I don't think I am naive. Nor am I ignorant of contemporary or historical political issues; I have made a careful study of political philosophy and tried to stay abreast of global and national socio-economic struggles. And yet, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why people like Jean Chrétien and Warren Kinsella keep talking about a merger of the Liberal Party of Canada and the NDP. I understand that Liberals are frustrated. After all, they were in power for a long time and it seems inexplicable to many of them that they are not only out of power but seem to be continuing to wallow in third place with little sign that they can stage a comeback. However, the Liberal Party of the twenty-first century is a far cry from the one of a generation ago.
Over the past twenty years the LPC gradually adopted the principle philosophy of so-called 'neo-liberalism,' the idea that society de facto exists to enhance corporate prosperity. Essentially building on the 'trickle-down' economics of the early eighties (a philosophy that even George Bush once called 'voodoo economics'), many in the Liberal Party essentially dreamed that if they reorganized government economic policies in ways that encouraged greater corporate freedom, lower corporate taxes, fewer corporate regulations, etc, the result would be more prosperity for everyone.
One of the first significant actions in this regard was NFTA which increased the ability corporations to function and trade but did little or nothing to increase the freedom of average working person to sell their wares (labour-power) or buy and sell across borders. This document is symbolic of the real attitude of the LPC in general, an attitude that increasingly lets multi-national corporations call the real economic shots. Now, I am the first to admit that even those rich and powerful Liberals such as Paul Martin who adopted a neo-liberal economic agenda, are still concerned with the 'human-face' of capitalism. As someone in the far left, I admit that I was impressed by Martin's efforts at universal child-care as well as his efforts to address some of the outstanding issues facing the Indigenous people with the Kelowna Accord. However, after the rise of the Harpercons, it became increasingly evident to many that what separates the LCP from the Conservative party is not the abyss that some would have us believe. Years of seeing the Liberal Party vote time and again with the Harper Government made the Liberal Party look increasingly irrelevant. Talk by Dion and Ignatieff to support certain policies such as child-care, pharmacare, and some level of control on carbon usage, did little to sway voters because, I think, the harm was already done; few left-leaning Liberals (or swing-voters) were buying anything that the Liberal Party was selling, and blue Liberals began to abandon the LPC for the Conservative Party (many in fear of an NDP government).
I also admit that, despite the Vitriol of men like Kinsella (who schizophrenically denigrates all things NDP while at the same time telling them they should merge with the Liberals), I still believe that overall the LPC believes in democracy and, unlike the Harper government, they have some respect for the traditions of Parliament. However, despite these principles, I think that a significant number of people have permanently left the Liberal party for the NDP simply because they are becoming more and more aware of the huge inequalities of wealth that have been created under the guidance of the Liberal Party. A fact that no reasonable person can deny is that over the past forty years real wages of the majority have stagnated, and while corporate taxes have gone down. all they have done is line their own pockets. No matter what your political stripes are, we need to face up to these deep economic challenges, but while the COnservative Party ignores (or even denies) these issues, the Liberals show no inclination that they want to deal with them. Now, while the NDP is, arguably, continuing to fail to come up with creative solutions to social and economic inequalities, at least it acknowledges the issues and is talking about the importance of facing up to them.
Though some form of cooperation is possible, a merger between the LPC and the NDP is a non-starter simply because, at a philosophical level, the LPC has more in common with the Conservative Party than it does with the NDP. We can't talk of merging the 'left' because there are not two "leftwing' parties to merge in the first place. The NDP has indeed moved toward the centre over the past generation, but the other parties have moved as well. For the LPC and the NDP to merge would mean either that the LPC would have to abandon their neo-liberal agenda or that the NDP would have to significantly adopt such an agenda. It was easy for the Progressive Conservative Party and the so-called Canadian Alliance Party to merge because they were essentially the same party. The Alliance Party had already abandoned the populist principles that had inspired the creation of the Reform Party and there was then almost nothing separating the two parties anyway. However, the Liberal Party consists of many who are fairly close to the NDP and many who are Conservatives in all but name so merging the Liberal Party with any other party is an absurd notion. It is, as they like to say, a large tent. The problem is that in an era in which the top few percent of the nation's wealthy control the vast majority of the country's property and money. our society is become one of greater and greater extremes. While the Conservative Party wants to increase society's disparities, and increase the power of corporations, and the NDP hopes to do something to increase social and economic equality, it is not at all clear what the MO of the Liberal Party really is. They can continue to attempt to label the Conservatives as radically rightwing but it is a hard sell when most of the general policies being pursued by the present Conservative Party were de facto began by the Liberals. They can continue to attempt to portray the NDP as radically leftist but that is becoming an increasingly hard sell too. Since when is it radically leftist to want to follow generations of law and precedent in recognizing the right to free collective bargaining? The fact is that in a world of extremes there is nothing particularly radical about the NDP and years of NDP governments in Saskatchewan and Manitoba have demonstrated this.
No, I see little to convince me that the NDP should merge with the LPC. And the fact that abusive partisans like Warren Kinsella use vitriolic language to abuse the NDP and its members does little to help the situation.
This is not to say that the LPC is inevitably going to fall into the dustbin of history. We presently have a terribly incompetent, financially irresponsible, extremely corrupt government. And many people may come to their senses and realize that voting for this government again is like signing the death warrant of their nation. Many of these people might look to the Liberal Party because they still believe in the neo-liberal agenda but will look for a party other than the Conservative party to support it. But for those who want to continue to see a publicly funded health-care system, properly funded education, some more serious environmental policies, the NDP is their only real option.
(PS. I believe that the past decade or so of the Provincial Liberal Party in BC is substantial evidence of the real ideology of contemporary Liberals. I had largely taken it as read that the BC Liberals was just a party of convenience but have been surprised again and again when people outside of BC are quick to defend the BC Liberals and its policies which are the epitome of neo-liberal corporatism. )
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