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Author Topic: Jack Layton, proud socialist
rasmus
malcontent
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posted 11 December 2003 12:01 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
There's actually a good interview with Jack by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin in this month's Canadian Dimension. The copy-editing job is HORRIBLE but the interview itself is good.

quote:
Socialist? I¹m proud to call myself a socialist. I prefer it by far to democratic socialist. But I don¹t go around shouting it out.

One of my favourite social change books, The Resource Manual for a Living Revolution, sagely says of the importance of theory to political action:

quote:
A thoughtfully developed theory for change is of key importance for effective action. When the going gets rough, it is those with a theory and vision who tend to stay with the struggle and keep their actions consistent with their original intentions. This is especially true of those struggling for change through non-violent action.

Aspects of a Theory of Change

When examining a theory of change, the following aspects should be considered:

*the nature of human beings;
*the nature and sources of power;
*the nature and sources of truth and authority;
*the analysis of the causes of social problems;
*the role of individuals and institutions in social change;
*the vision of the way it can or should be;
*the mechanism of change, existing or potential.


I don't really think there's much theory at this depth in the NDP ranks. That's a point Sam Gindin gets at in this interview:

quote:
Sam: We can appreciate what you¹re saying about how to reach people. But one of the things socialism tried to do is to create worker intellectuals who didn¹t just say I like the NDP because of its housing polIcy or some other policy, but because they actually understood the world. It was about democratizing knowledge and creating a cadre of leaders from below. They weren¹t just participating. They were participating in a very different way. In a way that would really sustain them. So that when you lost a battle, you could put it in context. So the question is where does that kind of socialist get created in the NDP now.

Jack: That¹s a good question. I don¹t truthfully know. We¹re doing some things that might be part of the answer. First, we want to have our own publication of information. What we have now is the newsletter.

Sam: Is that information or discussion and debates?

Jack: Good point. Right now it¹s information. How do we take it to the point of discussion and debate? I don¹t know. Second, we¹re looking into youth activist camps where they can debate and discuss issues like the ones in Saskatchewan. Third, we¹ve hired our first ever youth organizer. Fourth, I¹ve said let¹s get our NDP clubs, riding assOciations and members that they should be helping the social movements do what they¹re doing. Instead of wagging fingers complaining that they¹re not supporting us, I say let¹s go to the movements and find out what they¹re working on and how we can help. We have 90,000 members and we¹ve got members in the House of Commons that can raise their issues. The six advocacy teams we¹ve set up are made up of MPs but they also have a designated advisor from the Canadian Labour Congress and a partner consisting of a national organization from the movements working in these areas.



From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
West Coast Lefty
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posted 11 December 2003 02:57 AM      Profile for West Coast Lefty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Thanks Rasmus, for this interesting post. That formatting really is awful, but the content of the interview is exciting and inspiring. Even as we have to gear up for our traditional election/organizational work within the NDP over the comig months, it's really great that Jack is looking at the long-term transformation of politics that needs to occur if we are going to truly democratize this country.

His confidence in answering truthfully that he doesn't know how some of the changes will come about is refreshing. For all the talk of "slick, know-it-all" Jack, this interview reflects the Layton that I first saw speak when he was FCM president. I don't think he'll be able to make that much progress before the election on these broader changes, but hopefully the campaign will inspire more participation and involvement and that will carry on throughout the next few years leading up to the 2008 election.


From: Victoria, B.C. | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Willowdale Wizard
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posted 11 December 2003 04:47 AM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Third, we¹ve hired our first ever youth organizer

and who might this be?


From: england (hometown of toronto) | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
kingblake
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posted 11 December 2003 04:55 AM      Profile for kingblake     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
and who might this be?
Trevor Mckenzie-Smith

From: In Regina, the land of Exotica | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
LukeVanc
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posted 11 December 2003 06:43 AM      Profile for LukeVanc     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
What's the scoop?
From: Vancouver | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Willowdale Wizard
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posted 11 December 2003 06:48 AM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
all that google has to say on him ...
From: england (hometown of toronto) | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
terra1st
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posted 11 December 2003 08:34 AM      Profile for terra1st     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
He's a good guy....

