The NDP must differentiate from the Liberal Party

by Barry Weisleder, co-chair of the NDP Socialist Caucus

The decision by the New Democratic Party leadership to host an online federal convention in April 2021 may be a step forward.  It depends very much on how delegates are chosen, how resolutions can be submitted, which resolutions are brought forward for debate, how the convention chair will permit delegates to speak on resolutions at the gathering, how votes will be recorded, etc. 

The Socialist Caucus began agitating for a federal NDP convention when the party brass cancelled it in early December 2019. That was months before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020.  The party constitution required that a federal NDP convention be held in February 2020, two years after the previous one.  However, following the NDP federal election debacle in October 2019, when the party lost nearly 1 million votes and half of its seats in Parliament, Leader Jagmeet Singh and the executive around him sought to avoid a leadership review.  The excuse was the Minority Government, the possibility of a snap election, and later it was COVID-19.  To be sure, the federal NDP convention now set for April 9-11, 2021 is a victory for the Socialist Caucus, but it remains to be seen how democratic the convention will be.

We have said for a long time that, for the NDP to survive it must turn sharply to the left.  The NDP must differentiate from the Liberal Party, and also from the Green Party that has been nibbling at its electoral base.  Can it become a party of the streets, a tribune of Black Lives Matter, Indigenous rights and workers fighting cuts to health services?  How should the NDP membership act to position the labour-based party?

1.  Pandemic measures are urgently needed:  Socialists say extend the public healthcare system to include Long Term Care, medical drugs, research, development and delivery of vaccines to combat COVID-19.  Nationalize Big Pharma.  Expropriate the private, for-profit nursing homes and seniors’ residences.  Operate them under the democratic control of their workers and the families of residents.  End the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions; hire more front-line staff, provide job security, and double their pay.

2. End the housing crisis by demanding that the government launch the construction of a million good quality housing units per year, until the scourge of homelessness is vanquished.  Take control of the land development and construction sector, under workers’ control.

3.  Stop the gouging of consumers by the giant telecoms, like Rogers, TELUS and Bell.  Reduce internet rates and operate the industry as a public service.

4.  For a Green New Deal based on a rapid transition to sustainable energy systems in production and transportation.  Conscript the wealth of Big Oil and Gas.  Re-train displaced carbon energy workers.  Leave no one behind.  Provide restitution to Indigenous peoples who have been harmed by the plunder of nature and their ancestral lands.

5.  Tax profitable corporations and the rich, seize offshore tax haven accounts or the equivalent-value domestic assets, and nationalize the big banks under workers’ and consumers’ democratic control.

6.  De-fund, disarm and disband the RCMP and other systemically racist police forces.  Rapidly replace them with community-controlled policing practices.  Shift away from incarceration in the court and penal system towards restorative justice.

7.  Cancel the new fighter jets.  Cut federal spending on the military, which should be reduced to a rescue and recovery role.  Convert the arms export business to production to meet human needs.  Build homes, schools and hospitals — not bombs, bullets and anti-personnel carriers. 

8.  Canada out of NATO now!  Quit the Lima Group.  Defend the right to self-determination of Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, Iran and other countries suffering imperialist embargo and military intervention.  Reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which conflates the latter with anti-Zionism and constitutes an attack on free speech.  Apply Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Zionist apartheid state of Israel to End the Occupation.  For a democratic, secular Palestine, and for the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees.  Free Meng Wanzhou.  Normalize relations with China.  Hands Off whistleblowers Julian Assange and Edward Snowdon!  No to their Extradition.

There is a great appetite for change in Canada.  Trudeau’s spending on the pandemic falls far short of needs and expectations. The mood at the grassroots level is reflected in the growth of the Socialist Caucus across the country, especially in New Brunswick and across western Canada.  It was evident in the marvelous campaign of SC member Bryn Smith in Surrey-White Rock who came within 224 votes of winning the seat in the BC election.  We must seize the opportunities in this situation with both hands.

The Liberal Party is the prime vehicle of big business rule in Canada.  The Green Party purveys the illusory goal of a green, sustainable capitalism.  Both are wedded to the private profit system that poses an existential threat to nature and civilization.  The NDP should counter-pose to the failed and toxic global capitalist system the only realistic alternative — a democratically planned economy under workers’ and community control.  The NDP should invite more unions and working class organizations to join it in the quest for a cooperative commonwealth, a socialist future of freedom and prosperity for all, in harmony with nature.

Those lofty goals are reflected in policy resolutions that party members can find at  www.ndpsocialists.ca and can then seek to get adopted at local meetings.  Winning NDP members to the vision of a transformed world is the task of the Socialist Caucus.