This brief article outlines our voting recommendation for the upcoming NDP leadership vote. It should be read in conjunction with our more in-depth analysis, "A socialist guide to the NDP leadership race". We also recommend readers to check out our 2011 political perspectives.
After a seven-month campaign, we are sorry to report that none of the seven remaining NDP leadership candidates have presented a campaign that deserves the endorsement of Fightback. At the start of the campaign we appealed to the candidates to adopt socialist demands such as free education, free universal childcare, and a massive program of public works to end unemployment. We explained that any candidate that championed the cause of socialism in the NDP would receive a massive boost of enthusiasm from the ranks of the party, and especially the youth inside and outside the party. However, even though we are not endorsing a candidate, neither are we boycotting the process. Below, we detail our voting recommendations for our readers, supporters, and those who support socialism in the NDP.
In this leadership election, there is a real and present danger of a victory of the liberal “Blairite” wing of the NDP. Thomas Mulcair is the main representative of this “modernizing” faction, with Martin Singh as his attack dog. They seek to turn the NDP into another incarnation of the Liberal Party, while breaking the union link and any commitment to socialism or the working class. Nathan Cullen, with his idea of non-compete pacts with the Liberals and Greens, is of the same ilk.
Coming after the amazing breakthrough in the last federal election, a Mulcair victory would be a setback for the aspirations of the working class in Canada. With the rejection of Liberalism in 2011, people wanted a genuine alternative to the capitalist parties. The danger is that under Mulcair, they will get more of what they rejected in the past and will fall into apathy. This spells defeat for the NDP.
We are very critical of the campaigns of the other candidates; however, if they can defeat the ideological liberal faction, it will at least open up more opportunities for the rank-and-file and the wider working class to put pressure on the party to be a vehicle for opposition to the corporate parties. Our recommendation in the preferential ballot is as follows:
- Niki Ashton
- Peggy Nash
- Brian Topp
- Paul Dewar
Niki Ashton has been the most consistent in opposing the Mulcair agenda. While falling short of proposing free education or nationalization, she has supported reduced tuition and establishing a crown corporation to produce generic drugs. Nash has been closely identified with the labour movement, but unfortunately has said very little during the campaign. Nash, Topp, and Dewar all represent the “opportunist” wings of the party bureaucracy that are happy to make deals with the Liberals on a case-by-case basis, while considering themselves “social democrats”. They differ from the Mulcair faction by thinking that with government intervention you can moderate the worst excesses of capitalism. This idea of “capitalism with a smiley face” is essentially utopian — but at least it opens up avenues for genuine socialists to begin a discussion on how to solve the problems of inequality, exploitation, and oppression. Mulcair, on the other hand, sees nothing wrong with capitalism.
It is impossible to predict the outcome of the leadership election. However, no matter what the result, the most important thing is to build a strong movement at the party base in favour of socialist policies. It is important to have a sense of proportion. A Nash or Topp victory would be no panacea and only militant pressure from below would stop them from moving further rightwards. We shouldn’t forget that Andrea Horwath won the Ontario NDP leadership saying, “We New Democrats won't check our socialism at the door,” but then, subsequently, did precisely that in the 2011 Ontario elections. Similarly, a Mulcair victory is not the end of the NDP as the traditional party of Canada’s working class. There is much fighting to be done before that occurs. For example, Carole James of the BC NDP was defeated in her attempt to sever the union link and was summarily dismissed as party leader. Not even Tony Blair was able to break the link between the unions and the British Labour Party despite numerous attempts. Blair, too, was forced out in ignominy.
This leadership election is but one step along an ongoing and sometimes contradictory development of class-consciousness in Canada. No matter what the result we know the following: 1) Capitalism is in crisis and can offer no solutions for workers and youth; 2) Eventually this forces workers and youth to struggle to defend their conditions; 3) This struggle is inevitably reflected in the mass organizations of the working class, the unions and labour parties; 4) But, these parties have a reformist leadership that is wed to capitalism; 5) The desire to struggle by the workers and youth inevitably puts them into conflict with the pro-capitalist reformists; 6) Building the forces of socialism within the mass organizations is the key to aiding the majority to democratically take hold of their organizations as a tool to change society.
Defeat the liberal Blairite faction!
Build a movement at the base to fight for socialist policies!