Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Post-election thoughts...

WTF Canada? I have a lot of trouble understanding how some people think more generally, and this election result I just don't get at all! I can't wrap my head around the idea that anyone would vote for Harper, nevermind that he would be handed a majority government.

Seriously, the election was held because he was found to be in contempt of parliament, and this is the first time that has happened in ANY commonwealth country. They were hiding information about how much their policies would cost... and not just small bits of information but upwards of 630 million dollars worth of information on the crime bills. They underestimated the cost of the fighter jets... yes, the ones that are expected to cost each Canadian citizen (I hate that word) $1000. They even misinformed parliament to get the money for the G8/G20 in a process that has been found to be illegal.

And yet, we voted him back in...

This man, who has gone on record saying that our health care needs to end, who opposes gay marriage and abortion rights, who has cut funding for women by 43%, who has been found having lied to us on too many occasions to count, who shuts down parliament to run away from his problems, who fires people who disagree with him and kicks students out of his rallies because he doesn't like their facebook pages, who eliminated the long form census because he doesn't want us to know what is actually going on in our country if the knowledge won't serve his agenda... I could go on... This man is running the country! And we are letting him do just that.

So, if you are a "normal" person and break the law, you get put into one of his super prisons that we are wasting so much money on, even though crime rates are going down, but if you are powerful and break the law, you are given a country to run.

This might be me speaking out of anger and frustration, but I am seriously thinking that not voting is the way to go (see the "vote with your feet" section here). And I don't mean apathy, I mean refusing to accept an illegitimate system... how does 40% of the vote get almost 60% of the seats and full decision-making power? I also like the idea of refusing to choose my master... we should find a way to govern ourselves... not to let some privileged straight white man do that for us.

Naomi Klein had a great tweet last night- "Hair-raising shock doctrine coming our way folks. Better to have NDP in opposition than Libs but real power will be in the streets."

Edited to add:
I had an interesting conversation with my 8-year old today that got me thinking. We were talking about the election and the concept of a budget came up. I used our household budget as an example of what a budget is and then talked about the fighter jets as an example of Harper's lies about how much it was going to cost. She was quite upset about the fighter jets and said something along the lines of;
Why do we need stuff to go to war? Why can't we all just like each other and share our money and food with them?
Which got me thinking, why do we need to socialize children out of this way of thinking? Why do we dismiss it as "naive" or merely a reflection of "childhood innocence" (yet another term that I really don't like)? It seems to me that if children often think like this and need to be taught that they should instead value goals associated with rugged individualism, then something resembling a true democratic and socialist way of organizing might be even more attainable than I had imagined.


  1. At the same time, this election represents the largest NDP presence in parliament. Of course, the NDP has revealed itself to be no different now from the classic Liberal party (their policies are Trudeau-era liberalism), and have thus stolen a lot of Liberal supporters. Really, as those of us who support the boycott [that was started by the most legitimate left organization in Canada right now] have always been making the argument, though, that at this historical juncture this is the result of wasting our energy in participating in the electoral circus - the same argument made by communist parties across the world at these periods (thus the support of the boycott by the Nepalese, the Afghanis, and other revolutionary comrades).

    Society is becoming more conservative because of forces outside of the electoral game and we need to break our reliance on a ritual that masquerades as democracy. Still, only around 60% of registered voters voted: there has been a boycott on the part of the people for a while now and I think it's time we need to stop thinking along social democratic lines: that was the mistake of the SDP in Germany under Kautsky.

  2. I thought about mentioning the NDP, but figured that there wasn't too much of a point. With a majority government, it seems to me the only thing that Layton will be able to do is yell and hope that someone listens.

    I think that if we are going to boycott elections, it will only be effective if it becomes clear that the reasons are of frustration and anger, and not simply apathy as it is commonly believed. My personal opinion is that if people don't care about the election, it isn't because they don't want to care, but that specific groups of people are almost encouraged not to care. This link is an example that I found interesting, but I don't know much about the speaker more generally.... http://www.ted.com/talks/dave_meslin_the_antidote_to_apathy.html.

