The BC NDP is the party that has always claimed to stand for the interests of working people and their families in British Columbia. However, in the past 30 or so years, the party has sacrificed the interests of their working class base in favor of “building relationships” with the bosses. This confused and inconsistent leadership can no longer serve the party in these historic times.
In the most recent provincial election, 52% of eligible voters refused to cast a ballot. In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, workers did not vote because there was nothing for them to vote for. Just when the NDP should be winning supporters, the party lost yet another election to a terribly unpopular Liberal government. After decades of trying to curry favor with the bosses, the BC NDP finds itself in crisis. This massive abstention could translate into the death of the BC NDP as the party of working people unless it does something to win back its base.
The NDP must address the effects of the economic crisis on workers if it is to remain relevant. With the current crisis, even modest reforms are luxuries that the bosses can no longer afford; furthermore, the gains of yesterday are in danger of being swept away. Given the absence of leadership on the very real issues facing workers today, the rank and file is beginning to organize. One such example is the “Take Back the Party” campaign. This campaign, and others like it, has the potential to mobilize rank-and-file workers in a wide-ranging debate about the ideas, program, and organization of the party. Fightback supports this process opening up in the party, and as part of the debate, we will fight for socialist ideas as the only way forward in these troubled times.
The Current Situation and the Need for Leadership
Massive discontent has been brewing in BC for decades. Several times, working people have been pushed into strikes and protests. The anti-Campbell movement and Operation Solidarity both showed the desire of working people to fight back. In both cases, the demand for a general strike rippled through the rank-and-file. Workers mobilized en masse, and surprised even their own leaders with their willingness to stand against the bullying attacks of the bosses’ parties. In both cases, the workers had the power to topple the provincial government, establishing the conditions for an NDP victory at the polls. However, both movements ended in defeat as most of the leaders at the time chose to deal behind doors, afraid of how far the movement could go.
Economic collapse is laying the foundation for further eruptions; the question is whether or not we’ll lack for leadership when the inevitable struggles arrive. Interestingly, the most recent statistics reveal that the Liberals have never been more despised. In spite of this, the BC NDP has not been able to increase its nominal support in any substantial way. What should be a recipe for power is turning into its opposite in the hands of the current party tops.
The issue, however, goes beyond Carole James and whether or not she has a future in the party. In the last election, the current BC NDP showed itself incapable of putting forward any serious reforms. In fact, it did its best to hide or ignore resolutions passed at previous conventions that could have provided a basis for a more relevant campaign.
The party tops recognize the position they are in. Ms. James has come out in the press saying that the BC NDP no longer want to simply be the “party of no.” This is an important recognition of the necessity of ideas. But as far as baby steps go, the handling of the “stop the HST” campaign and a call for the diversion of relatively modest business tax rebates to support transit improvements and other environmental projects are a rather un-inspiring start. At this stage, real leadership in the BC NDP must come from the grass roots in labour and in the community.
The campaign to “Take Back the Party” is only one of many initiatives that have sprung up to re-invigorate the BC NDP. After a successful launch of the campaign, organized by supporters of Fightback, it has taken on a life of its own. Soon enough, other groups appeared and the beginning of a social movement inside the party has begun. So far, demands vary from the resignation of Carole James to a complete overhaul of the executive and the party’s democracy. These demands are important, and it is necessary that power be shifted from the top of the party into the hands of the rank-and-file. However, in order to accomplish this, these campaigns must go beyond simple demands to replace the leadership, and begin establishing a positive vision of what the BC NDP should stand for. Demands like defending jobs, free education, universal childcare, increased funding for seniors, and a clear plan to save the environment will attract people to the NDP. A campaign like “Take Back the Party” has the potential to not only draw back the rank-and-file, but could also win new supporters to the NDP, especially if it begins to organize in the community, in the workplace, and on the campuses.
There are massive changes taking place in the political life of BC, Canada, and the world. What is needed is an organization which can capture the imagination of the workers with real solutions, which do not remain within the “safe boundaries” of private property and the capitalist economy. Fightback stands for the revolutionary transformation of society. We hold no illusions that the contradictions of capitalism can be reformed away. In the broad and lively discussion that will inevitably reshape our party, the Marxists in the NDP will stand and defend genuine socialism as essential to the emancipation of our planet and people from the degradation of capitalism.
Workers, students and the marginalized are beginning to demand a new way of doing things. Through these campaigns, like-minded individuals can begin to come together in common work. The Marxists stand for revolution, and militantly defend the idea that what is needed is a revolutionary party. But it is not enough to just declare it exists; it must be built and the NDP is the party to which people will turn for a resolution to the capitalist crisis. We believe in the NDP, because we believe in the ability of workers to stand up and defend their class interests, and ultimately lead the charge to transform society itself. If you share this conviction, then join the NDP, participate in the drive to “Take Back the Party”, and join with the Marxists in fighting for the NDP to power on a socialist program!