Saturday, May 20, 2017

The NDP is deep; Don’t let it be shallow

Peter Julian might not have pledged to expropriate the means of production tomorrow, but he has pledged that Kinder Morgan is dead in the water, along with any other pipeline project that doesn’t achieve local social licence. This qualification was the superficial veil that Trudeau was hoping to hide behind but which Peter Julian, unfortunately for Rachel Notely and Justin Trudeau, actually cares about and means. Don’t get me wrong, I wish that Peter Julian had pledged that the day an NDP government were elected under his leadership any and all industries that were underinvested would be expropriated and taken under government auspices, but that is, of course, more Niki Ashton’s purview. Needless, to say, given the latest NDP polling numbers, the only way either of these eventualities could come to pass is if Niki Ashton and Peter Julian combine forces. The leading contender in the NDP race is Charlie Angus, who is ambiguous, if not reactionary and capitulationist, on both pipelines and the potential of public ownership.

If one were to assess the state of the NDP leadership race one might say that the three frontrunners are Charlie Angus – representing a social democratic veneer with a particular care and concern for first nations investment and community development, with a particular chauvinism on potential pipeline development; a Peter Julian/Niki Ashton bloc who feel the party is insufficiently left on both pipelines and economic development, which might include also Guy Caron and the policy of Universal Basic Income; and a Jagmeet Singh bloc being the direct continuity of the Tom Mulcair bloc, who feel that the failure of the 2015 election was purely one of ‘messaging’ or ‘communications,’ and can be rectified by ‘fly suits,’ or ‘cool threads,’ or the like, competing purely on the aesthetic plane with Justin Trudeau.

Today the issue of digital property rights came up, in accordance with the daily churn of incoherency and insanity south of the border. Having raised the possibility that the same reactionary corporate digital interests might be an aspect of the ‘re-negotiated’ NAFTA package, one has to concede, Charlie Angus immediately shot back that the ‘fine print’ has to be examined for the negative impact it might have on Canadian consumers. As an aside, some weeks back, I disagreed with Charlie on the unrelenting hype and drive to war on bombing Syria – but, on both digital property rights, and on international affairs, I think it’s fair to note that Charlie both cares to intervene, disagree, argue, and have a position with respect to the grass-roots, where the Mulcair-Singh bloc might not give a shit about what the lower echelons have to say. In questioning Jagmeet’s commitment to social democratic political or economic principle, he has ignored any and every opportunity to specify his position – Charlie, by way of contrast, never misses a beat. ‘You’re a chauvinist, Charlie,’ ‘No, I’m not, and here’s why, Dock. . .’ This, if nothing else, speaks to Charlie’s commitment to grassroots politics, whatever the content of the exchange.

Jagmeet Singh, however, has been the GQ darling. Need an aesthetic babe to match up to the Liberal’s shiney face, however well worn, perhaps a person of color with a shinier suit? Is this the race to the superficial wet-T-shirt contest we’re consigned to? I hope not.

The takeaway is that I’d prefer a Charlie Angus to Justin Trudeau matchup to a Jagmeet Singh to Justin Trudeau matchup, as the former would be one of substantive social democratic politics against vacuous liberal platitudes, and the latter would be one of one variant of empty orange-liberal ‘style’ against a different variant of ‘classic’ liberal-style. But, with that said, I’d prefer a conjoined Niki Ashton-Peter Julian bloc of principled opposition to pipeline development, and an openness to public ownership, tax fairness, and student debt forgiveness, to Justin Trudeau’s hypocritical liberalism. As the NDP polls stand, Charlie Angus is a better leader than Jagmeet Singh, but the combined policies of Niki Ashton, Peter Julian, and Guy Caron, would better serve the leadership than Charlie’s brand of vague folksyisms and chauvinism as pertains to pipelines and public ownership.

There are five contestants for the NDP leadership. One, Pat Stogran, not only doesn’t have a chance, but doesn’t even deserve a chance, having little to no understanding of social democratic politics or economics. Another, Guy Caron, has a masterful understanding of Social Democratic economics, but no chance of commanding the kind of mass grassroots support to determine the leadership race. The remainder is a commanding lead for Charlie Angus, deservedly so, marshalling the respect and understanding of a great swath of first nations and anglo voters, as well as a significant portion of francophone voters who respect the effort he’s put in to mastering French; a possible Niki-Ashton/Peter Julian bloc who represent the important gaps in Charlie Angus’ platform, namely public ownership and an unambiguous and committed stance on pipelines and tar-sands development; and a Jagmeet-Singh-Mulcair bloc, who feel that the NDP need merely amend their aesthetic presentation to win power (for what? Who knows?).

Given the runaway lead that Charlie Angus holds right now, the alternative oscillates between a principled Niki-Ashton/Peter Julian bloc and a Jagmeet-Singh-Mulcair bloc. In the best case, either Charlie is swayed by the political integrity and surety of the Ashton/Julian bloc, or that bloc overtakes him. An acceptable outcome might be that Charlie wins on the strength on his reputation and deals intelligently with the concerns and interests of his cabinet. I hope, however, that the aesthetic bloc is left out, as the last election was not lost on the basis of ‘messaging’ or ‘charisma’ but on the basis of policy, on the basis of vestigial social chauvinism. The kind of vestigial social chauvinism that Jagmeet Singh has not only done nothing to address, but has integrated into his wholly vacuous orange-liberal rhetoric campaign. If we need anyone to ‘innovate the loving compassionate just society,’ then our ‘fly suited’ deputy leader of an irredeemably social chauvinist loser provincial party is there, on standby. If, however, we need a leader to stand by social principle, and coral support on that basis, then we have but Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, or Peter Julian, to choose from.

Ps. Yes, BC has both the authority and mandate to say no to Kinder Morgan, and Rachel Notley is a cancer on the NDP for trying to ram through her toxic sludge and undermine the provincial sovereignty of British Columbia.

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