For the first time ever, the federal New Democrats can see the brass ring almost within their grasp, and they’re anxious to grab it and the reins of power in Ottawa that would be their prize. It’ll be fascinating to see how far the Dippers are prepared to go in re-making their party’s image to attract the centre and centre-left voters needed to put them in power—to reposition the party as a government-in-waiting.
At the NDP convention this past weekend, delegates rejected a resolution calling for a ban on any merger talks with the Liberal party. As one delegate reportedly said, “Please don’t lock the door on what could be potential for growth and development.”
A wise, pragmatic sentiment.
According to the Globe and Mail, the preamble to the NDP constitution states:
“The New Democratic Party believes that the social, economic and political progress of Canada can be assured only by the application of democratic socialist principles to government and the administration of public affairs.
“The production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people within a sustainable environment and economy and not to the making of profit.”
Some delegates had sought a revision that would have removed references to “socialism” and substituted paler—some would say “watered down”—and more centrist wording in which “making of profit” is not demonized.
It is also apparent that many in the NDP want to downplay the party’s involvement with and loyalty to the international socialist movement. To that end, they sought to delete wording from their constitution that states the party is “proud to be associated with the democratic socialist parties of the world… .” Proposed new wording would have the party stand “in solidarity with its allies around the world… .”
Delegates were sharply divided on the changes, however. Some saw them as a way of refining and modernizing language to describe NDP values. During debate on the issue, Pat Martin, MP for Winnipeg South, said that the existing language that frames the party’s purpose and objectives was an anchor that is dragging down the party’s electability. “Our anchor is holding us back,” he said. “All we have to do is a few simple things to change the language so we don’t scare people.”
Barry Weisleder, the party’s socialist caucus chair, felt otherwise, however. “Socialism is not an anchor, it’s a rocket,” he said. “You can take socialism out of the preamble but you can’t take socialism out of the NDP.”
At the end of the debate, delegates decided not to vote on the issue, asking the party executive to take another look at it and bring it back to the membership at another time.
So are are the NDP “democratic socialists” or “social democrats?” Or does it even matter?
Libby Davies, deputy leader, believes they are the former and that socialism lies at the core of her party’s principles. “Modernizing language is important but I don’t want to lose the sense of the roots of the party, and who we are,” she said in an interview Saturday in Vancouver. “We are not the Liberal Party, we are the NDP,” Ms. Davies said.
Ms. Davies’s contention that Dippers are not Grits is an admission the NDP is not a centrist party and ought not to pretend it is. Pragmatists among the NDP—and apparently there are many—would like to disguise their true nature and slip in among those of us who see socialism as a failed political and economic system, pretending they are benign “social democrats”—some sort of soft-liberals. I don’t buy this, not for a second.
Socialism, NDP-style, is a sure path to social and economic ruin. Other countries have found it such and we should learn from their folly.