Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I suppose the scariest thing about being Liberal these days is the underlying anxiety that we no longer control our own destiny, at least to a certain extent. Truth of the matter, Liberals can transform and reform themselves, become a compelling entity, and there are still no guarantees. The reason is the "squeeze", further evidence today that the NDP are being pro-active on that front and anyone who believes it simply linguistic window dressing is seriously delusional:
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 :)


Sean Cummings said...

Eliminate the word "socialist" and the whack job base of the NDP will go ballistic. This should be fun to watch.

Shiner said...

I'm not sure about that Sean, I've been seeing alot of rationalisations from Dippers lately, they're getting to be as bad as Cons.

Steve V said...

I don't think they will go ballistic, because you can always comfort yourself that it is just words, really the party isn't changing before your eyes even though it clearly is. I mentioned the provincial NDP examples because it's a very real world example of how the name seems more important than the policies, even though Dexter for example, Doer and Calvert before, completely abandoned the federal NDP philosophy, people still backed, CITED, as though the same spectrum family, as though US, whatever that means. No, you can already see with Quebec, compromises will be accepted in the name of power potential.

Omar said...

The NDP were never a "socialist" party anyway so they should eliminate the word from their constitution. True socialism will involve the complete overthrow of the capitalist system and would be replaced by a society based on the means of production by all people in common and administrated democratically in the interests of all. No borders, no flags, no markets, no money, no wages, no police, no armies, etc. All the tools needed to support and enforce the will of capital. The NDP was/is nothing more than a socially enhanced workers party that if it ever were to gain power nationally would work to administer the capitalist system and most certainly not to replace it. Just like all the other so-called socialist governments we have seen throughout history.

Tof KW said...

Shiner said... "I've been seeing alot of rationalisations from Dippers lately, they're getting to be as bad as Cons."

I've been seeing this in the blog comments on a few Dipper sites now as well. The same phenomenon as the wingnut elements of the Conservative party who console themselves that these moves are just pragmatism to obtain power, and once obtained then their real agenda (whatever that is) will begin.

However just like with the Conservatives, once in power the party will wish to maintain that power. So the more extreme positions will never be seriously considered.

...Just don't tell the wingnuts that, the NDP and the CPC need their respective stooges to keep donating.

A Eliz. said...

We all know that both the Conservatives and the NDP are both moving to the middle where the liberals were..what does that tell you? All Jack knows how to do is to help Harper get rid of the Liberals. My sister says the NDP are very Conservative.

Steve V said...

As well, they are moving to the center because that's where the votes are. It will be interesting to watch this dance, flirtation with the center and how the hardcore react. I've never sensed much challenging of policy at least online, there is never any criticism of their own party, so if that holds true, I suspect everyone will just go along to get along.

WesternGrit said...

WE just need to stake out our ground and hold it for as long as possible. Canadian politics historically is very fluid. Our regionalism demands a multi-party state. As long as WE clearly identify as centrist we will maintain a "core" large enough to either be a serious contender - or to compliment the NDP in a joint defeat of Harper.

Lets think long term, and not what either "wing" party will be over the next 10 years or so. Harper's party is a coalition... A coalition with some VERY hyperpartisan vocal drivers. While many will be happy to be "Mulroney-esque" in their governing of Canada, the Reform core - the very BASE of the party will NOT. Turmoil will arise the longer Harper maintains his iron grip on leadership. It is inevitable. We simply have to be ready on our end.

The NDP could swing further to the center. Their reliance on unions won't go away. We would want to battle them in that regard. Further, their tenuous toehold in Quebec is not cast in stone. Quebec is our key to a comeback. We need to work harder as a party there. It will help that sponsorship will be behind us, and that Harper has done far worse to piss off Quebec voters.

Steve V said...

Agreed Western Grit, although you must admit your argument includes external developments, which is my point. Liberals have to take firm stands, do the hardwork and hope things swing back our way.

sharonapple88 said...

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.

If they want to further distance themselves, they should consider taking themselves off of this list. :P

To be honest, there's nothing really horrible about being a socialist. There's the cartoon version of socialism, but why not talk about Norway?

I've never sensed much challenging of policy at least online, there is never any criticism of their own party, so if that holds true, I suspect everyone will just go along to get along.

Probably, but if this is the end results -- a rush to the centre -- they might as well have joined the Liberal party then.