A statement by the editors of New Socialist Webzine
If you’re not horrified by the 2015 federal election, you’re not paying attention. As the long campaign rolls on, many people are turned off politics by the shallow rhetoric and tightly-controlled discussion orchestrated by the major parties and the mainstream media. Just as bad, the range of political options being offered to people by the leaders of the parties is shrinking.
On the first night of the Labour Party conference in the British seaside town of Brighton, there was a blood red moon in the sky. Superstitious types may have viewed this cosmic event favourably. Others, perhaps, with foreboding. With the left wing MP Jeremy Corbyn taking to the stage as the newly elected leader of the Labour Party, was this the sign of a new dawn for politics in Britain?
The New Democratic Party may be poised to make a historic breakthrough in the current Canadian federal election. In 2011the NDP won more seats than it ever had before, becoming the Official Opposition for the first time. Now polls suggest that they could win even more seats, possibly forming a federal government for the first time ever. It is important to ask if this represents a shift to the left in Canadian politics.
To the surprise of many, the social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) was able to rally center-left and protest voters in Alberta to build a credible alternative to the governing Tories. The NDP’s leader, Rachel Notley, won a majority of the legislature’s seats with two-fifths of the popular vote in the May 5 election. The two main conservative parties (the governing Progressive Conservatives and the opposition Wildrose Alliance) won just over half of the popular vote. This was a drop from the right’s much more dominant position in 2012, when the two parties won almost four-fifths of the vote.
In the following piece British socialist Dan Swain builds on Hal Draper’s classic discussion in the essay “The Two Souls of Socialism” of socialism from below vs socialism from above and shows its relevance to the contemporary period. We are republishing this article because we think it makes a useful contribution. But we also think it is important to note that the article does not address lessons learned since the 1960s about the importance of anti-oppression struggles in creating conditions for democracy within social movements. This is perhaps reflective of broader political weaknesses on the contemporary left. We believe it is critical to be attentive to the ways in which racism, sexism and heterosexism structure power relations within society – including within movement organizing – and limits the discussion around what it means to practice the politics of socialism from below today. Socialists need to actively promote anti-oppression politics – anti-racist queer feminist socialism from below!
– NSW editors
Review of Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson, Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call (Between the Lines, 2015)
This vivid political memoir is co-authored by two prominent Indigenous leaders from interior British Columbia, Arthur Manuel (Secwepemc) and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson (Syilx/Okanagan and Grand Chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs). Manuel’s voice predominates in the balance of the book, while Derrickson has written the afterword.
It is gut-wrenching, watching Syriza [the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left] beg, and plead with the creditors not to crush Greece. Too late did they realise that they weren’t negotiating. They had nothing to do negotiate with, no cards to play. They went looking for the ‘good euro’, and found only ruthless, mercenary capitalist enforcers. They sought compromise and were given fiscal strangulation.
Photo source: Migrante Europe.
The unprecedented scale of global migration and migrant deaths are deliberate, not coincidental.
Leading up to World Refugee Day on June 20, the United Nations unveiled a devastating and damning report on the scale of global displacement. The UN’s Refugee Agency data reveals a total of 59.5 million people are displaced around the world. With one in every 122 people being internally displaced or seeking asylum in a new country, this is the highest level of displaced people ever recorded. It is also the largest leap recorded within a single year, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres calls it “a staggering acceleration” that will only worsen.
Review of Steve Fraser, The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015)
All of us on the left are all too familiar with the capitalist offensive of the past forty years. Under the banner of “neo-liberalism” capital has rolled back almost every gain working people across the world have made since the 1930s. All sorts of public industries, services and institutions have been privatized, social welfare programs that protected workers from the worst insecurities of the labour-market have been rolled back or simply abolished and unions and working class political parties that had traditionally organized and represented working people have been severely weakened.
Review of Nicole Aschoff, The New Prophets of Capital (Verso Books, 2015)
Storytelling is important to humans. Storytelling is equally as important to capitalism. In her new book Nicole Ashoff examines the elite in in our society and the stories they tell. She calls them, as the title suggests, “The New Prophets of Capital.”
Many people go to jobs they don’t like and produce things that don’t improve human life. Nicole Aschoff asserts – and I am inclined to agree with her – that this is a strange way to organize society.
Canada Post Corporation management is moving forward with its project of eliminating door-to-door postal service across Canada and Quebec. If it’s completed, it will deprive millions of people of a valued service and thousands of postal workers of their jobs. While this move is very unpopular, in most places not a lot has been done to turn widespread pro-door-to-door sentiment into active opposition. London, Ontario is one city where efforts to build an active campaign around defence of door-to-door have been more successful. We are republishing this article on the campaign in London to give readers a sense of some of the community mobilization tactics being used there. Such campaigns are important not only because they have more potential when it comes to defending public services but also because they can show in practice that there’s an alternative to just waiting for the next election. To quote from an article we published earlier this year, “It is through engaging with social movements that people develop new political skills and confidence and are exposed to new political perspectives about how other struggles and how society works.” With the federal election coming up later this year, it’s important to bear that in mind.
By Umair Muhammad
The simultaneous strikes at the University of Toronto and York University have come to an end. Teaching and Graduate Assistants at both universities (joined in the beginning by Contract Faculty at York) walked picket lines through much of the month of March after contract negotiations with their respective employers broke down.
Following repeated avowals that it could not possibly provide what was being asked of it, York ended up agreeing to meet all of the major demands made by its striking workers. In the case of the strike at UofT, the outcome was not as decisive.
By David Camfield
There has never been more talk about human rights than there is today. Social media is full of calls to sign petitions or send e-mails about human rights causes. Almost no one says they’re not supporters of human rights, from radicals on the left to people on the hard right like Stephen Harper. Governments of Western countries justify war in the name of defending human rights. We now have a Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
By Steve D’Arcy
Review of Chris Dixon, Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements (University of California Press, 2014)
If there’s one thing that activists often lack, it is opportunities to reflect about what they’re trying to do, and how it might be done differently and better. Often overworked and pressured to focus on pragmatic and tactical questions under urgent timelines, it can be difficult to give political and strategic reflection the attention it deserves.
Just in the past couple of years, however, a number of widely discussed and important books have been published, inviting serious thinking and sometimes rethinking about what left activists are up to when they organize for social change.
By Paul Kellogg
Alberta’s conservative finance minister Robin Campbell announced in February that his government was looking to slash nine percent from its annual budget in response to declining oil prices. The news caught few by surprise. Oil prices were collapsing in late 2014, and New Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, just before the holidays, cautioned about the economic and fiscal instability looming in that oil-dependent province. “We don’t know what’s around the corner”, he said. “We don’t know how long prices are going to be low”. He gave this advice to the province’s citizens: “it is a time to be careful on personal expenditures”. The next month, the premier went to Arizona and carefully bought himself a present – a vintage 1956 Ford Thunderbird, costing US$59,400 or about $71,000 Canadian.