As of yesterday, the NDP is no longer a “socialist” party. With a vote at this weekend’s national convention in Montreal, delegates approved a new constitutional preamble which removed all references to the dreaded red menace. This isn’t the first time such a move had been suggested – the late Jack Layton attempted it two years ago, but without much success. This time, however, the party seems determined to prove that it is “ready to govern” by shedding it’s radical baggage in the hopes of capturing a larger chunk of the political “centre”.

This wasn’t the only showdown with socialists at the convention, either. The NDP’s “Socialist Caucus”, a group of party members who advocate for more radical policies from within, made it’s presence felt more than once. They booed speeches from high ranking American Democrats like Jeremy Bird and Joseph Stiglitz (the former Clinton adviser and senior VP of the World Bank), put forward motions on issues like pipelines and held up a large banner protesting America’s drone-bombings in Pakistan. This last move proved quite unpopular, and offending party members were met by security and threatened with the loss of their voting priviliges.

To put this in perspective, the issue has seen a lot of attention at the United Nations of late. They had no such reservations about declaring drone bombings in Pakistan illegal last month. To the NDP, though, it’s an embarrassment in front of their new American friends, who happen to be the warmongering criminals in question.

Seriously, NDP, what the fuck happened?

It’s been a long time since I attended an NDP convention (‘working the door’), far enough back that Clinton was still president. I left the party soon enough afterward. In those days, they hosted saw speakers like John Clarke of OCAP and even a surviving Spanish Civil War veteran at a youth convention. If I’d known then that someone like Stiglitz would soon enough be speaking at a similar event, I would have left even sooner. Even back then, the party was perpetually mortified at the idea of seeming “too radical”, and almost lost party status as a result. Without the willingness to advance any policies too “progressive” for the Liberals (who lived by “campaign left, govern right”), they never managed to offer up a substantially different platform, at least until the Liberal party collapsed under the weight of it’s own success. The rise of the NDP was always tied to the Liberals’ fall from grace, but it remains to be seen whether it can survive a return.

Which leads me to the single biggest flaw in Mulcair’s plan…

His scheme worked. For entire hours yesterday, the NDP convention and it’s rejection of socialism was the biggest story in Canada. The mainstream media finally seemed convinced of their readiness to govern, and it began to look like he might actually have a shot at the Prime Minister’s seat. And then, in the flash, it was gone, as the day’s other big convention came to a close, officially crowning Justin Trudeau as heir to his father’s throne. With a fresh, young and untainted champion, centrist politics are no longer Mulcair’s exclusive domain.

If American politics are any judge, the allure of dynastic politics can be amazingly strong, even in “democracies”. If it worked for bumbling George W. Bush, there’s little doubt it will do wonders for Justin. He’s already been inspiring gossip for some time in the mainstream press, almost to the level of Prince William or Justin Bieber. I’ve avoided mentioning him here, so far, because I honestly hoped he’d go away. Now that it’s clear he won’t, a second wave of “Trudeaumania” can’t be far off.

This must be Mulcair’s worst nightmare. Against Harper, he probably would have won. Against the idol that is Trudeau, though, he risks quickly becoming the villain. His politics of pragmatism are the opposite of inspirational. Trudeau is reviving a disgraced party, Mulcair’s in the process of selling one out. He’s already alienated a considerable amount of the NDP’s traditional support base and established himself in exactly the same mildly-kinda-almost-centre-left territory Trudeau is likely to claim. After his many pro-business stances (pipelines, Mali, etc), there can be no going back, and only humiliation if he tries. There is every possibility that this will be a disaster for the party, but if so, it’ll be a well-deserved disaster.

The next election will put two Liberals in the ring with one Conservative. Because of the way our votes are counted, this puts pretty good odds on Harper from the outset. “Vote splitting” is a very real threat to campaigns thanks to Canada’s archaic election laws, and it’s going to play a huge role. It may even allow Harper another term.

Thanks Tommy.

Even as truly radical ideas have made a mainstream comeback for the first time in decades, there’s virtually no (large) parties in the industrialized world left which champion its aims. The anti-parliamentary bias of many recent protest movements doesn’t help, but politicians like Mulcair only vindicate these suspicions. The real left moved on from electoral politics a long time ago, as socialism and statism never mixed well.

I still have a lot of friends with the NDP. Solid labour and student organizers, and even that one area politician brave enough to attend my friends’ funerals (thanks, Dave). There’s a strong tradition of organizing there, and for all it’s failings, I’m most angry because I’m sad to see it go. Canada is bursting at the seams right now with anger at Harper, and it’s being all-but-ignored by the only party in an “official” position to speak out. Instead they’re playing politics and schmoozing. If this is what a promotion to “official opposition” means for the party, I have no desire to see what they’ll become if they ever reach power. The last thing we need is another party of business-friendly politicians that treats ideals like costume jewelery.

When the next election comes, don’t even bother to knock on my door. Don’t call me, and don’t dare drop anything in my mailbox. Stop showing up at our events and making statements like “the NDP is the only friend you have”, it only elicits laughter anyway. If you’re going to throw us under the bus in an attempt to get into “the in crowd”, don’t expect to be welcome back when you fail. We actually stand for something, and understand all too well that “winning” which comes at the expense of our principles isn’t “winning” at all.

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