The Canadian Left Is Alive and Kicking

By Stinson, Jane | Canadian Dimension, March 2002 | Go to article overview

The Canadian Left Is Alive and Kicking


Stinson, Jane, Canadian Dimension


This is an interesting and exciting time for the Left in Canada. I include in the Left a tremendous variety of local left groups across the country (anarchist, socialist, ill-defined), the labour movement and social-change movements, coalitions, the New Democratic Party, and unaffiliated individuals. It's difficult to write about the state of the Left today precisely because it is so very diverse. There is a tremendous amount of left organizing going on these days in communities across Canada. It includes new groups formed specifically to focus on building a stronger left alternative to capitalism to those who are prepared to rake action to stop the corporate takeover of our basic public needs, like water, health care, education and social services.

The surge of left activism in this country is an interesting contrast to the collapse of the largest economy organized on socialist principles about a decade earlier.

THE HISTORIC GLOBAL CONTEXT

The collapse of the Soviet Union had an immense impact around the world. One example is that governments in capitalist economies no longer have the same countervailing pressure coming from the U.S.S.R. There is less pressure on capitalists and governments to improve conditions for working-class people. Instead, governments are dismantling the welfare state. Despite many well-founded criticisms, the Soviet Union was an example of a society with a narrow income differential. Homelessness was addressed through the state provision of low-cost housing, even if apartments were small and sterile. Poor people weren't forced to live on the street. It was an example of an economy organized on socialist principles where a job was a right.

The collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in an era of unbridled global capitalism. Over the last decade, as global trade has reached new heights, the gap between the have-nots and have-nots has grown wider than ever before. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, social-democratic parties in developed, capitalist countries have moved to the right. One of the most striking examples of this is the British Labour party, which embraced the so-called "Third Way" under the new leadership of Tony Blair. Yet Blair's notion of a "Third Way" is little more than a social-democratic parry handing over public services to private corporations while working internationally with the world's largest imperialist power, the United States. As a public sector trade unionist who works hard to stop privatization efforts, it is most irritating to have the British Labour Party held up as a positive model by those intent on privatizing Canadian public services. They love to point to the British Labour Party as a shining example of lab our embracing a greater role for the private sector in the ownership, management and delivery of public services and ask why labour in Canada can't be so "forward looking."

However, against this broader political and economic backdrop we've seen the emergence of new organizations, new activists and a renewed hope in making social change in Canada and around the world.

NEW POLITICS INITIATIVE

The NPI is an important initiative for the Left, putting needed pressure on the New Democratic Party to move to the left, and at the same time, raising important questions about how we work together to build a broad-based new party of the Left, "a mote equal, democratic and sustainable society." A recent NPI statement calls for a new politics where: there is a connection between parliamentary and extra-parliamentary movements and campaigns; democracy means mote than voting every few years; we practice more participatory democracy in our own organizations; we are less sectarian and more cooperative, and we include marginalized communities with little voice to date in left-wing organizations.

The New Politics Initiative resolution to the federal NDP convention last November to create a new party on the left went down in defeat, despite having been endorsed by over 30 riding associations, youth clubs and affiliates. …

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