New Democrats are preparing to cast off the shackles of the socialist label by eliminating the word from the federal party constitution at a policy convention this weekend.
“The New Democratic Party is dedicated to the application of social democratic principles to government,” reads part of a proposed new preamble to the party constitution, which will be voted on at the 50th anniversary convention in downtown Vancouver. “These principles include an unwavering commitment to economic and social equality, individual freedom and responsibility, and democratic rights of citizens to shape the future of their communities.”
That language is much different from what exists in the current version of the constitution, where the principles of “democratic socialism” are described as being against making profits and for social ownership.
Taken in isolation, you could fluff it off as spun as simply "modernizing language", and part of that rationalization is to appease a subsection of the base. In reality, another not so subtle sign of the NDP moving to the center, as Laxter notes in the article it's been slowly evolving for a while. Should the NDP demonstrate further progress on becoming a mainstream party, it presents a real threat to the Liberals and any hopes of a serious rebound. Again a disquieting realization, the NDP have the opportunity, if played correctly, our efforts will be handicapped by external forces.
We tend to get lost in the party colours, people see the NDP banner anywhere in Canada and it is immediately adopted as similar. To a lesser extent, the same holds true of Liberals, name trumps philosophy in the minds of many. I mention this reality because the federal NDP continually reference Premier Dexter in Nova Scotia, when the underpinning of his victory was a repudiation of traditional NDP ground and a decided move to the center. Dexter moved his party to the mainstream, at odds with the federal counterpart, that was the formula, which again made the blind allegiance to simple colour a curious disconnect. Former NDP Premier Doer was a centrist by every measure, if he were a federal Liberal, he would have been accused of being of the "right wing Liberal" variety I'm certain. My point is a simple one, the name is secondary to the true direction, "NDP" isn't some static position on the spectrum, nor should support for said banner be absolute, because it can stand for different things. The TRICK moving forward for the federal NDP, become a more centrist force, while holding your socialist base. This might not be problematic, because there is little alternative should this evolution occur in subtle fashion. As with Democrats in America, some timely red meat, mostly during primaries, is enough to keep their "tent" together.
A meandering post, but to bring it together, I don't think the NDP are simply modernizing language, I believe these word changes are another signal of a party trying to eat the Liberals lunch once and for all. From the Liberal perspective, the worrying situation is that the NDP has this opportunity, it is real and it can be successful. This election brought several sober truths, not the least of which is the NDP finally has the stage and can make the most of it. We Liberals control our rebuild, we determine our new identity, policies, direction, but it is a humbling truth that new political realities mean that doesn't necessarily equate to ultimate success. I think many Liberals understand this fact, which in almost contradictory fashion could assist our chances moving forward. Simply "modernizing the language" in the Constitution, nothing more, my ass :)