Does anyone know Nettie Weibe's kids? He's dating Martha (i think)...

I'm organizing some events with Trevor around immigration and refugee issues, and he is going out of his way to work with me (an anarchist) on terms that make me comfortable.

the way I look at it is that if I can organize events that make me happy, and I can help nettie beat the hated Jim Pankiw and take his seat, why not work together? nettie's the best, and I put her about as left as Svend.... It would be nice to elect some people who can help keep the NDP from going to the centre - as our provincial NDP has in the past.


From: saskatoon | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 11 December 2003 12:01 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
One of the things socialism tried to do is to create worker intellectuals who didn¹t just say I like the NDP because of its housing polIcy or some other policy, but because they actually understood the world. It was about democratizing knowledge and creating a cadre of leaders from below.
Maybe I missed something but when did Sam and Leo cultivate a thriving cadre of young leaders? I don't recall either of them wandering out of the cush offices at their sinecures (at CAW and York respectively) to cultivate leadership amongst the disposessed masses.

I agree that the NDP has largely failed to use their struggles for change in a systematic way to create and foster new activism. It's a problem. When you see what's happening in say, Venezuela, where once apolitical people have developed a serious and durable analysis that informs their productive and practical work (and vice versa) you realize that the NDP is blowing it.

But, sorry, Sam and Leo are full of hot air. Left to their guidance the NDP would become a pseudo-intellectual wankfest consisting of undergrads in cafes spouting bullshit and hoping to get laid.

[ 11 December 2003: Message edited by: Holy Holy Holy ]


From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
pink
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posted 11 December 2003 01:02 PM      Profile for pink     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post

[ 08 June 2007: Message edited by: pink ]


From: Edmonton | Registered: Jul 2003  |  IP: Logged
paxamillion
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posted 11 December 2003 01:13 PM      Profile for paxamillion   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Holy Holy Holy:
Left to their guidance the NDP would become a pseudo-intellectual wankfest consisting of undergrads in cafes spouting bullshit and hoping to get laid.

Sounds like the Libertarian Club when I went to school.


From: the process of recovery | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 11 December 2003 02:40 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
To be entirely fair to Sam and Leo -- Sam Gindin is one of the major reasons the CAW became such a political union in the 1980's and 1990's. One of the major reasons why they revamped their internal education campaign, and so on. He's had a major impact on the political culture of one of the largest and most powerful unions in the country.

Judy Rebick described to me how in the low period of the movement, after the collapse of the new left and its sequelae during the 1970's and 1980's, almost all the radicals you met in Toronto had been students of Leo's, and how today, among a whole generation of people in their 40s around here, if they're very political (and I don't mean NDP/electoral activists, but rather radicals), odds are good that they studied with Leo. Obviously anecdotal evidence, but I presume it's rooted in some truth.

Whatever you may think of Sam and Leo's politics, these are real achievements.


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Kloch
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posted 11 December 2003 02:46 PM      Profile for Kloch   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Holy Holy Holy:
Left to their guidance the NDP would become a pseudo-intellectual wankfest consisting of undergrads in cafes spouting bullshit and hoping to get laid.

[ 11 December 2003: Message edited by: Holy Holy Holy ]


Do yourself a favour. Don't hang out in Trinity-Spadina.


From: Toronto | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 11 December 2003 04:31 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It's quite possible I'm being too hard on both Sam and Leo but they so rarely subject their own actvism to the rigorous analysis they apply to everyone else. I get a little knee-jerk.

