Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another Take On the Do-Nothing (English-Canadian) Left

A somewhat different take on the pathetic lack of ability of progressive Canadians by's Mike Laxer:

"Limiting the Possible: English Canada's invisible left"

Laxer starts off by telling us that good things are happening elsewhere:
In virtually every single developed, nominally democratic capitalist country in the world, interesting anti-capitalist or left social democratic movements are being formed, winning seats and threatening the established do-nothing centrist "left" that has become a collaborator with the austerity agenda.
In Quebec, Quebec Solidaire, which is the victim of an almost complete media blackout in English Canada, has shown that a real left party is, indeed, possible in Canada even without proportional representation (the lack of which so many fall back upon as an excuse for doing nothing) and that it can elect people.
But that all English Canada's left can offer are excuses:
Typically and predictably leftists in English Canada, when seeking to explain their total unwillingness and inability to build movements like QS, try to claim that Quebec has such a fundamentally different political culture that what is possible there is not possible "here."

The line is that "realism" dictates that we have to tack to a very narrow set of ideas, all of which accept, in every way, that capitalism is an absolute fact and that neoliberalism is an inescapable framework that requires us to truncate our aspirations so as to leave out anything that might actually help workers or those living in poverty.
Is it just an excuse about the difference between, say, Ontario and Quebec? Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure is the case that we have to press for more. I myself push for "Workers as Citizens." (Well, I used to, before I'd either get a room full of silence or some bullshit about how groovy co-ops were and the subject is changed and co-ops haven't spread like dandelions in the almost twenty years since I used to bother.) 
But, if this is true, English Canada has one of the truly great reactionary, empty-headed and seemingly unalterable political cultures in the world. This is convenient as a narrative for those who wish to do nothing!

It is as if the near universal defeatism within what passes for an English Canadian left feels that there is an English Canadian exceptionalism of some kind and that English Canada is simply incapable of what every other part of the advanced capitalist world is capable of... a political alternative to capitalism.

Much of the labour movement and many social activists aid and abet this by advocating for ideas "in theory" that they do little to achieve in practice.

In theory the left and labour movement in Ontario, for example, is in favour of living wages and a $14-an-hour minimum wage now. They share memes online about how great it is that Americans are really mobilizing en masse about this and getting results, they turn out for rallies, but when push comes to shove they do nothing to counter the fact that absolutely no politicians in the province are willing to campaign on this.
Strong stuff!
They endorse and tell people to campaign for candidates, be they Liberal, NDP or municipal, who do not actually advocate for what they claim to want to achieve, and are then eternally sidelined by the fact that they will not only be taken for granted but that no one will take their demands seriously.
Why should they? If Liberals and New Democrats know that they will ultimately be backed one way or another, they have no reason to care.
The inconvenient truth is that you cannot and will not achieve what you claim to want to achieve by backing politicians and parties that are not advocating for what you claim to want! Calling for living wages or real workers rights and then backing liberal or pseudo-social democratic politicians in elections means that the demands are not legitimate and the politicians know this.
You cannot "demand" something and then advocate voting for people who do not support it. This negates the very idea of a "demand."
This is true. But it's not so cut-and-dried is it? What's a better use of my time? Volunteer for a Liberal candidate from the "Not Totally Contemptuous of Parliament Party" to try to stop harper, or get doors slammed in my face for the Socialist Party of Ontario? Should we form a left party (or join Laxer's?) and put our hearts and souls into it and maybe, in fifty years, achieve the stunning heights of power of the Green Party of Canada (which has a lot more potential)?

The fact of the matter is that there are no easy answers.

1 comment:

greg said...

Why not start our own rodeo. It would be a two week thing promoting a new left or something. ... I'm not a details guy.
Question.... should I leave comments anonymously. Nobody would be stupid enough to use their real name (me)