It would appear that the Liberal Party is again attempting to present a left face to Canadian workers. Dion’s leadership campaign was referred to as the three-pillar approach. The three pillars were social justice, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability. The NDP leaders certainly aren’t getting any sleep with the thought of a left-faced liberal being elected to the leadership of the Liberal Party. If the NDP doesn’t start advocating socialist policies that meet the needs of working people, they will be pummeled in the next election. All of the polls following the Liberal convention show the Liberals surging ahead and the NDP dropping to as low as 10% support nationally.

Canada’s electoral history provides ample evidence of the necessity of the NDP’s shift to the left. Brian Mulroney was a 2-term, right-wing, Conservative prime minister from 1984-1993. He defeated his Liberal opponent, John Turner, quite handily in both federal elections. Turner was widely seen as a right-wing Liberal and there were major divisions within the Liberal Party between himself and Pierre Trudeau’s old followers. The majority of Canadians saw virtually no differences between these two very pro-business leaders. Success only arrived for the Liberals when they realized they needed to represent something significantly different from the Conservatives. This culminated in Jean Chrétien’s election to the Liberal Party leadership. The Liberals played up Chrétien’s “humble” roots and with this new face to their party, the Liberals swept the 1993 federal election.

How did the NDP fare through this period? When Turner was the leader of the Liberals, there was no significant difference between his party and the Conservatives. The NDP was seen as the only real opposition to the corporate agenda. This led, in 1988, to the highest number of NDP MPs elected and the highest number of votes ever captured by the party. When the Liberals elected a leader who could put on a left show, the NDP was almost completely squeezed out in the 1993 election. While Jean Chrétien led the Liberals, the NDP had poor showings in every election. But under the leadership of Paul Martin (a shipping boss who registered his ships in poor countries to escape tougher Canadian labour laws), the NDP has again gained their highest level of support (equaling the number of votes in 1988).

Of course, none of this happens in isolation from the rest of society. There are many different processes at work which determine the course of political events. Mass movements within society determine the political climate; the direction taken by the political representatives of capital are often only in response to these movements.

There can be no doubt that the last federal election was, despite the gains made by the NDP, a lost opportunity. If Jack Layton had only spoken out firmly against the war, for nationalization, for free child care and education, and for socialism, he would have completely polarized the situation with the NDP at one end and the Conservatives at the other. This would have marginalized the Liberals who were proven to be corrupt. Instead, the NDP leadership allowed the Liberals to survive, and only asked liberal voters to “lend” their votes to the NDP!

“The NDP do not understand the market economy. The Conservatives do not understand social justice.” – Stéphane Dion, Friday night of the Liberal Party convention

This is a very common Liberal argument, which we happen to agree with 100%! Liberals understand the capitalist economy. They understand that it can only afford very moderate social gains at the best of times. For a socialist, this regressive state of affairs points towards quite another solution. If capitalism cannot afford any reforms, then the answer is not “no reforms”… it is “no capitalism!” The NDP leadership must throw off the “economic responsibility” shackles once and for all and take the only position possible in the face of capitalism: socialism! The NDP leadership must expose the Liberals for what they really are: completely reactionary and incapable of solving any of the problems that this rotten system has brought upon us.

Time and time again events have shown us that the Liberals are not interested in serving the interests of Canadian workers, no matter how much they may pretend to. Even Liberal leaders like Dion, who speak a great deal about saving the environment and the war in Afghanistan, are completely subservient to big business in Canada. The Liberal Party continues to be the bosses’ party in Canada. No matter how much Dion talks left, he will be bound by the interests of his big business backers. How else can it be explained that the Liberals have failed so miserably on Kyoto? Kyoto is only a drop in the bucket of what’s needed to stem global warming, but even this was too much for the capitalist class. The NDP must take a socialist stance on the environment to combat this “green liberal.” The environment can only be saved by a break with the capitalist system. As long as the economy is in the hands of a few, it will remain an economy driven by profit, and profit alone.

The election of a “left” Liberal, who pays a great deal of lip service to the environment, speaks passionately about social justice issues, and claims to oppose right-wing agendas, has even further blurred the lines between the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party. There is something that the Liberal Party understands but the leaders of the NDP cannot seem to get their heads around; you will only get elected if you propose a distinct alternative to the current government. Why vote NDP when the Liberals have consistently polled higher than the NDP in every election, and therefore have a better chance of unseating Stephen Harper’s Conservatives? Why would anyone vote for the NDP, when the Liberals are promising the same things? The NDP leadership should take a lesson from the Liberals (the only one worth taking) and move decisively to the left to attract support. Stéphane Dion’s election as leader is a gift to the New Democratic Party, because it will force the leaders of the NDP to choose between socialist ideas or electoral obliteration.

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