What's Left 2015-08-09 Volume 23

| August 16, 2015


What’s Left’s mission is to try and be positive, or at least constructive, about politics. After all, we believe in our politics as strongly as we know you believe in yours, and the most important thing is to work together to build something better. Details matter, but fighting over details at the expense of greater progress is often why we on the left stumble while the right steam-rolls on.


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“FEATURE”

Election fever sweeps Canada. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.

What’s Left’s mission is to try and be positive, or at least constructive, about politics. After all, we believe in our politics as strongly as we know you believe in yours, and the most important thing is to work together to build something better. Details matter, but fighting over details at the expense of greater progress is often why we on the left stumble while the right steam-rolls on.

Politics is an important site for struggle, discussion, and debate. Engaging the public with broad campaigns is a life-long passion and profession for us and many of our readers. Unfortunately, even with this elongated election campaign, the prospects of real, constructive debate seem slim. So far cynicism and sarcasm have dominated the campaign, with partisan mockery on social media and empty mainstream analysis focusing more on style than substance. This may be the result of a calculated move on the part of the Conservatives to call the election early in August when the only people paying attention are the media and partisans, but if it continues into September and October, it will have a negative effect on engagement and participation on election day.

There are several things that drive people to this defensive, agnostic, and passive position. We all know them well:

  • - - - - - - Cynicism breeds cynical complaints about cynicism.

So, what is the solution to this noise? Organizing real people, of course.

It is up to people-driven organizations on the periphery to act and make this situation better. The only way to do this is if activists in labour unions, student unions, community groups and social justice organizations start demanding that politics be about people.

There are some interesting political developments south of the boarder and in Europe – similar to what has already happened in Latin America and South Africa that we should pay attention to. Working people are starting to demand their issues be heard and have been striving to build focused movements with leadership that do just that.

In the US, Bernie Sanders has blazed well ahead of where anyone thought possible; in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn (much to the establishment’s chagrin) has captured the passion of working class Labourites; in Greece, Syriza (with all its contradictions) has moved the goal posts considerably to the left; in Portugal, the Socialists are starting to talk like socialists; in Spain, Podemos and other left parties won the local elections with a socialist platform and have set their sites on the national campaign.

So, the question is, what about Canada?

We have never had a social democratic party in power at the federal level. We have been let down again and again by the Liberals, the (Progressive) Conservatives, and the (Reform Party) Conservatives. And while many think they have an idea of what an NDP government might do because of previous provincial governments, these experiences are unlikely to be prescient. What we do know is that the right hates the idea of an NDP government and the left, at least, can revel in that.

While some on the left will predict that the NDP will not do or go far enough, socialists must not fall victim to cynicism and instead use the opportunity to go as far as we can. Electoral politics is about winning, but it is also about movement building. And, one can hardly deny that a federal NDP government will provide the space for socialists to organize more effectively.

In the end, shifting the political discourse is going to require work and many will be disappointed by what is achieved in the short-term. But, it’s important for everyone on the left to understand that building a leftist government and country is an ongoing, unending struggle.

Such disappointment has been a driving force in several other international election races. What may be surprising is that the reaction on the left has been a move to support (even more) populist socialist candidates. Hopefully, this is a sign that people realize that abandoning a disappointing leftist government won’t make things better, but that voting for principled candidates that will push the party further to the left will.

Sure, the capitalist media will say all the same nasty things about the NDP that they say about all leftist parties (even if their policies have been formulated to be more centrist to defend against such attacks). The left should keep this in mind for current and future elections. Let downs do not have to be the end if there is a vibrant movement demanding more and building leadership to continue the struggle.

We have an opportunity to do this in Alberta where popular politics seems to drive the electoral agenda, but we may also have the opportunity to do it federally. Let’s make sure that we all keep our eyes on the ball.

“SUMMER LONG-READS”

Everyone is busy this summer, but if you do find a few minutes while sitting in the sun, here are some articles you might consider reading.

The problems with Western economics

The Liberal Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics winner writes why he thinks we all have it wrong when it comes to talking about inequality.

More: What’s wrong with Western economies.

How Amazon is founded on exploitation

Jacobin Magazine takes a crack at deconstructing why you always feel sleazy shopping through Amazon.

More: The Amazonization of Everything

Harper’s economic record is legitimately terrible

New report shows Harper government’s economic record to be the worst in Canada’s post-war history.

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=321c432eca&e=580a6e5d4b][Rhetoric and Reality: Evaluating Canada’s Economic Record Under the Harper Government]]

Everyone has the right to private conversation

Wondering how to ensure that governments and corporations aren’t reading your private conversations online and on your mobile phone? Here’s how to do it right on (almost) any device.

More: Chatting in Secret While We’re all Being Watched

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“ELSEWHERE”

Making and unmaking Venezuela

Have a read of the latest exposé about the right-wing opposition in Venezuela. If you thought democratic politics was hard in Canada, you should read this.

More: The Unmaking of Leopoldo Lopez

More: The Making of Leopoldo Lopez

The voice of the poor working class

Barbara Ehrenreich points out that working class people do not have time to write about their experiences any more. This means that we are likely not hearing about them.

More: In America, only the rich can afford to write about poverty

Syriza Analysis by Lebowitz

Greece has left the headlines around the world, but the debate still rages about what to do next. Have a read and see what the father of Socialism in the 21st Century has to say about it all.

More: Social Democracy or Revolutionary Democracy: Syriza and Us

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