Some elaboration:

I think CAW members do lots of good political work (that said, I think a lot of other unions do as well and collect a fraction of the credit) but I think that Hargrove's growing drfit towards straight-up Gomperism is a (perhaps inadvertant) by-product of Gindin's more-radical-than-thou philosophy. Ironically, by declaring the NDP to be inadequately "Left" Gindin pushed Hargrove into an ever closer relationship with ruling parties. After all, if the NDP was no better than any other party then why not just deal with the other parties? Buzz certainly had reasons to be mad at the NDP but it was a little nauseating to hear he was at Paul Martin's head table at a recent fundraiser.

And as for the important developments in Canadian Labour in the 1980s I'd give credit to a large number of activists (not just Gindin) who backed the CAW's split from the UAW. And the Steelworkers who bucked the Piitsburgh slate and got Patterson elected in the early 80s. The latter split, in particular, took a lot of organizing and a lot of theory, building a generation of leaders that are still having an impact.

Finally, and this will sound more dismissive than I want it to (but whatever), I'm very rarely impressed by the actvisim of downtown Toronto "radicals" in their 40s who shun the NDP.

[ 11 December 2003: Message edited by: Holy Holy Holy ]


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rasmus
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posted 11 December 2003 07:42 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Ironically, by declaring the NDP to be inadequately "Left" Gindin pushed Hargrove into an ever closer relationship with ruling parties. After all, if the NDP was no better than any other party then why not just deal with the other parties? Buzz certainly had reasons to be mad at the NDP but it was a little nauseating to hear he was at Paul Martin's head table at a recent fundraiser.

I think there is some validity to this critique in general. However, Gindin's influence was most pronounced, and the shift the most dramatic, under Bob White. Recent developments have more complex causes, including the exceptional weakness of the NDP and the personal animosity between Buzz and Alexa.

As to the fundraiser -- to be clear, it wasn't a Paul Martin fundraiser, it was a fundraiser Paul Martin was emcee at (for the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education).

The whole "downtown Toronto" thing gets a bit tired as a rhetorical ploy, don't you think? It's not usually rooted in any sort of evidence, just a prejudice. Even social democrats should realize that radicals have an irreplaceable role in making change possible by expanding the terrain of conflict so that what is "reasonable" is redefined. The alternative is a political discourse like the American one, where people can call Howard Dean an extremist and mean it.


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rasmus
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posted 11 December 2003 07:44 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I will say I found Leo and Sam's omnisicent posture to be a bit smug.
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Performance Anxiety
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posted 11 December 2003 08:45 PM      Profile for Performance Anxiety        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
One of my favourite social change books, The Resource Manual for a Living Revolution,

Looks great Rsmus! Any idea where I can buy a copy of this online? Cheers!


From: Outside of the box | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 11 December 2003 09:15 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It's from the 1970's and 1980's and long since out of print -- NSP occasionally makes noises about reprinting it, but in truth it needs revision and updating and the original authors haven't taken this on.

Check www.bookfinder.com


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Whazzup?
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posted 12 December 2003 10:53 AM      Profile for Whazzup?     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I've said this before, but I've always had great luck with Chapters-Indigo's used book section.. I see they have a copy of the book for $16.86.
From: Under the Rubble | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 12 December 2003 12:36 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by rasmus raven:
The whole "downtown Toronto" thing gets a bit tired as a rhetorical ploy, don't you think? It's not usually rooted in any sort of evidence, just a prejudice. Even social democrats should realize that radicals have an irreplaceable role in making change possible by expanding the terrain of conflict so that what is "reasonable" is redefined.
The "downtown" Toronto slur is lazy on my part - but I've worked on projects with the "radicals" I believe you're describing and I think the stereotype too often applies. Ward Churchill's analysis of "actvist" culture in his "Pacifism and Pathology" essay is pretty spot-on though I disagree with a lot of his conclusions (and find his fetishization by purveyors of alternative culture a little too cute by half). Basically, it's easier to call yourself a radical then it is to be a radical. What pushed me into the NDP - despite its clear flaws - was that they were the only political movement that was actually attempting to engage the trailer park residents of Ignace, the immigrant residents crammed into the skyscrapers at Jane and Finch, the laid-off steelworkers in Hamilton, instead of just TALKING about the "revolutionary potential" of these people from a safe distance.

