Leadership Tilts to the Left
NDP Demands “Troops Out Now”
Impelled by majority public antiwar sentiment,
delegates to the New Democratic Party’s 22nd federal convention,
September 8–10, voted overwhelmingly to demand a “safe and
immediate” withdrawal of Canadian troops from
The nearly 90 per cent vote for the “out now” position, at a convention attended by more than 1500 delegates at Québec City, makes the NDP the first major political party in Canada (and North America) to call for an end to the imperialist military intervention in Asia.
Debate leading up to the vote revealed a division in the NDP parliamentary caucus. Nova Scotia NDP MP Peter Stoffer called the move premature. A delegate claiming to be a member of Voice of Women for Peace proposed referral of the issue to crosscountry consultation hearings. But the delay tactic was resoundingly defeated after delegates, including this writer, argued that years of protests by thousands in the streets is the consultation the NDP should heed.
Instead of backing the warlords and drug barons
who dominate the
A speech to the convention by Afghan politician Malalai Joya, an MP from western Farah province, exposed the hostility of the Hamid Karzai puppet regime to women’s rights and democracy, and helped to isolate the NDP right wing. Federal leader Jack Layton’s emphasis on “Support our troops. Bring them home now” in his convention-ending address raises expectations that the NDP will mobilize its ranks for the October 28 protests, and beyond.
It should be noted that
Today more than a hint of panic is apparent in
The NDP leadership’s long delay in taking
a clear, principled position against the war did not help the party attract
antiwar support, or prepare it to deal with hostile media. Neither did its flipflops on the Clarity Act, the previous Liberal government’s
antidemocratic law giving Parliament a veto over any pro-sovereignty vote by Québec.
Of the 1500-plus delegates attending the convention, only 180 came from Québec. Clearly, the NDP still has much work to do to overcome its image and practice as an English federalist party staunchly loyal to the Canadian capitalist state. An alliance with the new Québec leftist and pro-sovereignty party Québec Solidaire would be a positive break from the past — if only the NDP leadership would entertain it.
Protests Push NDP Forward
The impact of social protest movements on the
NDP was also apparent in terms of
To be sure, those resolutions are seriously
flawed. They fail to support the Lebanese and Palestinian popular resistence to the aggressor Israeli colonial settler state,
to its Apartheid practices, and to its imperial master in
Nonetheless, for the NDP to officially and publicly criticize Israeli aggression, to demand the release of prisoners on both sides, to condemn the 685-kilometer “barrier wall” and “settler-only bypass roads,” and to call for a resumption of aid to the (Hamas-led) Palestinian Authority, represents an important differentiation from the historically pro-Zionist policies of the party leadership and a partial victory for solidarity movements.
Delegates approved many progressive positions
during the short time allocated for policy debate in plenary (that is, only 8
of the 23 hours in total, not counting meal breaks). The convention voted to
condemn the Canada-U.S. softwood agreement, characterizing it as a Harper
government sell-out to
Policies that aim to enhance the rights of
immigrants, raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour, reverse privatization of
health and social services, and oppose, among other things, military exercises
Attempts by delegates on the party right wing to dilute or forestall policies on environmental protection and conversion to alternative energy technologies were handily defeated. Though the center-left generally prevailed, it was not without repeated clashes with the party conservatives. An example of such a clash occurred in the foreign policy work shop.
For purposes of deciding which of the hundreds
of resolutions submitted by riding associations, affiliated unions, youth clubs
and party committees would be debated at convention plenary sessions, six
simultaneous topical panels were convened on the Friday afternoon. Three and a
half hours of precious convention time were spent debating the priority and
substance of resolutions in these separate non–decision-
In any case, at the foreign policy panel, with
over 300 delegates in attendance, former NDP leader and current External
Affairs Critic, Alexa McDonough, moved to kill a
high-ranked resolution on Haiti, endorsed by supporters of the Canada Haiti Action
Network, which calls for an investigation into Ottawa’s role in the
overthrow of democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
and demands the removal of Canadian police and an end to the ongoing foreign
occupation of the super-exploited Caribbean country. McDonough’s attempt
to substitute her own resolution, which sought to ignore the past and justify
an ongoing imperialist “aid and reconstruction” presence in
In the federal NDP, since 2002, the Leader is
elected in a “one-member-one-
Labour Link Still Strong
Prior to the convention some observers
predicted an end to, or at least a further deterioration of the NDP-Labour alliance. Media pundits predicted other unions would
follow the Canadian Auto Workers’
Hassan Yussuff, a former CAW executive, once again is an Associate
President of the federal NDP. Julie Davis and Lisa Blanchette
are the official Labour Reps
to the federal executive. Sixteen additional reps sit on NDP federal council. They
represent the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers’
Union, the International Association of Machinists, the United Food and
Commercial Workers’ Union, the Service Employees’ International
Union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Union of Public
Employees, the United Steelworkers’ of America, the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Longshore
and Warehouse Union, joined by the new kid on the block, the National Union of
Public and General Employees. Canadian Labour
Congress President Ken
Some CAW activists were not deterred by the
split of their union with the NDP, and made their way to the convention as
delegates from local NDP riding associations. One CAW militant asked this correspondent
to convey the following message widely: “The NDP is alive and well in
Socialists Educate and Organize
The NDP Socialist Caucus (SC), which opposed the expulsion of Hargrove and the subsequent split, played a prominent role at the federal convention. Nearly two dozen SC drafted resolutions, endorsed by numerous affiliated NDP bodies across the country, filled the official resolutions book, captured media attention, and animated numerous policy discussions in work shops and plenary sessions.
Nearly one thousand copies of the SC’s
eight page tabloid Turn Left were distributed to delegates. Several
delegates requested additional copies for home riding distribution. (To
download a copy of Turn Left, visit: www.ndpsocialists.
Social protest movements, including the Canadian Peace Alliance, the Canada Haiti Action Network, Hands Off Venezuela, the National Anti-Racism Coalition of Canada, Oxfam Québec, the Centre for Social Justice, the Council of Canadians, Mouvement autonome et solidaire des sans emplois (MASSE), Fair Vote Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students and the David Suzuki Institute held forums, staffed display tables, and distributed copies of their materials by the thousand.
Supporters of Marxist publications who participate in the NDP, including Socialist Action and Fightback, were very visible too. The positive response of delegates to radical literature was reflected in the sale of over 55 copies of SA newspaper — indeed more would have been sold, but the supply on hand was depleted due to high demand on Labour Day and at earlier protests against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
As the stunning September 14 by-election win in
Socialists share in that victory, and the gains made at convention, recognizing that only in the struggle, as part of the existing workers’ movement, does the promise of a better future reside. History shows that the working class does not abandon its labour and political institutions until it is capable of replacing them with superior ones. Perhaps the non-aligned left will come to recognize that the necessary fight for a socialist alternative inside the existing workers’ organizations has better prospects in the NDP now that the party has put itself in the forefront of the antiwar movement.
article will appear in the October 2006 edition of Socialist Action
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