Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The sad state of the NDP. . . .

Today on the CBC Morning radio program in Ottawa Robin Bresnahan interviewed Robin Maclachlan, former NDP staffer and spin doctor, about the coming NDP convention, the confidence vote that will take place there, and the general question of 'renewal' in the Party. This interview was a classic example of political double-speak and gobbledygook, a typical meaningless conversation that, ironically, verified the very irrelevancy of the NDP that Mr. Maclachlan claims that he fears. First of all, let's make something clear - Robin Maclachlan is, to begin with, the very personification of what is wrong with the NDP; he is a typical politico, a talking head, a middle-aged (if youngish) white man in a suit who has raised to the level of an art form the practice of saying absolutely nothing. Like most of the upper echelon of the NDP policy wonks and strategists, Mr. Maclachlan wouldn't know innovation or renewal if it dropped on him from the sky; which, incidentally, is exactly what it would take for any positive change in the tired, calcified party that has become the NDP.  Anyone who has seen an NDP convention in action understands that this party is like the other major parties in Canada (and much of the Western world): a top down organization in which nothing even hits the convention floor unless the leaders so decree it. In my mind it is a tragic irony for this Party to retain the word "democratic" in its name because that is simply not how it operates. And this problem was demonstrated not only by Robin Maclachlan's double-speak but by the fact that he carefully crafted his discourse to largely disregard the need for new leadership in what he says is an important 'need' for renewal.

What is clear, or should be clear, is that the NDP does, indeed, need renewal if it is to remain relevant. But what is also clear is that renewal means not only getting rid of the present leadership of the NDP, it means wiping the slate clean of people like Maclachlan, Anne Mcgrath, Brad Laviegn and their ilk. The failure of the NDP is both rooted in the top-down party structure and the hopelessness of its leaders and spokespeople, but it is also rooted in the fact that the NDP is saying almost nothing about the real crises facing our country and the world. People like Robin Maclachlan sound just like the spokespeople of the Liberals and the Conservatives because he is just another comfortable, mainstream, middle-class, largely braindead wonk who is either too afraid to face the truth or too thick. From an economic point of view, Canada (as well as global capitalism) is in a crisis of distribution. The total failure of our governments to ensure that wealth is properly distributed through the socioeconomic system means not only massive inequality (political, social, and economic) in society, but it actually means a breakdown in the system itself. But the NDP, the party that one would expect to be the very voice of this crisis, said nothing during the last election, and continues to say nothing of this issue. Ironically, Bernie Sanders is saying considerably more about these issues than any mainstream Canadian politician. If the NDP really wants to renew itself and become relevant once again, it needs to face up to the real issues in our country, not the meaningless garbage that the corporate establishment hegemony 'allows' us to talk about such as vague issues of "middle-class" pain and the tinkering with established socioeconomic status quo. The last election demonstrated that the NDP, though slightly more progressive than the other parties, is not interested in talking about real solutions to the inequalities in our system because that means a real and radical change in discourse; it means saying point-blank that there is a growing crisis in capitalism itself. But the NDP doesn't seem to want to talk about these issues any more than any other party.

Robin Maclachlan and other NDPers will go to Edmonton in a few weeks talking about renewal and change, and they will change nothing, the will renew nothing. It will emerge still a top-down party with a terrible (Harper-like) leader, where nothing of the grassroots issues make headway and no one talks about the underlying issues that are creating the crises we face. It is fine to say we are in favour of a national pharma-care program or a national child-care program, but those things won't mean anything until we face up to the distribution crisis that was created by the Liberals and the Conservatives over the past forty years.


Anonymous said...

" … the NDP, though slightly more progressive than the other parties … "
There was little, if any, evidence to support this assertion in the last election or two or three or …

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Kirby. Today's NDP proves how thoroughly neoliberalism has embedded itself in our political apparatus. It is brutally sad irony that the NDP veered Right just when Canadians most needed it to defend and champion the Left.

Every nation is now entering what promises to be an era of great challenges and tribulations. It's going to be enormously difficult to weather the combined onslaught of climate change, over-consumption and overpopulation that is already beginning to rock our global civilization.

Our nation is one of just six that, by virtue of latitude, is best positioned to absorb these blows (and, as Syria demonstrates, what happens in a distant corner of the world impacts everywhere.) Yet our advantages cannot be exploited without a cohesive Canadian society that currently stands rent by those who have manipulated us with anger, fear and appeals to base instincts wrapped up in powerful wedge politics.

For all his supposed progressivism, Mulcair is no true believer. When he does take what appears to be a principled stand it's usually after testing the waters for a few days. Even on C-51 he hesitated a couple of days whereas Elizabeth May denounced it from the outset. Likewise he's banned candidates who have spoken critically of Israel. One of those ostracized found a welcome home in the Greens. Same on TPP where Mulcair vacillated while May stood against it.

The Layton/Mulcair duo castrated the NDP, abandoning the Left to seek power at the Centre. Harper's overarching goal was always to shift Canada's political keel well to the Right and the NDP did its best to help him achieve his quest.

Lorne said...

Well-said, Kirby. It seems the fate of all organizations and institutions to become calcified over time, and this has certainly happened both federally and provincially with the NDP.

I wonder if you have had a chance to read Thomas Walkom today; he touches upon a theme very similar to yours:

Owen Gray said...

J.S. Woodsworth and Tommy Douglas would not be happy.

doconnor said...

"Like most of the upper echelon of the NDP policy wonks and strategists"

It's the strategists who are problem, not the policy wonks. Strategists make winning the priority while policy wonks come up with the best policy the can and stick to it.

If there is a leadership race, there is a someone like Sanders will win, like Jeremy Corbyn did when he won the UK Labour Party leadership.