outcome of elections, but I digress.

My point is that there IS a reason to vote for a progressive political party that doesn't promise to string up the owners of production the day after the election, EVEN if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist. The point is that social justice issues can and will be dealt with fairly (by the Greens at least), along with issues of corporate power, without necessarily annexing the plant and equipment. How? For a start, corporations can have their corporate charters removed at the drop of a hat if only we would look back at the laws (of all countries, the United States) from over 100 years ago which compelled corporations to demonstrate that they have done no harm, and indeed have been beneficial to the community in which they operate every 5 years, or their charters were revoked. I believe that at least would be an incredibly good start on the long, 'inevitable' road to the utopia.

[ June 23, 2002: Message edited by: glaxton ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 23 June 2002 10:46 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
For a start, corporations can have their corporate charters removed at the drop of a hat if only we would look back at the laws (of all countries, the United States) from over 100 years ago which compelled corporations to demonstrate that they have done no harm, and indeed have been beneficial to the community in which they operate
every 5 years, or their charters were revoked.

So you want to Americanize the country?
You also didn't mention anything about keeping people working.


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 23 June 2002 01:19 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
When the NDP can't stop them the NDP can atleast slow them down. And when they acheive office, they can start to reverse it.

So are you guys saying that the Green is closer to being Red that the Orange? I think we are better with one party on the left than three, four or five. Personally here I think that the Canadian Green party is slightly more pro environment than the NDP but other than that Capucinno tax cut crowd. Talking about the American side of things, I think RAlph Nader tries to sound a little bit closer to a Lloyd Axworthy than a Bill Blaikie. Here is something that Ralph wrote recently:
http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0614-08.htm

quote:
We are witnessing the corporate destruction of capitalism in favor of a corporate state. The law can't save it because the laws are controlled by politicians many of whom are controlled in turn by these same business interests and campaign cash. For every honest Congressman Henry Waxman and Senator Paul Sarbanes, there are scores of Congressional and White House politicians huddling with business lobbyists to stifle prosecutions, reforms and investigations.

The lead culprit is the retiring and shameless Senator Phil Gramm (Rep. Texas) whose wife just resigned from the Enron Board and its audit committee. On May 16th, he met with 30 corporate lobbyists to plan the surrender of Washington, D.C.'s national government against the crookery of Wall Street.


I get the feeling that he defines capitalism differently on purpose, that for him it means small businesses rather than corporations. We see the corporate state as capitalism, but he makes it sound like communism - as if someone can go so far to the right that they end up left. Is that possible?
http://thomhartmann.com/unequalprotection.shtml Personally I don't see the "contradiction of the intent" since I was taught that this is what the founders wanted in the first place.
quote:
Corporations are now legally considered "persons," equal to humans and entitled to many of the same protections once guaranteed only to humans by the Bill of Rights - a clear contradiction of the intent of the Founders of the United States. The result has been:
Unequal taxes
Unequal privacy
Unequal wealth
Unequal trade
Unequal media
Unequal regulation
Unequal responsibility for crime
Unequal protection from risk
Unequal citizenship and access to the commons
Maybe we should ask, instead of why someone would vote NDP, why some one would vote for Nader for President.

[ June 23, 2002: Message edited by: vaudree ]


From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
J. Hurtado
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posted 24 June 2002 01:41 PM      Profile for J. Hurtado   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chris wrote:

quote:

Which leads nicely into Jorge Hurtado's response


quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Do you think that the self-managed cooperatives that sprung up in Catalonia in the 1930's during the Civil War would still have occurred without the Leftists in the Republican gov't first[?]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In other words, do strong social democratic parties not at least contribute to the conditions for success for non-State-oriented actions? Well, I'm not sufficiently familiar with the Spanish case to really say there, but suffice it to say that I am skeptical. While I wouldn't say that control over/influence on State power necessarily hurts, I'd be more inclined to say that successful non-State actors are a condition for the success of social democratic parties than the reverse. And that such parties have often been used to drain off and water down the militancy of the movements.



I think history has shown that it is true non-state actors are a condition for any successful gain at the ballot box for Left wing platforms. Chris, here we are in agreement.

