Magazine article Monthly Review

Reply to Ken Morrison

Magazine article Monthly Review

Reply to Ken Morrison

Article excerpt

1. Ken Morrison is correct that my article did not provide a balanced inventory of the NDP's five years of government in On@ tario. That was not my purpose. If I had dealt with afl the subjects he mentions, the article would have been two or three times as long and far beyond the length allowed by Monthly Reviews editors, the published text was already abbreviated from the original. But some context for Monthly Reviews non-Canadian readers would have been useful.

However, Morrison is mistaken in thinking that I gloated over NDP "scandals", -they were not in fact scandals but rather, as I called them, gaffes and minidisasters"- and I don't know anyone who "gloried", in the NDP's defeat. But having been elected by a fluke, it was never likely to be re-elected. And its accumulated mistakes and capitulations, influenced as they were by the illusory hope of pleasing the voters and winning re-election, instead caused widespread demoralization among its supporters and made defeat a certainty.

2. The NDP never expected to be elected in 1990. This produced more than an inexperienced caucus and a weak front bench." It produced a government which was wholly unprepared for the job, which had learned nothing from the experience of others, and whose economic ignorance and wilful refusal to understand the realities of the system were notorious. It had made promises which it had never bothered to analyse because it never thought it might have to keep them. A party which campaigns on hot air forfeits in advance the trust of its supporters, whose hopes and expectations it is bound to disappoint.

The rapidly rising deficit was an excuse, not the reason for reneging on the promise of public auto insurance, and if the FTA made it impossible to implement the promise, this should have been foreseen and the agreement challenged. But it never was.

Similarly with the budget deficit. There is a right way and a wrong way of tackling the deficit. But the right way would require radical changes in the tax system, which in turn would mean challenging the federal tax system, since under Canada's federal-provincial fiscal arrangements the federal system largely determines the provincial one. Except for the reduction of federal-provincial transfer payments, there never was a challenge, not even a peep.

The social contract was part of the spending cuts, imposed in the name of "equality of sacrifice." Whereas the Tories have no use for such equality and make no bones about it, and the Liberals pretend to believe in it while flouting it in practice, for the NDP it meant that everyone, whether rich or poor, in summer or in winter, has an equal right to sleep on a park bench. The alternative program to achieve equal savings proposed by the coalition of public service unions was brushed aside. If anyone was guilty of causing "division in the left, the NDP was. As social democratic governments have done in other countries, the NDP government in Ontario made itself for a time part of the right.

3. It would perhaps not be difficult to compare the NDP's record favourably with the record of the labour parties in Great Britain and New Zealand or of the socialists in Germany and trance, since there is absolutely nothing left of socialism or even of social democracy in the former and precious little in the latter. But that is small comfort. The NDP suffers from all the vices and weaknesses of social democratic parties. It is not a working class party, it does not believe in class conflict, never mind conscious struggle, it has come to accept capitalism as inevitable, because there is no alternative anyway", it shuns extra-parliamentary action and has no program for resisting the current capitalist offensive or for educating either itself or its supporters in what they are up against. Instead, it seems to believe in, and it certainly preaches, a natural class harmony which its beneficent wisdom will, when it is elected, make manifest. …

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