I think intellectuals have a role to play in any movement for change but I get weary of hearing self-professed radicals lecture on how to motivate masses that they observe from a safe distance if at all. And, I'm sorry, but organizing the same twenty people (or the same two hundred people) to wave placards at yet another demo is not organizing and if you're not organizing effectively you don't meet my definition of radical. I don't think someone like Leo - for example - has had much luck expanding the field of permissible debate or re-defining the possible. Just because he writes books about social ownership hasn't made social ownership seem any less extreme to a working class Canadian.

The NDP's challenge is to get beyond simply hustling for votes from people at election time. There are models for creating a new organizing culture at work in Venezuela, in Brazil, even in the States, but there's nothing happening in "radical" culture here that strikes me as a productive way to move forward.


From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 12 December 2003 01:02 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, I can roughly agree with that latter point, in that other countries have genuine experience of new models of organizing, however much these may not be replicable here. I still think people like Sam and Leo have something to offer. Part of why they don't seem practical here is that the political culture is so underdeveloped to begin with. What's needed first is very basic organizing and educating work. More ambitious/creative projects depend on this basis.

As an aside, relating to an earlier point -- the problem of self-critique among Marxists is also vexing. There's a metaphysical core to their beliefs that most Marxists cling to with religious tenacity. The language of socialism has a theological value for them, and contrary to any deeply historicist principles, the categories established by Marx are, more or less, true for all times and places, with the odd auxiliary hypothesis tacked on here and there. It's one of the more repellent and self-contradictory features of organized Marxist culture.


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 12 December 2003 01:55 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I think we've got a substantial organizing culture in some parts of the province. Talk to Elie Martel if you're ever at an NDP convention.
From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
weakling willy
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posted 12 December 2003 02:39 PM      Profile for weakling willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I don't think someone like Leo - for example - has had much luck expanding the field of permissible debate or re-defining the possible.

I'm not Leo Panitch's biggest fan, and can understand how his critique of social democracy can be offensive to social democratic activists, because what's the alternative. On the other hand, without a vital socialist critique (not to mention feminist, antiracist, greeen), what's to keep social democrats honest?
Plus, how much can we ask of one individual in terms of shifting debate, beyond quite substantial contributions as a critical intellectual, making himself far more available to the activist community than the average university professor.
Let us remember the acknowledgements in the book No Logo before we write off how Panitch's work have fed into a widening of critique and possibility.
There's much to criticize in Panitch's ideas and practice, but let's do so without the easy put downs that close our appreciations.

I think the real interest in this interview lies in Layton's ability to talk to independent socialist community in an intelligent manner without empty bromides and without getting his back up. It is clear that Layton has little interest to change the NDP to be the champion of their project, but in clarifying the points of divergence, a broader activist left can decide how (or how not) to engage the NDP. Less charitably, Jack may be attempting to strengthen his base on the party's left in order to mollify it before running strongly to the centre in the coming election.


From: Home of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
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posted 12 December 2003 03:27 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I have to say Layton continues to impress me. He's capable of looking moderate to the media even while he makes not-that-moderate points, strong but practical to the medium-NDP-and-labour types, and at the same time reach out to the socialists and activist groups. And he doesn't seem to have pissed any of the sides off in the broad left, an impressive feat. Which strikes me as the NDP version of a big tent.
Serious electoral gains are possible.

From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 12 December 2003 03:47 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
From a completely crass tactical point of view Jack's ability to impress the Gindins and Panitches means the federal NDP may avoid that embarassing mid-campaign news story about how labour doesn't support the NDP after Buzz shoots his mouth off.

Then again, never count out Buzz's ability to do what he has to do to capture the spotlight.


