Bad Ideas and Neo-Socialists

By Smith, Doug | Canadian Dimension, August-September 1994 | Go to article overview

Bad Ideas and Neo-Socialists


Smith, Doug, Canadian Dimension


In the January 24, 1994, the Globe and Mail's latest neo-con columnist Giles Gherson announced that a "new Zeitgeist is swirling across the land as frustrated Canadians tell politicians what only mavericks would say a few years ago; end government overspending, hold the line on taxes and remodel the social safety net."

This is the Stalinist school of history with a vengeance. Gherson would have us believe that rather than serving as finance minister for most of the past decade, Michael Wilson was a lonely voice in the wilderness. Brian Mulroney wasn't the prime minister for nine years, he was a maverick who could not get a hearing in Ottawa.

That this sort of stuff ends up on the front page of the nation's largest newspaper is a tribute to the staying power of bad ideas. It also demonstrates the right's ability to recycle bad ideas as new ideas. Which brings me to ...

Attack of the Neo-Socs (Or

They're Always on the Right)

On April 30 our national newspaper ran a feature story country's "chastened socialists." These are the self-styled neo-socialists, who are going to rethink social democracy. Since I've always thought of Canadian Dimension as The Magazine of the Living Dead Marxists, I ought to be a part of their target audience.

While I have always enjoyed neo-socialist John Richards' spiky iconoclasm (all power to those who can express themselves clearly) I was perplexed by the title of his last book: "Social Democracy Without Illusions." It makes about as much sense so me as Vanilla Without the Tangy and Exotic Flavour. Social democracy is a bland enough concoction, illusions would be the only thing that would make it bearable. Nor do I hold it against Richards for taking funding from the right-wing C.D. Howe Institute; after all credible intellectual journals like Encounter received secret funding from the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War. …

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