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Limiting the possible: English Canada's invisible left PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Written by Joan Russow
Saturday, 19 July 2014 08:07

By Michael Laxer

July 15, 2014

Limiting the possible: English Canada's invisible left

Tallinn, Estonia has introduced a free transit system that has become a global focal point. They now host conferences on the idea that draw civic leaders and activists from around the world.

In the supposedly reactionary United States, that allegedly "progressive" Canadians love to look down their nose at, socialist and independent labour candidates are changing the debate and discourse on issues like the minimum wage. In New York and Chicago, left Democrats (that is right...Democrats) are pushing hard on higher municipal minimum wages, and in Seattle the election of one single avowed Socialist has changed the entire political agenda for the city and the state of Washington.

Meanwhile, from Scotland, to Greece, to Slovenia, genuine left alternatives to capitalism are arising that are pushing back against the hegemonic notions that only one grotesque version or another of neoliberalism is possible.

In virtually every single developed, nominally democratic capitalist country in the world, interesting anti-capitalist or left social democratic movements are being formed, winning seats and threatening the established do-nothing centrist "left" that has become a collaborator with the austerity agenda.

In Quebec, Quebec Solidaire, which is the victim of an almost complete media blackout in English Canada, has shown that a real left party is, indeed, possible in Canada even without proportional representation (the lack of which so many fall back upon as an excuse for doing nothing) and that it can elect people.

Typically and predictably leftists in English Canada, when seeking to explain their total unwillingness and inability to build movements like QS, try to claim that Quebec has such a fundamentally different political culture that what is possible there is not possible "here."

The line is that "realism" dictates that we have to tack to a very narrow set of ideas, all of which accept, in every way, that capitalism is an absolute fact and that neoliberalism is an inescapable framework that requires us to truncate our aspirations so as to leave out anything that might actually help workers or those living in poverty.

But, if this is true, English Canada has one of the truly great reactionary, empty-headed and seemingly unalterable political cultures in the world. This is convenient as a narrative for those who wish to do nothing!

It is as if the near universal defeatism within what passes for an English Canadian left feels that there is an English Canadian exceptionalism of some kind and that English Canada is simply incapable of what every other part of the advanced capitalist world is capable of... a political alternative to capitalism.

Much of the labour movement and many social activists aid and abet this by advocating for ideas "in theory" that they do little to achieve in practice.

In theory the left and labour movement in Ontario, for example, is in favour of living wages and a $14-an-hour minimum wage now. They share memes online about how great it is that Americans are really mobilizing en masse about this and getting results, they turn out for rallies, but when push comes to shove they do nothing to counter the fact that absolutely no politicians in the province are willing to campaign on this.

They endorse and tell people to campaign for candidates, be they Liberal, NDP or municipal, who do not actually advocate for what they claim to want to achieve, and are then eternally sidelined by the fact that they will not only be taken for granted but that no one will take their demands seriously.

Why should they? If Liberals and New Democrats know that they will ultimately be backed one way or another, they have no reason to care.

The inconvenient truth is that you cannot and will not achieve what you claim to want to achieve by backing politicians and parties that are not advocating for what you claim to want! Calling for living wages or real workers rights and then backing liberal or pseudo-social democratic politicians in elections means that the demands are not legitimate and the politicians know this.

You cannot "demand" something and then advocate voting for people who do not support it. This negates the very idea of a "demand."

The English Canadian left as well as its union movement and activists, almost alone in the "western world," is doing absolutely nothing in any meaningful way, outside of lip service, be it municipally, provincially or federally, to create a real political alternative to capitalism and to put into practice and truly fight for what it allegedly supports.

Happily, the rest of the world is.


Michael Laxer's picture

Michael Laxer lives in Toronto where he runs a bookstore with his partner Natalie. Michael has a Degree in History from Glendon College of York University. He is a political activist, a two-time former candidate and former election organizer for the NDP, was a socialist candidate for Toronto City Council in 2010 and is on the executive of the newly formed Socialist Party of Ontario. 

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 July 2014 09:27

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