From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 12 December 2003 10:00 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by weakling willy:

I'm not Leo Panitch's biggest fan... without a vital socialist critique (not to mention feminist, antiracist, greeen), what's to keep social democrats honest? Plus, how much can we ask of one individual in terms of shifting debate... Let us remember the acknowledgements in the book No Logo before we write off how Panitch's work have fed into a widening of critique and possibility.

If and when the NDP does the sort of real organizing that it can and should do then it will and does have a base of popular support to keep it honest. I gotta say Leo and the university academics aren't keeping NDP governments very "honest" right now. I hardly get the sense that Gary Doer is tossing and turning at night, losing sleep over the latest withering critique in Canadian Dimension.

And, since RR mentioned rigid marxist dogmas, we should all do ourselves a favor and drop this purely rhetorical definition of the NDP as "social democrats". First off, every NDP candidate in the federal leadership race bent over backwards to distance themselves from the SD label, but more importantly, in a post-USSR world what meaning do these labels have anyway? The South African Communist Party backed every one of the neo-liberal post-apartheid reforms. New Labour claims affinity with Bush - not the NDP. The Worker's Party in Brazil is proposing more moderate reforms than the Bolivarian Movement in Venezuela. The 2nd International is a hodge podge of parties representing who knows what. Do these labels mean anything useful anymore? Besides re-enforcing some already tired assumptions and theories?

And, again, one of the most insidious of these assumptions is that the Canadian Left has a shortage of proper intellectual critique. In my opinion, we have an abundance. We have, in fact, an excess - so much so that we actually believe that the publishing of No Logo somehow constitutes a tangible political accomplishment.

Marx - if he carries any weight with anyone - claimed that the goal of the intellectual shouldn't be to critique the world but to change it (or something like that). And most of our great political accomplishments have come when committed individuals set out to stop talking about change but to actually get out amongst people and make it happen. I don't see anyone on the Left - outside of the NDP - going into communities and weaving their politics in at a fundamental level. I think the NDP's problem is that they're not doing this well enough or often enough and have grown too reliant on a party bureaucracy that is supposed to provide "services" to members.


From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 13 December 2003 01:12 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I think we've got a substantial organizing culture in some parts of the province. Talk to Elie Martel if you're ever at an NDP convention.

I'm sceptical. Perhaps we have different ideas of an organizing culture. I'm thinking of movement building, as we see in the examples you cite -- Venezuela and Brazil. To me, political organizing, political education, and capacity-building are inseparable. I haven't seen a jot of a whiff of a notion that the NDP is doing political education work (as opposed to the occasional issue education, which is different). The party is not building the capacity to form and understand longer-term strategy among its members.

There are reasons for this. One is that the party's organizing culture was effectively cut short when activist-organizers were largely replaced by a semi-professionalized electoral organizing cadre borrowed from the unions at election time, that is, when the CCF became the NDP. And the second, to return to the first post of this thread, that the party doesn't have a political theory, and that matters. What it has is a bunch of positions. But these don't hang together in a rational way, nor do they point to a future vision, nor are they informed by a deeper political analysis that would guide strategic decisions (we can make gains here, on this issue, now, that will help us make gains there later, and move us to our goal of ....). It's even a problem at the electoral level. The NDP needs a vision to inspire people. When there's no there there, it limits your appeal to die-hards.

quote:
If and when the NDP does the sort of real organizing that it can and should do then it will and does have a base of popular support to keep it honest.

Doubtful. Experience suggests otherwise. That's why, long before Lula's victory, PT activists I met recognized and said, how Lula does in government, whether he will advance our long term goals, depends much less on what he does, less on what the PT does, than on what the social movements do. Parties habitually form elites that alienate their base, habitually substitute themselves, at least notionally, for the state, and are habitually co-opted by the state. All experiments at ensuring this doesn't happen through party democracy have so far proved unsusccessful. Without large, organized, articulate, and autonomous movements outside the party, there is no power centre to offset the other pressures on the state (capital, media, bureaucracy, dominant ideology, etc.)

