Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Progressives' Dilemma: Vote NDP or Liberal?

Long before Jack Layton, the New Democratic Party had already begun its inexorable drift to the centre, or at least away from its working-class roots. So why are we supposed to vote NDP exactly?

That's the main question I'm asking in my Tyee column today.

It's not a working-class party anymore. It's pretty well tapped out the identity politics racket. Its tenuous claim on a distinctive "environmental" voice disappeared as soon as the Greens revved back up, and now the Liberals are taking even that. Even Canada's aboriginal leadership is now just as likely to be fervently Liberal, and the Liberals are rejuvenated, rebuilding, and back in trim.

So where are the New Democrats' votes going to come from now, exactly? Disaffected Tories? An epic struggle for the disheartened remnants of the Joe Volpe campaign? Trench warfare with the Greens' Elizabeth May for the vast, uncommitted sections of the hippie vote?

New Democrats would do us all a big favour by admitting that their party is not the only one available to Canada's centre-left voters, and the NDP is not automatically entitled to the votes of progressive Canadians, and the NDP actually doesn't possess any greater claim to the mantle of progressive politics in Canada than the Liberal Party does.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the editors of The Liberal magazine weigh in with some healthy liberal critique of left orthodoxy:

A heady mixture of colonial guilt and politically ‘correct’ prejudice – one that identifies Muslim victims by their religion only when they are murdered by non-Muslims – has encouraged too many on the Left to neglect or downplay the urgency of the situation in Sudan (“The aid evaded and the cold delay”, as Byron put it). The fact that refugee rations in the region were cut by half in May due to a lack of funds puts to shame the EU countries who have sought to offer themselves as a moral counterpoint to American hegemony, only to offer in response less than 1% of the amount of aid allocated by the US. Moreover, the Left’s unwillingness to comprehensively critique the UN, and in particular the inept and ineffective leadership of Kofi Annan, has done a disservice to the organisation at a time when it desperately needs critical friends.

In Ottawa yesterday, Howar Ziad, a true progressive whose ideas I wrote about in a recent Tyee column, offered a properly ripping critique of the UN under Kofi Annan.

"Instead of spearheading the Saddam Nostalgia Club, we expect the UN secretary general to be constructive and to contribute positive ideas to the democratic process in Iraq," he said in a statement, and added that they expect Mr. Annan to help the people of Iraq confront terrorism that is undermining Iraqis' interests.

Mr. Ziad said Mr. Annan's "parting shots" remind him of other failures of the UN secretariat under his leadership. It did not, for example, address the human rights of Iraqis struggling under the genocidal regime of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Annan's remarks, Mr. Ziad said, also serve as a reminder of the UN oil-for-food scandal, "in which the UN secretariat assisted Saddam's regime in the pillaging of Iraq.

"The UN secretariat ignored the way in which Saddam manipulated the wealth of the people of Iraq to corruptly buy politicians and others around the world," he continued.
Further, Mr. Ziad said, Mr. Annan dismisses the mismanagement of the UN oil-for food program as a footnote. Mr. Ziad considers it the "greatest financial scandal in international affairs."


Blogger Robert G. said...

Terry, if you'll allow me to be naive for a sec, don't you think--strategically unwise or no--that the Kneedips had an obligation to try and turf out what I think we can all agree was one of the most corrupt govts in Canadian history?

And don't you think it's a bit rich morally speaking to try to hang onto power-broker status when you've only got a handful of seats, regardless of whether one agrees with the NDP programme or no?

1:31 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

If the NDP represented an effective choice that was distinct from the Liberals, it might not have to worry so much about being reduced to a handful of seats.

Until some sort of proportional representation replaces our first-past-the-post system, I'm with Buzz.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Robert G. said...

Think we're taling at cross purposes here. I meant that the Lib/Dipper "coalition" wasn't going to last forever anyway, and I think there was a very good (moral) argument for forcibly, as it were, putting the Lib record before the voters.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I do think that the NDP are hutling towards irrelevance. My problem with them is that they seem to be more interested in attacking the Liberals and trying to make deals with the Conservatives rather than the other way around.

They strike me of late as being shallow and politically opportunistic. They know full well that the Conservatives won't move one inch toward a responsible reen plan. It's pure grandstanding.

The Harper government is the most ideologically right-wing government in Canadian history, and they must be removed from office. The best bet for that in a majority of ridings across the country right now are probably the Libs.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I have to defend Mr. Annan, though. He wasn't perfect, but overall I think he was good. Keep in mind that in terms of actual action, the UN is only as strong as its voting bodies allow it to. Annan has spoken out on a few issues, such as the war in Iraq, and AIDS. Has he spoken out on everything he could? Probably not. Keep in mind that Saddam did most of his killing before Annan was scretary general. With respect to oil-for-food, again, the decisionmaking with respect to contracts was carried out by the security council members, with complete contracts reviewed the the US and Britain.

