A great ‘Leap’ sideways

by Barry Weisleder

Popular discontent with establishment politics has found another voice. Sponsored by an array of Canadian left critics of the status quo, “The Leap Manifesto” is a sweeping indictment of the dominant system – without naming it. In that regard, its proponents fall short of Catholic Pope Francis who boldly calls capitalist greed “the dung of the devil.”

leapersThe Leap-ers include Bruce Cockburn, Charles Taylor, Clayton Ruby, Hassan Yussuff, David Suzuki, Judy Rebick, Leonard Cohen, Maude Barlow, Michael Ondaatje, Naomi Klein, Neil Young, Sarah Polley, Tantoo Cardinal, and Thomas King. Together with many others, they decry “deepening poverty and inequality” and denounce “Canada’s record on climate change (as) a crime against humanity’s future.”

They envision a society “powered entirely by truly just renewable energy”, connected by “accessible public transit”, and involving a transition designed to put an end to racial and gender inequality.

But the ‘leap’ they ask us to take carefully side-steps the issue of political power – who has it, and how to change it.

This approach leads to a string of disappointments.

The demand that the rights of First Nations peoples be respected concludes with a limp plea to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The appeal for a shift to green energy is tied to a vague hope that communities will “create innovative ownership structures.”

How exactly would that put a dent in the obstructive capacity of Big Oil and Gas? How would that even begin to fund the implementation of new energy technologies, build energy efficient homes or retrofit existing housing, much less pay for more high speed rail and mass urban public transit?

Where the manifesto rejects “austerity” it does offer a glimpse of a new path. It projects an end to fossil fuel subsidies, and the need to begin to steeply tax giant corporations and wealthy people. This is a good conversation starter.

However, The Leap is mum on how politically to wage that assault on concentrated wealth and power, much less how to sustain it. Ignored is the fact that a few super-rich families own the means of production, distribution and exchange. They obtained it by the dispossessing the original peoples of the continent and by the exploiting many generations of workers.

Obscured is the fact that the modern socio-economic aristocracy controls the state – which is poised to put down any serious challenge to the corporate agenda. Remember the War Measures Act? The G20 protests in Toronto? Government strike breaking? Killer cops and racial carding? Law C-51?

In other words, to truly Leap forward it will be necessary to make a social revolution. It will be necessary to build a revolutionary workers’ party that is capable of avoiding the snares of reformism and opportunism, and that can bring the working class to power on the basis of work place and neighbourhood structures that will put our superficial dollar-democracy to shame.

Now that would be a Leap forward.

In the meantime, proponents of The Leap Manifesto, including delegates to the Toronto and York Region Labour Council who endorsed it on September 3, can take some practical steps.

Vote NDP, without illusions, on October 19.

Most importantly: build a class struggle left wing that fights year-round for anti-austerity, socialist policies and actions in the unions and the NDP. The result will be a broader base for the radical change so desperately needed.