As to social democracy. Most NDPers do identify themselves as social democrats. This is partly accurate, partly inaccurate. The NDP is not a social democratic party in the historic sense; it doesn't have a social democratic ideology. Its tacit ideology is a form of welfare liberalism. Not an explicit endorsement of such as the best possible dispensation (such as we find in Rawls), but rather a tacit admission of lack of imagination and a recognition of the party's impotence to do anything but work within the narrow margin of manoeuvre that existing power relations allow. In that sense, the party is, from a radical's point of view, still culturally social democratic. It fails to understand the difference between being in office and being in power, and so does not build the outside sources of power that being in office requires, if the party is to deliver on anything.(One way of creating a space for these alternative power centres, and of building citizens' capacity for political engagement, is democratization of the state. This provides the partisan political argument for participatory democracy.)

What is true, and rather interesting about the NDP, is that it is the only social democratic party I know of that did not capitulate and become a neoliberal party. It couldn't preserve social democratic ideology, because history has discredited it. But it didn't choose to throw in the towel. It's been left in a kind of ideological limbo. But it is an anomaly. I have a fairly simplistic theory as to the causes, but that's for later.

The ANC and COSATU did basically have a social democratic understanding of power and governmnet. Mobilize in communities when this is your only choice, but once you gain the government, move your cadre into office. A VP of COSATU said this was their biggest mistake when the ANC came to power -- all their key people went to work for the government. There was no centre of resistance outside the government to the pressures of neoliberalism.

BTW, I think the case of the Worker's Party is still unresolved. They have always said they don't yet have the power to challenge capital, but that they had a strategy to build the power to challenge capital. Right now, it's hard to tell the difference between cooptation, and strategic compromise. Lula's alliance building on the FTAA and the WTO, which worked extremely well, is one positive sign that where they do have the power, they will act. Certainly, how events unfold in Brazil over the next few years is going to be fascinating to watch.

Building an intellectual culture is a part of organizing. An anti-intellectual movement is one that can't go anywhere. (You can have an anti-intellectual movement or party of the right, but not of the left.)

As to the federal party -- external circumstances will force changes. The semi-professional organizing cadre will no longer be at the NDP's disposal. The party will have to return to organizer-activists. I've heard that there may be a permanent organizing office in Ottawa after this election. And we have a leader who seems to get a lot of what needs to be done. So I'm somewhat optimistic.

As an aside, I found Leo Panitch's book, The End of Parliamentary Socialism, to be quite a riveting and educational account of the career of the Labour New Left, and the rise of Blairism and New Labour. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in progressive electoral politics.

[ 13 December 2003: Message edited by: rasmus raven ]


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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Babbler # 621

posted 13 December 2003 03:07 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Further to my post. I'm not opposed to democratizing parties, far from it, I am greatly in favour of it, for any number of complementary reasons, most of which I won't name now. The Labour New Left's party democracy campaign actually created a politically engaged party with a strong internal political culture. Contrary to the prejudices of right-wing social democrats, while the New Left was dominant in Thatcher's first term, Labour was doing well in the polls, even though right-wing social democrats waged a constant media campaign to undermine the left of the party (by contrast, when authoritarian, right-wing social democrats were in control, they'd always plead party unity for the greater good -- words they didn't live by). By the time election came round, the "looney left" had been quelled and the party bombed out. (While right-wing social democrats' opinions of the looney left may sometimes correspond to reality, they are not motivated by realism; rather, they are rooted in an irrational, virulent, and often absolutist hatred for the culture of militant politics, especially as represented by Marxist tendencies.) Eventually, the Labour New Left's experiments in party democracy were rolled back, but to the extent that it was tried, it seems to have been a success.