6:32 PM  
Blogger waterdragon52 said...


Why do you feel compelled to defend Annan's record? If he isn't personally outright corrupt, he's been stunningly ineffectual on a number of fronts. As I recall, he was in a pivotal position when Romeo LeBlanc was looking for help in Rwanda, and did nothing. He's also continued to preside over an organization that obsesses over Israel and turns a blind eye and deaf ear to some of the most egregious cases of genuine ethnic cleansing.

So, he's "spoken" about AIDS. Wow. How courageous.

5:37 AM  
Blogger waterdragon52 said...

And speaking against the removal of Saddam while his chief aid and his son were both benefitting from oil for food. More great moral courage from Kofi, Stephen.

5:39 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

As I recall, he was in a pivotal position when Romeo LeBlanc was looking for help in Rwanda, and did nothing.

You recall incorrectly. It was Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, not LeBlanc, and Annan did quite a lot to get help for the mission, including addressing the US Congress (or Senate, I don't recall which) in an effort to get US support for the mission. What he has been condemned for is a failure to respond to requests for arms from the mission, but this was done because the UNIMAR mission was not authorized to use force, and Annan feared that the UN peacekeepers would be butchered in response. As 10 Belgian members of the mission had been literal dismembered already, this was not an unreasonable fear.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Budd Campbell said...

Mr Glavin:

I have recognized you as an intense Liberal partisan ever since your front-page Fish Story appeared in the Georgia Straight in July of 1998 {}. It was, as you well know, nothing more than a propaganada puff piece for federal Fisheries Minister David Anderson.

A few months later, in a completely unrelated, total coincidence, Minister Anderson's patronage master Brian Bohunicky then arranged for one Terry Glavin to be appointed to the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council. I think we citizens and taxpayers can pretty much figure that, as in all things Liberal, it was both a pleasure doing business and a business doing pleasure.

As for your piece in The Tyee on the NDP, it's a complete joke. At one point you say that when Jack Layton first came on the scene, you and other sophisticates figured he could "lead the NDP out of its grubby, class-warfare, church-basement wilderness." A few paragraphs further on we get this:

"Long before Layton, the NDP had already begun its inexorable drift to the centre, or at least away from its working-class roots."

So which story line are you going to pull out next, Mr Glavin? Is the NDP still into class warfare, or is it drifting towards the centre? And if it is more centrist, why is it less viable?

At one point you make an observation about the NDP having "pretty well tapped out the identity politics racket". This coming from a Liberal, whose party's ruthless exploitation of immigrant and ethnic voters is legendary, and is accomplished using the same labour contractors and corrupt employers who exploit these people in the job market.

4:08 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Just so everybody knows:

This "Budd Campbell" is a pseudonym of a person ("proud member of the NDP since 1968") who has been banned from along with all his other pseudonyms (Erik Poole, MT VIEW, MasterDebator etc.) and has been stalking me and libeling me for eight years. I think his real name is Rodney Smelser, but as always, it's heard to tell what's real and what's bullshit about the guy.

He's an embarassment to the NDP - I can't count the number of times New Democrats have had to apologize for him - so, just to say, whatever you think of this guy, don't hold it against the NDP.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Again, I never said Annan was perfect. He certainly could have done a lot more. He was hamstrung by voting bodies that didn't act when they should have, and by neoconservatives in the US who wanted his ouster so they could have their way with the world without his opposition.

I never used the word courageous, but now that you mention it, criticizing the US vilations of international law was courageous.

The Volker commission cleared Annan of wrongdoing, despite a US right wing media campaign to pin him to it. Not matter how many times one says something, a lie is still a lie.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Budd Campbell said...

I guess someone wasn't amused.

1:21 AM  
Blogger tglavin said...


Wrong again. I am amused. I am laughing at you.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Budd Campbell said...

So you are amused? Good. I won't fear retaliation at work.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Jesse said...

Although I freely admit that "Budd Campbell" Could very well be just another NDP partisan,Terry, I must say the way you responded to him wasnt very promising. Why didnt you address or comment on any of his allegations? Have you made contradictory statements about the NDP in the past? Did you get the "Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council" appointment? No matter how irreputable someone may or may not be when they criticize you, if you do not at least address the facts in question, it really does leave you looking defeated and weak.

3:46 AM  

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