A challenge to academic socialists – take a Leap!

by Robbie Mahood

It is well and good that Socialist Project (a Toronto-based group led by left academics and former labour bureaucrats) welcomes the Leap Manifesto and the modest new opening to the left that exists in the NDP — now that the party has effectively embraced Leap and turfed Mulcair. This is a welcome departure from the ritual feeding off the sins of social democracy we so often see in the SP e-publication, The Bullet. Socialists should engage with real developments in the labour movement and there is a tacit recognition that, like it or not, this includes the NDP.

But given an influx of new activists into the NDP (some are already there), it seems the authors would have Socialist Project stand aside, neither impeding nor encouraging such a development. That stance would seem to be designed to preserve (at least for the SP) the option of a new ‘left’ party.

The nature of such a party is not specified. Would it be a re-edition of social democracy from its earlier, rather mythic, heroic days, or perhaps it would take its inspiration from recent new ‘left’ parties in Europe like Syriza, Die Linke, Podemos, or closer to home, Quebec Solidaire? Surely not a Leninist combat party in the tradition of the early Canadian Communist Party!

The authors approach this dilemma with rather excessive delicacy, pretty much conceding everything to process. Not so much a party, but a “project of transcending capitalism”. Not a “genuine storehouse of the truth”, but rather offering “strategic spaces” to develop “better socialist ideas and alternatives”. Pretty thin gruel. Do we have really have to reinvent the wheel?

Vancouver-based writer Roger Annis, in his comment on the article, at least broaches the question of program and strategy. But why have all initiatives to form a new party over the past 40 years met with failure? History shows that new parties emerge from important upsurges in the class struggle, or from splits in degenerating reformist parties, whether of social democratic or Stalinist lineage. So far, neither of these apply to Canada, or apply only to an insufficient degree.

Socialists need to be present in all facets of the class struggle, and the NDP is an important arena as recent events have shown. Socialist Project should intervene in the NDP as an organized tendency, rather than watch as supporters move back into the NDP as individuals. That is indeed the only way to avoid the perils of entryism and adaptation to opportunism – by fighting for class struggle policies, and doing so where it really matters.

(Disclosure: I am actively involved in the NDP Socialist Caucus.)