Likewise, in the early days of the German Greens, the party's culture of democracy was quite healthy. It's because of the grassroots nature of the party that it was able to put forth platforms that were both radical (on the scale of electoral politics) and successful. But neither party democracy, nor semi-articulate links to social movements, could prevent the formation of indispensable informal elites who were later coopted and neoliberalized. The social movements simply did not have the autonomy and strength to challenge that they do in a place like Brazil -- and it is a possibility we should reckon with, whether social movements may never be so strong in a relatively affluent liberal democracy.

The Worker's Party provides another example of a kind of internal party democracy. There is proportional representation within the party, and a tolerance for organized tendencies in the party, ranging from the social democrats to liberation theologists to Trotskyists. I think there are a dozen or so tendencies in the PT, someone correct me if I'm wrong. Thus, there is no one party ideology, but there are many political theories, and a healthy culture of debate within the party.

Which brings me to another point. Holy, you mentioned Venezuela and Brazil. One fact about these countries that can't be ignored is that they have a more vibrant leftist political culture to begin with. Why? Because they are full of Marxists. Chavez is not a Marxist, but that political and intellectual milieu exists, and helps inform many of his people -- you can't help but notice it in "The Revolution Will Not be Televised", when you see his cabinet staff talking. In Brazil, it's more obvious. There are Marxists everywhere. The PT is full of them. Marxists who are actually capable of learning lessons and changing their minds! But Marxists nonetheless. In Argentina and Chile, by contrast, the Marxists were all either killed, or fled to safety elsewhere. As a result, despite the collapse of the Argentinian economy and the complete discrediting of the bourgeois parties and their "democracy", despite the worker-takeovers, despite the asembleas, nothing much has happened that will last. Argentina needs an organized, modern, intelligent leftist political force, and it doesn't have one, though the CTA is in process of forming one.

[ 13 December 2003: Message edited by: rasmus raven ]


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 518

posted 13 December 2003 01:32 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
In Argentina and Chile, by contrast, the Marxists were all either killed, or fled to safety elsewhere. As a result, despite the collapse of the Argentinian economy and the complete discrediting of the bourgeois parties and their "democracy", despite the worker-takeovers, despite the asembleas, nothing much has happened that will last. Argentina needs an organized, modern, intelligent leftist political force, and it doesn't have one,

This is true of Argentina, as far as it goes. It is quite true that lots of Marxists left, or were killed off. (One weakness of the recurring "democratic" decades in Latin
America is that they tend to occur after a mass murder of radicals.)

I would only add that in Argentina, the political culture was fatally poisoned by Peron's quasi fascist regime. Democratic values were replaced by leader-worship, and, though lots of progressive things did occur, the tendency to exalt the "shirtless" people of Argentina as "expressed" by Peron made the whole enterprise a dead end.

This danger exists in Venezuela. The Marxist conceptions of those around Chavez may not soak down to the local level, where older ideas of leadership and saviours persist.


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Performance Anxiety
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3474

posted 14 December 2003 06:41 PM      Profile for Performance Anxiety        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I've said this before, but I've always had great luck with Chapters-Indigo's used book section.. I see they have a copy of the book for $16.86.

Waazz - you just made my day. Cheers! I'm looking FWD to reading it. Rasmus, thanks too! I will be wondering, as I read it, what parts you feel need updating. Cheers again!


From: Outside of the box | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3711

posted 15 December 2003 09:43 AM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
RR - lots of good points lots to chew on and I may pontificate later.

Just one quick point: the NDP is filled with Marxists too. They're everywhere. Much like the Bolivarians in Venezueal they don't always trumpet their ideology - but they're everywhere.


From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3711

posted 15 December 2003 11:19 AM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Also, Venezuela hardly has a radical Marxist tradition. There were a few Marxist parties around but it's kind of a testament to their weakness that they all jumped ship to become Chavistas. Same reason so many CPers and Maoists end up at NDP conventions.

The grass isn't THAT much greener.

[ 15 December 2003: Message edited by: Holy Holy Holy ]


From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged

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