In the lead-up to the June 2 provincial election, Conservative and Liberal leaders are scrambling to align with public opinion by professing ‘progressive’ policies. Tory Premier Doug Ford hopes voters will forget he spent years attacking workers’ rights, broke a teachers’ strike early in 2020, privatized nursing homes and grossly mishandled the pandemic. Claims by Liberal leader Steven Del Duca that he will hike funding for healthcare and education are belied by his record as a cabinet minister in the Kathleen Wynne government which watched hospital services and schools deteriorate drastically, and sold off Ontario Hydro for a pittance.
Sadly, Ford is leading in the polls, with the New Democratic Party trailing in third place. The situation of the NDP is the product of gross squandering, by labour and the reformist left, of numerous opportunities to bring down the hated Tories by mass job action – before they had a chance to do a cynical makeover.
Andrea Horwath, perhaps the most ineffective Ontario NDP leader ever, pledges to increase the minimum wage to $20/hour, by 2026! She promises to “transition” the for-profit Long Term Care facilities to the public sector over the next eight years!
Horwath would rescind Bill 124, which caps public sector wages, provide 10 permanent, paid sick days, remove barriers to join a union, and ensure benefits for gig workers. Good. But when it comes to the dire housing crisis, Horwath’s policy to give first-time home buyers 10 per cent of the purchase price for a down-payment, restore full rent controls, and promote the construction of 1.5 million units over the next decade really amounts to reliance on the private sector, while people die on the streets. Instead, she should demand expropriation of vacant spaces in large buildings and the launch of a massive publicly-owned land assembly and housing construction industry.
In a bow to populism, leaders of the major parties profess concern over the crisis of “affordability”, but none target monopoly capitalism as the culprit.
Still, an NDP victory will open the space for leftist ideas. It would speed up the delivery of public dental care, and child care. It would eliminate some tax breaks for the rich, cancel the Conservatives’ planned Highway 413 and Bradford Bypass, and take additional steps for Indigenous rights and environmental protection. It may even lead to public auto insurance, a policy won by the NDP Socialist Caucus at the February 2022 ONDP Convention — not mentioned since by Horwath’s party brain trust.
Those who want to reduce glaring inequality and to meet human needs, those who want a foreign policy based on solidarity with the oppressed and firm opposition to war and imperialism, those who demand an end to state spying on everyone, will feel the wind at their backs if the NDP wins.
At the same time, the NDP tops, who constantly seek to establish their bone fides with the Canadian corporate elite, will resist efforts from below to hold them to their progressive pledges. They will step on the toes of leaders of labour affiliates. They will disavow, even betray social justice movements. This is brutally evident in the case of the NDP government in British Columbia.
It’s not that the leaders are timid or ineffectual; it’s that they are petit bourgeois, not workers. They fear the independent mobilized power of the working class, and prize their privileged role under capitalism, always prepared to defend private enterprise and private profit over the collective needs of the working class. So, socialists say Vote NDP — the only labour-based, working class party in North America — but organize to defeat the social democrats and bureaucrats who rule it.
Their commitment is to capitalism with a human face. It is hard to imagine a more monumental contradiction-in-terms, even at the best of times. Today the world economy is racked by inflation, severe supply chain bottle-necks, relentless COVID and widening social inequality. Waves of desperate refugees flee the ravages of inter-imperialist rivalry, NATO expansion and environmental disasters induced by the heartless private profit system. The federal NDP is backing a budget for war and big oil, arising from its “confidence and supply” pact with the Justin Trudeau Liberal minority government.
In Ontario, an NDP coalition with the Liberal Party, or even with the Green Party, would furnish only more excuses for retreat from a progressive platform, mush less a Workers’ Agenda – so the notion of an NDP alliance with any capitalist party should be rejected on principle.
The merit of fighting for an NDP government is not diminished by the pro-capitalist outlook of its leaders because the prospects for socialism depend on the class struggle, not on the low political horizons and the narrow career ambitions of party officials. Moreover, there is no electoral solution to the evils of capitalism, in the context of colonial, settler-state institutions.
For the class struggle to advance the interests of the vast majority, partisans of the working class should be organized to fight for socialist measures. That effort must take place both inside and outside the NDP and its labour affiliates.
An NDP victory will raise the confidence of working people to assert their demands. It will alter the relationship of class forces to the disadvantage of Capital and in favour of the majority.
In the remaining weeks of the campaign, socialists will seize the opportunity to canvass their neighbours and co-workers in support of local NDP candidates, promote the policies of the NDP Socialist Caucus, and urge people to Vote NDP, without illusions.
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