The Normalization of the NDP

How the NDP is changing currently

By Konstantinos Roccas, staff writer

This past weekend, the New Democratic Party held its national convention to officially elect Thomas Mulcair as leader, outline its policies going forward, and amend its party constitution in a bid to attract and capitalize on voter gains in the previous federal election.  Hidden within these amendments was the striking of the word socialist from official party lingo in an attempt to normalize the party in the eyes of prospective voters.

Let’s be clear here: this is no longer Jack Layton’s NDP. Gone is the charisma and charm so eloquently captured by Layton. Gone is the excitement and sense of hope elicited by those eager to sweep ”Le Bon Jack” to power. In its wake, we are left with a party that will struggle to remain relevant in the face of Justin Trudeau and his immaculately styled hair, a revitalized liberal party and a well-oiled Conservative political machine.

This reality makes the amendments and resolutions with regards to the socialist clause even more disappointing.  The New Democrats  could have, and should have, acted upon the positive feelings left over by Jack Layton. Instead, in a bid to “legitimize” themselves, they threw away one of the main reasons why a young disgruntled electorate swept them to rank of the “Official Opposition” for the first time in history.

I always assumed that we were above the demonization of socialism as seen in the U.S. since the 1950s. I assumed that we, as forward-thinking Canadians, were happy to engage in dialogue about various political and economic systems, and alternatives to the norm. Since when did this term become such a dirty word here in Canada?

The most damning part about the news coverage  was the many journalists who used charged words such as ”binding,” ”shackles” and ”chained” to describe the term with regards to the NDP. It was seen as a barricade to legitimacy by both the media as well as the post-Layton NDP.

Let’s get this out of the way; business hates the notion of socialism. In order to attract donations and support, the New Democrats felt that they needed to rid themselves of their socialist connotations. By doing so they are discarding their very soul as a real alternative to the Liberal and Conservative neo-liberal doctrines. By normalizing themselves, they inadvertently have brought Canada more in line with the politics in the United States. That is, the dominant political parties in the United States are by and large identical outside of how should I say, their more enthused supporters. By attempting to normalize and show Canadians that they can be ”fiscally responsible,” the NDP has started to creep slowly toward the center of the political spectrum.

In a recent interview I conducted with Professor Richard D. Wolff [M1] (soon to be published in ARB) about the economic crisis, he said , “In order for us to have a conversation, there must be courage and the honesty to admit that capitalism as a system deserves to be debated, questioned, and criticized (and that it is)generally understood that if you exempt one system from criticism, you are going to allow it to rot and indulge its worst tendencies. I think that is what has happened to (the American) system. We have a broken dysfunctional system because we’ve given it a free pass for 50 years.”

I tend to agree with Professor Wolff’s words not because I am a socialist, but rather because I am of the belief that positive dialogue and honest criticism can only improve something. For years, we as Canadians differentiated ourselves from Americans through our willingness to discuss and debate issues that many Americans deemed taboo.

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