Fightback is supporting Niki Ashton in the NDP leadership race as the best opportunity to advance socialist ideas within the party. But as NDP members receive their leadership voting ballots, many are considering who to place as second preference. Fightback is recommending that those who have been enthused by Ashton’s candidacy, and who want to fight for socialism, do not issue a second preference in the vote. Instead, make a clear statement and continue the fight for socialist ideas inside and outside the party.

Ashton’s campaign has clearly pushed the other candidates to the left. From pipelines, to free education, to progressive taxation, to Palestine and military funding, all the other campaigns have been forced to bend to the left pressure in some form or another. There is no “Blairite” candidate in this race. However, none of the other campaigns represent a clear break from the status quo. And none of the other campaigns are significantly differentiated from each other to be worthy of a second preference vote. Without left pressure from below the likelihood is that a Caron, Angus, or Singh leadership would come under pressure of the party establishment and move to the right. The Ashton-supporting left should not become complicit in this co-optation and should maintain a clean banner for future struggles.

The struggle is long, and it is necessary that the left remain independent. Let us not forget that Layton was the anti-establishment “left” candidate, supported by the New Politics Initiative, when he won the leadership. The NPI dissolved, thinking its work had been done, and allowed the establishment to co-opt Layton and move the party to the right. There is an analogy with the French election, where the left candidate Melenchon refused to endorse the centrist Macron. Now Melenchon is best placed to oppose Macron’s austerity without being sullied by previous association.

Win or lose, we believe that Ashton will best serve the ideas she has raised in the campaign – free education, public ownership, resisting corporate power – by remaining independent and by organizing a grassroots left wing within the party. The left pressure on the leadership cannot abate. Jeremy Corbyn was a leading figure in the Labour “Campaign Group” which critiqued the Iraq war and Blairite austerity. That gave him the position to challenge for the old leadership and enact an internal revolution within Labour. After that victory Corbyn’s leadership campaign morphed into “Momentum”, with the aim of organizing the left within the party. The NDP needs a similar organization whether Ashton wins or loses. We say, Niki Ashton or bust! No second preference. Continue the fight.