    Social democracies make things easier, but change nothing... any programs that are given to us through social democracies can just as easily be taken away, and exploitation is exploitation regardless of what you call it.

  3. I like this point: "[a boycott] will only be effective if it becomes clear that the reasons are of frustration and anger, and not simply apathy as it is commonly believed… if people don't care about the election, it isn't because they don't want to care, but that specific groups of people are almost encouraged not to care." The point of the boycott campaign was to do exactly what you suggest - moreover, it was a recognition that an implicit boycott already exists and that, if we are going to have a mass-line, we have to accept that this is the case and, taking are cue from the people, go back to the people and use it as an opportunity to radicalize. In other words, to make the often incoherently implicit, coherently explicit.

    However, I would go further because I want to suggest that it needs to about more than simply participating in a circus where, in Lenin's words, the ruling class just gets together to decide who will best misrepresent the people. I think we need to break this reliance on the sacred election rite as a stand-in for authentic (and by that I mean radical) democracy. Our experience from working the boycott on the streets, and talking with people in those neighbourhoods most destroyed by capital, is that the rejection of federal elections had, as you've rightly indicated, nothing to do with apathy: the common sentiment expressed was a mixture of anger and powerlessness. All parties were hated because all parties would still evict these people, or send the police to arrest and beat them, and there was a feeling that "if this is democracy then what else are our options?" And then they would actually *want* to talk about boycotting the state, revolution, and have discussions about what a world would look like beyond capitalism.

    Indeed, a boycott campaign has to be more than just individualized actions of participating in apathy or spoiling one's ballot in isolation. This campaign was initiated by what I take to be the most significant left organization in Canada at the moment (definitely the largest, though combined to Quebec, definitely the one with the most coherent/concrete analysis of Canadian social relations, definitely the most principled org I've encountered in a long time, and definitely the only party formation that is recognized as such by international parties engaged in revolution). So when they made the call to extend their boycott to the rest of Canada, many of us in Ontario took the call seriously since it came from the PCR-RCP.

    As for David Meslin... He is an NDP partisan whose current position on local politics demonstrates the NDP's conservatization. He recently told my partner that it was important to get beyond the "right-left" way of thinking and that since "poor people voted for Ford" (a strange assertion to make considering that a vast majority of the registered poor do not vote, and that the unregistered poor in Toronto cannot vote), we shouldn't be disrespectful of their wishes and learn to work with people like Ford. He is not a recognized member of what I would even term the Toronto left (meaning the marxist/anarchist/anti-imperialist left), has had some pretty typically asinine things to say about Palestine-Israel, and doesn't work with groups like OCAP or NOII - which, despite their problems, are still pretty vital mainstream but non-government grass-roots left orgs.

    Sorry for the long comment. Good to see you posting again!

  4. Thanks... and no need to apologize for long comments! Unfortunately, Sudbury's left is very limited, mostly to a select group associated with the university, so I really didn't see the organized voting boycott anywhere other than online. I will be in Toronto quite a bit this summer, and I would like to see more of it, but I am not sure if my visits will coincide with anything significant. I would love to find out more about organizing in this way before the provincial election and what can be done to bring more of these ideas to the north. At the same time, I find it hard to balance my urge to resist the way our political system is organized altogther (which I see as a long-term goal) with the need to try and at least place the NDP in a position to fight back against some of what the conservatives would do on an "official" level... not that I agree with most of what the NDP stands for, but because I remember the Harris era and fear what might come next.

    I can't say I'm surprised about your assessment of David Meslin, as something about his presentation just didn't seem quite right to me, but I still agree with a lot of what he said about the notion of political apathy.

  5. Toronto in the summer: yay! But the boycott campaign was just one of the decisions passed by the PCR-RCP sponsored coalition, so will disappear (only to reemerge) when the elections end... the coalition group, though, works on other issues as well.

    Yes, I also remember the Harris years...