What must be acknowledged though, is that those ‘successes’ (be it Spanish and Catalan self-managed enterprises in 1933, the ‘cordones industriales’ [workers councils] in Chile 1970, and to a certain extent the PT and the participatory budget in the late 1990's) were significantly furthered by the tactical and coordinated efforts of the mass movements (traditional left parties and non-party organizations such as labour and peasant organizations) in agitating for change at key moments and that included parliamentary elections. The eventual demise of these efforts had, to my mind, more to do with the sheer force of international capitalist reaction than with what you allude to as “watered-down militancy” (though there are a few pockets of lefties still seemingly more concerned with debating the black vs. red split in Spain and whether Allende could have done more to arm the people thereby have maybe, possibly subverting the U.S. backed coup d’etat than extracting the lessons that coordinated agitation on all fronts have taught us).

So, as I see it electoral participation is a tactical question that cannot be uniformly discarded as an awareness-building tactic.

Chris wrote:

quote:

Jorge, how would you suggest that the NDP can best be used by anti-capitalist activists? And do you think that joining it is the most effective way to so use it?



You really wanna know what I think?

This is all hypothetical....


K, so it's a provincial election in Ontario;

1) You could raid a few...small number... of ‘winnable’ riding and stack the executive and field a candidate that represents the activist’s ideas most concretely …that way you get the $$ needed for a campaign…. forget about Don Valley West or Mississauga Centre (sniff!)…go for gold…stack Davenport, Windsor West…heck challenge Rosario or Marylin in their own ridings! The AG-ITATE'S could run on a joint “Statement of Do-able Idea’s” which would be developed out of a large province-wide non-NDP based and Activist-organized Social Forum or People’s Plenary convening as many activists as possible with no one person or clique ‘leading’ the whole thing…. where ideas and concrete plans for things like massive investment in public transit, participatory municipal budgets, limits to how much a credit card company can charge as an interest rate (say down to 10%), a written pledge to, if elected, take a salary equal to that of a minimum-waged worker etc, etc. It should easily keep within the provincial party’s (probably boring) platform…which would be easy to do cuz even the planet Pluto’s been ‘resolved’ to be nationalized at NDP conventions and a joint ‘pledge’ by NDP candidates should not contradict NDP policy.

2) Because the larger extra-parliamentary People's Plenary would not be seeking election, only the candidates who pledged to fight for the Plenary's proposals they could develop a ‘common front’ type action group to rally for demo’s and street resistance around the ideas that the activist candidates would run on…. As well as campaign and support the candidates in their ridings…say in the case of the Cuts to credit card rates…a series of demo’s in front of the local VISA HQ with the candidates there and ACTIVE (not just speaking at a podium) in any form of creative resistance.

Now if they got elected?…….we’ll leave that for another thread.


Jorge Hurtado


[ June 24, 2002: Message edited by: J. Hurtado ]


From: Ottawa | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Simon Shields
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posted 25 June 2002 08:59 PM      Profile for Simon Shields     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I just resigned the ONDP in complete disgust at their unethical and, IMHO, very likely - illegal behaviour. I suspect they will collapse under their own weight in a few years ...

I'M too pissed off at present, but a smart strategy might be to remain in for the time being and snap up the pieces come the time of reckoning ...

We will only grow, you know.


From: Toronto | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
frandroid_atreides
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posted 25 June 2002 09:30 PM      Profile for frandroid_atreides   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
nevermind.

[ June 25, 2002: Message edited by: frandroid_atreides ]


From: Toronto, Arrakis | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Doug
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posted 25 June 2002 10:17 PM      Profile for Doug   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
There's nothing illegal about official slates, annoying as hell though they are. Other than the designation of someone responsible for finances, parties aren't legally required to operate in any particular way.

Anyway, as for the suggestion of running people in nominations to unseat incumbents, assuming they aren't just ignored, you'll likely touch off a counterproductive battle for the riding association that will be to the benefit of nobody except prospective Liberal and PC candidates in those ridings. What makes more sense is to run for the nominations of ridings where the NDP was a close-as-possible second last time. Manage to win those ridings in an election and you'll start to prove that a more progressive and decentralist approach works.


From: Toronto, Canada | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
J. Hurtado
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posted 26 June 2002 10:47 AM      Profile for J. Hurtado   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Doug wrote:

quote:
Anyway, as for the suggestion of running people in nominations to unseat incumbents, assuming they aren't just ignored, you'll likely touch off a counterproductive battle for the riding association that will be to the benefit of nobody except prospective Liberal and PC candidates in those ridings. What makes more sense is to run for the nominations of ridings where the NDP was a close-as-possible second last time. Manage to win those ridings in an election and you'll start to prove that a more progressive and decentralist approach works.



Hmmm...good point Doug.

Jorge Hurtado


From: Ottawa | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged

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